The 41st edition of TOTH took place on Sunday 6 August. The day was a huge success, thanks to the superb response from club members who volunteered as checkpoint marshals and in the hall and kitchen. The weather leading up to the event was a concern, but after a horribly wet Saturday it was mainly fair when it mattered and around 20 degrees – ideal conditions for the task of climbing 2,200 metres across a 115km course.
Entries were almost double the 2022 level. We had almost 150 web entries for TOTH and a further 6 on the day. After a few withdrawals and no-shows, this translated to around 130 starting the ride and 110 actually completing the course. The first rider back in the hall was Steve Winder from Epsom CC, who completed the course in just over 4 hours 30 mins, but all finishers got back within the maximum time allowed.
A good number of riders from local clubs (Dorking, Horsham, Charlotteville, Redhill, Cranleigh, Bella Velo, Ditton) were represented, plus several from much further afield including a group from New Forest CC. One rider dealt with the absence of good public transport options by setting his alarm for 4am and cycling to the start from Bishop Stortford! Pat Daffarn, Nicola Hounsham, Mark Slater, Matt Carolan, Don Gray, Ian Wilson and Paul Taylor all flew the flag for WSCC. Thankfully, no serious incidents or accidents were reported, though one episode of bad driving did result in an unplanned dismount and some road rash that was mopped up by helpers back in the village hall.
One big difference from previous years was the large numbers (29 in all) who signed up for the Greensand ride (“TOTH-lite”), a 50km route that takes in a more manageable 700m of ascent. Chris Jeggo led a WSCC group on the Greensand, and Kevin Hawken organised a large group from Woking CC. We’ll aim to build on this success next year.
About 30% of TOTH entrants were Audax UK and 10% were CUK members. The TOTH entry price was set at £11 (£16 for on the day entries) and the Greensand entry price was just £3. Looking at the prices charged for other Audax events, and considering how much we provide in terms of food, drinks and marshalling support, there is probably scope to increase all of these prices in 2024.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of buying in the food and drink for this cast of hundreds was well up on last year, but the very healthy entry numbers meant that the club stands to gain a good return on our investment. We rely on TOTH for the vast majority of the club’s annual income, so a successful event will help to fund WSCC activities such as first aid training – good news for all of us.
Event Publicity and Sales
We publicised the event through:
- The Audax magazine and web site;
- Emails sent to a wide selection of British Cycling affiliated clubs;
- Posters in various bike shops and cafés (and a couple on outdoor bike racks);
- TOTH business cards that we distributed to cyclists at cafés etc; and
- Increased use of Facebook and Instagram for getting the TOTH poster out there.
Some market research done in the hall on the day of the event suggested that all the above had some effect – we just need to keep expanding these efforts.
We had a really wonderful response from club members to take on the many jobs required to get the event moving – a team of 25 or so all played a part and, as in prior years, the response was so good we even had the luxury of a reserve list.
Jill once again managed the catering this year and did a fantastic job. With shifts from the volunteers in the kitchen (Amira, Alison W, Caroline, Helen, Phil, Jo, Heidi and Jessica) everything fell into place and we delivered the now-customary high standard of nutrition with a smile – much appreciated by the riders.
Neil McIntyre coordinated the marshalling effort, with help from Brendan, Roy, Jeremy, Sue, Hans, Penny, Ian P, Peter, Ian A, Liz, David, Clive and Chris on the 6 checkpoint desks, and Maggi volunteered once more for first checkpoint duties on Dunley Hill. Many riders back in the hall commented on the cheery good luck messages they received, along with bananas and jelly baby supplies, from our volunteers.
Back in the hall I also received valuable support in checking the riders in and out from Chris (who also took charge of on the day entries as well as the Greensand riders), Pete H, Keith, Neil and others.
I’m very sorry to report that three bikes were stolen from a locked, car-mounted bike rack which was parked in the village hall carpark after the event. We’ll certainly be taking steps next year to be more vigilant on security after this shocking incident.
On a happier note, yet again we had fantastic positive feedback from the riders. With its legendary refreshment options (and some challenging hills), but mostly due to the infectious good spirits of WSCC volunteers, TOTH really does seem to have a profile that sets it apart from other Audax rides, and it offers an experience a cut above the average commercial sportive (at a fraction of the price). Here’s a selection of the comments:
I just want to say a huge thank you to you and all of the WSCC team for laying on a brilliant audax today. I can honestly say that it was the best organised audax that I have done so far. The route, the facilities and food at Shere, and all of the controls were superb, and all of the volunteers were so friendly and helpful. I appreciate how much work goes into such a well organised event.
See you again next year!
Thanks for the organisation. Top notch across the board.
Thank you again Derek – terrific ride, with wonderful volunteers!
Just a quick note to thank you and your extensive band of helpers for putting on the Audax yesterday. A nice event, even if challenging. Please pass on thanks to all the helpers.
What a great event! Thank you to all involved who made the day so enjoyable.
Thanks for a very well organised event. Good set up in Shere and great to ride some of the Surrey Hills I’ve not ridden before. We appreciated the cheerful check-pointers with their ample supply of jelly babies, water topups and encouragement.
Definitely one to do again next year.
A quick note to thank you for a wonderful ride today, definitely by far the best organised AUK ride of the calendar I have come across!
Thank you to all the volunteers – and amazing nutrition support!
The committee is already thinking about how to build on the 2023 experience for the 42nd edition of TOTH, and we also intend to bring back the Elstead Audax rides (aiming for an event day of Sunday 16 June 2024) that have an even longer pedigree with WSCC.
To make the most of both events, we intend to create an events sub-committee that can will plan the TOTH and Elstead rides together, and share the load of organising these events. We’ll be recruiting for the events committee soon, so watch out!
Meanwhile, Shere Village Hall has been booked for TOTH 2024 on Sunday 11 August 2024, so please SAVE THE DATE and stand by to do it all again!