Disappointing.. A look at the parcours of the Tour of Sussex..

by | Apr 26, 2017

I had some bad news the other day. The Tour of Sussex organisers announced that the pan flat short prologue time trial is now a hill climb up Ditchling Beacon. WTF?

I mean, my whole strategy for the stage race was to “do a Cancellara” and target the prologue to try and take the Jersey and then defend it for as long as possible. A very optimistic plan I admit but one with a slight chance of success depending on whether any of the big powerhouse Cat 2s out there were in the race. It was to be road bikes only with a 90mm rim depth limit. I had dreamt of getting my race bike into a TT position with my angled seat post, a negative angled stem and other such tinkering. But nay, it is now a bloody hill climb.

I am shit at hill climbs.

This is very disappointing. The Tour of Sussex is one of the main focal points of the season. It is the first stage race that my club mates and I will have ever done. (And will likely be the last for me after the four-day festival of uphill pain it is likely to bring!). I was really looking forward to it.

Lets take a look at the parcours…


Day 1: Thursday 6 July

Stage 1 – Prologue Individual Time Trial – 1.4km

Tour of Sussex Stage 1

Tour of Sussex Stage 1


In the words of the Tour of Sussex organisers:

“A first for the Tour of Sussex, a prologue time trial. The TT will be short and hilly, suiting powerful riders and climbers alike. The race is to be run on regular bikes, no aero extensions (not that you would want them!).”

“Suiting powerful riders and climbers alike” – my arse! It might suit a 70kg powerful rider. It certainly will not suit an 80kg, moderately powerful rider. It will better suit a 65kg whippet who is rapid at climbing hills.


Day 2: Friday 7 July

Stage 2 – Team Time Trial – 11km

Tour of Sussex Stage 2

Tour of Sussex Stage 2


“Team Time Trial – Don’t be deceived! This TTT will take skill as it will be ridden over testing terrain. The yellow jersey will be bound to change after this stage!”

Oh don’t you worry Tour of Sussex organisers, I am not deceived.  I would imagine there to be a rather large hill in the middle of it. And, yes, I am sure that the Yellow Jersey will indeed change hands – from one whippet to a another whippet from a team of whippets.

To be fair, and in a strict relative sense, I am quite looking forward to this stage. My job will be to hang on to my own team of whippets up the long drag and then drill it down the long descent. It should be fun.


Stage 3 – Crit Race – 80km

Tour of Sussex Stage 3

Tour of Sussex Stage 3


OK – what say our friends the Tour of Sussex organisers?

“We are pleased to announce that Goodwood Motor Circuit, home of the Festival of Speed and Revival and of course the weekly Goodwood Gallops cycle races, will be hosting our first full road stage of the 2017 Tour of Sussex. With no hills or technical areas, Goodwood is all about speed and wind direction. We could see splits in the peloton as they cruise at up to 35mph, this could sway the race for the sprinters!”

No hills or technical areas eh? Sounds like a perfect parcours for a prologue individual time trial if you ask me. In discussing tactics for Stages 1 and 2, one of the boys rather amusingly declared, “We can recover after the TTT during the 80km crit, which I’m sure will be a nice, leisurely affair…” I suspect he was not being entirely serious. Aside from the two dog destroying efforts in the previous 24 hours, I am also looking forward to this stage.


Day 3: Saturday 8 July 

Stage 4 – Ladies Mile – 100km

Tour of Sussex Stage 4

Tour of Sussex Stage 4


Now this stage has the advantage of both being on my doorstep and a route that I know well from a club TT. It also carries the disadvantage of being a brutal circuit. Let’s see what the Tour of Sussex organisers have to add:

“The brutal circuit on the side of one of the largest climbs in the South East has been used in more recent years by the BEC CC as part of their spring road race. This is the first time it is being used in the Tour of Sussex. One long drag as well as a shorter power climb will see the riders dig into their VO2 reserves. Coming out of the final lap, riders will turn right to finish in the same place as the BEC RR. A long climb to the finish will no doubt see some large time gaps and some favourites going into the last stages.”

See, I told you that it is a brutal circuit! The thing is that I believe it is brutal from riding round it 3 times on a TT bike. This will be something like 10 times at TT pace in a peloton of whippets. Oh yeah and then the finish is somewhere up “one of the largest climbs in the South East”. Lovely. To be fair, I knew this stage was in the race when I signed up so should quit my bitching.


Day 4: Sunday 9 July

Stage 5 – Road Race -102km

Tour of Sussex Stage 5

Tour of Sussex Stage 5


This stage is neither or my doorstep, nor carries any advantages. Far from it. It is a circuit of the Beechy Head climb in Eastbourne. Lets see what the Tour of Sussex organisers have to say about it:

“Having recovered from the previous days efforts, riders will be riding the now infamous Beachy Head course. Up the zig-zags, down towards East Dean, following the scenic route overlooking the Seven Sisters, past Belle Tout lighthouse and back down towards East Dean. The finish will be at the top of the climb towards the Beachy Head Pub. In 2016 Tom Easley to this stage in style, in 2013 it was James Walsby and in 2014 Jamie Lowden, both attacked and rode solo to take the stage as well as the yellow jersey. In 2015 a small group made it away in the torrential rain as riders dropped off the back of the main peloton. David Hewett (Adalta CC) took the stage in a sprint finish against Marcus Culley and with it the bonus seconds to steal the yellow jersey.

Prepare for all conditions, previous editions has seen not only 30deg and perfect sunshine one year but also wind and rain with temperatures dropping to 7deg the others”

Having recovered from the previous days efforts” – I love this bit. It will take me about 7 days to recover from the previous days efforts. But everyone will be in the same boat I guess. Or maybe not. Some will be in boats made out of fibre glass that glide through the waves. Whilst I would not classify my boat as a tug boat, it is definitely not made out of fibre glass. More like a steel hulled destroyer.

At least this stage follows “the scenic route” which will give us something to look forward to each lap!


How to deal with disappointment?

This has not been my only disappointment of the season so far. There will always be setbacks. For me they include:

  1. Pulling out of a Team TT – due to dangerous cross-winds and biblical conditions. Fait enough. Right call. I can live with that.
  2. Having a small gap on the bunch with 3 to go in a Cat 3 race at Preston Park and deciding not to commit to it because the dude with me did not want to work with me. Very bad decision. Wrong call. I went through the 5 stages of grief on this one over the 3 following days. Lesson learned though.
  3. Pulling out of a 2up Team TT with the onset of a bad virus. Beyond my control. Right call.


There will be many others. In our sport we will have off days, make wrong decisions and be under the influence of factors we cannot control. The key is to come back fighting and this I did with an early season PB on a 25 mile TT, setting a new club record in the process. Lovely.


So how to deal with this particular disappointment..

Easy. In typical, and ever evolving Unhinged fashion, I have got hold of an Altitude Tent.


Unhinged Measures


Now the challenge remains of convincing Mrs Unhinged to sleep inside it with me…





  1. Neil O

    Excellent blog Rob. Be interesting to see how the “altitude” tent goes!

    I remember at the start of your blog you mentioned about shedding about 10kg of body weight for this event. I’m genuinely interested in how that has gone and have you had to sacrifice any power to achieve it? Or indeed, have you hit the magic bullet and actually increased your w/kg? Possible blog entry?

    • Rob Stephenson

      Thanks Neil,

      I am probably 5kg into that 10kg. So far power has remained about the same. Need to be disciplined for the next couple of months to get there.. will let you know where I end up..

  2. Tom Percival

    Not entered for this, but liked the preview. Stage 1 time gaps are going be nothing compared to stage 5 though!

    ‘Having a small gap on the bunch with 3 to go in a Cat 3 race at Preston Park and deciding not to commit to it because the dude with me did not want to work with me. Very bad decision. Wrong call. I went through the 5 stages of grief on this one over the 3 following days. Lesson learned though.’

    Gotta ask the other dude: why are you in the breakaway if you don’t want to work (/waiting for the sprint)? I get this all the time and an extra 30s pulling on the front in good faith usually gets them their recovery to start working. Cancellara did lose to Gerrans at Sanremo in that kind of spot… that was not as glamorous as a local crit of course.

    • Rob Stephenson

      Agreed re Stage 5 gaps.

      Yeah – not sure why he bridged over.. also agree the Sanremo cannot compare to the might Preston Park circuit..

      Good luck in your up-coming stage race..


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