The New Forest Cycling Club

RideLondon86….a bit damp

I was fortunate enough to have gained a place to participate in the second running of the RideLondon100 cycle event. The event starts at the Olympic Stadium, heads to Putney Bridge, Richmond Park and out to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst most of the route is fairly flat, in Surrey Hills….as the name implies, the route tackles Leith and Box Hill, that of Olympic fame, before the dash back to London along the Embankment, Whitehall, through Admiralty Arch, finishing on The Mall.

However, as we entered the last week before the event, I started to curse my good fortune as all the weather channels started to track Hurricane Bertha traversing across the Atlantic….straight for the Surrey Hills on Sunday morning. The risk was so high that the organisers reduced the route to 86 miles and took out the hillier sections, such as Leith and Box Hill to avoid potential incidents on the narrow descents.

 The day started early…at 4.30am to be precise, my loading time was scheduled for 6.07am at the latest, for a 6.37am start. The roads were damp on the way to the start and  fellow clubmate Richard Rajski experienced two punctures en route to the start. He was somewhat stressed when he arrived with 10 minutes to spare. The clouds were breaking a some blue sky poked out from behind the clouds. There were some deludedly optimistic people on show, who thought that the forecast may have been wrong and Bertha was heading elsewhere. Nope, she was just biding her time. The roads through London were wet and slippery, and the main focus was avoiding all the man hole covers, painted lines and staying up right.

 We entered Hammersmith on dry roads, and even I, naively, just for a second, thought that the day might not be so bad after all. Well that thought lasted as long as it took to cross The Thames. By Richmond Park the rain was “full fat” and it was just getting going.

What was particularly surprising was the amount of residents who braved the conditions and cheered us on throughout the route. I was humbled by their efforts and enthusiasm, and the noise generated through Kingston was extraordinary as hundreds lined the street making a racket.

 As I headed back from Dorking the rain was described as: Biblical, Apocalyptic, Terrible, Horrendous….it was none of those, but it was really, really, really wet. Water was pouring out of the drains and lay several inches deep across the roads, providing a real hazard travelling at 30mph at the end of a descent. I put the hammer down for the last twenty miles (it’s a small hammer) to get back and into something dry, I was hit by cramp momentarily on the Embankment, but eased that off fair quickly. The last obstacle was turning into Admiralty Arch without incident, and then straight down the Mall for the “big” sprint finish. The pros hit speeds of 40-45mph during that process….I was somewhat off that pace. My finishing time was four hours and ten minutes, averaging over 20mph for the ride. I received my medal and heading back to Hackney to pick the car up….in glorious sunshine…”Hurricane Bertha has left the building”

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