For those I’ve seen since Ride London you’ll know I was absolutely gobsmacked at the quality of the event as a whole.
While I’m a mountain biker at heart, I’ve done a fair few sportives in the past, and I was really looking forward to the opportunity to ride through London and then onto the Surrey Hills and the area near home with this one. I’d never ridden a closed road sportive before, so that was going to be a new experience, and the sheer scale of the event was a real eye-opener as riders congregated in the Olympic Park ready for the early start.
I’d set myself a target of 6hrs for the ride, basing that time on what I thought I would do on my own on a focused ride with limited stops. What actually transpired was that on closed roads with no need to stop, and amongst eager groups of similarly matched riders, the pace was pretty impressive. While I did a bit of work with a small bike shop team early on, I was also able to enjoy the opportunity to sit in an ever growing pack and actually not have to be the windbreak for a batch of others wanting to hide. Thundering through the tunnels in east London it was amazing to hear the thump of nearby deep-dish wheels and the swish of air forced around the mass of bodies and bikes. The quiet streets of the City had a strange post-apocalyptic feel and I tried to take a moment or two to look around and enjoy the sights and the experience.
I’d started 30 mins after my friend Steve and arranged to meet him at the first water stop. Unfortunately, I was on the far right of the road when the water stop came hurtling towards us, and was unable to pull across the streams of riders. We managed to make contact and Steve agreed to get going and work his way onto the group I was in.
Our group continued to make rapid progress, and in the first two hours we averaged over 36km/h, but I’d failed to find Steve even while taking it more steadily and hanging off the back of the group. The first ascent of the course was quickly negotiated and then I plodded my way up Leith Hill. Climbing is not my forte, given that I am hefting almost 100kg against gravity, however the descent certainly favours my build and I enjoyed the chance to descend quickly. At the water stop I managed to contact Steve by phone, and it appears that he’d been struggling on his own for a while having failed to latch on to the group, and the effort had taken a lot out of him and he’d started to cramp up.
Finally we got back together and took the next few miles to Box Hill steadily in an effort to free up his legs. Tired though he was, he put in a burst towards the top of the hill to make sure he could claim bragging rights on that one.
The support from the crowds through the towns and villages of Surrey was so impressive and provided areal lift to any flagging spirits, and then it was the last short climb out of Wimbledon village and then down to Putney and along the Thames to Westminster. The pace had quickened once again and we’d picked up quite a group to work with, so the final few kilometres flew by.
The noise from the crowd through Admiralty Arch and on to the Mall must be akin to that which professional sports people experience running out onto a pitch, or pro-riders get in the big races. Hundreds if not thousands of people were cheering and banging on the sponsors boards, and of course, we all upped the pace in our own version of a sprint finish.
I’d previously spoken to my long suffering wife, Catherine on the phone and found out she was waiting just short of the finish line with some of her family. I thought I’d take the opportunity to grab a kiss before crossing the line, but underestimated my speed somewhat and endo-ed past (Peter Sagan eat your heart out). Not my finest moment, but I did get my kiss in the end.
Overall a brilliant day and fingers crossed for an entry to the next one.