For the second year running, I was fortunate enough to get into the RideLondon 100 via the ballot.
I had thought that the slightly increased numbers of competitors and the addition of a 46 mile option (only announced much later), might mean that everyone who wanted to, was able to enter. But that’s not true – and I know of a few people who try and repeatedly fail to get in. So it must be luck on my part.
Out of necessity, RideLondon is a staggered start, with competitors leaving in groups from the Olympic Park in Stratford between about 6am and 8.30am. When you start seems to be dependent on how fast you think you’ll manage the course. Essentially, the organisers want the faster riders at the front of the race to prevent them racing through a large pack of slower riders.
But starting earlier also means the roads are more manageable. This year I started at just after 7am and was aiming for a time of around 6 hours. That time, incidentally, would be measured by my GPS rather than the race time, to allow for a couple of breaks along the way. The year before I had started closer to 8am, and following my wheel-buckling incident, had ended up even further down. (Sadly, it seems that the shop in West Byfleet that bailed me out last year has since closed down).
What that meant was that Leith Hill was rideable, when last year it had been swamped with people walking their bikes up it. And there wasn’t a further problem for me at least, in Dorking where last year the weight of traffic (and pedestrians crossing the road) had meant me walking through the town centre.
I say that Leith Hill was rideable, but it’s horrible. Newlands Corner is much easier, and frankly Box Hill is a breeze since it’s a continuous gradient on a well surfaced road. It is slightly annoying that even after the summit, the road seems to continue to rise for a bit!
Then it’s downhill and over several lumps and bumps as you head back into town. I was trying to make up time a bit, and powered on through as best I could, hoping that gels would see me through. If truth be told, I should have eaten more, and I suffered on the second half of the course.
The final slog is in Wimbledon which seems to finish off some people. I was just ploughing through now. My main issue was that my feet were hurting. Otherwise I was fine.
The finish on The Mall was great fun, then it’s through to collect a medal, be handed a goody bag and face the throngs in Green Park. I really wanted some food, but the queues were enormous so I settled on an overpriced ice-cream before heading back home.
My time was just faster than last year – but only by a minute. That’s disappointing and really was a result of the second half of the race. More care with nutrition would help. And a few more miles closer to the date would as well. Plus some weight off me wouldn’t harm either.
It’s both essential and annoying that the professional men’s road race doesn’t finish until well after the sportive, but the prospect of kicking my heels in Green Park for five hours to wait for them to come through just didn’t appeal. So I settled in to watch the race on the sofa at home. David Millar on a motorbike is great fun – but it was a shame that the event organisers’ technology failed for the last few miles. I believe that this was a SweetSpot issue rather than a BBC one. But kudos to Ian Stannard and especially Geraint Thomas for shaking things up in a race that has thus far routinely ended in a sprint.
- The wide and colourful variety of people entering
- The roadside cheering, from the groups supporting their charities, to residents of south London and Surry.
- The well organised hubs and drinks stations. All were well stocked – at least when I visited.
- The chap I saw completing the ride on a Boris Bike (I feel I’m not going to call them “Boris” Bikes much longer).
- The couple I saw on what I could only describe as “shopper” bikes!
- The Bromptons and tandems. I wouldn’t want to spend 100 miles staring at someone’s backside.
- The top-tube sticker that RideLondon supplied with details of all the hills and and drinks places.
- The accidents – too many people going too fast and not paying attention to the road. I only saw the results of crashes with exception of a guy flung from his bike by not seeing a speed bump in Richmond Park. But one cyclist looked like they were seriously injured and I know the air ambulance was out.
- Aero-helmets! Come on people – what are you thinking? Tri-bars are banned because, well, this isn’t a time trial. Time-trialling in a group is very dangerous. But aero helmets? Idiots.
- Ignoring marshalls. That includes the cretin I saw who was told to slow down for an ambulance but who just ignored the calls and sped on regardless.
- Undertaking. Seriously – except in extremis, don’t do it. There are two lanes of the road to use!
- Strava – for going down just as I was trying to upload my ride! I ended up manually uploading it on Monday morning.
- The top-tube sticker that Evans supplied with a time breakdown of where you should be for a set-time. The information was fine, but the sticker needed hot soapy water to remove it from my frame later! Choose a different sticker supplier next year! The RideLondon sticker came off the bike fine.
- If you’re riding with deep-rim wheels, then I don’t expect to see you getting off and walking on Leith Hill.
- Similarly, I don’t really expect to overtake anyone on a Pinarello Dogma with Di2 Dura Ace on the climb into Wimbledon Village.
- If you’re cycling shorts are a bit weather-worn, you may want to consider getting new ones. Some were positively transparent…