All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Riding London

Riding London

As regular readers will be aware, last year I crashed out of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycling event in the middle of a tropical rain storm. Unsatisfied with that outcome, I attempted the event again in 2015. For the sake of completeness, here’s how I got on.

From the moment I knew enough about my injuries to know I would be fine to get back on a bike, I was resolute that I wanted to return and complete what I’d set out to achieve. As such, I filled out the ballot for a place, sent it off and waited. Being such a popular event, despite only being in its third year, places are highly contended. Unfortunately this time around I wasn’t so luckly and didn’t get a place.

Time for Plan B – charity places! Lots of charities have pre-assigned spaces available for riders who can commit to raising a set amount of money for the charity. There are lots of official big-name charities, but a number of smaller or less high-profile charities have a few places for riders too. We’d spotted that The Prince’s Trust were advertising places, so I applied, and was accepted. The catch was that I needed to raise £750.

When Rachel started our business in 2001, she did so with help and support from The Prince’s Trust. As such, we try to support their work when we can. I put together a fundraising page, and with support from a lot of kind people, we managed to raise an amazing £930! Thank you so much to those who were able to chip in!

The ride

Despite my unscheduled dismount last year, the planning, arrangements and logistics had gone pretty well. As such, I stuck to the same formula. I planned some sportives in the weeks leading up to the event, covering 75 and 85 miles, before taking a week off for some gentle shorter rides in the week before. Things didn’t go completely smoothly in the build up, and I suffered a fairly low speed crash on a greasy corner during the 75-miler. I was a bit battered and bruised, but nothing serious. The biggest issue was that it completely knocked my confidence in staying upright, and found I was subsequently terrified descending and cornering.

On the day itself, I against stuck to the same routine. The good news was the weather – glorious sunshine! As we all queued up to start, there was lots of talk of how much improved the conditions were over last year – I think there were a lot riders returning to complete the 100 miles. We rolled over the line and we were off.

I managed to keep on top of my refuelling, and just kept rolling at what I knew to be a sustainable pace. The time limits meant that I needed to average more than 20kmph, which was achievable even with the heavy traffic of 27,000 riders.

As we got to the bottom of Leith Hill, marshals brought us to a stop. I’d seen this happen in Richmond Park last year – it was clear that there was some sort of accident up ahead and the road was blocked. We stood waiting in the sunshine for about 45 minutes, until we saw the air ambulance arrive. What felt like a welcome break in nice weather turned dark as word was passed down that someone had collapsed from a heart attack. I learned later that day through the news that the man, a keen club cyclist, had died at the scene.

Once the police had cleared the road, we were set off in waves. Those further behind had already been diverted passed Leith Hill and wouldn’t get to complete the full 100 mile course, so I was thankful to be fit and able to tackle the climb. The most challenging part of the climb was the traffic. The general advice was to move to the left on the climbs to allow the faster riders to pass on the right, but the reality of the huge numbers of riders and the fairly narrow lanes meant that this wasn’t really practical. As such, it was very easy to be knocked off your tempo by slower riders.

After Leith Hill came Box Hill. The field had thinned out quite a bit by that point, and so the climbing was easier. I’d not really appreciated that Box Hill was made up of switchbacks before, so that was fun. I felt a bit like the riders I’d spend the previous few weeks climbing the Alps and Pyrenees on Le Tour. The climbs were fun and not too tough, and after training on local ascents like Cheddar Gorge, I certainly felt I was prepared.

Then it was all downhill

As I crested Box Hill, not only was I met with a beautiful view of the Surrey countryside, but also with the realisation that I’d made all the cut-off times, survived the climbs, and that by this point it was all literally downhill to the finish. I needed to stay upright, but that was all. I’d done it!

The roll back into London was fun but uneventful. I gleefully passed through the point at which I’d crashed last year and pushed on through the crowded-lined streets. Somewhere on Embankment one of my contact lenses blew out and away, but by that point I was 5km from the finish and didn’t even care. I squintally headed up Whitehall, left onto The Mall, and I was at the finish.

It was a long, hard day. It’s difficult to ride well in those crowded conditions, and with the 9 mile ride to the start, the queuing and the 100 miles itself, I’d been on the go for about 10 hours. It was a great accomplishment – I’m proud of the achievement, I’m proud to have finished the full course, I’m proud to have got myself to a place with my fitness where I was able to even contemplate something like that – but I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to enter again.

The following Sunday I rode 65 miles with my local club, and it felt like nothing. Just 65 miles. A mere trifle.