The big one.
This was my main cycling goal for 2011. Whilst I’d done a couple of smaller organized rides earlier in the year and have certainly stepped up my cycling activity recently, this was the motivation. Whilst a single day, relatively flat, 115 mile ride is not much in the grand scheme of things it would be the longest ride I’d ever done. I also wanted to do it in a reasonable time, not simply suffer around slowly and on my own.
Lana dropped my off at Herne Hill Velodrome at about 6:30am and I made my way to registration whilst she turned around and headed home back to bed! Not knowing anybody else on the event I attached myself to a small group waiting at the start and after a short briefing we were off. The sky was just starting to lighten as we headed up through Dulwich towards Crystal Palace. The temperature was cool but not chilly. Arm warmers sufficed. The group I was in consisted of two guys from the army, three other guys who knew each other, myself and one other solo rider. After a first ten miles through built up South London we hit some nicer roads and the first bit of meaningful gradient. At this stage I got the nice surprise to find that I made it up the hill faster than all but one of the group I was in. This continued through the day (almost) as I found I was moving past plenty of riders and not getting overtaken too much. At the top of the first hill at Chipstead I found myself with a couple of guys as we headed down the descent towards the base of Box Hill.
We were now encased in morning mists as we looped around towards the base of the climb. Box Hill itself was a comfortable slog. I didn’t push hard knowing that there were still the best part of 80 miles still to come. After a quick break at the food stop positioned at the top of the hill I headed off for the nice descent and fairly fast 35 miles towards Windsor and the half-way point. I made it to the stop with about four hours elapsed and took the opportunity for a 20 minute break to refuel and stretch a bit for the forthcoming Chilterns segment.
We hit some crosswinds through Eton Dorney and at one point it looked like the weather might turn, but soon the sun broke through for the arrival of the leafy Chiltern country lanes and some short sharp climbs towards the next food stop at Chipperfield. This proved to be the most welcome stop with coffee and ham rolls supplied! At this stage my legs were a little tired and my neck complaining but nothing that I was worried about. This also marked the start of the final leg which for me was firmly on home turf. I’d pretty much cycled the route from this point on various rides out. Despite some dragging climbs I made good progress and got past St. Albans as I hit the 100 mile mark. The ten miles after that proved to be the most difficult of the ride as the terrain along The Ridgeway, Cuffley and Goffs Oak saw some climbs with very tired legs! However from there it was a fast final few miles to the finish at Lee Valley Country Park and some welcome pasta, soon followed by a burger and chips!
My final moving time was 7 hours 35 minutes for the 115 miles, giving me a moving average speed of 15.2mph. This was faster than the first century I completed a couple of weeks before which was pleasing. Looking at the official timing it turns out I finished 132nd out of the 401 registered riders for the 115 mile course which again I was very happy with. I also felt good the next day with no real aches or pains!
Finally, what’s most important is the reason for this event in the first place. The whole thing was put on by Access Sport, a great charity that aims to help disadvantaged kids get involved in sport. In particular they do a lot with various cycling schemes in and around London. The event was first class (although one piece of feedback would be that the signage could be better – the directional arrows had very small heads!) and I was happy to be able to raise over £350 which my employer will also generously double.
I’m looking forward to the 2012 event already!