A great event in the capital, matched by two good write-ups from Catharine Western and Ellie Williams
Wendy Frost, Ellie Williams, Claire Moyle, Adrian Willard & Catharine Western (accompanied by Jon Frost & Fraser Moyle and Andy Monk), Tuffed it out for last Sunday’s Ride London, the 100 mile event on the route made famous by the road race and time-trial races of the 2012 Olympics. The entire route is closed road and weaves through London then heads south into the Surrey Hills to tackle Leith Hill followed closely by Box Hill, before heading back into central London.
Wendy, Jon and Catharine
My ride was undertaken in the company of Wendy & Jon Frost. Getting to the start involved my first cycling experience through the (not yet closed) roads of central London, which was mildly terrifying! However the 2-wheeled traffic definitely outweighed the 4-wheeled variety, with hoards of cyclists flooding to the Olympic Stadium, giving the exciting feeling that we owned the roads (I got the impression that the taxi drivers still up at 6am after a Saturday night shift did not share that sentiment).
The start times were staggered over three hours to try and ease congestion for the almost 27,000 participants! The organisation was impressive, and we were herded (in the nicest possible way) to the start line in our coloured waves, giving plenty of time for a few selfies (#tufffitty!) and checking out some of the impressive specimens around us (Just to be clear, I’m talking about the bikes, not the hoards of MAMILs…). A blast of Queen’s ‘bicycle race’ and we were off! Past participants who I had spoken to before the event had all talked about the speed you end up travelling at, and they weren’t wrong! The thrill of cycling the wrong way down a traffic-free A12, combined with the adrenaline of taking part in such a huge event meant that we were flying! I briefly considered that this was possibly not wise with 99 miles to go, before quickly pushing that thought to the back of my head lalalala. The first part of the ride through the wide London roads was relatively clear with lots of support – including the much appreciated tuff cheers of Kirsty & Strongie in Walton-on-Thames! As we got onto the smaller country roads the difference in experience levels became clear as the combination of carbon-wheeled chain gangs weaving with other riders (some who maybe hadn’t spent too long in the saddle before) led to some near misses. There were several nasty accidents, which was really horrible to see but unfortunately I think inevitable at an event of that size. The delays caused by the incidents meant that bottlenecks formed, the most frustrating one being at the foot of Leith Hill causing us to tackle the first part on foot! I’m certain I would have got that strava QOM if I’d had a clear path…Our Tuff support crew (Tom) was waiting at the ‘summit’ with cheese sandwiches and motivation. He tried to pass us our musettes Tour de France style which, after slogging up Leith Hill, we found *hilarious*…
Next onto Box Hill, and with that ticked off the list, we had some nice descents to rest the legs, and the supporting crowds grew again as we made our way back towards the big smoke. One last cheeky hill came in the form of Wimbledon High Street and, before we knew it, we were across the Thames and flying down the Mall in a blaze of (something resembling) glory! It really was a fantastic experience and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Riding for the second time, Ellie Williams gives her perspective on the event:
Ride London had me out of bed very early on Sunday morning, but I managed the logistics much more effectively this year by selecting a car park close to the finish. The 6 mile ride to the start was well signposted and the start was efficiently organised. The sun shone brightly and the first 30 miles ticked by quickly and without incident. Support on the course began to build after Richmond park and I kept my eyes peeled for Andy and Kirsty in Walton on Themes, but unfortunately didn’t spot them. The course began to narrow as it made it’s way into the Surrey hills and at mile 40, disaster struck . All riders were brought to a sudden halt. It was clear that there had been a serious accident and the buoyant mood on the course was suddenly supplanted with a sense of quiet concern. Cyclists waited patiently for well over an hour while paramedics from the South East Coastal ambulance attended the scene. During this time local residents were fantastic, refilling water bottles and offering their loo to female riders. Cycling past the aftermath of the accident was a sobering experience and all thoughts of beating last year’s time was displaced. The goal now was to finish safely.
The rest of the ride passed without incident. The sportives that I have done with Sharon earlier in the season have certainly stood me in good stead for this event. I recovered quickly from the Leith Hill climb and was much braver on the sweeping downhill sections. A quick stop for water at mile 70 and an unscheduled stop 5 miles later when the Garmin battery gave out. This meant I had to ride the last 25 miles without any data which, for a self-confessed data addict, was actually quite liberating. Riding to feel, I managed to maintain a good pace despite an energy-sapping headwind on the long drag back into town. The atmosphere at the finish on the Mall was electric and equal to that of the London marathon, so it would have been rude not to muster a sprint finish.
I do feel very lucky to have had a ballot place for this event for two years in years in a row, but given the number of accidents on the course this year, I do feel the number of riders on the course has exceeded it’s critical mass and I hope the organisers will take steps to improve safety.
Andy tries to out grin number 14041 – Ade Willard
The public ballot entry system for the 2017 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 will open on Monday 8 August.