The Prudential RideLondon 100 2016
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
With his new bionic shoulders in place, my good friend Andy (Baker) was keen to take on a new challenge - his first since our epic John O' Groats to Land's End journey in 2011. And with Anthony Nolan (the charity that helped find a life-saving bone marrow donor for Andy) being heavily involved in the Prudential RideLondon event, he was keen to sign up and asked me to do it too.
It wasn't the original JoGLE team, as Rob & Graham were too busy having a baby and playing house builders respectively, so we subbed out Rob & G for Andy's cousin, Pete.
This was my third attempt at trying to cycle this sportive. In 2013 I wasn't allowed to take someone else's place and in 2014 I withdrew on grounds of safety as a hurricane ensued meaning the route got shortened to 80 miles and was very unsafe. So it's fair to say there was a little apprehension about this ride.
I was in for a shock when I arrived at our rather shoddy hotel in grimy East London the evening before. The hotel looked abandoned, with the windows all white-washed, the signage covered up and no one about. Turns out they were open for one more night (for our event) before closing down for refurbishment. Nice of them to tell us or even put up a sign.
We were only half a mile away from Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre and the Olympic Park - the start of Sunday's race, so we wandered there to carb load at a restaurant.
We had a fairly decent night's sleep all things considered, in our 'three-bed' (1 single and 1 double) room. We were up at the crack of dawn, greeted by four Russians peeing against the wall opposite our bedroom window. We had our bland and claggy boil-in-pot porridge and a banana for breakfast and we were ready to roll.
We headed down to the start of the ride at the Olympic Park at about 6.45am. We were all scheduled to start at different times, but we decided to start at my later time of 7.38 (very precise).
After waiting in a massive queue of thousands of eager cyclists for about 40 minutes (all that standing wasn't great prep for a hundred mile race), we were off at 7.38 on the dot!
As I expected, having experienced something similar in the London Marathon, we went off way too quickly, caught up in all the excitement and adrenalin.
The ride through London was immense. Closed roads and a peloton as far as you could see in front and behind meant we were being sucked along at about 20-24 mph on average. It was like riding a roller coast, undulating ever so slightly up and down for miles and miles. We latched on to a club 'train' for a while which was so amazing.
My calf muscles were a little tight at the top, and I couldn't tell if it was because we'd been standing for so long (probably), we'd gone out too quick (probably) or my seat was too high (probably).
Richmond Park was a particularly nice section and our first 'out of London' fresh air, and shortly afterwards we hit our first pit stop at 24 miles and a little of an hour in where, as predicted, I needed a pee. We took the opportunity to fill water bottles and refuel on the many bananas and energy bars that were available.
After 5 minutes or so, we were back in the saddle and sought out another peloton to latch on to.
It didn't feel long (about another hour and a half) before we passed through the village of Purford, and up ahead we could see a huge bottle neck. Everyone around us dismounted and and to bunch to one side a few times to let marshal cars and ambulances through. We could also see a helicopter circling above for ages and we heard another chopper come in. Turns out someone had come off their bike on a downhill bend and hit a tree and road sign. They got air lifted out we were hoping they were ok.
Having been delayed for about an hour and 10 minutes, we set off cautiously down the hill and into the rolling hills of Surrey.
At mile 48 we hit Newlands Corner, the first notable climb of the day, which we breezed up... well, Pete and Andy did. Once at the top, we took the opportunity to refuel and take sa break at the pit stop.
The descent down from the top of Newlands was awesome and I'll remember it for a while to come. Long, sweeping, wide roads, all closed to traffic as was the rest of the course. That's the reward for climbing hills. With such a beaming smile, I think I got a few flies stuck in my teeth.
Next landmark was Leith Hill at 58 miles. A steep, windy, narrow and slightly crowded hill that seemed to have a couple of false summits. But we all got through it fairly easily, and more importantly without incident.
Now, the descent down from the top of Leith Hill seemed to go on for 5 miles or so. It was never-ending. It felt like one of the Tour de France descents. Needless to say, I was grateful of the long recovery break.
We breezed through Dorking which was such a lovely atmosphere - had a real Le Tour-feel about it with people cheering, music playing and cobbled streets.
Another few miles, another notable climb on the horizon. This time, the fabled Box Hill. I'd already done this in training, so knew what to expect, and I wasn't worried. It's actually a lovely climb, and the gradient's not too steep - about 6% on average. I did lose Andy and Pete though, since they're much quicker than me. I reached the summit, where there was another pit stop. I thought they may have stopped but couldn't see them, so carried on. I ended up joining a random group of cyclists and tagged along with them for 10 minutes or so before I caught up with Andy and Pete. I wasn't expecting to see them until our next planned stop, which was at 75-ish miles where one of Andy's family lived.
We arrived there with a few slices of jammy bread greeted us, as well as water to top us up. By now, the legs were starting to feel really heavy.
The ride into London from there was fairly flat, apart fomr Wimbledon hill which was a real challenge by this point. It's not really long, but quite steep and at about 85-90 miles in, it's energy sapping.
We flowed along the embankment of the Thames at a reasonable cadence all the way to the finish line, where we saw Jen first (at the corner of Pall Mall), then Yaz further along where she caught us on video.
A Flying ‘V’ for the finish
The Prudential RideLondon 100 was complete. It was a lovely day for it, on a very quick and beautiful route. Big shout out to Andrew Baker and Pete Baker for towing me round at a relatively quick speed for my little legs. Thanks to VO2 Cycling for getting my bike in tip top condition for today's event - it ran very smoothly. And a big 'thank you' to my wife and children for putting up with my absences over the last few months whilst I trained. A special thanks to Jen for baking some pretty tasty treats to help us raise money for Anthony Nolan. And thank you to everyone who has donated - you are literally life savers.
Our official time is about an hour or so more than the actual time due to the accident.