Anthony Maynard Sportive - The Recce

Anthony Maynard Sportive - 2011 Recce Team

The third Anthony Maynard Sportive is approaching rapidly and will see around 500 cyclists tackling the challenging 195km and 110km courses through the Berkshire & Wiltshire Downs. To make sure the routes and event organisation are a worthy tribute to Anthony, a team of seven Reading CC riders have just carried out a test ride of both courses.

Under white cloud, with a forecast of sunny intervals, the team had an early start from the event headquarters in Theale. Followed by their support vehicle and spurred on by the course designer, John Hollands, the team made rapid progress over the leg stretching rises through Bradfield, up over Apple Pie Hill climbing through the Isleys to Yew Down. The sweeping descent through to Wantage was followed by the first signature climb of Hackpen Hill with its stunning views from the top of the Lambourn Downs. It was here that the team also had their first chance to sample some of the organic and FairTrade food that will be available on the day of the sportive (the organic peanut and oat bars were particularly popular).

Anthony Maynard Sportive - 2011 Recce

After the rapid descent past the Gallops and into Lambourn, the group split with John leading Brian Perry and Miles Potter south east to complete the 110km course. This left Mick Berry, Dave Maynard, Rupert Shute and Wayne Thomas climbing in a north easterly direction though glorious downland before the descent to Ashbury. Tough roller coaster riding around Hinton Parva, Chiseldon and Wroughton eventually bought the team to the edge of the Marlborough Downs and the second Hackpen Hill of the day. Harder than its namesake at Lambourn, this took the riders up a glorious switchback ascent, past their first White Horse of the day, to reach the highest point of the course. This climb has a sting its tail but it was worth the pain - the views from the summit were spectacular.

With Hackpen behind them, the recce group swooped past the Rockley, Barton and Rough Downs into the picturesque market town of Marlborough. A quick refreshment stop in the wide High Street drew a crowd as some of the locals questioned whether the Tour de France was coming to town!

Anthony Maynard Sportive - 2011 Recce

Crossing the River Kennet and skirting the Marlborough White Horse the team began the steady ascent past the Neolithic settlements around Lockeridge and up towards the second control point on the course at 104km. With the twin peaks of Walkers Hill and Knap Hill looming on the horizon, the efforts of the riders were rewarded by the stunning vista of the Vale of Pewsey that unfurled on reaching the control point. The hills at this point are popular with Hang Gliding enthusiasts and as the riders dropped past their third White Horse of the day into Alton Barnes, they soon realised why.

A gentle meander across the Kennet & Avon canal had the team arriving in the village of Pewsey. A quick check of the local facilities and cyclist friendly café and they were then faced with the final White Horse and the sharp ascent of Pewsey Hill.

Regrouping over the summit, the riders headed out onto the plain through Everleigh and the Collingbournes. They made rapid progress through an area dotted with tank crossings – fortunately it was a quiet day for tank exercises.

Anthony Maynard Sportive - 2011 Recce

Having dodged the tanks, the undulations increased as the team cycled past Wexcombe, Marten and Oxenwood up onto the Rivar Down. Following the descent into Shalbourne the riders passed through Ham and the home of Doves Farm, whose organic cookies were a big hit at last year’s event.

Rolling through Inkpen, the long and short routes merge south east of Kintbury and meet the final control for the day on Acorn Ridge. Here, more of the organic food for the event was sampled. The fruit cordials, fruit smoothies and savoury smoothies were well received, and pockets were filled with the popular peanut and oat bars for the final 40km of the course.

Skirting Hamstead Park and crossing the River Kennet for the last time, the group headed over the ridge and back into the Lambourn Valley. They then had to tackle the notorious Boxford Alps and the final hard climb of the day to the top of Red Shute Hill. Continuing to work well together, with the finish beckoning, the team crossed Bucklebury Common, going through Southend to reach the short, but with 192 km behind them, surprisingly hard, ascent out of Bradfield to a welcome arrival in Theale.

Anthony Maynard Sportive - 2011 Recce

A collective “Chapeau” to the recce team riders from the support car for confirming that once again the Anthony Maynard Sportive will be a great day of cycling. In particular it was clear how good the course is, with virtually the whole of both routes being within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and with an emphasis on roads that are surprisingly quiet and traffic free. There were (many) times when the support crew wanted to be on their bikes too although, on some of the climbs, they were very glad to be in a car!

Thanks also are extended to Rocks Cordials, Meridian Foods, Ella’s Kitchen and the True Food Co-op of Reading whose food and drink sustained the riders during the recce.

With just over eight hours of hard cycling, including 2450m of vertical ascent, the recce team verified the silver standard time for the 195km course. Dave Maynard summed things up: “The course is hard, and tough, entrants will not be disappointed!”

A full version of this article can be downloaded from here in PDF format and more photos are available in the image gallery. Photo credit: barryquick.com