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RideLondon - Surrey 100, aka 86 miles of rain and wind

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The route was shortened to leave out the hills, but 86 miles of cycling in the remnants of a hurricane still proved an exhilarating challenge.
Ex-Hurricane Bertha was best performer at RideLondon
Ex-Hurricane Bertha was best performer at RideLondon

For several days before the event the forecast downpour grew worse and worse. 

Hurricane Bertha had been downgraded to 'Tropical Storm', then 'extra-tropical storm', but she still had quite a bit of wind and rain to offer the cyclists when she arrived, perfectly timed for the middle of the RideLondon sportive event, which I was riding to raise money for CTC.

I don't particularly enjoy my 5-mile commute in torrential rain, so the idea of 20 times that distance did not fill me with joy.

So, while disappointed that we wouldn't be taking in Leith Hill and Box Hill, once we got into the rain, I can't say I was that sorry to lose the best part of an hour's exposure to the elements.

Breakfast with champions

I was privileged enough to start the day not huddled in a pen trying to stay warm, but with breakfast in the Olympic Park Velodrome in the company of Stephen Roche, 1987 Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and World Champion, who gave me a few tips for the day on pacing and dealing with the wet conditions.

My ride was greatly aided by starting tucked into the wheel of Chris Boardman, who pulled a little group of us out of London at 40km/h into a strong headwind, courteously edging aside the slower riders in our path. By the time we got to Hampton Court, drizzle had turned to rain, and the rain had turned into a torrential downpour.

I lost Chris Boardman and Martin Gibbs, the UCI Director-General, on the way up the only slight hill on the route - the frenzied pace and overtaking through very narrow puddled road edges proved too much for me. 

What would have been a scenic ride through the Surrey Hills became a sodden slog, but once you were soaked through, a bit more water - from the sky or another's tyre - made no difference. In places, the whole road was flooded, and one had to risk the prospect of an underwater pothole - something I've had the misfortune to experience before.

Turning the corner at Dorking put the wind behind us and we thundered back into London. The rain began to abate, and the sun seemed even to contemplate making an appearance.

A deflating moment

Along the way, I watched with pity the hundreds of people mending their punctures by the side of the road, and waited for my turn.

As the miles ticked down, I thought: can I get away with having no punctures at all? Sadly not - with just a mile to go, I had that sinking feeling. By that stage it was actually sunny, but my hands were cold and wet, making the repair not my speediest work.

I rolled on for the last mile through blissfully empty Parliament Square, up Whitehall and past my adoring fans (I'm pretty sure they were all there for me) to the finish in 4.20, at an average speed of just over 20 mph. 

Without my puncture, I might have been able to edge in just before Chris Boardman (who, to be honest, was treating it as a gentle pootle - backpack and all!). As it was, I finished before Stephen Roche - maybe next time I'll offer him some advice...?

The best part of the weather? It's unlikely that the event will ever take place in worse conditions. And, at times, flying round corners with the cheers from the crowds, it was actually fun.

Thanks so much to everyone who so kindly sponsored me and donated to support CTC.

 

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