London100 – The Fast.

London100 – The Fast.

I’ve ridden Ride100 for the past two years and was pleased when Darren asked me if I wanted to be part of a VC Melyd team with the aim of being one of the first back. I’ve had a successful season so far, achieving my goals of attaining 2nd Cat and winning a race (even if it was by default due to a nasty accident involving a horse, that’s another story) but I took a month off training in June. I’ve got a very understanding family who put up with my cycling obsession and part of this break involved two weeks in Italy with no bike. The pizza, gelato and beer proved too tempting so come mid July I was considerably heavier and slower, I thought it best not to mention this to the team given Alan and Darren were riding 200 miles a week each and were looking very lean. Jason’s regular Facebook updates of a pint with the caption ‘it would be rude not to’ was a sort of consolation. Anyway, an intensive turbo and early morning ride schedule got my fitness back to an acceptable level and I was ready to go.

I registered at the Excel centre, stocking up on energy bars, on Friday evening then watched the racing on the Mall on Saturday (well done again to Alan’s junior riders) to soak up the atmosphere of a weekend dedicated to cycling. One of the big successes of the 2012 Olympic legacy. Based on the popularity of Ride100 it would be great to see it expanded to other cities. The time flew by and it wasn’t long before the team met up in the 6am pen, quite a contrast to the year before where I understand it was only at the last minute the event was shortened rather than being cancelled completely due to hurricane Bertha. Jason had an unusual preparation for riding 100 miles by sleeping in his van next to the start line and left it to the last minute to put on a borrowed Melyd jersey. A quick photo was taken so he couldn’t deny this happened and we were off. I have ridden with a few of the riders in the front group so had an idea the pace would be high from the start but there were also a lot of riders I suspect hadn’t got a lot of group riding experience so it was all very twitchy.

My plan was to –

  1. keep in the VC Melyd team towards the front
  2. not do too much work
  3. not get dropped on the hills
  4. if all that worked out then finish in the front bunch

The past couple of years the route took a straight line from East London out to Putney but due to the construction of the cycle super highway along the Embankment it was routed through the City, more landmarks to see but a lot more obstacles to negotiate. At this stage I was probably about 20th wheel and was having to give a hard effort out of each corner to keep up, it must have been much worse further back. The start was stressful and I was looking forward to getting into the countryside and things calming down. Alan summed it up best saying it was like riding in a 2 hour crit race! We all know it wasn’t a race so I apologies if the next bit comes across like that.

Past Richmond Park the team was down to three, Jason got caught up in one of the many crashes and wasn’t able to get back on, by this stage it was more a case of holding position in the bunch rather than riding as a team. Saying that there was a point when Alan, Darren and myself were working on the front pulling the bunch along at 40kpm that would have made a great photo, where is Anthony when you need him. Soon we hit the first leg stretcher, Newlands Corner, which thinned the group out a bit. I took part in a cycling event in Sardinia earlier in the year and found the climbing there a challenge, I’m not built to mix it with 60kg riders on 10km climbs but the Ride100 course is more about power and the first ramp proved I was able to hold my own, this gave me a bit more confidence of achieving goal 3.

We pressed on and were soon at Leith Hill, the hardest climb of the course. I don’t know the roads around Surrey very well but could feel the speed and tension rising as riders tried to move forward in preparation. I was in good position, probably top ten, and as the road started to rise had to work hard to stay there. After a big effort I then saw the sign for the start of the KOM, I was hoping we were near the top! For the number geeks it was well over 400w for the first minute and over 5w/kg for the 6 minute climb. As far as I can gather the group split in two at this point and a fast decent stopped it reforming. We pressed on through the sunshine at a good pace and were soon at Box Hill, things got interesting here as two riders managed to get a gap. I started off in a good position but slipped back a bit and then managed to find a good rhythm (and wheel) to follow. Down the other side and there was no sign of the two or the lead motorbikes so they must have got a decent sized gap.

There wasn’t much time to chat but I did hear about an interesting exchange when a rider asked a friend if they could have a word with the peloton and get everyone to stop for a toilet break! I’m not sure why they couldn’t ask themselves.

We pushed on in a group of about 40, I had recovered after the Box Hill effort and was finding the pace manageable, to the point of having a go off the front, this didn’t last long but strung the group out a bit. Although the speed was high and there were times when a paceline got going, in general no one was prepared to commit to bringing back the break. There were a few attacks coming in to London and Wimbledon Hill, a pimple by North Wales standards, caused a bit of suffering given the pace but nothing got away. It came down to a bunch sprint, not ideal for me but I was in a great position round the last corner. Coming along the Mall I managed to get overtaken, do some overtaking and finish 18th in the bunch, 20th overall. I know this as I was sad enough to watch the BBC highlights in slow-mo counting the riders in.

Alan and Darren finished shortly after while Jason had the worst luck with another couple of crashes and an injured knee. The big difference to last year was rather than shivering making my way straight home I went for a pint in the sunshine. The perfect end to any ride.

Official time 4hrs 1min 57secs (a good 30 minutes faster than 2013)

Strava link – https://www.strava.com/activities/359270093