Prudential RideLondon 100
Sunday 10th August, 2014
Weather: Stormy, Heavy Rain
64.4F / 18C
Total Time = 04:10:33
Overall Rank = N/A
Division Rank = N/A
The Prudential RideLondon is part of the 2012 Olympic Games Legacy, with the cycle course being close to original 2012 road race. I wanted to do this race last year, but due to it being a ballot entry race, I had to wait for this year to get a start. RideLondon was part of my training for Ironman Mallorca, but with the race strategy being to see how my body would cope with a faster pace and higher heart rate for a longer sustained period, than my usual Ironman cycle pace with is more in the Endurance zone, then a Tempo zone. The bad news was that due to the appalling weather conditions forecast of torrential rain & strong winds, meant that this years edition was cut short by 22km that included the famed Box Hill and Leigh Hill. This mean less climbing, which was a massive disappointment, as this is what cycling is all about. At least the new course layout played towards my strength of getting my head down and simply cycling. Additionally it meant there was the prospect of a strong headwind on the way out, and the possibility of tailwind on the way in, and a lot of surface water to ensure that any cornering would be an interesting affair.
RideLondon was done in conjunction with my old friend Rich who is also my sportive buddy. Partly because he is good motivator and cyclists, but also due to him being a better climber than me, and subsequently him helping me get over each climb. In my book that is a strategic race decision to ensure I get to the finish line. The only minor hick-up we had were the issue of the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf not allowing bikes into the room. But this was solved by Richard by not understanding the word no. And to the Hotels Manager credit, he did show to be more flexible than the original policy.
The huge amount of cyclists starting meant that Richard and myself did not start in the same group, but it was decided to meet up after 10km at the first official toilette stop. Easy enough if this stop actually existed, but a quick phone call to each other solved our location issue. Just one more stop to make after 5km of riding together due to myself overheating in my waterproof jacket, as I have not yet learned how to remove jacket whilst cycling. At KM20 it finally started to rain, and yes thoughts did cross my mind to put the Rain Jacket back on, but as it wasn’t cold we continued without them.
In the initial stages it was just Richard and myself working together, overtaking a massive amount of cyclists with only a few overtaking us. Generally speaking in any race you want to work together as a group to ensure a good pace and to conserve energy. But as we headed out through Richmond Park, Kingston and into the Surrey countryside we were pretty much working by ourselves. Yet the first 40km flew by in no time with myself finding no time for sightseeing and simply concentrating to ensure that I would not crash on the wet surface with the ever-increasing rain. After the 40km marker we finally managed to get three cyclists to work with us with all of us taking turns in the front. This marked quite a change in pace with us keeping a relative higher pace than just by ourselves. Although I did worry that in these weather conditions, and the pace being higher than what I was used to, could result in the high probability of bonking before the end. However my worry was unfounded, even with there being a few moments of feeling tired, a GU Roctane gel solved these issues in no time. This was in addition to having a Cliff Bar at the 1hr & 3hr mark.
There were a few moments of worry on some of the high speed descents due to the amount of water on the road, and riding carbon rims which don’t break as well as aluminum rims when wet. This was in addition when going round corners that extra care had to be taken due the possibility of potholes or metal grills, as these could result in a spectacular wipeout in these stormy conditions. A thank you does go out to the Marshalls on each corner who shouted out to slow down to the riders. Although at some points I would have preferred some bigger signs for the corners and the timing chip mats as they were slightly raised. Richard did want to do the full 160km route and was simply going to ignore the route signs, but I vetoed this idea, as the weather was simply to foul to give myself that extra motivation to detour. Maybe next year. If I could describe KM40 to KM100 it would be simply to say it all went by in a blur. Not because I was not enjoying it, I was, but because the weather conditions meant that my full concentration was required to ensure a safe race for myself. Simply keeping my head down, taking turns up front and keeping my legs moving. The idea of even stopping at one of the fuel stops was never entertained, as stopping would have meant getting cold.
With us storming towards the finish line with only 30km to go we finally caught some bad luck. Up to then I counted us being quite lucky not having gotten a puncture with the roads being relative dirty and having seen a huge amount of cyclists having flats. Richard was at the receiving end of a flat in his rear wheel, that required a quick stop, quick change, trying to stay warm and myself eating a cliff bar whilst watching Richard changing his inner tube. On this note; make sure that your valve fits your rim size comfortably. What might work at home in a dry and calm environment, does not always work on the road. But as I had 60mm Valve inner tubes on me in comparison to Richards 40mm inner tubes, this problem was solved in no time. A big thank you goes out to the kind supporter on the side of the road who ran into his house and got a Co2 Canister to ensure we could pump up the tire in no time. We did have hand pumps with us, but a Co2 Canister is a lot quicker. 6minutes after stopping we were on the move again, but as we lost the small group we were with and us being a little cold, meant an extra push to get us warm again and towards the finishing line.
So of we went; some downhill, some uphill, some through flooded roads and simply continuing through the heavy rain. With just 30km left we knew that if we pushed a little we could be finished in 50mins. With myself generally relying on Richard to push me through the final third; yet for the first time the work came down to me. His left leg was giving him a bit of trouble, but he continued with him sitting in a lot to conserve energy. With a few words of encouragements between us, we overtook, raced, tailgated, wheel sucked and generally just had a blast. There was no stopping us, but simply to put the hammer down. Was is hard work, yes, did it hurt, yes, but the at the same time the pain and airsucking was oddly enjoyable. Secretly I was quite happy doing all the work, as Richard often enough does the majority of the work, and for once I could give a little back for all the other times he gotten me over a hill. With us getting closer to London again, more spectators were braving the rain and shouting encouragement. This alone meant me pushed harder, as in my head it looked great racing past other cyclist in front of supporters. This was in addition to any minor climbs that were simply destroyed by us.
Before we knew it we were in the final 10km, and I knew Richard was suffering and could no longer take turns in the front. So I said to sit on my wheel and I will get you home; at speed I might add. We must have averaged a good 37km/h in the final stretch, with us simply flying past other cyclists who were mentally and physically already at the finish line. But were credit must be given is that in the final 1km Richard returned the favor of playing lead-out for the final sprint. But this time my energy was simply not there; although I was able to keep up with his speed, there was no extra to use him and fly past him. So yes, Richard won by three seconds.
The Prudential RideLondon was an experience, and for me it wasn’t about the route, but more about having cycled through London and countryside roads without having to stop for cars or red lights, and most importantly having successfully fought the weather. Anybody finishing this years edition can look back in pride and say the weather did not defeat me.
Until next year; lets hope it be a dry day.