I have been counting down to the Prudential RideLondon for exactly a year. You see, I had unfinished business. Last year I rode for Diabetes UK, raised over £2,500 and trained super hard spending most weekends slogging up and down Leith Hill and Box Hill. And then the rain came. Literally. Hurricane Bertha not only made me incredibly soggy (I might as well have dunked my bike in the bath and tried to ride it), but it meant that the course was cut down from 100 miles to 87, missing out the two nemesis hills I’d been training on.
I’d been accepted for the 2015 ride in the ballot, and I knew that this year was MY year. I was ready. I was going to beat those hills. I was going to cycle the full distance, and it was not (fingers crossed!) going to rain!
And, initially, I was going to be doing it on a tandem.
I thanked my lucky stars when it transpired that Dad and I had forgotten to pay for our place, leaving him picking up a charity place for Roy Castle, and returning me to my ballot status. As the tandem bubble was abruptly burst, I was secretly pleased. Eight hours on a tandem as the ‘stoker’? I don’t think so. On the ride we past three or four tandem riders, and I was reminded how lucky I was, as it didn’t look much fun (one woman had her face squished again a backpack… seriously?!)
But after months of training rides and a rather swanky new pair of gel padded shorts, I was ready. It was forecast to be glorious weather (perhaps a little too glorious), I had been carb loading for six solid days, the bike was serviced and adjusted and the new shorts were rather comfy.
This year I’d somehow managed to trick The Boyfriends Dad into cycling the distance with me (I’m not quite sure how, I think it was possibly to do with The Boyfriends Mum, but I will always be forever grateful). We’d set off in separate pens, but after a bit of confusion about meeting up, we managed to find each other and set off on our merry way.
I’ve never ridden 20mph before, apart from down a very big and steep hill. We got to Richmond Park (mile 25) in around 1 hour and 10 minutes, and I knew that with another 30 miles to go before Leith Hill, we’d have to pace ourselves a bit. After a pit stop we continued at a (slightly) more reasonable pace of around 17mph.
The route was simply fantastic. You’re taken through central London and past all the famous sights, before heading through Richmond Park, past Hampton Court and into the beautiful Surrey Hills. I found (rather to The Boyfriend’s Dad’s amusement) that I could barely remember the route from last year. I put it down to not being able to see much past my own eyelashes due to the rain.
We only had two hiccups on the ride. Firstly, we made the mistake of stopping at the feed station at the top of Newfoundland’s Corner, with hundreds of other cyclists. We were funnelled in and funnelled out, but we did waste time slowly trudging around. We were both carrying plenty of food thanks to The Boyfriend’s Dad’s 10 Mile Snack Strategy, so we decided to skip the main hubs for the rest of the route and just stop at the water points.
Secondly, we were caught up on Leith Hill after a fellow rider tragically had a heart attack. The incident must have happened about 100 meters in front of us, which meant that we had to walk past the first response unit. We later found out that the poor chap had died, which was incredibly sobering. These extreme challenges are so physically demanding, and you often forget what intense pressure you’re putting on your body. It was with a more downcast attitude that we ploughed on to Box Hill.
I’m happy to report that I smashed Box Hill. Well, for me. Whenever I’ve cycled up Box Hill before I’ve always gone into a low gear and spun up it, and let the hundred of cycling clubs overtake me. This time, however, my months of training kicked into the legs and I even got a few PBs on the way up, and actually over took some other cyclists! The joy of reaching the top was knowing that it was all down hill to London and glory.
For me, the best part about the ride wasn’t the cycling. It was Mile 98, where a whole army of friends and family had turned out to cheer us on. As we came flying down embankment, we could already see the flags, crazy hair and brand spanking new BRITT LOVE BIKE t-shirt ready to welcome us. Once again Mum almost threw herself out in front of my bike, and this year I even managed to have a sneaky gulp of The Boyfriend’s beer before setting off.
Seeing my entire family, in-law family (which I hope I’ve earnt my place in after cycling 100 miles with the patriarch!) and some of my favourite friends there just hit home how much support I’ve had since I took up cycling. I’d have never got into cycling if Dad hadn’t bought me a bike, if Mum wasn’t there to make me mountains of homemade flapjack and feed me up before big rides, if The Boyfriend wasn’t willing to sacrifice all his t-shirts, give me leg rubs and make me eggs, if my friends weren’t willing to tolerate excessive amounts of neon and lycra, or if The Boyfriend’s Dad didn’t indulge me in long conversations about Wiggle….
It’s all these wonderful folk that kept me in the saddle and made me cross the finishing line after 100 miles of absolutely belting it to keep up with my cycling buddy. The ballot for 2016 opens on Monday…. #justsayin