Jack Hammer Sportive 2015

Hammer SportA challenging 135 kms sportive from Salcombe, Devon, ideal for those wanting to test those early season legs with climbing in abundance and fabulous views all around the stunning route.

Every sportive start combines excitement and trepidation for what lies ahead but after the briefing the adrenalin kicks in and it becomes difficult to rein yourself in during those first few miles. Soon that rhythm you have developed during the winter months, combining power and efficiency, takes over and everyone settles into their pace with some groups forming, changing and evolving as the miles pass under the wheels.

The overriding impression I was left with at the finish of The Jack Hammer was the amount of climbing completed which was a stunning contrast to those early miles of rolling fast roads and even a flat section alongside the estuary in the run up towards Dartmouth. The climb just before the first feed station, although a bit of a shock to the legs, was no warning of what was to come and the fabulous views across the estuary bathed in sunshine lulled us into a false sense that all was well with the world – how naive.

And so the Jack Hammer really begins. Few climbs seem to be short and they are definitely not ones to just punch over. Well, you might try at first and some might succeed but many will fail so it’s time to accept that it’s going to be a hard day. The brain should take over from your emotions as your body tells you that you are too frequently in the red during these early miles. We warmed to the task adopting a sensible pace and began to work at those climbs which come in short order and followed a pattern of ascend, descend, ascend, descend with little respite in between but then, this is the challenge so you can’t fight it – just go with the flow.

Sections of climbing are interspersed with my favourite rolling terrain and I can press on down some wonderful valleys, sometimes into a strong headwind and sometimes with the wind behind. There’s nothing better than being held up by a Golf GTI on a twisting descent!

As the final split between the different course options arrives and the temptation to choose the shorter route to the finish creeps into the consciousness it is time to face the final climbs. Dropping down into Hope Cove with the first of several climbs back to Salcombe already in view, I wonder if I have made a foolish choice! Should I have chosen the shorter route to the finish?

Clambering over these final climbs, willing my Garmin to reduce the mileage left to the finish, the leg shredder took hold but eventually the switch-back climb back into Salcombe with the welcome descent to the finish confirmed I had made the right decision to include that last section since the split.

Thanks to Andrew Thompson from Hammer Sports for a fabulous route and organisation. This sportive is something special and you should pencil it into your calendar for next year mid-April, 2016 – highly recommended along with the further recommendation that you should not choose the event lightly and be prepared, very prepared.

The 135 kms route was a challenge for even the hardened and skilled cyclist. Fortunately Andrew also supplied some shorter routes with their own challenges and climbs and so if your legs were not yet in shape this early in the sportive season there was absolutely no reason to avoid taken on The Steam Hammer (105 kms) and the Trip Hammer (65 kms) – truly something for everyone.

Here’s what some of the riders had to say of their experience:

“Really enjoyed today. Legs ache even after stretching and a hot bath.” … Steve Gibson.
 “Well done, very good fun and seemed to be enjoyed by all. I slept most of the way back to London!”  … Simon Clutterbuck
 “Morning! Thanks again for a great event yesterday!” … Phil Jansen
“Am still buzzing 24 hours later! My legs still hurt, but so pleased and loved it! Thanks very much and make sure you let me know when you’re running you next event.” … Bill Sergeant
Andrew said, “Almost everyone who left said it’s one of the toughest events on the calender, but also the best and most rewarding. All seemed to say they’d be back next year….. “

Talking of next year Hammer will be on Sunday the 11th April, from Salcombe again. Entries will be limited to 200 and will open in November or December. So make a note in your calendar if you want to be included and why wouldn’t you?

Andrew is hoping to have a series of 3 over the year, with one event on Exmoor and another venue to be disclosed soon.


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A cyclist for 25+ years specialising in endurance events Jez has completed two London-Edinburgh-London 1400 kms Audax, time-trials at 10, 25, 50, 100 miles and 24-hours. Successfully completed Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017 as part of a 'Duo' team in 16 hr 39 mins (330 kms, 8,700+ m) plus various continental cyclosportives in France and Belgium.
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