The Kentish Killer – first sportive of the year done, and it was really quite tiring! That said, it was hugely satisfying and an excellent way to kick off the year. Generally very well organised, a friendly atmosphere and well stocked with flapjacks and pasta, the difficulty of the route and the fact that it’s so early on in the season just adds to the unique experience the Kentish Killer offers.
Having done the “long route” back in 2013, I knew roughly what my unsuspecting mate and I were in for, but I must have blocked out the final 10 miles or so from my memory, which holds some particularly brutal climbs before you get back to Brands Hatch. Be in no doubt, this is a difficult sportive with a particularly challenging final leg.
Being fairly local, it only took me 25 minutes along some country roads to get to Brands Hatch for 7:45am. I went up to the Kentagon (I like to think they designed that building as a pentagon purely so they could use that name – does anyone know?), the main restaurant/meeting area just off the outside of Paddock Hill Bend to register. There was a bit of confusion about the queues as they had organised different registration tables covering surnames based on alphabetical order, but once I got to the right one it took thirty seconds to pick up my registration pack and sign to confirm my attendance. It took another thirty seconds to enjoy a slice of the free flapjack the organisers were very kindly handing out. Once back at the car, I fixed my number to my handlebars (a top tip is to bring some cutting pliers or scissors with you in the car to cut the excess off the zip ties once the numbers in place) and the adhesive timing chip to my helmet. We then made our way up to the starting area just after 8:30am. They were releasing riders in blocks of about 20 or 30 and there wasn’t a queue, so we were off in the first available group.
Straight out from Brands Hatch, it’s immediately up and down, but it’s not until you get through Ightham and into Underriver, where you hit the first serious challenge, Carter’s Hill. I’m fairly familiar with this one, as it’s on one of my regular weekend routes, but it always feels steep.
Then it’s over the A21 towards Sevenoaks Weald, then up Hubbard’s Hill. And you’ve still done less than 20 miles! After Hubbard’s, it’s time to head south down past Penhurst and Groombridge. We took some light relief at the drinks stop at this point, which was very well stocked with food and drink, as we were both losing battles with our legs at this point.
Another flapjack later, we were into the Ashdown Forest climb, which although not as steep as Carter’s or Hubbard’s, was noticeably longer. It was well worth it, though, as the views were beautiful and it also marked the point at which the route turned round and head back towards Brands Hatch. A really good fun, fast, long and welcome descent followed, which brought the average speeds up again.
It was then up and down through Chuck Hatch and Hever, before we hit Ide Hill. After Ide Hill, another descent into Sunridge, where we took a forced but very much welcome rest at the traffic lights, before pushing on to Sunridge Hill. 56 miles in at this point, Sunridge Hill was the one that got me the most and even the long descent that followed into Otford didn’t give me time to recover fully. Row Dow climb out of Otford was therefore pretty horrendous. After Row Dow, a final kick in Tinker Pot Lane and we were back to Brands Hatch.
You’ve probably guessed by now that there were quite a few hills on the route! As well as the climbs though, some of the descents were quite tricky, especially given the wet and muddy roads that are a staple of rides at this time of year. Another feature was the wind, which was a noticeable and strengthening south westerly the whole day. This meant the first half of the ride was a bit of a battle, but as we turned back towards Brands Hatch from the halfway point in the Ashdown Forest, it became a helpful tailwind.
The signposting was generally very good and clear, although there was a particularly nasty section of downhill with a dangerously broken up surface at one point, which I thought should have had some warning signs (I’m sure they’ve done this in previous years). Apart from the guy in a Sidcup Cycling Centre top flinging an empty energy gel wrapper into the hedge, the other riders were a good bunch, being chatty and happy to form impromptu groups at certain points.
After rolling through the finish line and over the timing strip just after 1:15pm, we went straight over to the Kentagon and headed inside for a free cup of tea. We also printed off our times from the live timing service – 4 hours 46 minutes was enough to give us both a silver award for our category (Mens, under 40). It’s only a small thing, but a nice touch that you can instantly get your official time for the ride. We made use of a spare table in the Kentagon and enjoyed a free tub of pasta each before heading back to the car park to load the bikes and get home.
If you’ve managed to keep up some kind of base level fitness over winter and are confident going down hills as well as up, then I’d thoroughly recommend the Kentish Killer. It’s a great way to start the year and will set you up with confidence and enthusiasm for the coming season. I don’t think it’s the best event to pick if it’s your first sportive, but I say that purely because of the difficulty of the route, not because of the organisation (which is very good) or atmosphere (which is friendly and supportive). Overall, it’s a great event with a distinct personality that sets it apart from a lot of other sportives… I’ll certainly be heading back next year!
If you want to see the route in full, then you can take a look at my Strava here.
If you just did the KK too, then I’d love to hear about how you found it, so please do leave your comments below.
Next up for me is the Wiggle Haywards Heath Howler on 19 March… not a ride I’ve done before so looking forward to see what Sussex has to offer!