I did it, I finished the full Ride 100. After last year all I wanted was to be able to finish the whole route without incident and, thankfully, that wish came to pass.
The morning began very early for me with a 3:45am alarm call. A quick shower and a hearty breakfast later, I was on my way from my AirBnB in Walthamstow to the start line at the Olympic Park. It wasn’t the dull, rainy day of last year and for that I was extremely happy as we edged closer to our wave start time of 6:28am
Anyone who has done this ride will know that the ‘hype man’ at the start asks the riders on the front of the wave for a song to be played out as you start, kudos to the person on the front of my wave who chose Sabotage by the Beastie Boys!
The route out of East London doesn’t change at all really, down the Limehouse Link then following the river till a sharp right takes you up past the back of Green Park and through Knightsbridge on your way out to Hammersmith and on to Chiswick Bridge. The adrenaline pumps and you seem to eat up the miles very quickly. I found that starting in an early wave provided me with a lot of faster wheels to hang onto for a bit which made the whole experience quite easy and I covered the first 20 miles in under an hour. In actual fact, that pace never really relented until the bottom of Newlands Corner. The difference this year was the weather, the fact that it was dry meant that I took in a lot more of the sights and sounds as we pedalled out of town. It also meant that I noticed when I was overtaken by Dani Rowe, Jazz Carlin and a man dressed as a cow.
Newlands Corner is the first real sharpener for the legs. It’s not the most difficult but it has an awkward profile, preceded by a 1 mile drag up Ripley Lane. I had bypassed all the previous feed/water stations with the intent of making this my only stop, that was the correct decision at 50 miles in. I also made a point of messaging Mike Teunissen to tell him he’d have a tough time beating my undoubted Newlands KOM in the pro race later that day! He was up for the challenge!
The descent off Newlands is a lovely fast sweeping road but it only lulls you into a false sense of security as the long drag from Gomshall through Abinger to Holmbury St Mary awaits at the bottom. It was here that the difference in capabilities of the cyclists started to become evident. I had seen enough last year to be ultra aware of my surroundings and other riders this year, but I can honestly say that it was the (obviously) more experienced riders with their matte black everythings that were causing the most danger to everyone else on the road. I witnessed multiple incidents of undertaking, diving into corners and a complete failure to give space to other riders. I liked to refer to these riders as being from the ‘Wanker Wave’. The ride captains in the Continental kits weren’t much better to be honest and they exerted no effort or control over any dangerous riding. Rant over but, if you read this and you’re from ‘Wanker Wave’ have a word with yourself, most people out there were riding for charity so don’t get pissy because you’re not getting another meaningless Strava PB.
Talking of PBs, next up was Leith Hill. I’ve ridden Leith Hill a few times and it is tricky enough on a quiet day, the volume of people turning into it on Sunday made it quite clear that this was never going to be up there with the quickest times it has ever seen. I struggled with it if I’m honest, not through difficulty but through pace. On the left of the narrow ascent road it was slow going and on the right there was a steady stream of faster riders, much faster than me, so I struggled to find a line where I could go at my own pace and I found that extremely difficult. On the odd occasion there was a gap in the faster riders I managed to hop round a few slower riders but for the most part I just had to sit in and pedal slowly up the hill. I found the same thing on Box Hill later in the ride, sheer volume of cyclists made it very difficult to go at your own steady pace.
I hadn’t planned on stopping at the top of Box Hill as I knew, from there on in, that Wimbledon Hill was the only little lumpy bit left but I started to feel a twinge of cramp in my thigh so I pulled in past the observation point and had a rest and some food.
The rest of the ride went by quite quickly and without incident. I stopped at Wimbledon to talk to my pal Ben and then again on Putney Bridge when I spotted Al, but moved on quickly and I finally crossed the finish line on The Mall in a time of 6 hours and 23 mins. I had hoped to do it in under 6 hours but the sheer volume of people made that difficult and I was pleased just to finish.
I’ve entered the ballot for next year but I think I need to look for a different challenge for 2020!