The RideLondon weekend is a 2 day festival of cycling. It takes places every summer and is a legacy of the 2012 Olympics. The idea is to get more people of any age, out in the capital on two wheels. The Saturday sees an 8 Mile ‘Free Cycle’ around the centre of London that is open to all ages. It is the one time of year that you get to cycle away from traffic, on closed roads in London. Saturday afternoon sees the professional women take part in the ‘classique’. This is around a circuit course that passes Nelson’s Column and Buckingham Palace.
Sunday is the main event of the weekend, the 100 Mile ‘sportive’ that is open to amateur cyclists. The route starts from the Olympic Park in Stratford, across London and into the Surrey Hills. Then heading back into London for a finish on The Mall. Afterwards, the professional men then battle a slightly longer course.
Every year 80,000 people enter the ballot to hopefully receive one of the highly sort after 25,000 places. I had been applying every year for the last five years, without any luck. This year though I was lucky, I didn’t need a place in the ballot as I had been invited to take part in the event by SKODA. Each year they enter a team of 30 riders, and this year one of them was going to be me. So here is my blog of the weekend.
After months of training, the final week before RideLondon was mainly spent resting my legs, prepping my bike and sorting out my kit, which included the LE COL ‘Team Skoda’ jersey that had been given to me to ride in. I also had a few friends from my cycling club riding in RideLondon. So on Friday evening, we all met up at the hotel before heading to Excel London to register. We then hopped on the cable car over to The O2 for a bit of dinner.
On Saturday we headed for Green Park to watch all the cycling based entertainment that was on offer. After visiting the Rapha & Pinarello shops we headed back to the hotel for an early night as out alarms were set for 4am on Sunday.
We congregated in the hotel reception at 4.45am, ready for the 4 mile cycle to the Olympic Park. The event is brilliantly organised, so as we neared the Park we all went our separate ways, following the signs to our designated ‘waves’. Skoda had kindly arranged for all ‘Team Skoda’ riders to gain access to the pre ride hospitality and VIP Area inside the Velodrome for breakfast.
We headed down to the start area for our 6.56am start time and official start line team photo. The forecast was for heavy rain and strong winds, the sky was grey but dry as we crossed the start line and left the Olympic Park, heading out on to the A12 towards Docklands.
The route took us past Canary Wharf, the Tower of London and down onto the Embankment. As we travelled along the embankment at a steady 17mph average, the heavens opened. A quick stop to put our rain capes on and we were off again, passing Trafalgar Square, The Ritz and then on to Harrods and Knightsbridge.
As we head out of London we ride through Richmond Park, we battled through a really strong headwind across the open park. My friend got two punctures at 23 and 24 Miles, so we had to stop at the mechanical hub at Hampton Court Palace for a quick repair and toilet stop.
With the rain getting worse, stinging your face at times, we get out into the Surrey Hills. There are 3 big climbs in RideLondon and at about 46 miles the first climb is Newlands Corner, which is the slightly easier of the 3, but still a challenge with many people walking up. Next up is Leith Hill, which is a brutal 2.3km long with a gradient of 12% in places. The last, and most famous of the 3 climbs is Box Hill. At the 65 mile point, the zig zagging 4.3km long climb is the last big challenge the course. We were chuffed to be able to cycle up all 3 of these climbs without getting off and walking.
The atmosphere is amazing throughout the day, with cyclists chatting and crowds in the towns and villages cheering you on. People were having parties and bbq’s in their gardens as they cheered us all on.
The last 30 miles are pretty flat, other than a nasty little kicker when you get to Wimbledon. Coming back in the the centre of the London the crowds were huge, we travelled along Chelsea Embankment before passing Downing St, and the Cenotaph before taking the final corner in Trafalgar Square. Passing through Admiralty Arch, you see the Finish Line and Buckingham Palace at the end of The Mall.
At the finish you receive your medal and then we headed to the Skoda stand for a well earned cup of tea and a massage. The weather was horrendous and it was by far the toughest ride I’ve ever taken part in. But I loved every minute and will definitely be back again next year (hopefully with better weather).
Thank You to Skoda UK for inviting me to ride in Team Skoda at RideLondon 2018. I’m already lookng forward to 2019 !!!