If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that at the weekend I took part in the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100. As part of a weekend festival of cycling the route was a 100 mile closed road course that started from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, wound its way through London and down into Surrey (largely inspired by the 2012 Olympic route), then back up into London again for a grand finish on The Mall.
In preparation I’ve been upping my cycling over recent weeks, and whilst I have ridden 100 miles a few times before I’ve never done it on closed roads.
Packing all my kit the day before
Not having to stop at traffic lights or give way at roundabouts was a big draw to the sportive for me, being able to maintain a higher average speed around the 20mph mark I was hoping to get round inside six hours.
Fuel for the ride consisted mainly of malt loaf, flapjacks, bananas, and energy gels
Meticulous list checking and packing the night before (through fear of forgetting something!) meant that I was ready to go come 6am on Sunday morning. The forecast looked like it was holding out for sun and fresh breeze welcomed me as I made the relatively short 9-ish miles warm up journey from Camden Town to get over to Stratford, gradually joining more and more riders heading in the same direction.
In my start wave
Once at the park I joined my start wave and joined in the masses taking photos. A beautiful morning surrounded by the stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit it was a definite photo opportunity.
Lovely views while we waited!
Couldn’t resist a selfie!
Superb organisation from the stewards moved the 25,000 or so cyclists slowly forward in their respective waves, and right on schedule at 07.51 to the minute we were off with Ride Of The Valkyries booming out the speakers.
On the start line
Final review of my cue sheet
I was hoping to fall in with a group of similar paced riders to gain the advantage (and respite) of drafting and taking turns on the front but with a range of mixed abilities in our wave it took a few miles of weaving and bunch riding to thin the crowd out out enough to do this.
The group riding contained a friendly atmosphere and everyone seemed to have the same thing in mind which meant it was a constant flow of dropping slower riders and being dropped by faster riders back and forth. There was always enough riders to catch you up and pull you along if you were flagging a bit.
What was really interesting over the day was the range of bicycles people were using. I wouldn’t have dreamt using anything other than a road bike for 100miles but I saw full suspension mountain bikes, hybrids with pannier bags, even someone with their arm in a sling who rode the whole thing one-handed!
My first planned stop was about halfway at the top of Newlands Corner at one of the route hubs. A top up of High5 energy drinks and flapjacks gave me sufficient replenishment and I was back on my way.
Up at Newlands Corner
You may have seen in the news the tragic event that happened on the second of the climbs in Surrey, Leith Hill. My thoughts are with his friends and family.
I was one of the several hundred riders caught up in the backlog of this, ultimately walking up the narrowed road before a formal diversion was put in place. More information here.
The third and final hill (in Surrey) was Box Hill and gave superb views, a just reward for the winding climb up Zig Zag road. I paused to take in the view but didn’t actually stop for any photos. This one is from @bexmcc1 on Instagram.
Views from Box Hill
The smaller towns and villages in Surrey had great support and festivities. People out by the road cheering and waving us on, it was quite an immersive experience. Once into Dorking and heading back up to London the barriers were out along the roadside and it really makes you feel like one of the professional riders.
My second stop was around mile 80 in Esher for a final boost to carry me through. Most people think that the route from Surrey into London is flat, but Wimbledon Hill, although fairly short, peaks at around 9% which is a tough climb with already heavy legs.
Turning onto The Mall was spectacular. Although a bit of a blur it was quite an incredible feeling. The final straight, barrier and banner lined with hundreds of people cheering you on, I gave it my all and sprinted the final 100 metres or so. In my head I was overtaking Mark Cavendish to take the win, but in reality I was so happy to complete the route and well within my target time!
A great medal!
Although I wasn’t formally raising money for a charity on this ride I did get chatting to Spinal Injuries Association at an exhibition the day before (I fundraised for them running the London Marathon a few years ago!) and wore one of their jerseys to help spread their name and raise awareness. If you would like to make a donation to them please visit their site.
I could not have asked for better weather, glorious sunshine and gentle breeze most of the way. You can view my complete ride on Strava here.
Afterwards I met up with my wife and daughter (and a beer!) to relax and watch the professionals ride the same course on the big screen in Green Park.
Relaxing in Green Park afterwards
A really fantastic day, well organised and very well supported. A huge thank you to the marshals, stewards, volunteers, and everyone else that made it possible!
Now that my legs have recovered here’s hoping I get a spot in the ballot for next year too!