One of them is a seasoned racer and industry expert (as well as Gore Wear ambassador), for the other, completing Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 will mark his first century ride. Equipped with equally fancy BMC Roachmachine 02 Two bikes and Gore Wear kit, the unequal pair Bruce Dalton and his friend and colleague Chris Day head into the rain to conquer the country’s most popular sportive.
3.45am is not a time anyone can willingly view with enthusiasm, parting with the comfort of bed to don Lycra and join the masses to ride around London…not normally my cup of tea. I’ve grown up riding and racing all over the world and in my 15 years in the game, the Prudential RideLondon remains the most challengingly early start for any bike event (obviously depending on your start time). Now we’ve got the worst bit of the day out of the way.
The rest of the day sums up all that is fantastic about cycling. Leaving the hotel with my friend Chris on our matching BMC machines we headed to the start at 4.20am to join the other 26,998 riders reputed to be riding this year’s event. With the anticipated deluge forecast there was palpable tension on the faces of the riders in the start pens, but this did little to dissuade the enthusiasm of most of the riders.
Chris is great friend but a bit of a riding rookie. Nonetheless he has been doing amateur triathlons for the last year and has some great fitness (and results) but needed help with his finesse. That’s why we thought it would be great to ride through the heart of the capital on closed roads together and experience the spectacle of this event.
We rolled out surfing on wheels past the Tower of London, through tunnels and Trafalgar Square soaking up the sights at 40kph. It’s easy to get sucked into the competitive side of this challenge event but it’s not a race and there are no prizes (although curiously everyone was given a silver medal at the finish, so someone must have won).
The conditions were humid and hot for the first hour where our layering strategy felt a bit overkill, but after an hour riding the heavens opened and the wind increased testing our resolve and kit. Chris wore the Optiline C5 outfit and base layer with essential arm warmers. I was in my normal C7 outfit with some custom thigh sleeves I’ve made for wet racing crafted from a pair of old leg warmers. We were both covered with our Goretex cap and Shakedry jackets to complete the warm weatherproof set up. I’ve just got my hands on the new stretch Shakedry and it was noticeable how little it flapped as I pushed on the front for 80km into the wind and rain.
Heading west, conditions got worse as we got into the Surrey Hills. Cresting Leith Hill it looked like many of the amazing volunteers who were helping at the feed stops were borderline hypothermic. Whilst we were battling the driving wind and rain I certainly felt better equipped with the conditions than many of them. The bike’s disc brakes were a noticeable benefit as I slowed my roll down the greasy roads. Couple them with the 28mm Continental tyres that I’d fitted and I’m not sure I’d be willing to go back to riding on the road with rim brakes.
We got to Box Hill in fine spirits after a few Clif Shot Bloks some 5km beforehand in anticipation of the “Hors Categorie” climb. Fortunately, we are from The North and just going to pick up my BMC from the Evans Cycles store in Sheffield puts me up a climb 4 times as long as Box Hill – no problems here guys.
The people make RideLondon what it is: rolling through Kingston, Wimbledon and Putney crowds were out cheering us on and it was fantastic. The riders on the road were chatty once you break the ice by actually saying hi. I rode with people from London, Holland and Wales and we chatted with random strangers that I will likely never meet again sharing a love of the bike.
Rolling down The Mall is a pretty special way to finish any bike ride and I’d like to think that Liz would’ve been looking out of the bedroom window smiling at all of the lovely bike riders riding up the drive. The elation on Chris’s face was obvious: his first 100 miler completed without issue or injury and we had no punctures! Just shows what a bit of perseverance/luck and 6 Clif bars can do. The bikes were faultless from start to finish – no issues with any part of the ride. Only next year can you order the sun @RideLondon?
Over and Out.