An account of the LRA treasurer’s experience in the 2017 Ride London cycling event. It could not be printed in the autumn newsletter in its entirety but we thought others would enjoy a step by step narrative of her adventure

by Paula Sabine

At the age of 62, and now having a hybrid bike (a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike), I decided I would like the challenge of taking part in a cycle event. Note the word ‘event’ and not ‘race’!It was then suggested that I took part in the Prudential London ride –the 46 mile route, not the 100 miles as this would be

beyond me,having never cycled more than 18 miles before. The route started at the Olympic Park and ended at the Mall l,but the 46’ers turn back to London after Hampton Court.

In March, I applied – then I got cold feet,but thought ‘never mind, I won’t get in anyway’, as it is a public ballot. In May I got an email saying ‘Congratulations’, and I thought‘bother (a stronger word was actually used) I’ll have to do it now’.

So the 8 weeks training began – 7am on Sunday mornings is the best time to go out as there is hardly any tra c and I found a lovely route that took me to Stoke D’Abernon and over Bookham Common for my 1.5-hour training sessions. Taking the various bridleways became a bit of an adventure, as sometimes I didn’t know where I was. I also cycled this route for my 2.5- hour sessions plus going through Bookham to E ngham Junction and then onto the Black Swan pub and up to Downside and back to Leatherhead. On trying to find dierent places to go, I had some interesting experiences – a path with‘kissing gates’ to lift my bike over, paths which narrowed and had lots of nettles and a bridleway which started well and then became an assault course. My longest ride was through Esher to Bushey Park where I got a bit lost, but eventually found my way back to Hampton Court. There I crossed the bridge and cycled along the tow path –this was lovely – multi-coloured and di erent shaped houseboats I hadn’t seen before, past Sunbury Lock, and the Guildford Rowing Club was holding a regatta on the river.

As this was a big undertaking for me, I decided to raise money for a charity, and contacted the Princess Alice Hospice as I drive past there on my way to work and my aunt was there about 2 years ago.They kindly gave me a cycle vest (never had one before) to wear with my name and their name on it. At a ‘lasagne evening’ I met others who were cycling the 100 route.

At last, the day of the ‘event’ arrived. The logistics of getting up to the Olympic Park for the start, when roads were closed o after 5am,was interesting. I decided not to drive to one of the designated car parks, as this meant I would have to cycle 5 miles to the start, and then cycle the 46 miles, which might have been a bit much. Another option, which I plumped for, was to take a specially laid on train from Richmond to Stratford. My husband kindly drove me to Richmond station for the 5.45am train – we left at 4.45am, as I thought there would be a queue of cars dropping o (there wasn’t) and I had thought the train ride would take 1 hour (it only took 30 mins),so I got there at 6.30am when my start time wasn’t until 9.08am. At the stations, I had to carry my bike down some stairs and at Stratford take the bike up an escalator, which was a bit scary.

At Stratford, lots of other people were there early too, so there were people to chat to and to look after your bike while you popped to the port-a-loo. Participants were put into di erent ‘waves’ to start, and at8am I joined others going into the ‘M’ wave. We were in the ‘wave’for about an hour before we were finally allowed to start. The ‘wave’moved down very slowly towards the start and at one point, there were a couple of port-a-loos. I thought this would be a good time to use one as I didn’t know if there would be any others (there were),and the Scottish lady I was talking to said she would hold my bike for me. After a bit of queuing, I emerged from the ‘loo’ to find that the lady and my bike had completely disappeared. I panicked for a bit as I imagined having to tell all my supporters that I never started the event because I lost my bike, but eventually I found her/it, the‘wave’ having moved down much more quickly than I had thought it would.

I am not an experienced or fast cyclist (average speed 11 mph), and I was worried that I wouldn’t get to Hampton Court (27 miles) in the time allowed, so I didn’t stop at all until I got there as I couldn’t bear to think I might not be able to complete the route. As it was, I need not have worried as there seemed to be lots of people behind me.

After that, I relaxed a bit. However, as there are lots of cyclists taking part in the event it was a bit like cycling in normal tra c as you had to constantly check you

weren’t going to move into someone else by mistake. I saw about 5crashes where this seemed to have happened. Consequently it was dicult to notice the surroundings as you cycled, although I do remember going past Trafalgar Square, the Ritz and the Houses of Parliament (obviously not in that order), and through Kingston market.

There are three ‘hills’ on the route shown on the event map. One in Richmond Park (not that bad), Coombe Lane (I think) which is horrible, and Wimbledon Hill which is horrendous. After Coombe Lane for some reason I thought I had got up Wimbledon Hill – a couple who were also cycling for the Princess Alice Hospice spotted me at one point and slowed down to check if I was ok which was really kind of them – I proudly said I’d got up Wimbledon Hill only to be told I hadn’t got there yet which came as a bit of a shock –when Wimbledon Hill did appear, only bloody mindedness and lots of jelly babies for the sugar hit, got me up there without stopping,which I am quite proud of as lots of people got o and walked. After that the route was ok.

The last five miles were really tough as the back of my neck started to hurt – I have never eaten so many jelly babies and bits of flapjacks as I did during those last five miles. Eventually the Mall came into sight and I finished! Then I collected my medal (a wonderful bit of bling) and retrieved my bag, which had been transported for me from Stratford to the Mall. It took a while to make my way to the other side of Buckingham Palace to be able to cycle down Buckingham Palace Road to Victoria Station (so many people), and I was worried that I wouldn’t be allowed on the train with my bike. But all was ok and I got to Leatherhead even being able to sit down, without being in other people’s way, while holding my bike (I don’t think I couldhave stood at that point for the 45 minute journey).

I am really glad that I took part in the Prudential event, which was very well organized. Also wearing the Princess Alice Hospice cycling vest made a big di erence, as people cheered me on and that really helped me keep going. Did I enjoy it, people ask me? Not sure.It was one of the toughest things I have done, but I enjoyed being able to bomb down the hills knowing that no tra c was going to pull out in front of me (my Garmin said I did 29mph at one point). I am proud that I managed to finish, taking 4.5 hours altogether, and I would again like to thank those who helped me raised over £700 for the Hospice.
Roll on the next challenge!

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