Hippy rides the Harp Hilly Hundred.

This first reliability trial is the well-known Harp Hilly Hundred starting and finishing also at the Hemel Hempstead CC clubroom. This starts off following a similar route as the Hemel event through to Chesham then it takes on its own character taking on the hilly bits of the northern Chilterns through Berkhamsted, Whipsnade (the infamous Bison Hill) then onto Aston Hill near Halton and tracking back through Tring, Ivinghoe Beacon, Whelpley Hill via White Hill to the clubroom for a well earned rest.

With a whole 4 hours sleep under the belt, I woke up feeling.. um.. rough. My eyes were shot – dehydration does this. Coffee and Vegemite toast to the rescue. Prepped the bike (riding the Ribble as I’ve not finished tweaking the S-Works) and packed some muesli bars, a gel, sweets, the GPS (which had the Hemel club room added as a waypoint and a route hastily copied from Google Maps using GMapToGPX), my multi-tool, spare batteries and wet weather gear (although the forecast was good, you never know). I had planned to leave all this in my bag at the club rooms but this didn’t happen.

I left the house around 7am after printing a Google Map route sheet. 32k to ride start. Rode through Greenford, Harrow, Watford and then.. got lost. I took the wrong exit in some messy friggin’ round-a-bout system in some stupid piddly friggin’ town and headed the wrong way for a while before realising. Now I’m running behind schedule! Angry. Didn’t want to up the pace too much as I’m trying to get miles in and not explode my legs too soon.

I met a guy on a bike and he knew the club rooms so we rode together for a short while, until we spotted some more cyclists who it turned out were doing the Harp Hilly 100. These guys had already started and suggested I should just start. So I did. I didn’t really think it through but it meant that I saved £4 (sarcastic woo!) it also meant I had no map and I was carrying my bag full of crap and still had my lights on.. um.. oh well, too late now. Hang on! One of the guys had a new Pinarello, picked up the day before. I don’t think he liked that I’d left my day-old machine at home and he was on his. Turns out they had taken a wrong turn almost straight away (hippy gets lost #2) and we carried on alone until a junction where we could pick up some other bunches.

Once ‘on’ it was quite good rolling along in a group of 20 or so at reasonable pace. The bunch strung out at the first big climb. No idea what it was called or where it was but it was reasonably steep. To keep the HR down I was in my lowest gear (39/25 I think). Rejoined bunch and repeated this process a few times – there’s some nice climbs around this part and the weather was sweet.

Riding up the steep Bison Hill I passed Willesden CC’s ‘Mike the Bike’ and said g’day or something. I was probably a bit vague at that point. He said there were big bunches up ahead so I pushed on, grabbing a muesli bar when my HR had dropped at the top. Rejoined a bunch that had some familiar people in it and at some point here I was dropped, I think? I’m not actually sure but I remember passing two women riding together and then stopping as my back was hurting so much I had to stretch my hamstrings and then the two women passed, asking if I was okay.


No one was coming along the road so I basically chased down the bunch the women were in and tagged on. These guys ride for an MTB club and were training for the Marmotte. We ended up riding up Ivanhoe Beacon, only to get to the top and realise we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere! (lost hippy #3). The consensus was that we’d cut out 1/4 to 1/3 of the course, including Aston Hill but at the top of Ivanhoe you don’t really want to ride back the way you came just to do it all over again later. A pox on the riders near us that failed to mention our wrong turning! Ah well, we continued on.

We did some more map checks and more climbs along the way while I started to suffer a bit – my back again and tiredness. I was sitting on the front though, with another mtb’er bloke, with the two women o’ Marmotte behind so it wasn’t like I wasn’t working with the group. I’d pass them all going up hill but I’d suffer on the rolling/flat (very odd for me! I usually power the flat and suffer up hill). The guy pretty much knew the way back so with a few close calls with Sunday driving buffoons in European saloons we made it back to the Hemel club rooms.

I bid my bunch farewell and decided that the option of returning to Ealing by train was too painful and as it only saved me 10k it was hardly worth it. So, I turned around and cycled back home. This added another 32k to the clock and saw me arriving home in a bit of a state. Ouch. 🙂

144.2k for the day (supposed to be 100k) and it was actually closer to 100k on Saturday although it should have been 60k according to my program :S How do you spell ‘burn out’?


The Team Quest Reliability ride starts much closer to home and will be more like a club run for me.


Hippy (AKA Stuart Birnie)

(Full article appears on Hippy’s Blog Site – http://www.thehippy.net/nucleus/?itemid=967.)

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One Response to Hippy rides the Harp Hilly Hundred.

  1. frobisher says:

    is Marmotte the same as Vegemite?

    love it or hate it

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