Everything was going so well. My training was flowing along freely. I was easily getting in 160km a week and my new bottom bracket was spinning freely. Even the fact I had to spend the two weeks prior to the ride living out of hotels wasn't a problem. Then on the Friday before I checked the forecast. Wind and rain. Still optimistically, I packed my racing skinsuit, put in my dark lenses and left the knee warmers at home. The forecast, believe it or not was optimistic, the weather turned out far worse than that and as I rolled out of the Olympic Park at stupid o'clock it started to rain and would continue until Wimbledon just a few kilometres from the finish.
The day before, walking through a parched St James Park the thought of rain seemed laughable. Thousands of casual leisure cyclists and children were enjoying the London FreeCycle. A closed road circuit including The Mall and Birdcage walk. With the absence of cars big cities are much more pleasant places. It's a tough one, if I had my way I'd ban cars from all cities but I understand that businesses need to survive and some people need cars to get around. I'm sure if politicians just stopped getting consultations done and actually getting some work done then things might happen but until then we're stuck with a system that suits nobody and sadly polluted cities, dirty buildings and people dying too early.
I had to drag myself away from the events around St James and make my way across to the Excel to pick up my rider pack. This is such an easy process once there. My only gripe is the obligation to take a printed copy of the confirmation e-mail. A lot of people don't actually have printers nowadays and surely an electronic copy would suffice. The trade show itself at the Excel is much alike any other and after a quick pint watching the Tour on a large screen I shot west again to watch the Prudential RideLondon Classique the richest one day race in professional women's cycling.
With the likes of Kirsten Wild, Marianne Vos, Danni Rowe and World Champion Chantal Blaak the quality of the field could not be argued with and the Classique duly delivered a high quality race with a nail biting finish that remained in doubt for quite a few minutes after Wild and Vos contested the finish in a fast sprint. Wild secured the win for the soon to finish Wiggle High 5 team with Dani Rowe wining the the intermediate sprints prize. Turning around during the podium presentation I realised I was next to Kirsten Wild's lead out train for Wiggle High 5 and thought about how great it is in cycling that spectators can get as close to the riders as this. Rugby used to have this feeling when I was growing up, I have the autograph of Wales's most successful World Cup Captain and numerous British Lions on the back of a chip shop menu, but has lost this in the professional era. For all the problems that some cause on the TdF, I'd hate to see cycling lose this connection, it's part of what makes the sport special.
At the end of the Classique I was tempted to stay for the Brompton World Champs but mindful that had to be in my start pen for the 100 at 5:40AM I went back to my hotel to pin on my race number and get some kip. The morning ride to the start was less of a shock this year but the riding of some of the other participants was sadly shocking. Boys keep the willy waving for your sad little home trainers. At least three riders that I saw were taken out before even getting to Lee Valley and because of idiots. These roads are open, there are people coming home from nights out, nervous first time sportive riders and people going about there daily business. If you're running late tough get up earlier next time and grow up.
With no support team this year I had to brave the bag drop. I needn't have worried everything went swimmingly and I entered my pen where I was kept amused by the volunteers stewarding the event. Without these guys Ride London-Surrey and other events couldn't happen so on behalf of 25000 plus riders I say thank you. You are all stars. The process at the start is a bit slow and laborious but with the logistics of getting the sheers numbers of riders of different abilities away safely is a necessary evil and hey it can be made easier with a bit of banter with the other riders. Myself I was in the zone so I concentrated on my ride and took some selfies.
Well it rained and pretty soon the ride became one of attrition. Sadly a few crashes happened around me and sadly a few were caused by inconsiderate riders but for the most part after 20 or so miles the majority of riders settled down and the camaraderie caused by the conditions became a apparent. But the ride was tough. I don't like the rain and although I never got cold the mental concentration required started to drain me and I slowed. The narrow Surrey lanes became intense for me and I'll admit I don't remember much until the bottom of Box Hill where this years karaoke tune was Cider Drinker. Stirring my Cornish blood I smashed last years time on this iconic, though over egged, climb and finally picked up some form for the return to London through the towns of Surrey.
The rain actually relented to fine drizzle and for the first time that day I lost the rain cape and could ride in my skinsuit. Finally I felt strong and started to relax into my pedal stroke. It was apparent I'd be nowhere near my 2017 time, I would eventually finish 3o mins down but Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 in 2018 had been about staying upright and finishing unhurt. In 2017 I'd found the ride, well not easy but comfortable, in 2018 I'd felt the challenge. Whilst the hills are small compared to my usual stomping ground and the course is relatively flat, the conditions had provide a whole new set of challenges. I'll admit that during the majority of the ride this year I was hating it. Constantly on edge, wet, slow and unable to wear my sunglasses but as always the retrospective pleasure is there. I and 20 odd thousand made our way around 100 miles through London and Surrey in the first day of rain in months. Just think how embellished the stories will become over the years because of the rain. Who needs hot weather? (If the weather gods are reading this I do, so a nice sunny 25 degrees next year please).
The Ballot for Prudential Ride London-Surrey 2019 is now open and can be found below
The ballot will close at 17:00 on Friday 4 January 2019 or when 80,000 registrations have been received, whichever is earlier
Thank You to London Marathon Events for all your help in covering Prudential Ride London-Surrey 2018
Photo credit (except picture 2) RideLondonMedia