It isn’t often that my line of work and main passions co-incide, but the frustration of trying to land the London 2012 Olympics tickets that I wanted gave me cause to find a technical solution to my problem.
I’ve blogged before about my limited success in getting tickets for the games. Most of all I wanted tickets, any tickets, for track cycling. These are like gold dust as the venue only holds 6000 people and it is the sport which bears Team GB’s highest chance of medals.
A while ago tickets started to be issued as venue layouts became finalised. In addition the official re-sale process kicked in. This meant that an occasional drip-feed of tickets started to become available on the ticketing web site. There was no advance notice, it was pure luck/co-incidence if something happened to be made available when you looked.
This kind of scenario lends itself nicely to some scripting, so I started looking into the HTML source of the ticketing site to work out how to automate the discovery of ticket availability. The general approach is simple: each session has a unique code and you can perform a search for that session. It then either tells you that tickets are currently unavailable, or allows you to select that session and go on to the ticket selection process.
Therefore a simple script that could poll the session search results page and check for the indication of availability would do the trick, so here it is:
I utilised an Amazon EC2 micro-instance running Linux then simply set up cron jobs to check the nine track cycling sessions every five minutes. Using cron isn’t perfect – if tickets for a session do become available for a period of time then your inbox might get busy with continual alert emails but that is a minor inconvenience. What’s more annoying is the way that the ticketing site works. There is a significant lag between tickets becoming unavailable and the search results page indicating this fact. These two issues can combine to mean that you continue to get alert emails for quite a while after tickets sell out.
So, does it work? Well I’ve had it running for about two weeks and there have certainly been a lot of tickets drip feeding in during that time. There is no pattern to when, so I could wake up to alert emails sent during the night, or receive them whilst walking the dogs or otherwise not being in a position to do anything about it. However, today I was sat at my desk at work and an alert email came through. I jumped on the site and managed to grab a top-price ticket to the very final track medal session featuring the Women’s sprint, Women’s Omnium and Men’s Keirin. All three events will have very solid possibilities of GB medals.
So, mission accomplished and my EC2 instance has now been retired. There’s still tickets coming in though, and time to grab them so if you are also a bit of a geek feel free to make use of this script!
Despite best intentions of blogging a daily update on my trip to watch some of the 2012 Tour de France, wine and the difficulty in typing out long prose on an iPhone means I’ll simply write this single summary now I’m back in Blighty.
Stage 6 – Epernay to Metz
After staying in Epernay overnight we got up to discover a bright, sunny day. After packing up the camping gear we headed out on the bikes into the town centre to the stage depart with the idea of nosing around the team buses and generally seeing what was going on. Unfortunately we arrived rather earlier than the teams so ended up doing a couple of trips up and down the cobbled start on the Avenue de Champagne before having a quick coffee and watching the caravan go past (something we’d already tired of seeing to be honest)
By the time we made our way back to the depart numerous buses had arrived and were setting up. We wandered around and took in a little bit of the signing in stage before concentrating on the Garmin and Sky buses, both of which were handily parked facing the barriers keeping the general public out of the invited guest only area. Others to do so were mainly the French teams. It was notable, and admirable, on the day after the leak of the names of those who testified to the USADA in the US Postal/Armstrong affair that Garmin (Vaughters, Zabriske, Van de Velde) were still opening themselves and their riders up to the public.
After catching long (Dan Martin) or short (David Millar, Brad Wiggins, Cav, etc) glimpses of riders and their bikes (including admiring Tom Danielson’s stealth Cervelo R5 Project California which later ended up broken in two after a crash) we headed back to the Avenue de Champagne to watch them roll out on the netralised start.
It was then a case of getting back to the campsite quickly and heading the 170 miles to our next destination in the Haute-Saone. Unfortunately getting out of Epernay in the direction we wanted proved tricky thanks to road closures and we ended up trailing the tour for a couple of hours until we managed to break free from the route. Nevertheless we made it to Saint Maurice sur Moselle that evening to find a lovely campsite to act as our home for the next three days. We also met a couple of fellow Brits out with much the same idea as us.
Stage 7 – Tomblaine to La Planche des Belle Filles
This day was always going to be the highlight of the trip. To see why, watch this preview from Dan Martin:
On the morning we again headed out early and were climbing the Ballon d’Servance towards Plancher les Mines. We then cycled slowly up the steep slopes of the Belle Filles along with thousands of others on foot or bike. At the 2km to go point we were told we had to walk so opted to descend a couple of hundred meters and choose our spot for the day. Unfortunately by this time it was only about 11am and the race would not be with us for another 5 1/2 hours! The constant stream of people at least meant there was something to look at, but even the caravan seemed like a welcome sight in the end. Eventually though twitter informed us of the approaching riders and soon the sound of helicopters signalled their arrival at the foot of the climb. When they passed us Richie Porte was pulling Brad and Froome along. Being on a section without barriers gave us that unique chance to see the action up close and of course being a mountain finish the action carried on for a while as dropped riders, the grupetto and the injured kept coming for twenty minutes or so.
As soon as the broom wagon passed we hopped on the bikes to descend through the masses, finding pros coming past us down the mountain to their awaiting buses. Cadel made it down pretty quickly and stopped to chat to some Aussie fans along the way. In general though they didn’t mess about and shouted to get crowds out of the way which also made it quicker for us!
The journey back involved heading back over the Ballon d’Servance from the more difficult side.
Stage 8 – Belfort to Porrentruy
We woke up after a night of intermittent and sometimes heavy rain to find overcast skies and a fair wind. This confirmed our idea of taking the opportunity to watch this stage from the campsite bar. The original idea had been to ride in the morning but the weather put us off so we jumped in the car for a ride back to Belle Filles to see what the finish ramp looked like in the flesh. All in all it was probably the right call as those that did go to watch the stage said it was basically a long day of driving into Switzerland and finding a decent point to watch was hard.
We did get on the bikes to tackle the nearby Ballon de Alsace before dinner.
Stage 9 – Time Trial
The plan here was always to head to the finish in Besancon and then it was a case of heading straight back to Calais. However, the timetable was amended to include an earlier start and a stop off to cycle the Planche des Belle Filles on the way. After packing up we drove across the Servance to the foot of the climb, unloaded the bikes and headed up. After a hard ascent, a quick coffee and a fast descent we were off for the 75 mile journey to the TT finish.
We ended up on a 90 degree corner at the 3km to go mark. Numerous riders had already gone, but we got their just in time to see Dan Zabriske in full Captain America national TT champs uniform, and soon after him Tony Martin in the rainbow bands. Whilst the lower order riders had a two minute time gap things were fairly active. At one stage a gaggle of three riders came past. However once the higher order starters were on course the time gaps went up to three minutes and all of a sudden the realisation of the sheer amount of waiting around in quite strong sunshine was at the forefront of our minds. Nevertheless we stuck it out, with regular checks of Twitter to follow the action. Once it came down to the top ten, with all riders on the course things hotted up and of course the rest is well known with both Froome and Wiggins blowing the field away. It was definitely a good decision to choose a tight corner and the techniques and speed of riders varied quite dramatically.
After Wiggo passed we immediately jumped on the bikes and cycled about 5km back to where we’d left the car, just by the motorway. This again proved wise as we had to negotiate an already large amount of standstill traffic. Less than 30 minutes from leaving we were on the motorway and heading back to Calais, a mere 398 miles away.
So, what are my feelings about watching the tour in real life? Well firstly, it was something very special to be there when Wiggins took Yellow and hopefully I’ll be able to say that I watched the tour the year of the first British winner. However, there’s no getting away from the immense amount of waiting around involved in tour watching, and if you intend to follow it for a number of days, the large amount of transition involved. Mountain stages are definitely the way to go, especially mountain top finishes. Also, I’d probably do more to incorporate catching a stage or two as part of a cycling holiday rather than hoping to fit in some cycling as part of a trip to follow the tour, if that makes sense.
It is currently 10pm French time and I’m sat in a campsite in Epernay sipping a beer and, prior to writing this blog post, reading Laurent Fignon’s autobiography. Life doesn’t get better.
We started out this morning as I picked Paul up from Brookmans Park station at 0650. A swift and uneventful journey to Dover was only broken by the realization that our journey to this campsite would take us right past the finish of today’s stage 5. This unexpected bonus was impossible to ignore and so we parked up on the outskirts of Saint Quentin and unloaded the bikes to ride into town.
Spectating at a sprint finish is always a strange affair as things pass you by so fast. After a nice lunch we found ourselves positioned about 900m from the finish on a slight uphill drag. The wait for the peloton was punctuated by the publicity caravan and then regular checkins with Twitter and the BBC for updates as the riders approached. Only the appearance of helicopters indicated the imminent arrival of the tour as a lone Cofidis rider appeared into view, closely pursued by a small gaggle of fellow breakaways. Then the peloton appeared, thinned by an unknown crash 3km out from the end. At the front Boasson Hagen appeared confused and looking round for Cav. From my viewpoint it appeared the bunch had conceded the stage. We watched as team cars and trailing riders went past, trying to decipher the French commentary and desperately checking Twitter.
Nothing made sense on hearing that news but later reports filled in the gaps. Needless we decided to retire quickly to the car for the transition to Epernay, our home for the night and the start of Fridays stage. And here I write this with belly full and anticipation risen. We’ve got the tour bug…
The grand plan for tomorrow is to catch the stage start the head directly to our next camp at Saint Maurice sur Moselle in the Vosges mountains, hopefully in time to see a sprint finish and to climb the Ballon d’Alsace to tip things off.
As I write, the 2012 Tour de France is just 14 or so hours away from starting. I’m not going to discuss the fact that this is probably the most important tour for British cycling ever with Bradley Wiggins having a real chance of winning the Yellow Jersey. Nor am I going to discuss what Mark Cavendish may or may not do in France in view of the impending Olympic Road Race. All that has been done to death elsewhere.
The reason for writing this blog post is that this year will be the first time I’ve actually gone out to France to watch the race. Well, not quite as I went over to Paris on the Eurostar in 1996 to see the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, but I’m not counting that as the final stage is something of a procession and quite sterile as an experience.
My friend Paul and myself head out on Thursday 5th July in my car with our bikes strapped on the back and the boot full of cycling and camping gear.
Our first destination is Épernay where, on the Friday, we plan to catch the Stage 6 start before dashing along the A4 to Metz in an attempt to find somewhere near the finish for what will be a bunch sprint. Whether this plan works or not is unknown, so there’s a possibility that we may need to find somewhere else earlier on the route. Luckily it runs pretty parallel to the autoroute.
After the stage finish we drive futher to our base for the following three nights in Saint Maurice Sur Moselle in the Vosges mountains. The campsite is located about 30km away from the mountain-top finish of Stage 7 at Planche des Belle Filles. The theory is to head out early and cycle over to the final climb and claim our spot for the day. The ride out itself involves about 1400m of climbing so whilst it is not the Alps it will be a great first experience of long French climbs.
Hopefully the steep final climb and the mountain top finish (only one of two this year) will see some fireworks on the road as a GC contender makes an early move.
The next day will involve heading out of our base to find a suitable place to watch Stage 8, most likely on the Col de la Croix over the border in Switzerland. This is most likely to see a decent breakaway try and stay off the front of the peloton for victory.
Finally we pack up camp and head to Besançon to see the first Individual Time Trial of the tour. If everything goes to plan this may be where Wiggo takes Yellow for the first time. Straight after the stage it is time to hot-foot it back to Calais in order to get a very early morning ferry home.
The next few days until we go are going to drag, but at least the race starts tomorrow to whet the appetite even further! Data access allowing, I’ll post a daily blog update with how we are getting on.
As I’ve previously blogged about one of my cycling goals for this year is to try my hand at time trialling. Whilst I couldn’t make the first few club TT events I finally managed to get out a couple of weeks ago on a very wet Tuesday evening for my first ever 10 mile TT.
The weather had been pretty awful all day with a lot of rain and therefore standing water on the roads, however the forecast showed the rain stopping about 7pm so I made my way up to the start a couple of miles North of Codicote. As a first outing this was all about just getting used to the procedures and getting a basic idea of my TT ability. The only goal I’d set myself for the year was to get under 30 minutes, or in other words a 20mph average. There was a small turnout of 13 people and I set off first as I figured I’d probably be the slowest.
Due to the wet weather the start was moved a couple of hundred yards up the road so technically this wasn’t a full race. However I managed an official time of 30 minutes and 37 seconds so not far off my initial goal. I got a poor start as I basically let the starter push me off rather than using any of my own effort. I was also hesistant at the first turn onto the main road, not trusting the marshall telling me all was clear and not using the width of the road to get a good line.
However, after the start it was a case of just pushing as hard as I could all the way to the turn and back. As you can see from the Strava data, the course is basically more downhill on the way out with a couple of short climbs, then the reverse on the way back with more longer drags. Whilst it is still basically flat the second half is definitely harder and you need to save something for a good finish. I spent most of the time in the drops but did find myself coming up onto the hoods a few times for a breather, and also dropping into a lower gear than I probably should have been in. I was passed by three riders before the end.
By the end though I was shattered. Crossing the line I struggled to call out my number to the time keepers and could feel a distinct wheezy chest feeling that I hadn’t had since my asthma disappeared about 15 years ago. To be honest I had quite an uncomfortable night’s sleep following it and couldn’t breathe fully and deeply for a couple of days as my lungs recovered from the effort. This took me a bit by surprise.
Despite this however I was soon thinking about how I could improve (start, turns, more aero, more pain tolerance) next time, and so it was I headed back up this week. With the much better weather (but the same 10mph or so headwind on the way out) there were many more people turning out and I found myself going off in twentieth place. This time we were starting from the normal point, so there was more chance to build up speed before turning left onto the main road. This time around I got a much better start and turn and then it was just a case of measuring my effort on the first half in the knowledge that I had to keep something in reserve. At the turn my Garmin was showing an average of above 22mph so I knew I was going well and on course for a sub-30 minute time. I’d also stayed in the drops all the way, and in fact only came out of them once on the penultimate drag on the way back. On the final hill up to the turn-off before the finish I pushed about as hard as I have ever done on the bike to keep my speed up and on crossing the line could see that my average was still above 20mph. I cycled slowly back to the finish line, catching my breath, and checked in with the time keepers to find I’d done 29.11! Well over a minute faster than my first time out. What’s more I recovered much quicker and had a very decent night’s sleep!
It is a bit early to say that I’ve got the TT bug, but I’ll definitely be heading out more times over the summer. However now the 30 minute goal has been achieved I’m not setting any other goal other than to feel that I’ve tried as hard or harder each time and feel myself getting better. Times will not come down forever and conditions on each day will always play a part anyway. Now it is just about learning to enjoy the pain!
On a bit of a whim, I’ve signed up for my club TT season. A tenner sees me get a number that allows me to enter the
weekly evening 10 miler, as well as occasional weekend 10’s and a few more events.
On Monday I attended a club night aimed at providing an intro to the world of time trials. There was lots of talk about bikes, helmets, skin suits, clip on bars and more, as well as information about the course (which is on a road I’ve ridden a couple of times) I’ll be using my normal road bike, helmet and clothing.
My only goal is to try and see if I can get below 30 minutes for a 10 mile TT, which of course means a 20mph average speed. I’m confident I will, if maybe not first time out. Time will tell if I get the bug, in which case I guess there will be yet more reason to get the credit card out…
First post of 2012 about my first proper ride of the year.
For various reasons including some illness, I’d only been out on a single 20 mile ride in 2012 before this event. Therefore I was slightly apprehensive about a 100km ride through the Chilterns straight off the bat. However, it all turned out great. The weather was chilly but bright and I arrived at the start to find a healthy number of people, including a couple of fellow Verulam CC members. After signing in I just missed a large group heading off by about 30 seconds. Luckily so had a few others including some guys from Hemel CC so we sped along and managed to get onto the bigger group after a few miles. In the rush my GPS hadn’t acquired a lock so the route above is missing a mile or so.
Once caught onto the back of the main group of about thirty riders we almost immediately came to the bottom of Ivinghoe Beacon. At this point it transpired that the group were the “group 1” riders, aiming for a fast time. Hence I quickly got dropped on the climb, but I was by no means the only one. The descent through Gaddesden and down towards Hemel saw mainly solo riding, but at a decent enough pace. To be honest I was probably pushing a bit too fast. At the turn near Hemel to head up towards Bovingdon I took my first gel and continued on solo riding through Chesham and on towards Great Missenden. Once up Frith Hill I managed to join up with another small group and we made light work of the climbing up towards Hawridge and beyond towards Tring. However near Tring I started to feel the lack of miles in my legs a bit and dropped off.
From Tring back to Edlesborough was solo, including the familiar Tom’s Hill. In the end I recorded a time of 3 hours 48 minutes which put me near the start of the “medium” target time period. Quite pleasing when I was a bit worried about coming in under the five hour mark to begin with 🙂 I’ve obviously still got some fitness given the relatively lazy winter, but a new bike (more on that to come) may have played a part as well. Another pleasing aspect was that this formed the longest single stint ride I’ve done without any kind of break.
Eyewear is important in cycling, regardless of the quality of your vision. You may have 20/20 sight, but when it is raining and spray stings your eyes, or worse a fly or wasp flies right into your face you’ll be far better off if you have something protecting your eyes.
Then there is the question of sunlight and shade. When cycling on a bright day you want sunglasses which will stop intense sunshine and glare from distracting you. However on a dull overcast day you don’t want to be wearing sunglasses which made everything too dark. Finally on some days you find both types of condition, so what do you do then?
I’ve worn glasses for most of my adult life to combat my astigmatism. I’m not long or short sighted at all, but due to the shape of my eyes vertically aligned objects are somewhat blurred. Since starting cycling I simply wore my regular glasses for this reason. However on sunny days I found it annoying not to be able to wear sunglasses, and additionally my regular glasses didn’t do a good job of protecting the whole of my eyes.
I’ve been a user of Oakley sunglasses for years and years but never justified to myself the expense of getting a prescription pair, until recently that is. Since really taking up cycling I could finally make the justification to myself and now I wonder why I took so long!
When researching I focussed on:
Frame type – with the decisions being around size, shape, protection and comfort more than style.
Lens type – as these would be primarily used for cycling I wanted versatility in a multitude of light conditions
There are two main types of Oakley frame that suit cycling.
The traditional wrap-around frame provides a lot of protection with minimal frame interference with your peripheral vision and good ventilation meaning they don’t fog up. The main frame in Oakleys wrap-around range is the Radar, which comes in various formats. However, I’ve never really liked this style.
The more traditional full-frame type is represented by the Jawbone and Split Jacket styles. There’s little difference between them, the Split Jacket is simply a smaller version of the Jawbone to suit a different type of face. The key features of both are their flexibility. Unlike most full-frame glasses they have interchangeable lenses thanks to the hinged “jaws”. You simply unclip the jaws at the nose piece and they hinge away from the lens, allowing it to slide out. Thus, a single set of frames can be used with multiple lenses for various conditions. Finally, the Jawbone and Split Jacket come in a wide variety of colours, and you can even create your own custom versions.
After a few visits to stores, including the Oakley Store in Covent Garden I settled on Jawbones. The bigger size fitted me more snugly and meant that there was less frame in my peripheral vision. As for colour, I opted simple Matt White to match my helmet.
The final decision was on which lenses to go for. There are at least 24 different options in the Oakley prescription range. One decision I had made was to go for Transistions adaptive lenses. These photo chromatic lenses adjust their tint according to light conditions. From a cycling point of view this means they are useful for more days of the year. This is important given that I really didn’t want to have to purchase more than one set of prescription lenses if I could avoid it.
As an aside, anybody who watched the 2010 Tour De France on Eurosport in the UK will likely remember the Tyler Farrar Transitions ad which seemed to be played during every single ad break during the coverage. Rumor has it that this was part of the deal that took Bradley Wiggins from Garmin to Team Sky.
There are a number of Transistions lenses in the Oakley range. The main consideration is the level of light transmission that each one gives which for Transistions lenses is of course measured as a range. In the end I opted for the Grey option which go from pretty much clear at 93% light transmission to a dark grey at 16% light transmission. I opted for vented lenses, which basically means they have holes at the top and bottom to allow some air to circulate behind the lenses to aid in the prevention of fogging.
With my decision made, ordering was done via rxsport.co.uk and involved entering my prescription details as well as measuring my pupil distance using the method described on their site. The service was excellent with the glasses arriving within about ten days from ordering (bearing in mind they are made to order of course.)
The glasses arrived in a sturdy Jawbone specific hard case along with a usual Oakley soft cloth and a spare pair of nose pieces of a different size to the ones fitted in case you need to swap.
Here they are just out of the packaging, inside the house:
You can see that the lenses are basically clear. In low light conditions on the bike, even at night, this allows them to be used and still to provide the protection they give.
When taking them outside, on a fairly sunny day, but with the sun behind cloud, they looked like this after about a minute:
That’s not as dark as they go, but is still a pretty dramatic change from before. It is worth noting that they tend to go darker quicker then they go lighter. In practice this means that on the bike they do not suddenly lighten if you go from bright light into a tree covered section for instance. However I’ve not found any problem here and I cycle through a lot of tree covered lanes! It is also worth noting that the transition happens in response to UV light. This means that they do not change indoors (or at least not much) and also means in some cars with special windscreens they may not change at all. However as I bought them as cycling glasses this is irrelevant to me.
So, how have I found them for cycling? In a word: awesome. They really are the best cycling equipment purchase I’ve made, bar bikes themselves. They are so much better than wearing my regular glasses and the optical quality is as good if not better. The quality of the lenses is excellent and after over 400 miles wearing them in conditions ranging from bright sunny days to driving rain I have no complaints. The only minor issue is that they do tend to fog up a bit when you’ve stopped after a hard effort, but on the move they stay clear thanks to the vented lenses. The protection is excellent and I have had flies hit them as a test! At first I did find that the frames were visible in my peripheral vision, but I soon got used to that.
Perhaps the only other negative is that they truly are cycling only sunglasses. Worn on their own they look just a little weird. This is a combination of the Jawbone design which let’s face it is rather “bug eyed” and my own choice of Matt White colour. When combined with a helmet this looks cool, but on their own is a little too much in contrast to my own colour! Since buying them however I’ve noticed both Brad Wiggins and Geraint Thomas regularly rocking white Oakleys so I’m in good company! Spot the difference (although I think G is wearing Split Jackets)…
In summary, if like me you cycle and you’ve never been able to fully justify the purchase of prescription glasses then my message is simply, stop lusting over a new set of wheels or more weight saving equipment and invest in your eyes. After all, you only have one pair of them!
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.
This happened a little while ago now, but is significant enough to warrant a post.
As part of my build up to the Ride Around London sportive, I decided to use some built up holiday time to take a week of work with the intention of spending most of it cycling. A friend, Paul, decided to take a Monday off and join me for a ride. The plan was to do 80 miles or so.
The chosen day was Monday 12th September, otherwise most notable for the weather in effect. The tail end of a hurricane was hitting Britain and the Tour of Britain stage from Kendal to Blackpool that day was cancelled. I’d been out on a 50 mile club run the day before and suffered into some pretty strong headwinds.
So it was that I met Paul in Shenley at about 10am and we set off to follow a rough route that would take us East into the 40mph gusting wind for about 25 miles into the Chilterns before turning back towards St. Albans, onwards to Hertford and down to Potters Bar.
Thankfully whilst the wind was certainly a challenge it did stay dry and we made good progress. After heading around various parts of the Chilterns including Tom’s Hill, Ivinghoe Beacon and Dagnall we stopped for a bite to eat at a pub in Gaddesdon Row after about 50 miles. At this stage I was feeling fine and looking forward to a tailwind. We then headed back towards St. Albans and turned North to loop around the top of Welwyn Garden City before heading towards Hertford. Along this part of the ride Paul suffered a puncture and I was certainly thankful of the rest. By this stage, after a couple of diversions from the planned route, I knew we were headed for more distance than anticipated so we headed due South through Essendon towards Potters Bar. Unfortunately this included Essendon Hill which I’d only ever done down, not up and with weary legs it turned into a slog. At Potters Bar and 91 miles in we parted company as Paul headed back to North London and I turned East towards home. Less than a mile from which I had to stop to mark the significance of the occasion 🙂
With a total moving time of 7 hours and ten minutes at an average of 14.1mph I was very happy with the ride, especially as it included around 1500m of ascent and some strong headwinds. I felt pretty good afterwards, especially considering I’d ridden 150 miles in two days, although my legs were a little stiff for a couple of days.
To some extent, I actually felt a little disappointed about the fact that I’d broken the 100 mile mark before the Ride Around London. Whilst I now knew I could do the distance (to the effect that I actually didn’t head out on the bike for the rest of my week off!) the challenge of the sportive had lessened. Still, it is another cycling achievement ticked off.