Lemming 2002 - The South Downs way

numplumz_home Trailbreak do all the real work Results
Mark and Jack have along wait for the rest
100 miles and still smiling, where's the rest then
The South Downs way Lemming is a great challenge, 100 miles and 9000 feet of climbing, is a hard ride, but for most the 2 day attempt organised by Trailbreak is an achievable goal.
Traditionally held in September, the event is now timed, so it's entirely up to you. Either it's a ride out with your mates and a good social, or a flat out blast against the clock. I've gone for the flat out option, the final chance of the year to test myself long distance.
The start at Winchester is easy to find just off the M3, the park and ride car park being a fairly secure spot to leave your vehicle as you set off for 2 days and 100 miles of off road riding.
160 riders sign on, none that I recognise from other events, then at 9 am we are led out via a brief road section straight onto the trail. Quickly narrowing I move up to the front of the pack, the hedges have just been cut, there's already some first mile puncture victims.
Within 3 miles I realise I'm on my own, and that's at a relaxed pace! Leading is a touch daunting, luckily the route is well marked with Trailbreak signs and the Harveys Map tied to my bars is only glanced at out of interest. Finally I'm passed by Mark, he punctures and then repasses later, oh good some company after all.
i need tea
Give me tea now
The initial trails are grassy with many gates, the suns burning through the early morning mist and its time to strip some layers off.
The first well stocked checkpoint at Warnford appears after an hours riding, a group of four lads who are veterans at this join me there, we ride together for a section.
The checkpoints are well situated at 10 mile gaps, more than enough for you to survive on one water bottle alone just refill it. No need for a camelbak, but many riders were finding the need for one stuffed with inner-tubes.
Bananas and Hi-five drink are available at the stops, anything else must be paid for so remember some cash. Our little pelaton stick close, HMS mercury at 747 ft. disposed of, then its the superb descent down to the A3 off Butser hill and checkpoint 2.
Next up its into the Queen Elizabeth country park, I start the climb up through it on my own, never to see another rider for the rest of that day, the other trails here all look very tempting as they pass, have to come back and explore one day.
At this stage it starts to get a little dull, open 'fireroad type' tracks become a touch monotonous, riding in a group is definitely recommended for more fun.
Harting Down and Beacon hill pass pass by. Sutton down and Bignor hill, bring back memories of past Fat tyre events on this part with some fun downhills, its rained here overnight though and some of the chalk is very tricky.
50 some miles have gone at Washington, I realise that the final checkpoint for today should have been there, no problem stocks are high. The climb up to Chanctonbury hill is tough and very hot now, is it really September.
Relax and enjoy the views after 60 hard miles
Turns out, I was way ahead of Trailbreak's expected rider schedule, meaning I beat them to the checkpoint location.
The final killer climb up Truleigh hill then brought the days riding to a close at the Youth hostel there. All your kit gets ferried ahead in a big truck, the driver and the riding route marker, who had set off early in the morning were there, along with Mark who had been there 10 minutes.
Our speed had messed their organisation up a bit, they scribbled our numbers down on a scrap of paper as we helped them unload the truck. Straining to handle the 160 lots of baggage and tents, the wind was getting up, so we needed something to do to keep warm anyway, some people seem to have brought enough kit for a week.

If you book early enough its worth getting a room at the Hostel, so more civilised after a days riding. I showered in comfort, a benefit of a quick finish, grabbed some maltloaf and sat in the Garden to take in the great views.
Its worth packing some food to scoff on your arrival here, a cheese roll is on offer on finishing (those that know me stop laughing now) but it's a fair wait untill dinner, I had nothing and it was a hungry five hours.
tent city
A tent city soon pops up - glad I had a bunk though
Over an hour after I arrived, showered and relaxed, still nobody else had finished, soon they started to filter in, seems we had been really flying today.
Getting to Know Mark and Des from Wantage passes the time, turns out they are old hands here too, Des filling me in on the tortuous Iron lemming of 2002 he completed in June.
Tea's then beers start to flow, Trailbreak dish up a mountain of Pasta and sausages, there's second's too, you certainly won't go hungry. Some people even had 3 puddings! (not me for once).
The next morning dawned under stormy sky's, it had chucked it down, not a good prospect on the chalk and flint tracks that are characteristic of the final 40 miles to Eastbourne. To help the organisers, and prevent a lot of waiting around at the end of the ride, the start times on Sunday were staggered, first off at 8.30 am.
The sea appears and the rain stops
SUNDAY: I was down as last off at 9.30. Breakfast again was plentifull, 2 rounds of beans on toast went down well, there was plenty left over.
Coming out of the hostel at 9.30 It seemed very quite, seems the other 9.30 starters had got fed up waiting in the rain and had just gone at 9.20. Bugger, I wanted to ride with Des and Mark but they were well gone, at least the slimy wet trails were clear, making line choice easy.
It didn't take long to pass the bulk of the riders, By Ditchling Beacon I found Des. With no ill effects from yesterdays ride I started to put the hammer down, bike and tyres coping superbly with the descents, concentration taking your mind off the steady rain, bikes are just great.  The sun eventually starts forcing through, and my decision not to wear waterproofs and tough it out comes good.
Again the speed defeats the organisers, the 2nd last checkpoint and pack lunch stop for the more leisurely is still unloading as I get there, they shout that I'm 5th to arrive as they scribble down my number.
1 mile later 3 riders have been passed , its now only Mark ahead, again I wish we had started together.
Its worth saving plenty so you can really enjoy this section of the ride, there's loads of Singletrack descents, some tough climbs but the views of the coastline are stunning. Windover Hill is a cruel test of tired legs across the grassy top then down into Jevington on a root strewn roller coaster of a descent.
The last checkpoint for us Hares again dosen't exist, worth noting if you are fast and relying on a water bottle fill, the Outskirts of Eastbourne appear and the SDW turns off our route as we are directed to Beachy Head.
Beachy head and its all over
The final sections are grassy and tricky to follow, but finally the truck is spotted in a car park by the cliffs edge, a final spurt , to be greeted by Mark who has been there 5 minutes. I'll take today on time then!
We pose for photo's, pick up our Lemming gold medals, and scoff bars and Coke, the Sun is welcome now. Other riders arrive, quicker this time due to the staggered start, Des gets in 5th on the day. In all my stopwatch elapsed time showed 8 Hrs 55 mins the Trailbreak timing is here  All a bit casually done as they credit me a 9.20 start time on Sun, and poor Mark dosen't even get credit for his brilliant ride, must have lost those scraps of paper. Hopefully, if you are reading this at a later date he will be credited in the results.
Again as a penance for speed we help unload the truck of gear, get changed and head on down to the cafe/pub for some food.
At 4 pm the 2 coaches and a huge artic' loaded with bikes set off for the 1 ½ hr drive back to the start.
The getting back drags a bit, the artic is naturally slower on the twisty South coast roads, so while you wait for it at Winchester pop down to the nearby garage for some food and a Sunday paper.
If you are one of life's impatient sorts I'd advise not rushing to get your bike onto the lorry too, first on has a long wait as he will be last off.
SUMMARY: A great weekend how ever you approach it.
Trailbreak's organisation is pretty slick and they will look after most of your needs.
Its a tough route though, mostly off road. Don't under estimate the toughness of the task and enjoy the ride. All organiser Phil asks is that he dosen't have to visit casualty one year, never happened in 2002, get well soon who ever you were. Get out and do it next year
Fancy a real challenge in 2003 the SDW in a day charity ride is back. Do all the above supported in one day in aid of a good cause.

PS - The amount of punctures people got on this ride was enough to create an inner tube mountain, some were getting 4 or 5 and had to buy tubes en-route to continue. Me, well I pulled 3 thorns out of the NO-Tubes Eclipse system at the end with no problems. Pulling them out whilst people watch the stuff perform its magic is becomming addictive. This stuff is the Buisness

©Numplumz.com Updated Jack 04/10/2002