Ride London/Surrey 100 – 2017
I’ve ridden quite a few sportives, mostly Wiggle or UK cycling events and mostly local. I think that they really do have their place and are a valuable addition to everyone’s cycling calendar as they give you a point to focus on and train for.
A couple of years ago I saw that one of the other Worthy Wheelers members had taken part in Ride London. I remember looking into the details of the event and realising what a big deal it was! “The cycling equivalent of the London Marathon” was a quote that stuck in my mind. Closed roads, thousands of participants and the chance to finish the ride on the Mall, outside Buckingham Palace – Superb.
I duly applied for the ballot in 2016 but didn’t get a place.
During the training for London to Paris, in 2016, the opportunity to ride in the Velathon in Wales came up and I seized it!
A similar event, a famous capital city, steeped in history and a professional level closed road route – brilliant!
I honestly thought that I had scratched the itch with the Velathon but when Tim mentioned that there was a chance that I could get a place in Ride London for 2017 I was surprised at how keen I was!
It actually worked out very well for me, as due to various personal commitments and issues, I was unable to join the my other training partners in the Etape event.
Once I had made the decision not to do the Etape, I have to confess, the training started to slip too. It wasn’t that I stopped riding, just that the relentless hill climbing the others were doing, held very little appeal.
With Ride London booked, I got back into the right frame of mind and in fact managed to achieve five 100 mile training rides before the event.
As the event loomed, the logistics the weekend came sharply into focus.
Due to the shear size of the event, the organisers require that all entrants register at the ExCeL center in east London on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, then, depending on your start pen and wave, everyone needs to be at the Olympic park at or around 6 am on Sunday, and finally, after finishing 100 miles of cycling, you will be in central London and need to get home!
Thankfully Brian saved the day. He managed to find an AirBnB in Mile end, less than 3 miles from the start, a short tube ride from the ExCel and, even with the traffic chaos of the ride day, only 7 miles of cycling from the finish.
Ride day was long. We were in a very early start wave starting at 6 am, requiring us to leave our AirBnB at 4.15 am!
The overnight forecast changed dramatically, from nice and settled to heavy rain overnight and into the morning.
Although it absolutely threw it down overnight, as we rode to the start in the very early day light, the clouds were beginning to clear and only the roads were wet.
As we approached the Olympic park start line, the size of the event dawned on me. There were a huge number of cyclists all trying to get to the same place. It would have been very easy to loose my group of friends before we had even started. Somehow we managed to stick together and soon found ourselves in the blue start area – wave C before our 5:20 am deadline……. And now the wait.
As an aside, an event starter is employed to lift the spirits of the waiting riders, and as part of this each wave of riders is offered their own song to be played as they roll over the start line – any tune from the i-tunes library. The other waves had some great tunes. Eye of the tiger, London calling, perfect choices to lift the spirits…… we got Agadoo, by Black Lace! Go figure!!
I already knew that Tim had an agenda for the ride. He was strong after all the Etape training and had a time in his mind for the day, Brian was as fit, but just back from two weeks in the sun. He would go with Tim for sure. Mike was an unknown to me as I had never ridden with him so I hoped that there was a chance we would stick together for the day.
The handshake from Tim sealed his intentions! As soon as we were released they were gone, the roads were wet and crowded, and by the time we reached the first roundabout and slip road onto the A12, I was 30 yards behind them, as we tore down the A12 at 25 mph plus I worked really hard to catch the group they were in.
On the ramp down I caught the group containing my friends, having already worked very hard to catch them within 2 miles of the start, they pulled out of the front of the group and moved forward onto another faster group.
I made a decision there and then. Today was not going to be spent with the three guys I started the ride with. I eased my pace down to something more sustainable and set about looking for allies on the road. If I could find someone to ride with I’d be ok.
After 38 miles I stopped at a feed station. I was uncomfortable ( a last minute shorts adjustment, made at the start line had been troubling me ever since!) I was also a little dejected, facing the thought of another 60 miles of solo cycling. I got off the bike, stretched and stocked up on supplies. As I got back on and headed back to the road I looked around, most people were in groups, but some were not, and some looked like they were already struggling. I had a stern word with myself. Although I had no immediate support, there were 15000 other riders out there and I was more than capable of completing the ride so in the words of a man who was probably 10 miles further up the road,I thought “Get on with it Butler!”
The course suited me. I have to say it was predominately flat, or if not the slopes were not too noticeable. The climbs included on the course were challenging, two were new to me and so unridden. The last was Box hill, something I had climbed a couple of times before.
Newlands corner, done – not too bad. Leith hill, done – ouch – longer than I was expecting and tough but done. Onto Box hill and done. I had planned to stop at the top of Box but as I remembered from previous climbs, the cafe and food stop isn’t the top so I carried on through and soon found myself well on the way to Leatherhead – the 75 mile mark and my next planned stop.
There was a warning on the pre ride information about Wimbledon hill – not a massive climb, but after 90 miles of cycling, it can be tough – correct!
I found the last 10 miles quite hard. I managed to find some riders at a similar pace to me and I will admit using a wheel or two to keep my pace even, certainly for the last couple of miles.
As the route turned away from the Thames, through Trafalgar square and Admiralty arch suddenly you are on the Mall, in the distance is Buckingham palace, but more importantly just before that is the finish line.
I found some strength, fought off the cramp and, rallied by the crowds cheering us all on, I tore (!) down the mall and crossed the line.
It was a great feeling to be finished. The thoughts of the early day faded away as the medal was put around my neck and once I’d found my friends and had some food I have to say, overall I had a great day out.
My friends had all finished before me, but in the end, did it really matter? I made it, I rode it my way and I enjoyed it. They rode their rides and I’m sure enjoyed it as much as me.
I stopped at two feed stations and got stopped three times on the route. My overall time was 5 hours and 45 mins.
The ride back to the AirBnB was a steady affair and with the road closures the roads were very busy but we soon picked up one of London’s protected cycle lanes and there we were back in Mile end ready for a shower and a long drive home (Thanks again Brian)
I would recommend the Prudential Ride London 100 event to anyone looking for a challenge. It’s not a walk in the park but if you are able to ride 100 miles then the closed roads and iconic climbs and scenery set this event apart from other sportives. The pre registering and logistics of London are a faf, but it is well worth it.
If you are looking for a group to join to help you train for an event like this, why not contact the Worthy Wheelers today and ride with us 🙂