The alarm clock went off at 5am and I dragged myself out of bed after three hours of not-so-great sleep. I’d prepped my bike and everything the night before so all I needed to do were the final checks and have breakfast.
My taxi arrived at 6am. I’d booked a ‘cycle cab’ from Addison Lee, which was basically a car with a large boot so I still had to remove my front wheel. It also didn’t take nearly as much time as Google Maps had suggested so I got there around 6:30am. The road leading to the Velodrome had been closed to traffic so I was dropped off on the otherside of the park so it was a short ride to the Velodrome itself. My start time was 9am so I had quite a bit of waiting to do.
Annoyingly, my event pack never arrived but fortunately it was an easy replacement so my first ten minutes of waiting around was spent attaching all the labels to my bike, helmet and me. The rest of time, I spen relaxing on a bench and watching the rest of the cyclists arriving. Apparently, there were 3,000 people registered! There were a lot of cycling clubs, most seeming to riding the long route (I think you’d have to be part of a club or group to get through the long route, I’m not sure it’s something you could easily tackle on your own). I was going to be riding the short route, 76km (or 49miles).
Riding a small bike means I don’t have a lot of room to put stuff on my bike so I had to use my rucksack. I’m not a fan of riding with a rucksack and it did make my ride much less fun because of it. I also made a bit of a big mistake at the start of the ride. I’m not used to riding in a group so set off at a much higher pace than I should have done as I got 25km in and started to struggle with the hills. It also started to get very warm so not only was I struggling with the hills (and there were a lot of those sneeky long ‘gentle’ gradients), I was starting to overheat.
My feet like to swell when I get hot so my Specialized 2FO shoes started out nice and comfy (but snug) but by 25km, my left foot was feeling very squashed. Lesson learned there, always buy a size bigger! I’ve exchanged them for a size bigger so any future rides hopefully won’t suffer from the squashed feet problem.
One thing you don’t really appreciate when taking on a long ride is how tough it is mentally, with each hill I struggled with, each time I noticed I was going at a snails pace or when other riders passed me at higher paces, it stuck a blow. By the time I reached the feed zone I was actually thinking about packing it all in, but I had some more food (flapjacks and cold potatoes, seriously…cold potatoes for the win!), applied some more chamois cream and just had a rest and I felt good to keep going. Luckily, there weren’t any hills in the final 44km (or at least not like the hills I’d struggled up in the first 35km!) so it was a nicer ride. I still struggled with the heat and had to stop a few times to pour water down my back just to cool down.
Finally though, I hit the final 1km throught the Velodrome and it was all over.
- everyone was really supportive (a group of riders stopped at the top of a gnarly hill, they said they wanted to wait for me because the route went sharply to the left and they didn’t want me to miss the turning, I think they just wanted a rest :P, loads of people shouted encouraging things as they passed you and there were people out on club rides who said nice things.)
- cold potatoes rock
- it was really well organised and the route brilliantly sign posted
- I did it in under six hours.
- There was some beautiful scenary
- I saw a pheasant.
- Despite having done some longer rides, I don’t think I was prepared enough.
- It was hot.
- I didn’t have enough sleep. I should have taken a later taxi so I could have had a few more hours or taken the day before off.
- hills suck.
- Too many scary large round-abouts and you’d be surprised at how busy the traffic is on a Sunday morning!
- 1 dead rabbit, 2 dead hedgehogs and a dead squirrel
- my feet hurt