Well its 2015 and whats been going on I hear you ask.. Yes I am still on the bike, a year older and balder and fatter. In February the magazine arrives on the doorstep. telling me I have a place in the 2015 Ridelondon ballot. Oh deep joy, another painful year of getting my legs ready for the big one. The adventure starts here again – and it feels like I am starting from scratch.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=an18z1EJxmE width=”320″ height=”180″]
Well what a ride that was !!! (in more ways than one) The initial excitement before the event was rapidly turning into dread. A certain ex-hurricane Bertha was heading towards the UK and after 2 months of gorgeous weather was threatening to turn very nasty. The big question me and 20,000 other entrants wanted to know was WHEN ! and WHERE. As the days ticked down, it was starting to look pretty obvious, it was going to strike smack bang into the Prudential Ridelondon 100 course at about 7:27am Sunday precisely (my start time). I went up to town on the Saturday and spent a fantastic day at the Freecycle event. The sun was out, everyone was out on their bikes taking advantage of the 10 miles of closed roads in the city. I did a few gentle laps and at the back of my mind I thought, they must have got this weather forecast wrong. I had an evening meal and spent the rest of the evening glued to the weather forecast. Next morning it looked rather grey out the window. I made my way to the start and it wasn’t raining, not too cold, they got it wrong, and it was going to be perfect.
We heard the course had got shortened at the start no Leith / Box hills (bit odd, as it wasn’t raining). I rolled out the start and once again took in the atmosphere you can only get from cycling on closed roads (amazing). There was some light drizzle as I came through central London, which turned into light rain by the time I got to Kingston. As I came through Byfeet, the heavens opened. I can only describe it as biblical, the road disappeared as the drains overflowed turning the route into a river. Riders were all over the place, potholes and road debris were all now hidden under the water and it took all your concentration to stay upright. I saw quite a few nasty crashes. The middle section of the ride had turned into a long wet slog, banging my head against the wind and rain. You couldn’t sit behind anyone close enough to get some help as all you got was a face full of spray and a 50/50 chance of getting taken down when the rider in front of you crashed (better to ride solo and stay safe).
By the time I made the turn at the bottom of the course and headed back towards London, the rain had eased and eventually the sun poked out between the clouds. The last 6 miles was what RideLondon should be; Sun, Closed Roads, fantastic landmarks and scenery. The first 80 miles well… the video tells that story.
I would like to dedicate this ride to Kris Cook who sadly passed away on the Newlands corner climb.
I thought I would write a post of my experience of last years read Ridelondon 100 with some insights into the course and what to expect as you attempt the 100 miles. This is not for the seasoned professional, but if you are attempting this sort of distance for the 1st time hopefully I can add a few nuggets of knowledge.
The ride actually starts a few days before, basically get some decent food in you. I had a big spaghetti bolognaise the 2 nights before and topped up with Japanese ramen noodles for lunches and porridge oats for breakfast. Plenty of carbs, is what you want. On the day of the ride I had a nice big breakfast – porridge, toast and fruit juices and tea. It is hard to force yourself to eat at that time in the morning but its worth it if you can, you are going to use all those calories. Make sure you got all the gels / flapjack bars or whatever your food favourite is, packed in your easily reachable pocket. Eventually after all that nervous shuffling at the start and your 5th trip to the loo, you will roll out of the start gate with your fellow wave riders. Don’t go too fast at the beginning, I saw a lot of people going off at 20+ miles an hour straight out the gate. Its a long way round and its better to let your legs warm up slowly and your body get fully awake – and remember, the first 2 miles don’t even count !!!, so you are only using energy to get you to the real start line. Once you roll over the start mat (its clearly signposted) you will hear a beep and you are off. Find a group of riders going your speed. I did this by riding at the speed I felt comfortable at and then see who was just coming past me at a slightly faster pace. You can then get into the back of that group and conserve some energy (you are going to need it). Make sure you are taking on fluids regularly, take a drink at least every 20 / 30 mins even if its just a swig. I had two bottles on the bike and its best to make sure you are not going to be short. Top up your bottles when you need to (Hampton Court is a good place for the first refill) and you will get an idea of how much water you are using. Take an energy gel / food or something at regular points. Once you hit the tight turns at Ripley this is a good point to have a really good feed. This gives the food enough time to get into your system for the lumpy Surrey Hills section (about 20-30 mins away). Basically make sure you are fuelled up BEFORE you hit the first big climb. Its too late to start eating once you are hungry and you will run out of energy. After you have done the hills I found it useful to just have a brief stop to jump off the bike for a 5 / 10 mins and stretch out. It resets the muscles a bit and stops the cramps and aches. Don’t be tempted to get off the bike for any longer, you will start to seize up and getting back on will be a very painful experience. I rode my own pace for the hills section and don’t be tempted to chase down faster groups. Be really careful on the decent off Leith hill, as you reach the turn off to Abinger Common the road gets really bad, coupled with some high sided walls there is potential for your day to end early in a pile up. Take it easy and get round in one piece. Once you get to Leatherhead (after Box hill) get a good refill / refuel and find another group to drag you back to London, there are no big hills now, so conserve energy so you have something left for a big finish. Now I said there are no more big hills but there is a nasty little surprise at Wimbledon, so you will be glad to have saved something in the legs. You are probably riding further than you have trained to now. Once you see the buildings are higher than 2 stories, you know you are close. Hang on and just pedal on the atmosphere of the event, it will get you home.
I defy anyone not to have a little sprint on the Mall, even though you think you have nothing left in the legs.
Ridelondon is getting very close now, only a few weeks away and the nerves are starting to kick in. The next big test was to see if these old legs still have the distance in them. I am in much better shape than I was last year and its good to be able to carry some of the fitness through, although as you people training for RideLondon are probably aware, most of the time its all in your head and cycling is mental challenge to keep going as well as a physical one. The order of the day was a long long ride in the New Forest to try and get close to the total distance and see if I can sit on a bike for a long time.
The new forest is a beautiful place on a bike. The sun was shining and the roads pretty clear of traffic. You miss so much of the countryside from within a car, isolated in a metal box you miss out on so much that you get to experience on a bike. It was a hot day, so plenty of stops for water refills and refuelling. I just ticked the bike round no silly heroics today. Sometimes its nice just being out on the bike rather than trying to achieve training goals. The new forest ponies were out in force as were the cows and other wildlife.
There are loads of little hamlets and villages hidden away off the main roads. Some beautiful thatched cottages and some great views over the forest, including the Isle of Wight and the sea. In total a distance of 88 miles was covered, which is pretty close to where I need to get to on the day. I feel good to have done a long one and am able to sit in the saddle for that long. A few more rides next week – with a possible long one. Then its the fun part of eating a ton of pasta just before the big day.