Chiltern 100 preview

To help you prepare for the big May event here is my preview of the 2014 event - they do alter the route slightly year by year but the main climbs/features should be the same.

This preview first appeared on

Chiltern 100 preview

This is intended to help you complete the 2014 Chiltern 100. The Gran Fondo is 176km long and takes in 21 hills that add up to 2,700m of climbing in total. It's a serious challenge which will need preparing for and require careful riding on the day - go too hard, too soon and you will pay later.

The Medio Fondo option is 122km long and features most of the toughest climbs for a total of 1,900m of climbing. The Medio route splits from the Gran Fondo after just 8km, and is effectively a short cut that misses out 54km. It rejoins the Gran Fondo route at the 69.5km point.

Bison Hill
The first significant hill on the Gran Fondo route comes at 31km. Bison Hill is a short but very steep climb up towards Whipsnade Zoo. There are good views from the top and along the ridgeroute before you drop down towards Dunstable and turn abruptly left. Soon you are heading towards Ivinghoe Beacon (44km) which is a longer but a much easier ascent than Bison.

A further rise up onto the Astridge Estate and then a fast descent down Tom's Hill will have you coming around to climb Hemp Lane (55km) - not the steepest but certainly requiring an effort to get up. For Gran Fondo people there is a feed stop at the top of this hill. You drop briefly into the outskirts of Tring and then head out on a minor road to one of the gems of this sportive - The Crong.

The Crong
This starts gently enough under heavy tree cover but up ahead you can see a very steep left turn with high banks on either side. This turn is 19% but is also a bike handling challenge. After that it continues to climb steeply and then finishes with a very steep bit just before you come out of the wood.

Once over The Crong you roll up towards Cholesbury Common where you are joined by the Medio Fondo people (fresh from no significant climbing and with just 15km in their legs). Everyone drops quickly down Aston Hill, turns left for Wendover and takes in a couple more reasonable rises before dropping again - this time near Princes Riseborough.

An abrupt turn left gets you on to Peter's Lane and this is the start of Whiteleaf - the steepest challenge on the Chiltern 100. This ascent is No. 23 in Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs and comes at 89km (or 35km if doing the Medio). The hill gives you a good stretch of 17% slopes before briefly easing to 10% and then ramping up again through 15% and up to 20% through overhanging trees. Very tough.

At the top you immediately turn right and drop very quickly; I saw 70kph going down this one and there's a sharp left-hand turn at the bottom. Immediately, you come around to Pink Hill/Wardrobes Lane - another serious hill. It starts fairly reasonable but has a T-junction and very steep left turn up ahead. Once you've negotiated this tricky turn things remain very steep for a long stretch.

The combination of these two climbs in quick succession is a real challenge and may lead to an impact on your legs, and energy. You get a few kms of flat to recover and then toil up Wigan's Lane which isn't steep but is long. Luckily, the second feedstop (1st for medio people) is very nearby in Chinnor. 106km for Gran Fondoers and 52km for Medio people.

Next up is Kingstone Hill (no. 122 in Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs). This hill starts very gradually so be careful - don't go too fast at the start because despite the initial 3% grade it goes up to 9% for a long stretch and then 12%for a long stretch, then 15% for a bit longer and towards the end is up at 19%. You come out very near the iconic Stokenchurch BT tower which can be seen from miles away and is a landmark beside the M40.

Another sweeping descent and ride along the flat (always seems to be a head wind here) gets you into Watlington and a long climb back up onto the Chiltern top. Coming at 119km (65km on the medio) this has an initial steep bit that eases slightly before climbing at a steady 10 to 12% all the way.
You come out on Christmas Common and now have an extended period of flat riding followed by a long descent through Pishill and a gentle rise up Ballam's Lane. Another welcome drop down Dolesden Lane takes you through Fingest then at about 135km (81km) there's an abrupt 11% ramp, maybe 30m long, which eases into a very long climb that gradually steepens so that by the end you are at 15%. By this point in the Chiltern 100 many people will find this kind of hill very challenging.

Dropping once more, this time towards West Wycombe along a main road you turn sharp left and head towards a high wooded hill - not a welcome sight. This is the climb up onto Bledlow Ridge, and it has some very steep slopes towards the top. The 3rd food stop (2nd for Medio) should be here (145 or 91km). Soon enough you are dropping again, joining another main road and then turning off left through the pretty Bradenham estate. You start climbing again for quite some time, mainly at 8%.

White Hill
After this come picturesque lanes that wend their way towards Speen where you climb through the village.  You then drop down towards Great Missenden and climb out up Frieth Hill (164/110km) - normally an easy hill, but at this stage some will be cursing as they ascend. A little bit further on you come to Chesham and the last challenge of the day - White Hill. This starts in the town (in the shopping precinct) and looks dauntingly steep. It goes up at 12% and reaches 15% max - a final reminder of all you have overcome on this epic ride.

Fingers crossed for fine weather and strong legs. Good luck!