Tuesday 15 August 2017

Ride London - my favourite biking event

A winning weekend: Podium for the Ride London Classique (Lotte Lepisto, Coryn Rivera, Lisa Brennauer)

So we've just had Prudential Ride London a few weeks ago, and before I even had time to say "Can I get a post-race massage" the ballot opened for the 2018 event, and thousands have already applied for a place!

I must say this is my favourite cycling event. It's a great weekend of biking in London - highly convenient for someone like me who is getting lazier with age, and less willing to travel too far events.

These days I much prefer signing up for events that I can cycle to. This year my ride up to the start of the Ride London 100, at the Olympic Park was straightforward, if a little wet, and really early. (I set off at 4.30 am to make my 6.48 start time.)

I love the ride in as I spot more and more people along the way - leaving from Anerley, then up through Penge, Catford, Lewisham, Greenwich. It's like a snowflake of bikers that gradually grows into a snowball that rolls through the foot tunnel and comes out at the Isle of Dogs. I tend to get a bit hazy about which way to go once I am in East London, but there are no worries as all I need to do is to follow the peloton as it winds its way up through Poplar, Mile End, Hackney and Stratford.

Considering that I'm going to be among 28,000 other cyclists, the start area is always pretty quiet and civilised. You hand your bag into the truck, carry out any last minute bike adjustments with the provided tools and bike pump, then go to the loo. And there's hardly even any queue for that either.

Then we get going to the sound of some motivational music. The MC gives our wave a choice of tunes - either "Walking on Sunshine" or "Mr Blue Sky". It seems that the organisers didn't get the chance to make any last minute changes to their playlist in light of the weather, as the choices are all around sunny days even though the skies are look grey and angry on this July morning! We end up setting off to the sound of the Electric Light Orchestra song, which I guess gives you an idea of the demographic of the riders - not so much MAMILs but MOMILs (much older men in Lycra)! The people in the wave ahead of us had "Start me Up", so I am guessing that must have been full of VOMILs (very old men in Lycra) - albeit folks with a decent taste in music!

Then we speed through the empty streets on our day-long odyssey from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the Queen Elizabeth central London residence (aka Buckingham Palace) via South-west London and the Surrey Hills.

My ride, like last year, was largely fun, with people out cheering us on along the roadside, bunting in towns like Dorking, Leatherhead, and Kingston-on-Thames. Also what hadn't changed was how tough it was to climb up Leith Hill, and also how I crawled up Box Hill compared to the other times when I ride that slope.

The feedstation at Westcott is always a great relief, and it was very tempting to stay and sit on one of the deckchairs and watch the giant screen. There was even life-size chess to play as well. But I have to push on, and get back to The Mall in time to interview people and do my journalism work.

All smiles at the finish line

Also, this year, like last year I wore eye-catching kit care of Primal Europe, and I got a lot of cheers from like Go Girl, love the armwarmers etc.

So yes, nothing changes when I do this event, even that cramp in legs that I get as I try and charge down the Mall to the finish line! It's always an enjoyable day out. The only real change for me was that my time was half an hour quicker than last year. Maybe next year I will be a little quicker and cramp free.

My media pass for the weekend
Other things to do on that weekend are the Free Cycle on the Saturday, which is one of the most pleasant 10 miles you can do around Central London as there are lots of bike hub stops with sound systems, refreshments, and different demos of cycling to try out.

Then of course there are the pro races - I usually report on the elite race (The Ride London Classique) for Cycling Weekly or Total Women's Cycling on the Saturday, and then on Sunday I go and say hi to the other journos who are down for the weekend, then hang back to see the end of the men's race (Ride London Classic).

This year I was also able to attend the press conferences for the pro races. The conference for the Classique was held at Imperial College and I was able to grab a few words with two of my favourite pro racers, Marianne Vos and Jolien d'Hoore.

Matt Barbet interviews Michael Matthews

The following day I was in Docklands to see if I could speak to Michael Matthews, who was there along with Elia Viviani. It wasn't quite so easy to speak to them, but it was good to at least introduce myself to the Sunweb Team. It was also nice to catch up with Matt Barbet, Channel 5 news anchorman, and cycling presenter/enthusiast.

The Ride London weekend is always a nice time to be in London. There's a fun carefree, and car-free atmosphere, you can catch up with loads of biking enthusiasts, and something about having traffic-free roads allows you to appreciate the beauty of central London.

I would definitely recommend bringing your bike down for it, even if it's just for the Free Cycle.

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Ride London!

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