This was the second year I took up the challenge of the London-Surrey 100 to raise money for the Epilepsy Society in memory of Simon, my brother in law who passed away three years ago aged just 33 years. Simon had suffered with epilepsy since the age of 17 and the impact on his life was immeasurable. Thus in the name of ‘Team Si’, myself, brother in law Matty & my wife Kati, a total novice who hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a kid took up the challenge.
This year inspired by last years success, my daughter Jo and 3 of our good friends took up the challenge raising money for ‘Team Si’. I was so proud of them as all of them had little or no cycling experience but tonnes of enthusiasm, drive and a will to succeed.
Despite injuries and stressful times during the training everyone made it to London and were willing to give it there best shot. A personal aim of mine was to set the best time I could this year and as my start time was 30 mins ahead of the others i was able to do this. We had arranged to meet at 6am on Sunday morning outside the hotel and ride the 6 miles to the Olympic park together.
On the morning of the cycle the streets of London were surprisingly quiet, as were we, some of us were not naturally morning people. Deep in thought, all that was running though my mind was Bertha, it had been sometime since a women’s name had been running through my mind, except Kati (she may read this). I was hoping for a brief whirl wind romance and was also hoping she had lost a bit of weight by the time we met her, of course Bertha was the hurricane on its way from the Americas. Everyone who was riding this year was inspired by watching myself, Matty and Kati riding down the Mall last year, basking in the sunshine and glory of the achievement. I was beginning to feel a little guilty for what they were about to receive. It wasn’t long before more cyclists joined us, soon they were appearing from every street swarming towards the church for cyclists, wearing their Sunday best, it did feel quite cathartic.
On the way I decided I would wait for them a mile after the start, as last year the official start was a couple of miles from the start gates to give people a chance to spread out. At least then I could cycle some of the course with them without effecting my official time. We were starting from different gates so were split up, see you all in half an hour I said. I hadn’t realised that the route was splitting at the beginning and that we would not be in the same place a mile from the start. I sent my daughter a text saying so and told her I would see them at the finish.
My heart and mind were in a battle, should I pull over and wait for them later on the route or should I just go for my best time. 6 miles later my heart won and I pulled over, at least my strava/garmin time would be ok I thought, and 40 mins later I spotted them coming down the road. We rode a couple of miles together, then my head took over, I couldn’t pootle in the rain any longer, the rest said they would all stick together and not to worry so off I went.
About 20 miles in I reached Richmond Park and hit some congestion, everyone was walking with their bikes for about 20 mins. The heavens really did open with rain drops the size of golf balls or at least they felt like it. I had started getting cold at this point and was watching the average speed on my garmin start to drop, my head was full of expletives and then I spotted the flashing lights of an ambulance ahead and realised why we had been delayed. I was worried about my garmin time and hadn’t give a thought that some poor cyclist had been injured. My attitude towards the rest off the ride had changed.
The route had become treacherous with streams of water everywhere, manhole covers spraying water 30ft in air and at points water higher than my crank. I can laugh now but when doing about 30 mph I spotted the marshal waving his arms a bit late and could only brake to about 20 mph before hitting a river of water at least 6 inches deep, this must have been the point when my Garmin HRM spiked to 215 BPM, I thought I was going to need the ambulance I seen earlier, but some how came out the other side.
No more incidents or mental battles for the rest off the route, little did I realise the the rest of Team Si were not incident free, they suffered 2 punctures, a front mech problem, and my daughter crashed at 20 mph and needed medical attention but refused to go for stitches until she finished.
I finished down the mall to screams from the 20 supporters who had come to watch Team Si and everyone else who had lined the Mall. I received the gold medal put my bike in the secure bike park and headed straight back to the Mall to join our supporters. I watched people come down the Mall with bandages on their heads, cuts, bruises and tears running down their faces. The tears were not because of physical pain but for the loved ones they had lost, they were there not because they were keen cyclist but because they were raising money to try and prevent someone else feeling the loss of someone dear to them, I am not embarrassed to say that tears had rolled down my face as I watched some of them cross the line.
Team Si still hadn’t come down the Mall and they were 8 hours in, I was getting worried, I then received a text saying they had a few problems but were on their way. Sure enough 1/2 hour later they came down the Mall, my daughter Jo bandaged and bruised but all of them grinning from ear to ear, they had all done Simon proud and my heart was full of pride.
The London-Surrey 100 wasn’t and isn’t about cycling it was about seeing the best in humanity.