Ash­ford Wheel­ers CC

Com­pe­ti­tion and ca­ma­raderie de­fine Kent’s hard-rid­ing club

Cycling Weekly - - RIDE WITH -

As I pull up out­side a small in­dus­trial es­tate on the edge of Ash­ford, I can’t help but won­der if I’m in store for the scenic ride through the Kent coun­try­side that I’ve been look­ing for­ward to. But as Matt Clark of Ash­ford Wheel­ers CC says, when we re­turn to the same spot 55 miles, and just three hours, later: “Ash­ford has a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion for not be­ing the most pic­turesque of places, but within min­utes you can be in amaz­ing coun­try­side.”

Head­ing south to­wards the coast it turns out he’s right, with the oast houses and quiet roads with low hedgerows that are the stereo­typ­i­cal im­ages of the Ken­tish coun­try­side all around.

Ash­ford Wheel­ers are a club who love time tri­alling. “We run 17 time trial events through the sum­mer. They’re open to ev­ery­one, just turn up and have a go. Some­times we get up to 40 rid­ers as it’s a re­ally pop­u­lar, fast course,” Mick Clay­don, club trea­surer, tells me.

But AWCC is also a club that doesn’t take it­self too se­ri­ously. Steve Clarke is one of the long­est con­tin­u­ous mem­bers, hav­ing joined in 1994. “We are one of the more com­pet­i­tive clubs, but there’s also a lot of mickey tak­ing among the guys,” he says.

Dave Hamp­ton is one of many mem­bers who rel­ishes the so­cial side that comes with be­ing a club mem­ber: “We have a BBQ at my house ev­ery sum­mer, and we’ve be­come good friends. A group of us went out for beer and curry this week. And for my wed­ding, the guys all turned up in the club shirt and did a guard of hon­our.”

Ap­proach­ing the English Chan­nel, Jon Col­lidge, who joined two years ago, alerts me to what’s in store. “Chick Hill is com­ing up. It’s short but re­ally steep. You’ll hear a few ex­ple­tives go­ing up there!” He’s right: my Garmin shows a 23 per cent max­i­mum gra­di­ent, Strava later says 33 per cent! Ei­ther way, the air turns blue.

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