Distance: 117 miles. Climbing: 8327ft. Difficulty: 9/10.
One of the two properly tough events on Evans’ RideIt calendar, the King of the Downs is a test of any cyclist.
Starting at Evans Cycles HQ just south of Gatwick airport, the course takes in two loops, the first through Surrey and the second through Kent, with five headline climbs falling in each half and the toughest ones coming at the end.
The weather can play a big part in the event. The first year I rode it, 2014, was sunny and the wind was calm and it seemed infinitely easier than in 2015 where it was the total opposite, and the whole of the flat ‘transition’ from Surrey to Kent was into a biting headwind with descending not a lot of fun on the damp roads.
The Surrey climbs are all manageable as long as you don’t burn too many matches early on, with the likes of Leith Hill all worthy of respect but not impossible if you stick it in the 28t cassette and spin up. You’ll be needing your legs for the second half of the day.
After passing within a bidon throw of the start gate, you head off into the sharper, and more imposing cols of Kent. The Wall has a fearsome reputation, but again is another one that can put spun up without too much fuss if you’re not feeling great.
The real test comes in the final two climbs, with Yorks & Titsey Hill. Yorks is home to the World’s Oldest Bike Race, the Catford CC Hill Climb, and is precisely not what you want 100 miles into a tough day out. It’s steep, very steep, with sections nudging 25% according to my Garmin and needs some serious mental strength to avoid joining the others who have dismounted and resorted to pushing both times I’ve done the event. The end does come relatively soon though and there is a much needed food station at the summit to prepare for the final drag.
Titsey Hill is also used for hill climbs, and lies on the ridge to the north of the M25 along with a number of other similarly steep climbs. The climb involves a right turn into a minor side road that a number of riders missed in 2015, before, like Yorks, there are some steep inclines around 20% on the way up. In 2015 there were 3 photographers stationed here to catch you at your absolute worst.
After this it’s downhill (most of the way) back to Gatwick where you’ll find some pasta, water and a number of middle aged blokes writhing round on the floor with agonising cramp.
It’s a big day out in the saddle, but one that’s well worth committing to. Evans’ organisation is always good at the RideIts, but KotD seems to ratchet it up a level and the food stops and general admin are noticably strong, and the field of riders is vast and seems to include some pretty serious riders preparing for the likes of l’Etape and the Marmotte in Europe in the following weeks.