As I put pen to paper for this blog I’m sitting on my sofa, with my legs elevated. They are absolutely aching, throbbing even! As earlier this week I cycled over 100 miles in one of the biggest cycling events in the UK calendar, it was the Prudential RideLondon. It is an event that attracts over 27,000 cyclists and more over the entire weekend. People are on the waitlist for years to get a spot in this incredible ride and I was fortunate this year to get a ballot place after a 3-year wait. And boy was it worth the wait!
It was my first official sportive in a very long time. For those who know me, they know I’ve done a lot of cycling and triathlon events & races over the years and it has been almost a year since my last event. I had forgotten about the pre-race nerves and anticipation - the butterflies in the stomach and the thoughts of “did I pack that?” crept into my mind as I tried to fall asleep. Suffice to say, when my alarm sounded at 4am I was feeling very tired and groggy. But after a quick coffee and an orange blossom flapjack for the road, I was dashing out the door.
Cycling across London, through very quiet streets at 5am, was completely serene. That being said, I did feel a little insane when I saw a few stragglers coming out of the nightclubs on their way home.
The sun was awakening, making beautiful peach and pink streaks across the sky as the light caught the London jet streams. It reminded me of how wonderful it is to ride when the world is still asleep and you have the road all to yourself.
As I approached the Olympic Stadium for the start line, the traffic and swarm of cyclists started to thicken. The streets were gleaming with steel, carbon and aluminum — and you could hear the whir of the wheels miles off. It was truly a sight to behold. Everyone was grinning in anticipation and nerves. For many, this event and distance is monumental; cracking the 100-mile mark is a feat that many cyclists dream of achieving!
What made this event (and events like this around the world) so special are two things. Firstly, the entire route is on closed roads. Considering that London is one of the busiest and largest cities in the world, to block hundreds of roads, crossings and bridges is phenomenal. It is a testament to the organisers for brilliant planning, co-ordination and execution.
Secondly, it is the incredible support on the sidelines and the attitude of the riders on the day. Fans lined the streets along the entire route (although I think the sunshine did help). They were all cheering and shouting support for their loved ones and to strangers – people were getting behind each other and were truly supporting one another. It gave me tingles and made me feel really proud to be out there on the course. I even heard “Go Queen of the Mountains!” a few times throughout – our jerseys are definitely distinctive
In terms of my ride, I pushed myself to the limit. I pedaled as hard as I could. I used the momentum of every downhill to get up the next hill, until my legs were burning and my lungs were wheezing. It felt fantastic to push my body to the limit. I have been riding a lot recently with other groups of women – guiding, coaching, touring but this event felt like a real treat and a selfish ride where I could hammer my legs and body until they would go no further. I crossed the line totally satisfied that I gave it all I could. Coming up the Mall towards Buckingham palace, in the final 100 meters, I could hardly keep my cadence up. I was trying to outsprint a few of the men and women who had been drafting my wheel, but there was nothing left in the tank. I crossed the line with a massive grin! Job done, legs wasted and a body broken ;-)
The reason why I wanted to write this blog post was to inspire those thinking about signing up for the ride next year to JUST DO IT! (Ballot entries open 8th August)
In my mind, there still are not enough women on the roads. Chatting to some of my friends after the ride, they said they were often picked out from the crowd with people shouting “GO GIRL” - which gave us all the impression that being a female on the road was a rarity.
But, we can change that for 2017. Challenge yourself to RideLondon or a local sportive in your area. I guarantee that the lead up and sense of achievement as you cross the line will feel immensely satisfying.
In summary, RideLondon was the best closed-road cycling events I have done to date. I was so very inspired by the whole thing, that the first thing I came home to do, after a shower of course, was to write this blog.
So when you do sign up (wink, wink!) I recommend doing so with a friend or group if possible. This way you will keep one another motivated to train and you’ll have someone to share the journey with. A lot of charity organisations have ride places with good training plans and networks that you can be a part of.
For those who know they are signing up or who are doing other sportive rides this year, I have written a few tips here that might be useful.
I look forward to seeing you on the start line in 2017!
x Queen of the Mountains