Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

Gliding through the finishing line
A rare opportunity to let rip along London's roads without having to worry about cars and traffic lights, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 is a treat for any amateur cyclist. A very well-organised event, the ride starts at the Olympic Park, heads through the heart of London, into Richmond Park and past Hampton Court before climbing into the Surrey Hills.  The 100 mile route is supposed to take in Leith Hill and Box Hill. But, for the 2014 edition, torrential rain resulted in a diversion away from these climbs, reducing the course to 86 miles and less than 900 metres of climbing. In other words, this is a flattish, fast sportive and you might find yourself zipping along pretty quickly. When you head out of the Olympic Park on to the nippy A12, you'll find it weird, but exhilarating, to be cruising along such a wide road without a car in sight.

Celebrating in tandem
In 2014, there were about 20,000 cyclists on the sodden roads and some stretches got pretty crowded, meaning you had to keep your wits about you. Participants mending punctures were a common sight and you had to take care navigating the odd flash flood. On the plus side, drafting opportunities abound, if you didn't mind being sprayed by surface water. On route, there are several hubs where you can get bananas, gels, sweets and other sustenance, plus mechanical support. There are also several drinks stations doling out water to accompany that falling out of the sky.  In 2014, the dreadful weather conditions had put off most spectators, but there were still pockets of hardy charity reps cheering along the route. Although it takes in the steepish Wimbledon Hill, the ride back into London is fast and furious and you'll enjoy bombing along the Embankment and Whitehall and then round on to The Mall to be greeted by a modest crowd.

Weary and wet finishers

Most participants seem to be middle aged men in lycra with all the gear. But there are quite a few women and you'll spot riders on tandems, Boris bikes and even foldable machines. If you don't get in via the ballot, you should be able to get a charity place, which will require you to raise a minimum amount of money - very similar to the London Marathon. You need to register in the days before the event at the Exel Centre in east London, which is a pain and seems designed to make you visit a cycling show flogging paraphernalia. As one participant quipped, the most important piece of cycling kit is a credit card.

The lack of hills mean you can complete RideLondon on a Boris bike
On the day of the event, London is taken over by the cycling fraternity. Even the ride up to the start is a bit special - as you approach the Olympic Park you'll be joined by scores of cyclists. Despite the early hour (starters go between 6am and 8.30am), there will be plenty of lively banter. You are advised to get to the Olympic Park an hour before your start time, so a jacket is a must. Note, it can be tricky to link up with your friends, as they may have different start-up times and different colour waves, meaning you may need to wait for them somewhere on route. Still, even if you end up riding alone, there will be plenty of people to chat to.  Do the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. You'll enjoy it, whatever the weather. 9/10