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Cut it out!

August 21, 2014 | 11:02 am

A week into my holiday and I have finally got round to blogging about the third ride in my Four4Cure challenge – Ride London.

The proper name for the ride is actually the ‘Prudential RideLondon 100’ – a bit of a mouthful, I know! You obviously have to have a sponsor these days and the trend for concatenating words, whether you like it or not, seems to continue unabated! I’m no traditionalist but if ‘Amazeballs’ can get in the Oxford English Dictionary (as I heard it had last week), then I can’t really complain about the organisers putting the words Ride and London together to make a new word!

What we have to pick them up on though is the last bit… the 100! Technically, on Sunday 10th August, I and over 20,000 other cyclists set off from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford early on Sunday morning for the Prudential RideLondon 86(ish!!!).

You may or may not have heard mention in the days running up to the start of the ride that a certain Hurricane Bertha was heading our way! Well, the remnants of her anyway. As Hurricanes go, Bertha wasn’t all that big a girl apparently. Only a Level 1 hurricane and only actually classified as a hurricane for a few hours. By the time she reached our shores, she was just a low pressure weather system.

Unfortunately, the talk of her arrival had been the main topic of weather forecasters for the best part of a week and the organisers of the Ride are bound to listen and heed any metrological advice given out but the Met office. The cynic in me starts whispering under its breath about health and safety gone mad at this point, but I am not the one responsible for the safety of so many cyclists out on wet roads all at the same time! They also need to make decisions far enough ahead of time to let people know of any alterations to the planned route.

So, on the Saturday night, we all went to bed anticipating a lot of rain and some gusts of wind, but also received an email suggesting that if conditions worsened, the organisers may be forced to cut short parts of the route and detour participants around the two big climbs of the day, Box Hill and Leith Hill.

Typical, I thought! This year is turning out to be the year of detours – you may recall my first challenge ride wasn’t along the ‘proper’ route of the first stage of the tour de France, because they were resurfacing part of it!

Having done a Coast to Coast challenge ride from Whitehaven to Newcastle a couple of years ago, in appalling rain, I wasn’t too perturbed by the prospect of bad weather. I think, however, the organisers were worried about the possibility of lots of riders descending down the hills of Surrey in the wet and causing crashes.

I woke early on the Sunday in my bed at the Premier Inn in Loughton and cycled the short 7 miles downhill to the start. On the way, a couple of other cyclist were heading the same way as me and we got chatting. Apparently, the organisers had confirmed on the website overnight that the route was indeed to be curtailed! They had cut out the hills!

I overheard a few people voicing opinions once we were at the start and being herded like sheep into pens waiting our actual start time. Some people seemed relieved that they weren’t going to have to tackle the hills! Others were worried that their sponsors might feel short changed if they didn’t do the full 100 miles. Personally, I felt a little cheated! The Surrey Hills don’t really compare to those we have in the Peak District, or indeed those we climbed on the Coast to Coast challenge. I and many other local cyclist have done those in the rain time and again! But as I said earlier, I’m not the one in charge of 1000’s of lycra clad loons, so I can understand why they would err on the side of caution.

My start time was 8am, just as the rain came. Slowly and intermittently to start with, but by mile 10 it was raining heavily. Obvioulsy, it’s not as enjoyable cycling in that sort of weather, but I don’t think it bothers me as much as some. As I mixed with riders on the road, I could hear the odd comment complaining about the rain. My approach is more to just get on with it, get my head down and get the miles done. Keeping a good pace up means you stay warm too! Warm and wet is fine, but cold and wet can get a bit miserable. There came a point in Richmond Park where we all had to come to a standstill and cue slowly past the scene of where the St Johns Ambulance were treating someone who’d had an accident (not too serious, I hope). With the rain coming down at this point, I could have got quite cold but fortunately, we were soon moving again, and I was able to do some work to warm up!

I dont recall much of the first 50 or 60 miles of the route to be honest. Its a fairly flat route down through central London and out over Kingston Bridge south towards Weybridge and Byfleet , before looping back via Ripley, Dorking, Leatherhead, Esher and Kingston again.

Nicky and the children had met some friends (The Dowdalls) in Kingston and were going to wait for me at the official JDRF support point, to cheer me on as I went past. They’d booked lunch at 12pm and weren’t expecting me to go past until about 2ish, however because the hills had been cut out I was making much better progress than expected. Couple this with the terrible conditions that they’d been standing in since they got there at about 11am, by the time I went through Kingston, the JDRF support point had one lonely woman on it!

By this point, the rain had stopped and the skies were brightening up. It was at this point, with about 20 miles to go, that I decided to really get my head down and start pushing hard! I haven’t done that many longer rides (over 60 miles) so I worried about pushing hard too soon and then being burnt out before the finish. But having not done any climbing, I got more and more confident as the miles passed by that my legs would see me to the end, so the last 20 miles or so was a pretty awesome blur of tagging onto faster riders and swapping places with them as we worked together to keep the tempo high and the speed up.

The roads were still pretty damp but this was also the first time I had a chance to make the most of the thing I was most looking forward to about the whole ride in the weeks leading up to it. RideLondon takes place on entirely closed roads, which means no oncoming traffic at any point. This was the first time I’ve ever ridden on a public road and been able to go into a corner without worrying about what was coming the other way.

As the roads dried out, and we cranked the speed up, I was finally able to take advantage. What a blast! The final stretch to Trafalgar Square and left onto The Mall was lined both sides by loads of spectators and I felt like Mark Cavendish as I came out from behind the guy I’d been working with for the last 15 miles to sprint over the finish line, both arms in the air!!!

I had to make a grab for the handlebars immediately after though, as there were a couple of timing pads across the road that would have wiped me out, if my hands were still off the bars! That would have looked good on the photos!!!

I was hoping that the official photographers might have caught me in a ‘Cav’ pose but no such luck!

With that, it was three down, one to go! I collected my medal and headed back to the hotel for a shower. Nikki and the kids joined me shortly after and we headed off into Victoria for a few beers and some grub. All very civilised in the sunshine, and all a lot earlier than I expected as the two hills had been cut out!

Oh well, I’ll just have to give it a go next year!

Posted by Gareth

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