A great read, especially for those who haven’t had this fantastic opportunity yet! Don’t miss next years ballot, or register your interest for the HWCC Ride London team. Great stuff, Stuart
RideLondon 31st July 2016.
”After driving around in ever decreasing circles, I managed to find the car park at Grosvenor Hill, ideally placed fairly close to the finish. London was still relatively quiet at 5-30 on a Sunday morning but the traffic soon began to build up as I headed along Oxford Street heading east.
At every junction, more cyclists joined in, all heading towards the start of the event starting at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. As the 9 mile commute progressed, the traffic built up dramatically with it coming to a standstill a mile from the Olympic Park. Riders outnumbered buses and cars 10 to 1.
Eventually, we arrived at the beginning of the start area, dividing up into our colour and letter groups. After dropping off my bag, the first ½ mile walk of the day brought me to the Orange “L” area, itself ½ mile from the actual start line.
Around 8-03, my start group set off at a steady pace before hitting the empty A12 towards London. The first 5 miles went in a blur before I took the time to look around me. We passed the Tower of London and then along the Embankment, before turning right up Northumberland Avenue to Trafalgar Square. Even at 8-30, the various charities supporters were out in strength cheering on all who passed. The next part of the ride went in another blur and the next landmark I recognised was Harrods. The route then went further west along more familiar roads and it wasn’t long before the first rider to hit the deck was seen. He was well supported so I pressed on.
We crossed the Thames for the first time on Chiswick Bridge and it wasn’t long before we reached Richmond Park and the beginnings of a theme for the event. A trail of rubbish, mostly consisting of energy gel wrappers, scattered along the road. I saw the first rider of the day walking, so I didn’t hold out much hope for them. It wasn’t long before I recognised Tiffin School on the run into Kingston with its large crowds and festival atmosphere. Kingston had changed so much in the last 30 years or so since I was last here. Crossing the Thames for a second time on Kingston Bridge, the route took us past Hampden Court and further into Surrey.
Passing through Weybridge and Brooklands, the route came onto narrower roads and then to a grinding halt in the village of Pyrford at 10-00. We eventually found out that there had been a serious accident ahead and that a rider had hit a tree. During the wait in brilliant sunshine, I managed to fill my bottles in the village hall as I didn’t fancy fighting my way across the road, past hundreds of riders, to reach the official feed across the road. The villagers of Pyrford were magnificent. I heard tales later in the day of residents opening their doors to strangers so that they could use the toilets and fill their bottles. Even though we were held up for over an hour, there was little grumbling and plenty of friendly banter. We even set up an unofficial Colnago owners club with my C40, a Master, plus all “C” iterations up to a C60. One rider, on a beautiful C59, was black balled as his was equipped with shameful Shimano.
Eventually, after an hour delay and walk of almost a mile, we set off past the scene of the accident and crossed the A3 at Ripley. The first real climb of the day was reached at Newlands Corner. The halfway point was reached not long after with my Garmin recording it at 48 miles. Time for a new battery in the speed/cadence sensor!
The next major challenge is Leith Hill. Other riders said that it is more difficult than Box Hill, as the surface is poor. I took my first energy gel of the day and returned the empty packet to my pocket. The pace slowed as the climb started and got considerably worse as the road went sharp left and we were faced with a scene out of the Walking Dead.
The cause of the holdup was probably caused by the earlier delay, causing hundreds of riders to reach the climb at the same time. I managed to weave past many of the walkers until I had nowhere to go and finally stalled, ¼ mile from the summit. I pushed the bike for 100 yards or so before remounting and riding over the summit. A cautious decent was made and the next feed was reached at Westcott.
I only managed to refill my bottles with water here, as all the free energy gels and tablets had been taken. I realised later that a large number of riders had bypassed Leith Hill and had gone though Westcott before us. Luckily, I had some tablets in my pocket.
The crowds in Dorking were amazing as we were funnelled through the town centre and then headed towards the base of Box Hill. The climb, on smooth roads, wasn’t as bad as I had feared and I met up and then was passed by the High Wycombe Ladies team as they left the feed station. After a brief chat with Cat Batson, who berated me for not wearing club kit (I was raising money for Wheelpower so wore their jersey) they went on their way, leaving me to enjoy the fast descent with fewer riders around me than there were coming off Leith Hill.
We passed through Leatherhead and Esher before coming onto more familiar roads again. Happy childhood memories came to mind as I passed alongside the Thames. My father used to take me along the river from Kingston to Hampden Court by boat, feed me a Cornetto then we would take a train from Hampden Court to Surbiton and finally a black cab back to Kingston. The temptation to take a brief diversion to visit the old family home was resisted, as we were halted for ten minutes or so outside of Kingston.
After a restart, we reached the crowds in Kingston again. The next three miles or so out of Kingston were a struggle and a second gel was taken but it hadn’t kicked in by the time I reached the climb in Wimbledon. I reached the water station at Wimbledon Common, which had plenty of food and I gratefully received a handful of fig rolls.
Suitably refreshed, I set off again on the last 9 miles, crossing the Thames at Putney and turning right with views of Battersea Power Station and the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. Soon we were passing the Houses of Parliament and I briefly removed my helmet as I passed the Cenotaph. You could hear the noise of Trafalgar Square ahead and we then swung sharp left under Admiralty Arch and then onto the Mall.
The noise of Trafalgar Square was nothing compared to that of the Mall! I finally found my family just after the finish. Another long walk to pick up my clothes bag and then the goody bag (contents not worth describing…) and I met up with my family again in Green Park.
The urge for a burger was satiated as I had been craving one for 40 mile, caused by the numerous barbeques on route. I bid farewell to my family, my six year old wearing my medal with pride, and walked towards Berkley Square. Remounting, I couldn’t clip in as my shoe plates had finally given up the ghost but I soon made it back to the car park then home.
A long day in the saddle, a lot of walking but nothing prepared me for the public support on the route. We rode through their villages and towns, exchanging their cheers and encouragement for litter. I helped fix one puncture, refitted several chains and handed out a couple of my gels, I spotted several phones, car keys and wallets on the roads, I hit the wall, recovered and finished”