Ride 100. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

You have to question some of your life choices when your alarm is going off at 3:15am on a Sunday morning so you can hop on your bike and cycle into the darkness, ducking and diving around Claphams drunk and disorderly who could neither stand up, nor make sense.  Ironically that would be me several hours later but for very different reasons.  It was Ride100 day and we were off to the Olympic Park at an offensively early 4:15.

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We only got 2 minutes down the road before Jen picked up a puncture, I’m sure it was because of the broken glass scattered around but it wasn’t a great start for her.  Zoe, Ellie & I continued our journey as we were in an earlier start wave, fingers crossed all would be OK.  Thankfully it was and everyone made it to the start pens in time.

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The sun started to rise on the 11 mile journey to the start and it was almost light by the time we got there.  Our pen closed at 6:20 before our start time of 7am.  Just enough time for a chat and a snack before we were on the move.

Ellie and I bumped into Olivia in our start wave as Zoe headed off to her orange zone, it was 26 miles to the first feed hub and we had arranged to meet there.  With impeccable organisation, we crossed the start line bang on 7am.  There are 48 start waves in total setting off from 5:44 through to 8:52 to space people out.

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The first 26 miles are pretty flat through London taking in Canary Wharf, the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum before heading west to Richmond Park for the first (easy) hill.  This led to Hampton Courst for the first ‘hub’.  The hubs were where you could stop for a rest, toilet, water re-fill and some food.  The food was pretty rubbish but I had a banana and some pretzels.

I met up with Zoe and some other Chasers and we headed off on leg 2.  Most of the Chasers were pretty speedy so Sophie & I held back and chatted on the way round.  This made the next 20 odd miles go really quickly as we caught up cycling through Weybridge and Ripley and tackled the first proper hill at Newlands Corner (thank you!).  Thankfully the top led to the next hub  where we re-grouped and I had some crisps (where was the sugar?!)

Ellie and I at the Olympic Park

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At this point I realised I had made a mistake by not bringing enough of my own food.  Two years ago the food stations had so much choice I was overloaded, this year they were disappointing and not entirely fit for purpose.  The next section was the toughest, it would see us take on both Leith Hill and Box Hill.  I had a confidence crisis and a few stern words from the girls, we agreed to meet at the top of Box.

I took it easy and tried not to think about Leith.  The course quickly slowed to a standstill, I’m not sure if there was an accident or they were moderating the traffic on the hill but we had to queue a short while before heading up.  This didn’t help my momentum and, somewhere half way up, I took my bike for a walk.  I didn’t feel great, I totally bonked and knew I needed more food.  I ate the Cliff bar I brought with me and was saving for an emergency.

After the descent was Box Hill and I believe there was another bottleneck (it’s all a bit hazy) and I was relieved to see the top as this meant we were nearly 70 miles in and it was all pretty much downhill to the finish.  I felt bad the guys were waiting for me but they were there with smiles and words of encouragement.

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We skipped the next hub and rode straight through Leatherhead, Oxshott and Esher to mile 86 at Kingston.  I was on my own at this point as I was finding it really hard and didn’t want them to have to wait again.  After a brief stop and some more bloody crisps and a banana I headed off for the final section.

There was the final hill at Wimbledon and then we were in Putney where there was a Chaser marshal spot. BEST SECTION EVER.  Nothing turns an ‘I can’t’ into an ‘of course I bloody can’ like a Chaser cheer.  I was surprised to see Jen at this point who had not only finished but headed back for marshalling duties, for a brief moment I was convinced I was hallucinating.

Around this point a lot of people started cheering for me, I like to think it’s more because it’s close to Clapham than because I looked like I was going to fall off my bike and die but either way it was hugely appreciated.

The last bit along the river was a bit blurry and then I was headed up the mall on the home straight to the finish.  The actual finish was a tad underwhelming this year, I wasn’t even 100% sure I had crossed the finish line but everyone had dismounted so I assumed so.

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The finish area was anther big backlog of people and chaos but I eventually made it out of the park and met Zoe to get the train home.  After an 11 mile ride to the start and 100 miles on the road I was ready to see a train!

And that was another 100 mile sportive done!  It was hard, really hard, and I struggled.  I bonked early, didn’t eat enough food and didn’t do enough training rides over 50 miles.  Lessons learnt but mission complete.  Huge thanks to the Chaser girls who didn’t entertain my negative thoughts and everone who cheered me and tracked me on the way.  I might never ride a bike again.  But I might give it another go.  To be continued…

The Good:

  • Riding 100 miles on closed roads is a privilege
  • The course is challenging but achievable
  • Some impacable marshalling, it’s not easy to get pedestrains safely across a cycle course
  • The aid station volunteers were (mostly) super helpful
  • The Chaser cheers in Putney
  • A well organised start

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The Bad:

  • The feed stations were pretty rubbish, I think this is because of a change in sponsor but I’m sure there was a lot more choice two years ago where they had a range of fruit, Cliff Bars, biscuits, salty snacks, Shot Bloks and gels.  This year there was just bananas and crisps, plus some kind of High5 energy bar which weren’t particularly pleasant and not a patch on an energy boosting Cliff Bar.  Disappointing.
  • I believe the hills were closed earlier than scheduled so those who wanted to take them on had to divert.  I think it was because accidents had caused backlogs (we came to a standstill a couple of times) and I also heard a tree had fallen down on Leith Hill
  • I’m baffled by the person who decided it was a good idea to let the 19 mile riders onto the course with the tired 100 mile riders, I almost got knocked off by a few kids. It would have been better to do it on the Saturday
  • They ran out of medals because a pallet had gone missing.  Not ideal but may not be their fault if they were stolen and we were promised they would be sent via post.  There has been a lot of criticism about the missing medals but, whilst I understand the disappointment because I was one of them, a medal serves as a reminder of your achievement and everyone will still get one.  I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve woken up with plenty of reminders in the form of stiff legs and aching muscles so that will suffice for now!

The Ugly

  • I saw a fair few accidents on the course with a couple of people in a bad way.  Again, the organisers came under fire for this because of the amount of people on the course.  Cycling in a group can be dangerous (both the men’s and women’s peleton in the pro race went down) but cycling in a group with people who have no experience of riding in a group is more dangerous.  It really should be part of your training, the Chasers don’t even let you join a Saturday ride until you’ve been on a course.  I really hope everyone is OK.
  • The Surrey & London residents who STILL continue to complain about the roads closing for one day with ample notice. Get over yourselves.  I actually read one post that claimed shutting the roads for cyclists created MORE pollution because people who went out in their cars were stuck in traffic. Genius.

To sum up, Ride London is a well organised sportive that gives you the rare opportunity to cycle on closed roads.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Yes, improvements can and should be made, and yes there is an element of danger, but if everyone took responsibility for their own cycling skills and looked out for one another it would go some way to helping.

The 2020 ballot is now open…(not for me though, cause obvioulsy I’m never getting on a bike again)

Borrowed medal!

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