Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Chichester Challenge 2007

Understanding that endurance sport is all about preparation Al was woken by his alarm at 05:45 this Sunday morning: After weeks of hard training and a strict diet he had only to complete the essential last-minute 'carbo load' before the event. A customary breakfast of Poweraid sports drink, cereal and the all important banana were consumed to provide energy and hydration for the day ahead. A few miles away John H was going through a similar routine: making up his favoured SIS performance drink to replace lost electrolytes and fluid on the course, and packing his precious GO Gel into his back pack. Final tweaks were made to equipment, essential tools and spares were checked (and re-checked) and performance clothing and lucky socks (set aside some days before) were donned with anticipation, before bikes were loaded into cars for the journey to the long-awaited City of Chichester International Challenge.

It was with with some surprise that Al found Jon P still asleep when he arrived at his house at 07.30. Hurriedly getting up and throwing on some clothes to answer the door, Jon gulped back half a cup of tea while trying to locate the various basics required for the days ride. He was almost ready as John H and then Jerry swung into his drive looking tense. We all mumbled our hellos and nervously readied for the off under the thick grey clouds - the weather forecast was foreboding - cool, overcast conditions were predicted with the threat of thundery showers looming, in total contrast to the searing heat of the previous year's event.

We made the short, familiar trip through the city centre to the start of the course in Oaklands Park (Map 1, SU862054). Shortly after registering our entries and picking up route maps we were joined by established Associates Ad and Ju who arrived with Ed and Charlie, veterans of a previous campaign. The reunion and the prospect of the highest TCA turnout in history lightened the mood. Ad showed off the latest tweaks on the ex-Billy-Bob machine - shiny new hydraulic disc brakes would get their first run-in today! After some neglect though Ad's forks were running quite flat so Al commandeered a fork pump from one of the gear stands to adjust the pressure [For future reference: 50 psi in each leg]. Charlie showed off his new GPS unit and was nominated as Route Calibration Officer by Al, who realised that his was still at Jon P's house. Debates about whether or not to wear waterproofs were the topic of conversation, although the weather was still holding out.

Team TCA '07 (from left):
John; Al; Jon; Ju; Ad; Ed; Jerry; Charlie

Before long we were lined up by the officials and set off to the sound of the air-horn. 300+ cyclist on machines - ranging from top-of-the range models with carbon composite frames, to basic Halfords mountain bikes (and all points in between) - crossed the start line. Al took off first, slipstreaming a couple of hardcore off-roaders, followed by Jon, then Jerry, then John, all adopting a maverick approach. The peloton of Ad, Ju, Ed and Charlie brought up the rear, commendably bringing a team ethos to the event, but never to be seen again by the mavericks that day.

Heading due north and climbing gently out of Chichester Jon P finally caught Al just before the first checkpoint (SU858122). The sharp descent approaching West Dean and Jon's Fumbling to find his checkpoint card meant Al was away from the checkpoint first. His lead was short-lived however as, first Jerry and then Jon caught and overtook him on the punishingly steep ascent out of the village (Map 2). Al managed to hold onto Jon until the next serious ascent through Westdean Woods towards the South Down Way, as the sun came out and the temperature rose contrary to the forecast. The Mavericks were again separated for a time; Jerry would stay out in front for the rest of the day.

Approaching the second checkpoint (SU849171) a speeding, lycra-clad elite rider abruptly announced his intention to overtake Jon on a fast downhill section. Jon allowed himself a wry smile as the rider got past but then hit a rut and was catapulted over the handlebars and head-long into a barbed-wire fence. Only his pride was dented thought Jon, but Al caught up with (who he presumed was) the same rider a few minutes later at the first checkpoint trying to beat a huge buckle out of his front wheel; the day was over for this competitor.

Towards South Harting from the Downs

Al eventually caught Jon again on the ascent to Harting Down. Al figured that he was now in his stride since Jon is usually stronger going up hill. It was only later that Jon explained he had paused to take a few snaps with his new camera. Nevertheless the pair stayed together (primarily due to gremlins in Jon's rear mech.) all the way through to the third checkpoint at the QE park above Buriton. The pair seemed to settle into a more relaxed pace and even stopped for a snack (below), sitting on their customary log (SU765192). This year Al's snack of choice was the highly ethical Chocolate and Raisin GeoBar while Jon favoured an Alpen Nutty Chocolate 'Groove' Bar, for two years in a row Jon again seemed to have selected the more palatable choice of sustenance.

Having remounted it was only a short spin to the next checkpoint (SU733198) where they got the cards stamped for the third time and took on board some water. The pair were closely followed by John H who looked grateful for the refreshment. The three set off together to start the pleasant down-hill road-based section of the route towards Huckswood Lane. It was around this point, as we headed off-road again, when Jon P started paying for his scant regard to basic nutritional requirements earlier in the day; he was complaining of cramp in one leg as the sun beat down on the sweating competitors. Jon took time out to nurse his muscles while John H and Al continued without him bound for the forth checkpoint at Stoughton (SU801115). Jon P caught up briefly while the other two chatted to a collection of riders gathered at the checkpoint, one being patched up by another after a nasty-looking leg injury. However, after a brief flat road section out of the checkpoint, Jon P was suffering again on the long ascent towards Kingley Vale. John H seemed to be experiencing the complete opposite - fueled on by his SIS energy products - he produced a reserve of energy and strength for the climb. John and Al stayed together for the remainder of the ride: the descent towards Chichester; through the fifth and final checkpoint (SU834083); down the winding country lanes to the outskirts of town and over the finish line back at Oaklands Park, where we could finally catch up of the progress of others and tales of crashes we had collectively witnessed on our way round.

Thankfully we had all avoided major incident although Ed (the only one of us with un-padded shorts) was apparently complaining of severe saddle-soreness towards the end of the ride. This was exacerbated by the fact that his legs tired and he had no choice but to remain seated. His companions in the peloton reported that he seemed to be grimacing with pain for a large part of the ride and was particularly grateful for any opportunity to dismount along the way. Top TCA marks to Ed though who traveled from Bristol, leaving at 05:00 having had too much sun the day before and too little sleep that night, to make our pre-event meeting at 08:00. Commendation too to Ad who demostrated the TCA's generous spirit by saved an ailing Canadian rider from impending doom; the loan of a tyre lever enabled him to fix a puncture and continue the ride. (On hearing about this after the ride it was with a faint tinge of guilt that Al recalled someone with a North American accent explaining to him that he though he had a 'slow' as they climbed away from the Royal Oak at Hooksway together; "good luck mate!" hailed Al as they reached the subsequent descent, assuming that his new friend had all the necessary equipment to ameliorate the situation).

Jerry, also sailing past other stricken riders on the course without a thought, finished first in approximately 3h 40min; John H and Al coming in together about 30 minutes later at approximately 12:40; Jon P was 10 minutes behind hampered by cramp and technical difficulties in the final section on the course. We congregated around Jerry who was reclining on the grass in the sun with a welcome can of coke. Having finally crossing the line, notching up close to 37 miles in the process, it was a relief to dismount our sore behinds from saddles. We immediately began looking to refuel our depleted energy resources. It was at that point when, to our horror, we realised that there was no WI home made cake stand this year - the highlight of previous year's outings. We thought of the trauma counseling that would have had to be employed for Billy-Bob if he was amongst our number! Turning to the Scouts burger stand (invited in place of the WI on account of it being their centenary year) we were relieved to see that amongst the hot dogs and bacon butties were (albeit a smaller selection) home-made cakes too. The horrific revelations were not over however when, as we turned with burgers and cake in hand to find refreshment, it became apparent that there was no beer tent this year either! All that way, and for what? Home and hosed the mavericks sought solace in a cup of tea as they sheltered from the light rain which had begun to fall as Jon crossed the line.

John, Al, Jerry and Jon returned to base feeling a little cheated. Their day's wasted John and Jerry packed bikes into their cars and headed home. Al and Jon reflected on the day's events over another cup of tea as thunder crashed, lightening flashed and the heaven's opened releasing torrential rain. Cake or no cake, beer or no beer - at least they were indoors unlike Ade, Ju, Charlie and Ed - the peloton were still suffering somewhere out there on the course, eventually coming in at about 13:45.

Route - Map 1 - South
(click to enlarge)
Checkpoints shown as red spots:

Route - Map 2 - North (click to enlarge)
Checkpoints shown as red spots:

Elevation Profile:
(Posted by Al; Pictures by Jon; Maps courtesy of Charlie)

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At 10:23 pm, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al, your blogs rock mate,
they are full of suprises,
even for those from Devizes,
the TCA is full-on great!

The pelaton took time,
but suffered in line,
we helped out some guys
and swallowed many flys!

The ride was a blast,
although over too fast,
especially for you blokes
who went off in smoke!

The TCA,
is a great way to play,
i'd emplore it to anyone,
who likes beer and a sore bum!

Viva la TCA.

Ad Matthews

At 11:27 pm, July 19, 2007, Anonymous Mrs.BB said...

great blog indeed and a fabulous turn out for the TCA annual Chi Challenge outing! Hurrah for Ju representing the girls.
Can't believe there was no WI cake stall or beer tent! What is the world coming to?

Well done all of you!

At 7:37 am, July 20, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

What an epic! Wow that was a great read and full credit to the team! Glad to finally hear about the Devices branch too!

Is there any chance one of the rear-guard-pelaton could compliment the post with their experiences for the day?

At 9:15 am, July 20, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Ad, Poet laureate of the TCA!

Mrs BB, If you feel like writing to the organisers on our behalf, you may do so.

JLS, The peloton (note correct spelling - from the French, literally meaning 'ball') were debriefed after the event therefore this posting integrates an account of the day as provided to the editorial team. Please also see Ad's account via the medium of poetry (above).

TCA2006 Editorial Committee.

At 10:36 am, July 20, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

Nice day out - shame about the cakes!
Am I right in thinking that Ju is Ju's Little Sister's big sister?

At 11:38 am, July 20, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

never mind all that what is this new upgrade to my former bike? sounds good to me ! Stirling work again TCA, a good turn out and glad to hear Jon did not smash his helmet open on the chalk downhill section this time!

Shame about the lack of cakes though.

Charlie I know what you went through with the sore backside..


P.S whats with this gel supplement?

At 12:13 pm, July 20, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

BB, You need not worry about gel supplements - it's for girls. We look forward to having you back in the fold for the '08 campaign, it's not the same without your sore backside.


At 11:24 am, July 23, 2007, Blogger simon said...

and not a Lefty amongst you all! Great post!

At 9:38 am, July 24, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

I have just noticed that John did the race with a Union Jack flag attached to his rear mud guard! good work that man.


At 10:35 am, July 24, 2007, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Sounds great fun. There's nowt wrong with a Geobar. What is SS Engergy Products? Aloe Vera gel rubbed on sore bits really helps cool them down.

I like your cavelier attitude to competitors and their problems. My friend Pallie once pushed someone over during a running race when this person tried dirty tricks with her!

At 2:30 pm, July 24, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

LtL, click this link:


At 10:02 pm, July 24, 2007, Anonymous spm said...

Well done guys and gal. That morning I was finishing the Bideford - Newquay stretch of the South West Coast Path in blistering sun. Pleased to report that home made cake was available at all over night B&Bs. Had I known about the shortage I could have brought some home for a future TCA meet at Buriton.

At 9:24 am, July 25, 2007, Anonymous Doug said...


Loved your blogg... glad you all enjoyed yourselves. I took the beer off the menu as you guys let me down last year and we were left with almost a full barrel which we had to pay for!

Maybe, with a few promises I will put it back on for next year?

Don’t forget our Goodwood Spring Challenge next year, on 20th April, just for mountain bikes.




At 12:04 pm, July 25, 2007, Blogger kiwi mother said...

Maali, what took you so long to make the connection? Birds of a feather, are they.

At 1:11 am, August 01, 2007, Anonymous Ju's little sister said...

Maalie, there is no such thing as Ju's little sister's big sister. 'Ju' is the Ju.


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