Date: 29th July 2018
Distance: 160.3km (just under 100 miles according to my Garmin!)
Average speed: 25.9km/h
This was a day that was simultaneously very enjoyable and miserable!
A lot of planning had gone into this. In 2013 I had to sprint to the start due to road closures meaning I couldn’t get to the car park without taking a big diversion. So this year the plan was to arrive nice and early. With this in mind I booked a hotel in Enfield for the night before, so I could get to the Finsbury Square car park without worrying about road closures. It is also half an hour closer than home, and the theory was that I’d get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Of course, after all that I barely slept due to nerves.
Getting to the start
My journey to the car park was uneventful but once inside the car park I got moaned at for asking someone to move their bike so I could pull into a space. It was practically the last space so not much else I could do. I’ve no idea what the other bloke’s problem was, it threw me slightly but I decided to ignore it and carry on.
My ride to the start took slightly longer than anticipated, as hundreds of other cyclists were heading the same way. For some reason the roads were really busy too. I ended up getting to my designated entrance on time, but then had a long wait to get to my wave – by the time I got there it was too late so I joined the next wave.
I set off just after 7, and as soon as I got onto the A12 it became apparent just how windy it was. The ride through London’s closed roads was as joyous as ever, but I was conscious that I needed to take it easy to begin with having started too quickly last time.
Rain had been forecast and I was in two minds about taking my rain jacket, but in the end I decided I had better take it in my back pocket. The heavens opened just as I got near Hammersmith so I pulled over to put my jacket on. It turned out to be an excellent decision as it rained for the next 4 hours!
By the time I got to Richmond Park I was already soaked, my socks were very soggy and I cursed not packing my overshoes. Everyone else seemed fed up with the weather, at times the rain was horizontal directly into our faces. My legs felt good but I was aware that my average speed was not where I needed it to be for a time of six hours. It was impossible to follow anyone who didn’t have a rear mudguard, meaning there weren’t many groups forming. I had a rear mudguard but I don’t think I was going fast enough for anyone to want to draft my wheel!
I slowed on the approach to Newlands Corner – I did the same in 2013 and had assumed it was due to not eating properly, but I now know the road was going up the whole way and everyone else was going at the same speed. The climb itself was fine, I span my way up and overtook plenty of riders.
Next was Leith Hill which I was dreading, having cramped at the top in 2013. However, this year I had no issues and was able to spin up at 70rpm. My main issue was slow riders not sticking to the left side of the road, someone almost stopped in front of me at one point. I didn’t get overtaken on the hill and passed many riders on the way to the top, which was good for morale!
Going down however was much harder. My visibility was terrible due to my sunglasses being soaked, so I took the descent very carefully. Checking my Strava rides showed that I climbed Leith Hill a minute faster than last time, but took four minutes longer to descend!
Box Hill was next, I knew it wouldn’t be as hard as Leith Hill from experience. Again I was able to spin my way up at 70rpm and overtook many riders without being overtaken myself. As with Leigh Hill, my time on the climb was much quicker but my descent was much slower than in 2013.
I remembered where the photographer on Box Hill was from last time so I could pose for a photo!
Back to London
The ride back to London should have been with a tailwind but it didn’t feel like it! By now I knew I couldn’t beat 6 hours so changed my target to 6 hours 30. The rain finally eased so I took my jacket off, hoping to get encouragement from the charity supporters and some decent photos on the Mall. Sadly the photographers seemed to miss me on the Mall. I managed a time of 6 hours 22 which I was a little disappointed with but I think in better conditions I’d easily have beaten six hours.
My MyWindsock chart shows how windy it was, but the headwind/tailwind figures don’t reflect how bad it was on the day.
Despite the weather I still really enjoyed it and have entered the ballot for next year – I just hope it’s dry next time! I’ve also raised £245 for the BHF which I’m very pleased with.
Here are the photos of me from the event – you can click through to the Flickr album or use the left/right arrows to browse.