Starting from Warwick Racecourse the early miles of this event are sublimely gentle but as it dips its toes into the Cotswolds things get decidedly lumpier. For those with no love of hills, the short route is confined to the flat roads to the east of Warwick without venturing south like the longer courses, which both head down past Stratford-upon-Avon. Tracing the banks of the River Avon and crisscrossing through the quiet lanes across the Vale of Evesham the calm serenity is broken upon reaching Mickleton. From here you face the double whammy of Campden Road and Ebrington Hill, the first two of a series of testing ascents. Set on steady gradients with a slight gap between them they offer a consistent and prolonged climbing test over close to nine kilometres. Moving on, the climbs come at regular intervals for the next 30 kilometres, first Brailes Hill then Holloway Hill, Shenington Road and if you take the long route the steepest test of the day up to the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park. This 600-metre long road with an average gradient close to 10%, although much steeper at the top, offers a stiff test with 115 kilometres in the legs. Delivering you into the wonderful yet compact country park it’s the last proper challenge of the day and from here you’ve 45 kilometres plain sailing, well almost, back through the lanes to the HQ.
Only available on the epic route Burton Dassett Hill is a beauty of a road. At 2.5 kilometres from start to finish, you rise from under the M40 into the wonderful little park with its neat grassy hillocks. Ramping steeper and steeper for the first 1000 metres then easing back it’s the toughest and prettiest part of the whole ride.
If you liked what you saw at the far northern tip of the Cotswolds then try venturing further south for some more testing climbs. Near Chipping Campden are the famous ascents of Dover’s Hill and Saintbury, home to hill climb races for many years, then further south there lie some true beasts. To the north of Cheltenham, rising out of the village of Woodmancote is one of the toughest climbs in southern England, the 30% monster that is Bushcombe Lane. Of course, it’s not all about savage inclines and all the rolling roads that meander back and forth across the ridge from Broadway to Dursley are worth riding in this picture postcard perfect part of Britain.