In 2019 our epic King of the Downs sportive will return for another year to challenge riders with a true test of cycling endurance on a 115 mile route taking you through the Surrey hills, North Downs, Ashdown Forest and Kent ticking off 10 killer climbs along the way.
The 2019 event takes place on Sunday 9th June and is now open for entries via our website at King of the Downs Sportive.
To give you an idea of what challenges face entrants here’s our guide to the main climbs but don’t forget the 115 miles linking these together isn’t all flat either!
If you’re taking part in the full 115 mile distance you’ll ride all 10 climbs in the order listed but this year we also have two shorter options available where you can opt to ride either just the west loop or just east loop. The west loop only option is 54 miles and features climbs 1 to 5, the east loop option is 61 miles and features climbs 6 to 10.
Full Route – Both East & West Loops – 115 miles featuring all ten climbs
Half Route Option 1 – West Loop Only – 54 miles featuring climbs 1 to 5
Half Route Option 2 – East Loop Only – 61 miles featuring climbs 6 to 10
For those that have yet to enter you can do so via our website at King of the Downs Sportive. Online entry closes on the 6th June or when we reach event capacity whichever comes soonest.
Climb 1 – Leith Hill
Length – 2 miles, Ascent – 451 feet, Gradient – 6%
Our first climb on the King of the Downs route and there’s no easing you in gently with Leith Hill, laying claim to the highest point in the south east at 294 metres above sea level. It’s always been a popular climb with local cyclists but its inclusion in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 route has really cemented its place as one of the most well-known hills in the south east.
As it’s the first climb, your legs might still be fresh but be warned this a relatively long one so it’s important not to get too carried away at the start, time to settle into a nice steady rhythm and remember this is only the first of many climbs you’ll be facing on the route. For those familiar with the climb, our route heads right with a final kick up before continuing along Abinger Lane rather than the more common straight on up Leith Hill Road.
Climb 2 – Pitch Hill
Length – 2.1 miles, Ascent – 559 feet, Gradient – 6%
Just 20 miles in and we’re faced with climb two, Pitch Hill. Similar in length to the Leith Hill the climbs seems to have a slightly more consistent gradient so a bit easier to get into a steady rhythm. Once over this one you’re a little over 20 miles into the ride and will have already ticked off your first 1,000 feet of vertical ascent.
Climb 3 – Combe Lane
Length – 1 miles, Ascent – 422 feet, Gradient – 7%
As the route crosses the A25 you’re faced with Combe Lane, it might start steadily but there’s worse ahead with a really steep hairpin and final ramp up towards the top that will have even the strongest riders out of their saddle and wishing they had a lower gear to shift to.
Climb 4 – Crocknorth Wall & Ranmore Common
Length – 1.5 miles, Ascent – 271 feet, Gradient – 4%
There’s not much chance to recover from the last climb before you’re faced with climb number 4. In contrast to the previous climb this one starts steep with a few hundred metres ramping up into double digit gradient territory before you get some respite. With the steep section behind you the terrain becomes slightly undulating but you’re still gaining height up on to the top of Ranmore Common and if you’ve overdone it on the steep section, this top section always seems a lot tougher than it should.
Climb 5 – Box Hill
Length – 2.6 miles, Ascent – 567 feet, Gradient – 5%
Box Hill or Zig Zag road is probably the most renowned of all the climbs in the south east and will need little introduction to many cyclists. Having featured in the 2012 Olympic road race and subsequently as part of Ride London, its switchback turns bring little taste of the big alpine climbs to Surrey.
Despite its notoriety, it’s actually one of the easier climbs on our King of the Downs route, the gradient kicks up slightly on the hairpins but it eases in between them and there are some great views to take your mind off the climbing.
For riders on the half distance route your work is done but for those tackling the full ride we’ve saved some of the hardest climbs for the second half of the ride so make sure you’ve saved something in your legs for later as there is tougher to come.
Climb 6 – Tulleys Farm
Length – 1.8 miles, Ascent – 252 feet, Gradient – 4%
We’re not completely cruel and after the feed stop we give you a chance to ease yourself back into the climbing gradually with the steady, gently rising road, up towards Turners Hill followed by a nice descent back down the other side.
Climb 7 – Weir Wood Reservoir
Length – 1.3 miles, Ascent – 342 feet, Gradient – 4%
After the relatively easy climb 6, it’s on to Weir Wood Reservoir which gives you a chance to see how your legs are feeling before the tougher challenges that lie ahead. As you pass the reservoir you initially start to climb gradually before a steeper, more testing middle section which averages around 6% then it levels back out towards the top.
From the top is a quick descent before straight onto climb number 8 where things start to get tough.
Climb 8 – Kidds Hill aka ‘The Wall’
Length – 0.9 miles, Ascent – 406 feet, Gradient – 8%
Kidds Hill, which climbs up to Ashdown Forest, is more commonly referred to as ‘The Wall’ and with good reason. It might not be the steepest of the climbs on the King of the Downs route but it’s a tough test and one that can play with your mind.
The long straight road and ever so slightly increasing gradient makes it look like a wall of tarmac ahead of you. The sunlight at the top of the tunnel of trees always looks tantalisingly close but seems to take forever to reach it. It’s hard with fresh legs and certainly no easier after a 75 mile hilly warm up!
From here you have around 20 miles before the next feature hill and a good chance to make sure you’ve eaten and drank enough as this ride has a real sting in the tail with probably two of the toughest climbs still to come.
Climb 9 – York’s Hill
Length – 1.1 miles, Ascent – 394 feet, Gradient – 13%
A strong contender for the toughest climb on the King of the Downs route and its claim to fame is it hosts the annual Catford Hill Climb, the oldest continually run bike race in the world which first started in 1887 and been run annually ever since.
It’s one of those cruel climbs where the gradient just seems to get steeper as you head towards the top which peaks at somewhere around the 20% mark. The Catford Hill Climb record is a mind boggling 1 minute 47 seconds and has stood for over 30 years so something to bear in mind if you’re feeling strong!
Climb 10 – Titsey Hill
Length – 0.8 miles, Ascent – 386 feet, Gradient – 13%
Well done, you’ve nearly made it, just one more to go! After what you’ve been through it would be a shame to take the cop-out easy way, so our ride goes up the infamous White Line, the steepest route up Titsey Hill, and venue for the Bec Hill Climb, another of Britain’s longest running cycle events. It’s consistently steep from the start and ramps up to around 25% for the final section before you crest the top. For the Bec Hill Climb contenders, it’s around 1m45s to the top but we’ve got a feeling our riders might be going ever so slightly slower by now!
A final word of caution, after climb number 10, it’s certainly no flat easy run in to the finish, there’s the infamous climb 10.5, which although didn’t make it into our top 10 has been the undoing of many a rider who thought they’d made it once they crested the top of Titsey Hill. Also, never underestimate how, having over a 100 hilly miles in your legs can make even the smallest rises start to feel like epic climbs!
This year’s RIDE IT King of The Downs Challenge takes place on Sunday 9th June 2019.