Just the four Fiasco members on this run – Benning, Pricey, Longy and Diesel. Driving to the start from Haslemere involved climbing up the final short but steep climb of the ride, which was useful as forewarned is always forearmed in these matters.
Little Lumpy has a much more homely feel to it than many other sportives – just 600 riders in total, and virtually no corporate sponsors to be seen. No goodie bags of power bars and gels, but at the start local volunteers offered free bacon sarnies and cups of tea/coffee.
Pricey, Longy and Diesel opted for the 100 mile Epic route, while Bud was joined for the Challenge (60 miles) by May, the Colonel’s better half.
With customary pessimism, Diesel announced that he was eager to set off at 8am on the dot, as he had a taxi booked for 6.30pm and wasn’t sure how long he would need. Clearly faffing was always going to prevent this, but the party crossed the start to the sound of clicking cleats and beeping garmins at around 8.20am.
The course itself was undulating but rather pleasant, as was the weather, once the morning mist lifted. The first serious hill came in the form of Turkey Island (as Strava calls it), which is a back way up Harting Down. Plenty of huff and bluster from inexperienced riders red zoning it up, met with indifference by the wise heads of the Fiasci, who wound their way up steadily, noting there were still 90/50 miles still to go.
According to the profile, there are 11 ‘hills’ in the Epic route, to be ticked off as you conquered them. This led to some debate about what actually constituted a hill – was it simply vertical ascent, or grade? Pricey argued, for example, that Combe Lane only counts as a hill from the southern side; Jr disagreed, viewing everything higher than a railway bridge as a hill.
The first feed station came after just 27 miles – and the goodies on offer would have graced Mary Berry’s table. Flapjacks (both sorts – with and without dried fruit, but NO chocolate/peanut butter etc), drizzle cake, ginger cake, peanuts, all delicious. Not a silver foil wrapper or energy drink to be seen.
The split with the Challenge riders came immediately after this feed station, and the Epic routers continued on their way.
As we eased our way up one of the many hills, Longy and Pricey upped the pace and dropped Diesel by a few metres. Nothing unusual here. Then a chunky rider wearing blue decided he fancied a piece of Diesel’s ass and overtook him too. There started a vicious rivalry that set the tone for the rest of the race (well, for Diesel anyway). Marking old Blue Eyes for the rest of the climb, Diesel then accelerated triumphantly past him with 100m to go before the summit, catching up with Pricey and Longy and giving himself a mental high five in the process. Lost in internal smugness, he failed to notice that Pricey had misread a direction arrow and the three Fiasci ploughed on for 100m before realising their error (‘it’s left here mate’ shouted other riders, helpfully). By the time they had returned to the route, Blue Eyes and a small group had opened up a 100m advantage!
Smarting, Diesel’s engine spluttered into action, and set a pace that had one goal, and one goal only – overtaking Blue Eyes (and the two birds with large @rses who were just behind him, to whom Pricey had addressed an unintentionally sleazy ‘hiiiii’ earlier). At about the same time, Longy’s nutritional experimentation with jelly babies as a source of long-term energy was not proving a success, and he started to drop the pace a bit. Pricey was torn – holding back for Longy out of solidarity, or sticking with Diesel (just because he could). In the end, the pattern was set – keep the pace high to catch and overtake Blue Eyes and the birds, then wait at the top of the next hill for Longy (allowing Blue Eyes to go back into the lead). This pattern repeated itself 6 times in total.
The route meandered around some rather nice country lanes in Hampshire and Sussex, and hardly any time was spent on main roads – credit to the organisers. Although hilly, there were few steep bits anywhere, with only Harting Down and arguably Blackdown offering much of a challenge, however neither was there much flat.
Eventually, we grouped at the top of Blackdown, ready for the final descent into Haslemere. At the start of the final climb up Woolmer Hill (a nasty little slope), Pricey’s competitiveness could be held back no longer, and with an elevated cadence and that lolling head which betrays effort, dropped Diesel like an old tractor battery. Keeping up a decent pace for the 300 metres of flat between the end of the hill and the finish line, victory in the arrivée en altitude seemed assured. But wait – what’s this? Diesel, giving it every last drop of HFO, managed to bridge the gap and with the stealth of a supercharged milk float nipped past the despairing Pricey just 50 metres from the finish line. Pricey tried to overhaul the gap but could only get to within a bike length.
Well it was a lot of fun anyway.
(Guttingly, Blue Eyes and the birds with big @rses had finished before us, but even Diesel finally recognised that it didn’t really matter..)
We didn’t dawdle at the end as we genuinely had to get back, but our times of c 7 hrs 40 were perfectly respectable. Benning had reported back that he and May had finished the Challenge in good shape, so all was good.
We promised to return next year – and so we shall!