RideLondon-Essex 100 2022

Date: 29th May 2022
Distance: 164.95km
Average speed: 28.4km/h

Compared to my two previous RideLondon experiences, everything felt very rushed. The ride was in May rather than July, meaning I had two fewer months of training (my own fault for not pushing earlier). We also didn’t receive instructions until quite close to the start day, by which time the hotel I’d had my eye on was sold out. I ended up booking one at South Mimms, and booked parking not far from Whitehall.

Getting there on time

My two previous attempts had taught me the importance of giving myself plenty of time to arrive for my wave, and this time I got it right. In fact, I arrived on Whitehall earlier than necessary, although this allowed me time for an emergency toilet stop(!) Everything was rather busy, which still feels weird in a post-Covid world.

I set off on-time and made excellent progress, the wind had been forecast to be coming towards us but we seemed reasonably sheltered. My leges feeling much better than I’d anticipated, the adrenaline was overriding the lack of sleep at this point. I was able to surf quite a lot of wheels and after two hours I was well on course to beat 6 hours.

Unfortunately, I had to stop shortly afterwards for just over 30 minutes due to an incident up ahead – I believe an air ambulance was required to take an injured rider to hospital. It was unfortunate but couldn’t be helped. In a way it helped, because with the delay I knew my chance of beating 6 hours was gone, so I didn’t have to stress about it.

Untimed stop

New this year was the decision not to include the time spent in the rest areas. I suppose it removes some of the “race” element and encourages riders not to rush in crowded areas, but it still felt a little bit like cheating to me. I only stopped once this year, just after the half-way mark. It took around ten minutes as we had to cycle a fair distance away from the course, and it was very busy. I was desperate for the toilet at this point after the enforced stop earlier, and I also refilled my bottles.

Back to London

There was a headwind now which made things slightly easier. My legs were feeling a bit tired now and I suffered the ignominy of being overtaken by a man in a chicken costume! My left calf cramped with around 20 miles left to go, but it wasn’t too bad. At around the 90 mile mark I started to get a little emotional as I knew I was going to finish. The Samaritans cheering point near the end offered some much-needed motivation!

Cycling on the A12 was exhausting at the end. I still had plenty of speed when going downhill or on the flat, but going uphill was horrible. Not that there are any major hills there, but at this point any uphill section felt like the Mur de Huy! We had to stop a few times as we approached the finish due to stewards allowing traffic to cross. This felt a little cruel so close to the finish line.

Due to crowding we were told not to sprint as we crossed the line, which again took some of the joy out of the occasion. But I got a decent photo of me celebrating!

Ouch

We had to dismount as soon as we crossed the finish line, and as soon as I got off the bike my right knee started complaining. I had to shuffle in my cycling shoes all the way around to near London Bridge before I could get on my way again. The ride back to the car park was a little painful, but I was mostly just very pleased to have finished.

My actual official time was 6 hours 9, which didn’t include the time for my stop. I was ecstatic with this! Sure, there’s no Leith Hill or Box Hill but considering what I’ve been through in the last couple of years this feels like a massive achievement.

I’ve uploaded some photos to Google Photos. No video this year.

I don’t know if I’d do it again. The organisation was nowhere near as good as in previous years, obviously Covid and a new route have made a difference, but it was much better with a bike park and events at the finish where you could relax.

I’ve raised £461 for Samaritans which I’m so pleased about. Without Samaritans I wouldn’t have been here to do this ride, I make a monthly donation but am still happy to have raised this additional funding.

Life Getting in the Way

The last year has been very tough in multiple ways. Lockdowns meant the kids were home from school a lot so spare time was at a premium, and then I separated from my wife and had to find somewhere to live, move everything across and start again. Now though I feel like I can start again. The children have gone back to school and there is more routine to my life, so I can try and work out some kind of training plan to return to fitness.

The number of times I’ve properly cycled since my last entry is maybe not even to double figures. I had massive struggles with my mental health which meant I cycled less. Cycling was always one method I had for dealing with stress so it meant things got pretty bad. I’m happier now than I have been in a long time, perhaps ever.

I’m doing London-Southend this weekend. It feels a bit like jumping in at the deep end! I went for a 40km ride last weekend just to see how my legs would feel. My legs were OK but other areas were feeling a bit sore! It was very windy too, so I think Sunday should be fine: it should be more sheltered and I’ll be riding with friends so can get a bit of a tow.

I went for a mountain bike ride a couple of weeks ago with a friend. It’s such a different discipline to road cycling. I was not confident riding down hills when the ground is not solid! It was fun though and I’m going to try and head off-road a bit more in the winter months.

Irony

I didn’t cycle much at the start of the year as I had a nasty cold which included a lot of coughing. Not conducive to performing well on a bike! The irony is that my cycling has increased massively since the lockdown began. I’ve no other outlets for exercise as capoeira and boot camp are no longer on, and I’ve rediscovered the joy of cycling.

There are some mechanical issues. The chain rings on the Carrera TdF need replacing, but they don’t seem to be individually fitted so I think the whole crank needs replacing, something I’m not sure I’m up to. I’ll take another look later in the year, but for now I’ve simply swapped to the Ribble. The warm weather has coincided nicely with the lockdown! However, the chain and cassette need replacing, I’ve ordered the parts but there’s been a bit of a delay witih the retailer despatching them – fair enough given the circumstances.

I think I’m going to order some new sunglasses soon, as the prescription insert on my current ones is practically falling part – there’s only so much superglue I can put on it! I think a new helmet is due as well, as the clasp is starting to fall apart. It’s not urgent so I’ll keep an eye out for any offers.

On the family side, Rory has finally learned how to cycle without stabilisers. I got him a new bike for his birthday and something has finally clicked – we managed a 6km ride with me and the children last week, and Rory has discovered the joy of cycling downhill. I look forward to some more family rides, especially if the lockdown continues into the summer.

Six Day Cycling and a new bike

As I’ve done for the past few years now, I took my eldest son Nicky to see the Six Day Cycling at the Lee Valley Velodrome. We’ve enjoyed previous years and were looking forward to seeing some great sprint action given the quality of the line-up – Viviani, Ewan and Cav aren’t too shabby! We went on the Tuesday and mostly enjoyed it. Nicky had a go on the turbo trainer race and beat his opponent, so won a BMC cycling cap!

There was a new addition to this year’s proceedings – a Zwift race featuring the young riders. Imagine organising an event in one of the world’s best velodromes, then getting the audience to squint at a screen in the distance to watch virtual racing. Sounds great, right?

I honestly struggle to remember a time when I was more bored. It was impossible to follow who was winning. We also had no idea how long it was supposed to last for. Many people in the crowd gave up and left at this point.

I had enjoyed the rest of the evening but wrote a complaint on Twitter just to offer my feedback. I hadn’t expected any kind of response but Six Day were kind enough to offer me complimentary tickets to the final Sunday session which I was very happy to accept!

Sunday

The Sunday session was brilliant – our seats were on the start/finish straight and there was a great atmosphere, helped by Cav and Doull being near the top of the leaderboard.

It was great to watch the final Madison with Cav and Doull in with a shout of winning, but in the end Viviani and his teammate were just too strong. I guess if you’re going to have a gold bike, you need to make sure your performance merits it!

New bike

I spent ages looking at gravel bikes but decided rather than spending a lot I’d be better off waiting, so in the meantime I’ve bought a mountain bike to replace my bike-shaped object. Thanks to a Black Friday offer, I’m now the proud owner of a Scott Aspect 750 (2019)!

I had been looking at the Calibre Two Cubed, but due to some stock issues and hassle with Go Outdoors I opted for the Scott instead. It was £349 reduced from £549. I’ve been out a couple of times and rediscovered my love of cycling. Really looking forward to taking it off-road in the near future! Of course, the main reasons for buying it were because my other bike was too small, and this will allow me to cycle alongside the kids on their bikes.

Not enough time in the day

I need some kind of target to aim for, because for one reason or another I’m not cycling enough. Either I have too much going on (work, family time, other exercise) or I’m too tired. I’m missing that extra motivation that comes with having a big event to aim for. With this in mind, I’m going to start looking for a triathlon to do next year. I’m 40 next year and I always wanted to try and do a triathlon before then. It’s more likely to be a sprint triathlon than a full-on Olympic one, but we’ll see.

The major barrier is the run – I’m pretty sure I could get my swimming up to scratch, and cycling would not be an issue, but I always worry about my right calf. Running seems to make it hurt and I’ve pulled it a couple of times. It’s been like this for a couple of years – I remember it hurting at Glastonbury 2017 – so if it’s still like this at Christmas I’m going to have to find a physio.

I’ve been on one decent length ride in the past couple of months. I went out with a friend who hasn’t been out on his shiny new road bike much, so the pace was fairly relaxed, and we did a little exploring too.

The ride featured my first ever coffee stop in seven and a half years of being a cyclist!

Lovely coffee

The days have started getting colder and wetter so I’ve made the switch to the Carrera. I still need to swap the saddles over, but that’ll only matter if I go for a long ride. At the moment it’s only used for getting to the gym and back.

New bike?

My bike shaped object (the Firefox Ranger) has always felt too small for me, and recently it’s started hurting my knees whenever I ride it. I only use it when I’m riding with the kids, but as they get older and can go further I’m looking at getting another bike. I’m thinking of getting an adventure bike, one that could replace the Ranger and the Carrera. Long-term I’d like to go touring and off-road, so getting a decent adventure bike now would hopefully sort me out for life! I’ve been looking at the steel Ribble CGR which has had good reviews. It’s the kind of thing I could research forever I think!