Following the London 2012 Olympics, one of the legacies was the establishment of the London Marathon equivalent of a cycling event. Following most of the route used for the 2012 Cycling road races, 2013 saw the inaugural Ride London-Surrey - a 100 mile route starting at the Olympic Park and concluding on The Mall and taking in central and south west London and a chunk of Surrey including the infamous Box Hill. On the 4th attempt of trying I was successful in the ballot for a place and was joined by Gordy Balfour, who was part of the London-Paris Team in 2015. Gordy raised funds for Prostate Cancer again whilst I continued to support Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
On the day we met at the start as we had been allocated separate waves an hour apart. (Start times were over a 3 hour period!). However, due to work commitments, I travelled down overnight and then across London to collect my bike from where Gordy was staying in East London (Ilford area). However, by the time I arrived Gordy had headed on, concerned he'd not get admitted into his wave. Instead, his wife, Nikki, greeted me as I quickly finished changing and grabbed the bike and then headed off on the 6 mile cycle to the start! I arrived at 8:30am approx and joined a wave two waves behind my own. I'd not been denied starting, no questions asked and hadn't had to hang about waiting for an hour! Gordy and I made contact by text and I updated social media whilst we edged towards the start line.
Gordy started approximately 7 minutes before me, so merely went over the line and then pulled in behind a cone line pending my start. I was in the last wave of 100 mile riders as I headed off and met Gordy as we left the Olympic Park and headed onto the A12 south and west towards central London. As we headed off we soon realised that reality that we really were going through London on 100% closed roads, using both sides of the carriageway and able to ignore traffic lights. (For some cyclists this would be irrelevant as enough seem to think red lights don't apple to cyclists!). The route linked onto the London Marathon course as we came past the Isle of Dogs, although took me until we passed the Tower of London to realise. It also was the opposite to the beginning of our outbound leg from London on route to Paris a year earlier. (and a lot easier without traffic). Going at a very good speed, we came of the Embankment and through Trafalgar Square and through Pall Mall towards Hyde Park Corner. It was like a tour of a Monopoly board as we then headed to Kensington and past Harrods. Sadly Nikki, Jake and Max (Gordy's wife and sons) were too slow and didn't get to see us go through at ten miles.
We maintained a good pace as we weaved around other cyclists and over the Hammersmith flyover and down through Chiswick and then over the Thames for the first time. Into Richmond Park and our first climb - not much of one and I didn't change gear for it (which isn't unusual as I hate changing gears!). Out of Richmond Park we followed round to Hampton Court Palace and the point where Bradley Wiggins won his Olympic Gold Medal in the Time Trail at London 2012 (and Chris Froome won bronze), as we then crossed the Thames again and turned right towards Walton on Thames. With around 25 miles covered we were making excellent time and ahead of our target pace.
As I was keeping Gordy entertained with "informative facts" along the route we came to a stop and were informed to push our bikes as we hit a "bike jam". This was due to an incident and the road being too narrow for the volume of bikes. Whilst we lost around ten minutes, we still were making good progress and were fortunate to not be heading off in an ambulance. We are unclear if this turned out to be the gentleman who lost his life due to a heart attack on route whilst raising funds for a cancer charity after recovering from the disease. It reminds you how vulnerable we are and put my moaning into perspective too.
Above: At the start in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Below - on the A12 in the first few miles
The route headed on to Surrey and we looked out for Gordy's Dad, to no avail, before we headed out through Byfleet and hit another stop in the village of Pyrford. This time it was like a bike equivalent of a motorway tail back, with thousands of us backlogged. We eventually got word of a major pile up involving 35 bikes further down the course and ended up walking around a mile and lost well over an hour as a result. Some cycles got rerouted further behind us we learnt. This was likely due to the fact we eventually started cycling again to find another jam where the road narrowed over a bridge crossing the River Wey. Finally over this point, and we got going again. In fact I got so into it I found myself belting up a gentle climb past everyone, losing Gordy in the process for a while. We finally passed the 50 mile point and had gained a bit of ground, but wouldn't have a hope of getting back within the 6 hours we'd set ourselves. Gordy also speculated if we'd be diverted due to the time delay and miss some of the course.
Gordy wasn't wrong. I hadn't realised, but Gordy spotted we'd missed a loop around Leith Hill and we suddenly passed the 60 mile marker, only a few miles after the 50. This dampened the day further as we now wouldn't even do the 100 in full. We also didn't see my relatives in Dorking, as I had hoped we might, as it turned out they arrived just after we'd passed through. At least we still got to cycle up the infamous Box Hill shortly afterwards. This may seem an odd thing to be pleased with but I wanted to experience the route in full. Box Hill isn't as hard as I expected. Yes, it's a fairly long climb, but not as steep as I was prepared for - I didn't even change gear for the first half a mile or so! (I'm not known for gear changing anyhow!). Beyond Box Hill we had some nice down hills before another climb - not a long one but the road narrowed slightly and due to the volume of bikes came to a walking pace again. Some cyclists still tried to cycle at this pace but I just got off and pushed up for simplicity! Gordy had a mutter - both of us feeling a bit deflated. (and at the time unaware of the death)
The Prudential London-Surrey 100
Gordy & Lucas post finish in Green Park
We re-entered the Greater London suburbs, with a tight section through the centre of Kingston upon Thames before winding through into Wimbledon and our final hill of the day (and no gear change from me through bloody-mindedness). Here on in it was a decent, well paced cycle through Putney and back over the Thames and alongside the embankment on the north bank. With 3 miles to go I was a little miffed to find we came to a halt to allow traffic to cross the route! The downside here was the volume of bikes that had arrived by the time we set off again meant you couldn't get such a good space or pace for the final 3 miles into Westminster, up the Mall past the Cenotaph and Downing Street before you turned the corner in Trafalgar Square to finish down The Mall. We had completed around 93 official miles of the course and were just shy of 100 including the route from Gordy's hotel. Time was irrelevant and whilst it wasn't a race, it was a shame we'd be unable to try for our target time or cover the full course. You certainly could tell what a difference it makes to cycling at a good pace when you've no traffic to stop for, junctions to navigate etc.
We concluded with a few pictures and met Nikki, Jake and Max for a drink and refreshment at a nearby hotel , where Prostrate Cancer's team were gathered. After a bit of chill time, we then had to cycle the 13 miles back to Gordy's hotel to get the bikes back! We then realised how much slower it is cycling when you have to stop for traffic lights! It was a mixed day. We had been fortunate with good weather and no incident s that we were directly involved with yet, I at least, felt disappointment that what I signed up to do didn't happen in the end. Well done to friends, Nicky and Martyn, who also took part and shared some of our frustrations. But it was another London 2012 legacy event I'd taken part in and I had followed in the footsteps (or bike wheels) of the first GB Olympic medallist - Lizze Armistead.
Going through Richmond Park