Cycle for Uganda 2016 – Five Hills Challenge
The Five Hills Challenge
Saturday 25th June 2016
Boasting some wonderful views across the Mendips, this 50 mile ride takes on 5 challenging hills and 3 particularly technical descents that will give any cyclist a good test of endurance, skills and strength. With 3,500ft of climbing and a maximum gradient of 20% it’s not a ride for the weak minded or a fear of heights!
Link to the route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/12222793
Starting out from Clevedon Hall, the first 6 miles are reassuringly flat over the North Somerset levels, a gentle warm up before reaching the first of the climbs which marks the start of a dizzy 3,250ft of climbing over the next 35 miles.
Hill 1 – Cleve Hill – 1.1 miles / 400ft / 7% ave / 16% max
As the route crosses over the A370 into the stone wall lined Cleve Hill Road, the road gently climbs upwards around the edge of King’s Wood until a right hand bend near the summit winds its way under a dense canopy of woodland while at the same time kicking up to a leg-burning 16% gradient, before levelling out at 500ft above sea level. Just a little taste of what is to come.
The descent down the other side into Wrington is smooth and deceptively challenging, with some great views of the Mendips. The road never really opens up, making you keep your speed constantly in check through the gentle bends, coming to a stop for a couple of T-junctions near the bottom.
After negotiating the centre of Wrington, there are 3 miles of relative calm until the foot of Burrington.
Hill 2 – Burrington Combe – 2.5 miles / 700ft / 6% ave / 11% max
It’s one of the best known climbs in the Mendips, but there is nothing particularly extreme about Burrington Combe. However, with 2.5 miles of steady climbing and a couple of sharpish kicks, it is easy to run out of legs if you don’t pace yourself. It’s a very pretty climb (though not quite as nice as Cheddar Gorge), running through a valley carved in the rock with plenty of green flanking the wide road. It tops out at 900ft above the sea and once you’ve ridden it, you’ll understand why it’s popular with cyclists.
At the summit, a left hand turn on to Two Trees reveals a spectacular view of the two lakes, Blagdon and Chew Valley. The descent into Blagdon starts off very straight and fast, then becomes very steep, technical and twisty, as it approaches the town forcing you to grab handfuls of brake all the way down to safely navigate the narrow streets.
After a left onto Blagdon High Street and the next right down Station Road, the road continues to drop away at an alarming rate, finally straightening out alongside Blagdon Lake, the view you saw from 900ft just a few minutes ago.
Rolling hills provide little respite as only 2 miles stand between the lake and the climb out of Butcombe.
Hill 3: Butcombe – 1.3 miles / 346ft / 6% ave / 15% max
There is little indication of what lies ahead as the single track road starts to rise unexpectedly through the twisty, rutted lanes. A steady slog through rural farmland is what lies in wait to further punish the legs, peaking at a 15% gradient. The winding lanes, make the climb seem longer and harder than it is, but this is probably the easiest climb.
Once the top is reached, turning East, from here several miles of gentle descents and an occasional steep drop makes for favourable cycling and allows much needed recovery for the tired muscles. If that’s not enough, the halfway stop at Chew Valley Lake is just round the corner, an opportunity to refuel, refill the water bottles and moan about how steep the hills were.
Hill 4: Western Lane – 2.4 miles / 546ft / 6% ave / 20% max
After 6 miles of flat roads and a generous rest stop you should be more than ready to tackle the single toughest section on the route. Heading south around the lake towards East Harptree, the single track road begins to climb steadily upwards for just nearly a mile, not too steep but not a walk in the park either. An unexpected downhill section provides a welcome, but brief relief, before facing what can only be described as a wall. The way the road climbs ahead of you into the distance contrasted with the hills falling away to the side only emphasise just how steep it is. It’s only a couple of hundred yards, but it ramps up to just over 20%, or 1 in 5. You’ll probably need to get out the saddle, either to power your way up the incline, or to get off and walk!
The descent on the other side isn’t much easier. It’s challenging, technical and twisty. You’ll need good brakes and it’s likely your shoulders and back will be aching by the time you reach Compton Martin from keeping your weight over the back wheel as you descend, constantly on the brakes.
Hill 5: Chapel Hill – 0.75 miles / 320ft / 9% ave / 16% max
The final climb takes you past the aptly named Awkward Hill and through the outskirts of the wonderfully named Nempnett Thrubwell. It is the shortest of the five, but at 9% average gradient it will quickly deplete the remaining life left in your legs, should you have any. Actually, the final hill is comprised of an initial tough climb, followed by 5 miles of rolling hills tacked on the other side. Once you pass the Old Chapel, roughly half way up, if you do get a chance to look back there is a lovely view over Blagdon Lake and the Mendips.
Once you reach the top of the climb, that’s it for the difficult stuff, just a bit of a steady plod up and down shallow hills to Bristol Airport, where from there it’s pretty much all downhill, nearly 4 miles of well earned, unhindered descent!
Entering Clevedon on the same road you left, and heading back through the town centre, there will be a great sense of accomplishment as you negotiate the final few hundred yards and arrive back at the hall!
As it’s a challenge for charity, you didn’t expect it to be easy did you?! There are many who live in Uganda who face a far tougher challenge each day. This year we are raising money to help provide the basic need of water in the Ibanda village in Western Uganda. The plan is to raise enough money to install a guttering and a water collection tank so there is fresh water available close by as and when it’s needed.
However, there will be no rush to get round the course, and plenty of breaks at the bottom and top of hills, plus a good stop at Chew Valley Lake half way round. It may be the toughest ride you do this year, but with the support of everyone else and going at your own pace it is doable.
Training is recommended, it’s not the sort of ride you want to attempt when out of shape, and aiming to be able to ride a flat 50 miles would be a good target. Due to the technical nature of the course though, it is extremely important that your bike is in good working order and your brakes work well and the brake pads have plenty of life left in them.
It is recommended that you get your bike serviced a few weeks before the event, paying particular attention to the brake pads and any worn cables, checking the tyre for wear or any damage, and getting the gears adjusted so they work smoothly. We can advise you further if necessary.
This is a really challenging, but fun and picturesque ride. We hope you will join us and help the village of Ibanda in Uganda!
All we ask for is a donation of £5 to help cover the cost of the day.
The Cycle for Uganda Team