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UK sportive planner: Hell of the Ashdown

A hugely popular early season challenge through Kent and East Sussex

9 Jan 2018

When: Sunday 18th February 2018
Where: Biggin Hill, Kent
Distance: 107km
Cost: £32
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What is the Hell of the Ashdown?

The venerable Catford CC is proud to be one of the UK’s oldest cycling clubs and claims ownership of the world’s oldest continuously running bike race, with its annual hill climb that’s been going since 1887.

It’s a thriving club with an active youth development team producing a promising crop of young racers, as well as organising a number of popular events.

Among these is the Hell of the Ashdown, which may not have been going quite as long as the hill climb race, but is certainly one of the longest-running sportives in the calendar and a very popular fixture for anyone looking to give themselves a proper early season challenge.

Claiming to be Kent’s biggest sportive (although the route straddles the Kent-Sussex border), it proudly bills itself as ‘107km of your worst nightmare on a bike’.

Because the ride takes place in the depths of February, the wintry conditions you’re likely to encounter is sure to make it a proper test of character – and that’s before you even factor in the hills…

What’s the route?

Starting at Charles Darwin school in Biggin Hill, Kent, the route heads south and the hills start almost immediately, with the ascent of the notorious Toys Hill – albeit from the slightly easier north side.

After a thrilling high-speed descent down the other side, the road continues southwards towards the Ashdown Forest – a popular deer-hunting ground in Norman times, it’s now a popular spot for hunting Strava KOM titles.

Set at the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this region of elevated heathland offers spectacular views over the Sussex countryside – not that you’ll be hanging around to enjoy them with several more challenging hills to tackle as you follow the constantly undulating roads through the forest.

In fact, the route packs in a total of 11 climbs (as well as a number of other smaller rises and dips in the road), adding up to a total of nearly 2,000m of climbing overall.

Perhaps the toughest of them all is Kidd’s Hill, aka ‘The Wall’, a dead straight road that rises at an average of 12% for nearly 800m, hitting 20% at its steepest.

Heading back northwards towards Sevenoaks, the climbing doesn’t relent, and just when you think the finish line is in sight, you’ll hit Hogtrough Hill, which is shorter than Kidd’s but viciously steep.

The southeast of England may lack the long, sustained ascents and high altitudes of the Scottish Highlands but it’s certainly not flat!

What’s included in the entry fee?

There are two indoor feed stations on the route, at Ashdown Forest and Sevenoaks Weald, with free nutrition products supplied by OTE.

Roving motorcycle marshals and mobile mechanics patrol the route, providing assistance where required, and will ensure you get back to base if you’re unable to complete the ride.

Chip timing provides an accurate record of your ride, and although the roads are not closed for the event, the route is fully signposted and marshalled, and comes with the promise of Catford CC’s legendary hospitality at the start and finish.

When can I sign up?

The 2018 edition is open for entries now at – but get in quick because places are limited to 1,500 and it always sells out.

You can sign up as an individual, or as a group if you want to ride with friends – and there are discounts for groups of six or more.

If you need any more reasons to sign up, the entry fee also goes in part to local charities including Pepenbury, which provides help and support for people with learning disabilities, and Chartwell Cancer Trust.

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