Dani King – Why the Chilterns offer the best cycling close to London
29th January 2016
The Chiltern 100 Sportive on Sunday 15th May is a fantastic opportunity to discover some of the UK’s most enjoyable, not to mention challenging, road cycling. The quiet country lanes and the spectacular scenery of the route feel a world away from the congested urban roads of London, and yet the Chilterns are within easy reach of the capital either by road, rail or, of course, bike. Riders who want to take on the challenge in 2016 have been offered the opportunity to join the event at a reduced price should they sign up before Tuesday 2nd February.
Hills, and lots of them, are the order of the day at the Chiltern 100, making it the toughest sportive close to the capital. There’s barely a mile of flat on a route that takes in 21 of the area’s best leg-sapping climbs.
Olympic gold medallist, rider with the Wiggle-Honda professional team and event ambassador, Dani King MBE has this to say about the route: “The Chiltern 100’s collection of short, steep climbs is a real test of your resolve, and your gearing! Getting up them is a great achievement in itself, but with hills coming one after the other the route gives a great opportunity for some hill-repeat training without the boredom of attacking the same stretch of road over and over again.”
The 110-mile Gran Fondo packs in 2,700m of vertical climbing, with the Medio Fondo still managing a punchy 1,900m over the course of its 76 miles. “The course is a great opportunity to get some serious early-season climbing in your legs, and will serve you well for the rest of the summer, especially if you’re planning a trip to ride any of Europe’s iconic mountains,” Dani reckons.
Of course, what goes up must come down and the steep descents of the Chiltern 100 give a great adrenaline buzz as you whizz down. Some are quite technical and provide a real test of your bike craft, and with a few switchbacks along the way you can almost imagine you’re swooping down the side of Alpe d’Huez, for a moment at least.
In reality, when you compare the route to the roads of some of the most professional races, the Chiltern is most reminiscent of an Ardennes Classic. “The route profile reminds me of Liege-Bastogne-Liege with its jagged spikes reflecting the steep climbs and descents”, Dani adds.
Of course, the pros have ridden in the Chilterns themselves, with parts of the Chiltern 100 course covering the same roads as recent editions of both the women and men’s edition of the Tour of Britain. The men’s World Champion at the time, Michal Kwiatowski, was one of the fastest up Chinnor Hill on stage six of the Tour of Britain in 2014 and earlier this year the female pros took on the Chiltern Hills during stage five of the Women’s Tour. “I couldn’t help but notice that on a popular ride tracking website, I’m still ‘Queen of the Mountain’ on a climb just outside Albury that riders will tackle during the Chiltern 100. Maybe someone will beat my time at this year’s event!” Dani laughs.
As well as one of the most challenging, the Chiltern 100 is also one of the most beautiful sportives in the calendar, as you would expect from a ride through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Alongside the sense of achievement when you reach the top of the hills, you are also rewarded with some stunning vistas. The panoramic view from the top of Dunstable Down is particularly breath-taking. Dani identifies the appropriately named Bison Hill as her favourite on the course. “On the way up, you pass Whipsnade Zoo and you can see the Bison. I doubt that’s a sight many people see on their daily rides and it certainly distracts you from your aching legs for a couple of minutes.”
The Chiltern 100 has its roots in the cycling club scene, and founders VCC are still involved in the organisation of the event. As a result, there is a great atmosphere of camaraderie on the day with everyone offering each other plenty of encouragement in making it to the finish line. The regular feed zones with their various tasty offerings will make sure you’ve got enough fuel in the tank as well.
Dani finishes by saying this about the Chiltern 100, “It’s one of my favourite sportives on the calendar. It’s a serious challenge, but there is a great atmosphere and the organisation is excellent so all you’ve got to worry about is getting round the course.”
Those who sign up for the Chiltern 100 by Monday 1 February will be able to register at a reduced early bird price. Limited places are available by clicking here.