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Another Maiden Century

This is rather old news now but I’ve enjoyed reading the accounts of members cycling exploits. So working on the principle of “better late than never” here’s the story of my cycling adventure.

Back last autumn I got one of those emails you normally delete but this time I read it properly and it was about Ride London. The more I read, the more I thought it sounded like fun and a great way to do my first 100 mile ride so I entered the ballot for a place.

When you entered, you had to say how long you thought it would take you to do the ride. I felt reasonably confident that I could ride for that long at around 22km/hr. So allowing for stops I reckoned I could do it in 5 hours. Then I realised I was working in kilometres not miles! 160km at 20km/hr is eight hours – and this was the longest time option you could choose – whew, I’d just make it.

In February I learnt that I’d been lucky enough to get a place. My guess is that they wanted a good range of abilities and speeds and so I must have increased my chances of getting a place by being one of the slowest riders applying. I reckon I also increased my chances by being female. I think about 25% of riders were female this year, the biggest proportion to date but still room for improvement.

On the big day itself, my start time was 8.15am, so I didn’t have to get up too early. The fast people started at 5.30am, goodness knows what unearthly time they had to get up!  The organisation was faultless. There was a bit of waiting around as we queued for the start line but it gave the opportunity to talk to other participants and find out that a number were more nervous than me. We left from Victoria embankment and rode alongside the Thames, enjoying the sights and the groups of people cheering us on. There were a lot of photographers and I grinned and waved and just about all of them, I felt so happy and lucky to be there.

We left London via Canary Wharf and cycled past the Olympic velodrome – an iconic building in my mind. By then things had started to settle down and I’d got into a good rhythm. We could usually ride up to 6 abreast and we all acted as if we were cars on a motorway, pulling out to the right to go past others and then pulling back in again. Apparently it wasn’t like that earlier on in the ride, the fast folk all seemed anxious to get the best possible time and it was rather chaotic. So I think my late start was very helpful.

There were some very memorable moments along the way.

  1. Hugging my sister and brother in law, who’d come to cheer me on. I did stop for this – but I didn’t get off the bike! They’d brought the Queen with them in the form of a life-sized cardboard cut-out.  She waited along the side of the road cheering with everybody else apparently.
  2. I I vividly recall a chap in a kilt “serenading” us with his bagpipes.
  3. I spent most of the ride grinning from ear to ear and waving at people who had gathered at the side of the road. Many had obviously made a day of it and were sitting in groups in deckchairs with placards and encouraging signs. What was great was that they all cheered when we waved at them.
  4. I think it was in Dunmow that I saw the pope. He was on top of a telegraph pole and he had a big sign giving us his blessing and praying for our safety. He was a full size cardboard cut-out too.
  5. As we neared Chelmsford our route took us along the 2014 Tour de France route. If I hadn’t known that already it would have become obvious due to the number of signs. Obviously the people of Essex don’t like to throw things away and the banners that had been in their garages since 2014 all came out again – just don’t think I can really be compared to a Tour de France rider.
  6.  I remeber thinking, “We got to be be near the end now” and then turning a corner and suddenly being on Tower Bridge and riding over the finish line – what a jamboree.

Hopefully you’re getting the impression that I loved this ride. It was exhilarating riding on closed roads, not having to worry about what might be coming the other way and just riding as well as I could. I really enjoyed meeting, and having mini-chats with so many other riders. There were a number of men wearing FLAB (fat lad at the back) jerseys – I seemed to go past lots of them. It was great to see so many “Brothers on Bikes” and fantastic to see “Cycling Sisters” riding too – look them up if you haven’t heard of them.

I think I was on an adrenalin high the whole day because, apart from a break to let an ambulance through and another to put on my rain jacket, I didn’t stop. I ate on the bike and just kept going thanks to the pain au chocolat provided by my hotel. And I think I was going just as fast at the end as I was at the beginning. I needn’t have worried about being swept up by the broom wagon; I completed the ride in 5 hours 46 minutes – astounding for me. A fabulous experience and a great way to complete my first one hundred mile ride. I need to do another one now.

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