We took to the road in the dark, in the damp, in the wind... and had a great time. The Club Peloton Winter Ride headed out from Hever Hotel in Kent and looped through the Ashdown Forest on an 85km sportif that took in what route creator Rhian Fletcher insisted were only three climbs. Take a look at this route map and see if you agree. She couldn't deny that the biggest hill (Kidd's Hill, AKA The Wall) was purely gratuitous - we went up, turned around, and came back down.
The peloton included a mix of experienced riders and first-timers (architect Kuros Sharshar bravely took part having picked up his bike the evening before and never ridden more than 20km. He made it to the finish, conquering all the hills. Chapeau.) And an elf.
This was a fully supported ride - breakfast before and lunch after, mechanic, paramedic, lead car to pace the ride and fend off traffic. The pace was respectable, with the ride completed in four hours 22 minutes, and almost an hour in breaks. "It was fantastic training for Cycle to MIPIM," said Club Peloton chief executive Nick Hanmer. "The sun came out, beautiful route, what more could you want?"
The start was cold and damp but soon the sun was lighting the horizon, banishing fears of ice - the recce riders had experienced a fall or two the week before, but on the day sharp bends were negotiated and a couple of streams forded without slip up. Local drivers were helpful and polite.