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The Hundred of Kingston

To celebrate our Centenary the Kingston Wheelers Audax Chapter (KWAC) laid on a special 100 mile ride in June. With a route down to Devils Dyke it took in some of the finest lanes of Surrey and Sussex, plus some excellent stops along the way. With around 100 riders taking part and a the sun shining (at times) it was a wonderful day in the saddle. We hear back from a surprising audax newbie, club historian Gafyn MacMillan, and an audax veteren Phil Barella, to hear about how it went down on the day.

Gafyn MacMillan

Despite being a road rider for some decades, and an Audax featuring on my bucket list for many years I’d never gotten round to entering one. Although I had ridden a couple of informally run Randonnées in the early – mid Noughies. Still not quite sure what the difference is!

Keen to support the Kingston Wheelers centenary celebrations, I felt I had no excuse not to enter the Hundred of Kingston (event date 22 June 2024). As someone who has ridden very many Cyclospotives, I was pleased to experience a much more relaxed and civilised start to the event, enjoying the lack of big pelotons charging off. At this point I was intrigued to discover any other differences along the route. One difference almost cost me big, at sportives I am used to filing my pockets with energy bars, gels and anything else I can get my hands on at the feed stations, but there was no such thing here – which caused me to very nearly bonk later in the ride. The other difference of course, is the need to sign in at each checkpoint and to gather information along the route. And also the upper average speed limit.

Once out of greater London, the route was great – beautiful in places, and mostly on quite roads. There was a lot of camaraderie and a real mix of groups and solo riders. Although the route was largely made up of tried and tested roads down to the coast and back, I was still surprised by the sheer quantity of hills on the return which all added to the challenge of the day. The checkpoint stops were great, in lovely locations and the included beer and BBQ pork at the finish was a fab way to end a long day’s cycling.

I rode with an elderly gent for a little while and told him I was an Audax virgin. He told me they are very addictive and this event was his seventh Audax of the month! I’m not sure I’ve really been bitten by the Audax bug but I suspect I will be back for more.

Phil Barella

This was  the first audax of the season for me after a winter and spring of indifferent weather and form. The scene was set a few months earlier by our organiser Chris Campbell, a seasoned audaxer himself and a master of some of our longer distance rides. We talked about routes out west that were accessible, and suited to someone wanting to try their hand at a middle distance audax, and then he had a great idea of effectively doing the best bits of a London to Brighton interspersed with a route to the bluebell railway, and back via some familiar roads to Kingston.

The route looked great and it didn’t disappoint.

Rolling forward to the day and we met at Alpkit Kingston, had a coffee and got our Brevet, and I found a few willing accomplices to ride with, though of course the starting 5-10km were more of a larger shoal than usual, with faster groups leading the way.

Eventually we found ourselves in a good group of roughly even ability, with everyone deciding to go reasonably steady and saving their legs for the biggest climb, the Ditchling Beacon, and we started climbing, firstly up the easy pitches of Banstead road, then to Hazlewood lane and a few of the traditional pre Brighton climbs, such as Church hill and Turners Hill before detouring to the Bluebell railway for our first major food stop. They catered for vegans and people like me that will eat anything, a nice bacon roll helped out though the traditional coffee legs were very much present for the next 5k or so.

A few more rolling roads despatched, and we headed to the Ditchling road. The beacon up ahead I let the climbers climb and churned away until I got to the top. At that point the first information stop was in sight, and I duly noted it down in my brevet. A descent into Brighton and up the Tongdean lane drag, and the easy part of Devils dyke, and we descended to the saddlescombe farm and Wildflour Café after another couple of lumps. Had a quick drink and a flapjack and set off solo as my ride companions were faffing a bit, rode past a couple of riders on the way to the final stop and then was joined by another group including Ronn, Alessandra, Will, Adrian and a couple of non club members. The route between Saddlescombe and Rusper was a who’s who of short punchy climbs and descents, ideal for testing the legs, or in some cases (me included) the occasional chain off as you get round a corner and see a wall in front of you … Rusper was a welcome stop and on Saturday the village stores gives you the opportunity to stock up for a final push home. I duly despatched a can of red bull, and something like a flapjack and after a quick chat we decided to keep the rest of the ride steady. The second info detail was written down and we departed. There was only really one climb ahead and that was Juniper hill, which is never really a problem for most seasoned riders.

The great thing about these rides is you can take them at your own pace so whilst we were going along at an entirely reasonable pace, others were either speeding along or taking it fairly easy.

The route itself is pretty logical to follow without a garmin trace, and the good thing about these rides is the comprehensive testing by an experienced group of top quality long distance audaxers, so that the surprises are kept to a relative minimum. The final push home is from Rusper and takes in the village of Newdigate before heading along Pixham lane and the cyclepath to Box hill or Juniper hill, then via a traditional Wheelers shortcut to the Headley road, then Epsom, the Horton road and the route back to Kingston, via the cyclepath along the river.

We then finished up by heading past Kingston Cemetery, and the final tick in the box was to arrive at the park brewery to get our Brevets checked and signed off. If I’d have done it again I’d have done the Saddlescombe to Rusper part in a group (though the second part of that was with a group, so not too bad).

The finish was also good news for the brewery as lots of thirsty cyclists grabbed themselves a beer and a bit of bbq food. The “Century Lap” is the perfect antidote to 100 plus miles in the legs.   

Would I do it again, absolutely. It’d be a great ride solo or in a group.