Billed as “The Best Sportive in the South of England”, The Hell of the Ashdown is a stiff early-season test with the weather and the lumpy Kent & Sussex hills conspiring to produce one tough day on the bike. Just 64 miles (104km) long, it’s not the length that makes this a challenge, but the 6,150ft of climbing with no real flat sections to recover, not to mention the weather. There’s six major climbs interspersed with a number of smaller ramps and rises. It’s tough from the gun with Star Hill just a couple of miles from the start before a descent down under the M25 and up to the long slog up Toy’s Hill from the north. The much feared but in reality not-that-scary “Wall” came just after the halfway food-stop and seemed to feature a number of riders who had potentially sat down for too long eating Soreen and Jelly Babies, with cold muscles not ideal for the 8(ish) minute climb. The sight of a rider stuck in a hedge complaining of cramp around the 40 mile mark was equal parts reassuring and alarming, hope he got through ok. Arguably the most memorable part of the ride was the climb up to Boars Back after the final check point, which was more cyclocross than road sportive, featuring plenty of mud, sand and potholes leading to a decent climb up to a farm at the top. Doubtless a road I’d never have discovered without being guided down it on the route. Purists may worry about the health of their tyres and shiny frames, needless to say there seemed to be far more puncture issues on the other 63 miles of the course than this off-road section. A couple more ramps clocked the elevation over 6000ft for the day and it very much felt like time for a recovery beer and a bath by the end. The event was the best marshalled sportive I’ve ridden in England, with hi-viz wearing, Catford CC flag waving marshalls on nearly all the junctions on the route allowing you to ride without stopping nearly all the way round. There were also some NEG motorbikes flying round although having seen them at a couple of events I still have no idea what they do other than stop and eat cake with the riders. There were a couple of T-Junctions without signs which required some guesswork to find the right way, but other than that the organisation was excellent. Food stops laden with OTE gels and drinks as well as plenty of cake, sweets and jaffa cakes were also strong. With fitness, weight and weather all some way behind where they will ideally be in a couple of months time, it’s a really good day out on the bike to see where your form currently is. Whilst the murky conditions block out some of what are stunning views in the sunshine, the quiet roads and top organisation make this a top class sportive.

Charlie Woodall 2017

Hi Guys, it was my third HOTA Sportiveand it did not disappoint. Tougher this year than previous even though I’'d done the KK before last years event. Overall, a top event, well-marshalled, good - fairly priced food, great atmosphere and well organised  

Pat Sullivan 2017

Thought it was a great route and really well organised. There are so many organised rides using the same climbs and the HOTA always seems to find something different. It was a great test of bike and bike handling especially that sharp right hander before the ford! Yes there were a few signs missing as there are on most rides but that's why we had the route card. Thanks for organising it - I know it's increasingly difficult.

Karen Plumber 2017

To the event organisers of Hell 2017! Take a bow many thanks for a superb route testing as ever and great mix of climbs, drops and beautiful scenery Venue worked really well - I arrived 7.15 am and had no problem parking. Arriving back I saw how many cars there were! Checking in and registration - well organised, efficient, super friendly crew and quick! Please extend a big thank you to the event marshals who were all smiling and chatty and great throughout the route - One suggestion - on the signage how about a sign 250 yards prior to a change in direction / approaching a junction so it gives riders a heads up ahead of the actual junction Looking forward to 2018 already !   

Paul Haley Purley Cyclones 2017

Amazing ride, amazing marshalls, amazing views, amazing tea and cake stops, not so amazing me getting up and down the hills, thank you!!

Lucy Hearn 2016

Big thank you to everyone who had a hand in making yesterday's HOTA so hellishly enjoyable - my first, and I loved it.

Chris McCafferty 2016

I'm begining to think I should sin more. Hell has lovely marshals, tea and cake, and sunshine! Thanks all!

Rory H 2016

Thanks to all at Catford CC and volunteers, sportive and triathlons would not be possible without tge commitment and effort if marshals etc, some tricky decents today and as my 1st time was unsure of the roads, had a great ride even tho my gear shifters broke and left my rear cassette on the bottom cog, so the last 10 miles were in 39-11, Star hill was conquered all the same!! See you nxt year for sure

Paul Hastings 2016

Fantastic event. Organisers & Marshalls, hats off. You did a Stirling job all round. Weather was spot on too. No punctures and my front wheel looks like I wheelied all the way round! Can't wait for next year!

Steve Webb 2016

Many thanks to all of the catford cc Marshall and all the tea ladies for putting a fantastic event. I turned this morning with a MB, feeling A bit out of place at the start, soon felt I made the right decision after a couple of miles

Neil Ord 2016

Super day of riding. AND an ice 'kiss'! ha.

Anthony Price 2016

A week ago I was in Lanzarote. Week later I'm slipping on the black ice and stacking it. Luckily not too fast. Straightened my handlebars and got back on. Thanks to all involved.

Tim Lawton 2016

I should also say thank you for organising another great HOTA . Really appreciate all the work the Marshall's and yourself put in !

Mitch Mitchell 2016

Great organization by Catford CC and a fab day out for the five Central London CTC riders who took part, thanks!

Martin Hayman 2016

An excellent ride as usual. Congrats to Catford CC and the team. The black ice was a nightmare for those leaving early and I don't think enough people took the danger seriously enough. There was also some bad etiquette on show today, I said 'thanks' to every one I saw. There was also some bad passing, especially on single track road on either side and at speed, and groups of riders four across overtaking on places like Black Hill, and with horses. I'm sure it was a small minority, but I got passed a lot as I'm quite a slow cyclist compared to those half my age.

Lul Lulham 2016

Good job today guys, just wanted to say a big thank you to all the Marshall's for doing a sterling job!

Duncan Speight 2016

Thanks Catford CC and the team for today's event, thoroughly enjoyed it, well sign posted and great organisation, even if I did feel like I could have done with a MTB down some of those roads...still sun and 11 degrees warmer than last year! Great event!

Daniel Kogan 2017

Well done the organisers and Marshall's - an extremely well run event and great ride today...just need to work on Surrey, Kent and Sussex councils to fix the roads !

Chris Underwood 2016

Hi All
First time attendance at Hell Of Ashdown Event, 6 of us travelled down from Leicestershire, joined 4 others from Epping under the guise Golden Oldies, setting off at 08:56. We all had a great day, the toughest cycling event most of us had attempted. Incredible challanges thrown at everyone involved, the early morning Black Ice, superbly marshalled, seem to bring the best out of most riders, communicating and shouting out warnings to others created genuine cameraderie. it was a real test not just negotiating a tortuous course with its ever depreciating road surfaces, but also trying to work alongside motorists, horse riders, etc throughout the beautiful green lanes of the South Downs. I said Hello to every marshall and thanked them for their efforts ..... I also shouted out some choice words to a minority of riders cycling selfishly past in their tunnel visioned race mode, causing chaos and danger to others, and pissing off other road users .... they were out of the way, and others suffered the wrath i.e aggressive car drivers, and even a horse rearing up like the Lone Ranger!! Typical. Congrats to all involved .... enjoyed seeing some quality riders on a superb course.Dean Jon Grewcock The 9:30 - 10:00 starters were warned about ice and to take extra care and at least 3 Marshals mentioned this in the first few miles! well done and thank you all again, great event!! Paul Hastings Thank you to all the organisers, marshals and especially the caterers. This was my first sportive on my first road bike.The black ice for the first 10 miles was a problem, involving a lot of walking, I was surprised to see so many about turn and head back, even though that meant going back over the same ice covered roads. I pressed on hoping the sun would kick in. I am a cautious rider anyway but was a disappointed with nearly two hours by 14miles. Once the going got better and the confidence came back the speed picked up and progress became much quicker. I now realise the route is designed to challenge the rider and it certainly tested my inexperience, luckily I didn't get a puncture. Regarding mud guards, well I normally ride the road bike only when its fine otherwise the MTB is used, but it is worth considering.
Thanks again all.

Ian Henderson 2016

Yet another cracking ride, much warmer than last year but far icier, saw a good few wipe outs, glad I went out after 9.00am. Looking forward to next years event.

Neil Yogi Hunt 2016

What a shame to have to bail due to the black ice on the first decent weekend in ages. Excellent job done by the few marshals I encountered on my limited ride. Luckily Rapha do a crash repair service.

James York 2016

On the first descent Dulwich paragon turned it into a duathlon even though it was wet not icy. Towards the top of toys people were spread out walking again. Probably the worst hell I've done with the best weather

Paul Livesy 2016

well done Catford, brilliant organisation, great route, brused and battered but one happy camper, see you @ the hill climb.

Phil Scott 2016