My longest bike ride yet!
I’m getting used to early mornings! On Saturday I was up at 5am to head off to London's Docklands for the start of my biggest ride so far: the London Revolution – 185 miles around the capital. I’ll admit to being nervous. It was a long way: 100 miles on the first day, 85 on the second. I’d never cycled so far over such a short period so whatever way you looked at it, it was going to be a challenge.
We gathered at Peruvian Wharf ready for the 8am start. There was time to pick up some sports nutrition from supporters Science in Sport, get your bike checked over by the team from Bike Works and take advantage of the free security marking by the Metropolitan Police. Then it was to the start line for a short briefing, and we were on our way. It was a gentle start out of the city and the miles went by quickly. Before I knew it I’d travelled 37 miles and arrived at the first pitstop near Broxbourne. The atmosphere was great with riders chatting about their experiences so far; we loaded up with more sports bars, gels, drinks and snacks before heading on our way.
The second section I found a lot more difficult. I think this was purely psychological, as the route took in the roads of Hertfordshire where I live. Much of the route was familiar as I’d ridden it only two weeks earlier on the Evans Cycles Ride It route and for a long while I was probably within 30 minutes of home. Knowing I could just slip off and be home so quickly was a challenge in itself!
Throughout the day I’d been suffering with knee pain so I took advice from one of the medics supporting the ride. But with only 30 miles to go, I had to press on. Typically, at that tiring point of the ride, I picked up a puncture. I was prepared though, with new spare inner tubes, and a member of support crew arrived just in time to help me pump up my tyres. Ten minutes later and I was back on the road – result! It didn’t last long though as I wasn’t prepared for the hill that appeared just around the corner. I was in totally the wrong gear and didn’t have time to shift down so ended up walking it: hard work, but at least the last few miles of the day were fairly flat.
Finally I made it to the finish line for Day 1 at Windsor Racecourse. I couldn’t stop smiling as I was cheered over the line. Wow: 100 miles in one day. The longest cycle ride I’d ever done. Despite the adrenaline, I was feeling the effort I’d put in. After parking my bike and locating my tent for the night, I headed off to put my name on the massage list: certainly worth the wait to help ease my aches and pains after a long day cycling. I also took advantage of the extremely helpful physio team on hand, to ask about the pain in my knee. It was diagnosed as a common injury known as ‘runners knee’ (yes, despite the fact that, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I DO NOT run!). A very painful massage on my ilio tibial band, and advice on how to build up my weak glutes (don’t laugh!) left me feeling much better. Ready for dinner and to enjoy the party in the bar with my fellow riders, before finally falling into my tent at a fairly respectable time for a well-needed night's rest.
Sunday morning, I awoke bright and early again and prepared myself for Day 2. I didn’t feel great. My knees were still very sore and the tiredness was really kicking in (it turns out I’m not that good at camping!). I had to give myself a good talking to simply to get myself back on the bike. I’d come too far to give up and didn’t want to let myself or anyone else down, so I decided to see just how long I could last. This was my big chance to see how it felt to cycle two consecutive days of long distance: if I couldn’t do this, London to Paris over four consecutive days was going to be a massive challenge.
My nerves at the start line were even worse than on the first day but once on the road I was surprised to find that I developed a much calmer approach. On Day 1 I’d been worried about cycling too slowly; by Day 2 I was most concerned about just completing the distance, however long it took. Slow and steady was my way, so I plodded along and just enjoyed the scenery.
Shortly after the first pit stop we reached the part that everyone had been talking about. Box Hill: the long, steep, climb that will challenge the Olympian Road Racers in just a matter of weeks. And my nemesis from a few weeks ago. I was tackling it from a different direction this time (going up the winding bit rather than the straight bit – apologies for my lack of technical knowledge!), and I was determined to give it a good go. After what seem like an age, I made it! For the second time this weekend, I had that ecstatic feeling. I stopped briefly for a photo with my fellow riders at the top looking out over the view. It felt like a real achievement - but there was still more to come. Another killer hill, which I only managed to cycle half-way up, and then some lovely downhill sections. I’ve not quite got over my fear of speed but I’m certainly getting there. Not entirely sure how, but I reached speeds of just over 30mph this weekend… Scary stuff.
The final stretch as we headed back into the city was great. The riders had closed up a little more now so I found myself back in a small group. Tackling the climb up to Crystal Palace also provided me with a few laughs when, out of nowhere, I received a ‘helping hand’ from one of the cycling chaperones – literally being pushed along for a short section of the hill! It was the best remedy to the effort that was starting to take its toll. A short water stop and a chance to try out the newly surfaced velodrome at Herne Hill. I was a bit nervous (having never tried to cycle at an angle before) but was glad I'd tried it. Another first to add to my list!
The highlight of the weekend was my first glimpse of Tower Bridge: an indication that we were back in the city and had nearly completed the Revolution. It was also the first time I’d ever seen the bridge raised. Waiting for it to lower provided the perfect break for a photo before the final stretch back to Peruvian Wharf. With a smile on my face, cycling my first cycle superhighway, the final few miles flew by. We crossed the finish line to cheers from the Threshold Sports crew who were still as enthusiastic as ever after a long weekend!
It was such a great feeling to know that I had completed the ride. I’m not sure I ever really believed that I could do it until I crossed that finish line. The whole weekend was so well organised with a huge amount of support and encouragement every step of the way: thanks to the London Revolution, I now feel I couldn’t be better prepared for the challenge that lies ahead with London to Paris.
To register interest in a series of rides in 2013 visit the London Revolution website. Threshold Sports (the event creator) is working to leave a positive legacy from London Revolution, helping deliver unique opportunities to social enterprises tackling issues such as unemployment and social exclusion. Organisations involved in the event included: Bikeworks, which uses bicycles as a tool to tackle social and environmental challenges at a community level. Bikeworks supported by Halfords were on standby during the ride to solve any rider mechanical issues. Argonaut, delivering services for domestic and commercial customers, providing deaf or disabled people with employment opportunities. Argonaut was responsible for security, helping look after riders and their kit. Crisis – Skylight Café, the national charity for single homeless people, provided riders with that all-important pit stop food. Circle Sports, which assists disadvantaged and long-term unemployed young people with coaching, mentoring, entrepreneurial education, training and employment opportunities. Profits from the store go into programmes that help young people participate in sport. Divine Chocolate, the delicious Fairtrade chocolate brand with an innovative business model.
For more information on the Women's Only London to Paris Ride, call 0870 333 1662, visit Action Medical Research or contact email@example.com
Erica is riding a 2011 Ridgeback Radium road bike (RRP £799.99) For more information, visit www.ridgeback.co.uk or join the facebook page, facebook.com/ridgebackbikes
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