Firstly, apologies for the lack of photos but I was concentrating more on getting round the route than taking snaps!
Anyway, before the ride report, I’ll backtrack to the preparation .
I had booked my Synapse in for some tweaks and a new set of wheels and tyres. As previously reported, I’d chosen a set of Hope 20Fives to replace the Aksiums plus some Continental GP5000s. I picked the bike up on Thursday evening and all seemed well. Unfortunately, when I went to go out for a ride on Friday morning, the front tyre was flat. Annoying but so be it. I took the tyre off and put in a new inner tube. Replacing the tyre was an absolute mission – even with tyre levers I struggled and, unsurprisingly, heard the sound of a pinch flat as I finally managed to get the tyre in the wheel. Sigh.
That wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t then gone on to do the same to THREE more inner tubes. I simply could not get the tyre back on without pinch flatting the tube. I took the bike back to the shop and it took them twenty minutes to get one in successfully by hand.
This was something of a concern as I had no idea what I’d do if I had a front wheel puncture on the road. I didn’t fancy my chances of managing a successful roadside tube change although, the heat in the tyre from riding it might make it more pliable I guess.
Friday afternoon I headed up to Excel in Docklands to register for the event. There was the normal array of nutrition and biking holiday stands but it still pretty disappointing – it would be really nice to see more manufacturers displaying bikes up there.
On Saturday morning, I was really pleased to see the front tyre was still inflated and I took the bike out for a quick spin to check everything was working. I was irritated to notice that the creaking was still there – that wasn’t just the wheel hub then! I decided to clean up the seat post as well in case the creaking was coming from dried out fibre grip but that didn’t make much difference either. I also noticed that there was a noise coming from the front derailleur. If I pushed the front gear lever ‘up’ when it was in the outer ring, it seemed to lessen it but I didn’t want to start playing around with the cable at this stage in case I made it worse and decided I’d have to live with it.
On Saturday afternoon, Nick and I headed up to London to see the Classique Pro Women’s race and we ended up with a great spot outside Buckingham Palace where we saw the riders up close twice a lap. The racing was fairly benign for the first few laps but, as usual, picked up a lot as it neared the end. You really a sense of speed from this close to the action and those girls are so, so fast. We saw the first crash in the distance but not the major one in front of the line but, having seen the footage afterwards, hope that no-one got severely injured and that they all recover quickly. That looked horrendous!
We then headed up to Queen Mary’s University at Mile End where we were staying and got an early night before the big day.
I got up at 6am on Sunday morning and sorted all my gear out – a handful of Clif Bars and Shot Bloks were the order of day plus two full water bottles. We headed off at 6.45 for the relatively short ride up to the start line at the Olympic Park before joining the mass of cyclists being shpherded towards the start itself. I think we set off bang on time at 7.52am.
The early miles are always a blur on the Ridelondon. Being closed roads, it takes a bit of mental effort to ignore the traffic lights and use the whole road. The first 15 miles go so quickly – you’re through central London and out towards Richmond Park before you can blink. It feels like you are slipstreaming behind a fast moving bus! We were averaging about 20 miles an hour or more for the first 30 miles.
As always, friends and family were out to cheer us on and was good to stop and have a quick chat with them. Overall, the level of support from the public is incredible and gives you a very small taste of what the professionals must receive when they’re out competing. It is always a lift and I’d like to thank everyone who came out to cheer us on and shout words of encouragement.
As we headed into the hills it began to get really warm and I was getting through water at an alarming rate. I managed to survive with my two original bottles until Newlands Corner where I refilled them after drinking a fresh bottle full first. I did consider stopping at the mechanics tent to see if they could do anything to lessen the bike related noises which were getting worse all the time. there was a bit of a queue and I didn’t want to hang around that long so carried on – the bike was working well enough, albeit noisily.
We were held up at the bottom of Leith Hill where they were sending us up in waves to ease congestion as it’s steep and narrow. This was the third hold up of the day already as we’d been stopped in queues for accidents on the road – one just north of Ripley on White Rose Lane was quite nasty as someone had gone over the side of a small bridge and into the stream – it’s a bit of a pinch point and perhaps not marshalled well enough? We’d already been stopped in Pyrford for a crash on a straight and wide piece of road. There was another crash at the bottom of the hill by St Nicholas’s Church shortly after that but it must have only just happened before we passed as there weren’t yet any hold ups – the marshals had only just got to the wounded rider. I do hope that all the riders involved were OK and have a speedy recovery.
Leith Hill was the usual grind up and I stopped halfway up to refill water bottles again – it was a good excuse to break the climb! I found myself a nice gap on the way down and took it steadily rather than flat out – it’s a common spot for crashes and I wanted to avoid those!
We passed through Dorking with no issues for a change and then I had a steady spin up Box Hill before heading back to Leatherhead and the home straight back into London. I was refilling water bottles regularly at this stage and was struggling to keep up with the amount I was sweating out. I still felt strong enough though and kept up a decent pace overall as we headed through Esher, Kingston and Wimbledon. Wimbledon Hill is always a leg tester after 90 miles and Putney Hill is always a joy to descend knowing that it’s a flat run in to the end.
I began to feel properly tired for the first time on the Embankment and i was counting down the last four miles far too much but it was soon over and the finish line in The Mall was passed. My Elemnt Bolt suggested a ride time of 5.54 which I was pleased with – I had expected to be slower this year.
We had entered as a team of four through the Amstel Ride Along ballot and the main benefit of this was that we could enter the Amstel Zone where we presented with two free pints of the aforementioned. Now that’s the way to finish a 100 mile bike ride!
A few afterthoughts…
I think I may be done with this event. It’s my fifth time of doing it and it is great but I may be, dare I say it, bored of it. The route is fine but always the same and it’s too crowded – even on closed roads. 30,000 people on narrow country roads riding at greatly differing speeds is a recipe for crashes and this year was no exception. The cycling discipline is pretty non-existent. Now I love to see new cyclists taking on events like this (that was me not so long ago) but mixing them with club riders and pro-wannabees who are trying to set PBs doesn’t work well. I may enter the ballot for next year (which is open as of today) just for the hell of it but I think I’ll look for something else next year.
I was much stronger than I expected this year, save for the climbs. Whilst my hill climbing has tailed off (from a pretty poor place) a bit, my flat riding seems much stronger. I didn’t really struggle at all, just tailed off for the last few miles. I did make a conscious effort to fuel regularly this year. I was eating food or gel blocks every half an hour maximum throughout the ride and I think that made a difference – I never felt like I was running on empty. I drank a lot but had no choice really – it felt a lot warmer than the temperature suggested. Anyone who didn’t pay attention to hydration yesterday would have found themselves in trouble.
I think I’m falling out of love with my bike. I think I’ll save the details of that for another post though…