Hills in London? Not when you've been training in Glenisla
Having managed to do a fair number of hours over the winter on the turbo, and get out on my bike a few times onto the glen roads, I was feeling alright about the prospect of tackling the 100miles of the Prudential ride London.
After a relatively uneventful drive down to stay with friends in Walton on Thames, on the outskirts of London on the Friday, it was somewhat daunting on the Saturday to have to somehow get to the Excel centre in the East end of the city to register. But, thanks to Boris and his great cycling initiatives, you can now take your bikes on the tube, so after three changes and much carrying up and down stairs, we made it. With 26,500 cyclists entered, it is a mammoth logistical exercise, but all went smoothly. After a couple of hours mooching around the stalls, (yes, I did really need some new over shoes and another top !!) and watching some of the demonstrations, it was time to move on and try and find our hotel.
Emerging in East Ham, after a couple more tube changes, I’d forgotten just how hectic and cosmopolitan London life is, a wee bit of a shock to the system after the somewhat slower pace of life in the glen!! Another shock was the fact that there was a Bollywood style wedding going on at the hotel, which didn’t finish until 2am, so sleeping wasn’t an option, and then the alarm went off at 4am, not ideal preparation!
A brilliant day dawned sunny and warm, and even at 4am it was as warm as the summer we were enduring up in Glenisla. A real treat to set off, at 5am, in just shorts and top without all the other items of clothing normally needed, the couple of miles to the Olympic Park, with the roads incredibly busy for that time of the morning, and a swarm of cyclists appearing from every direction, an amazing sight. Having been waved off by our “celebrity” rider, (we had John Inverdale and Sam Bailey !?! ), and with “our “wave song blasting out, (for some reason the Formula 1 tune by Fleetwood Mac ), we zoomed into the deserted London streets. Totally surreal to go past all the iconic London landmarks with no traffic, St Pauls, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and on out to Hampton Court , through Richmond park, Kingston and on into Surrey. Also for me, passing the Savoy and the Berkeley, where I worked for many a year, brought back many great memories.
The miles flashed by as I was definitely caught up in the excitement of it all, especially with the brilliant support of the thousands of people watching, and most noticeably at the charity support hubs dotted around the course. Soon the hills were upon us, but I have to say, that, in comparison to ours up here, weren’t really too much to worry about. Indeed, the only thing stopping a, no doubt, phenomenal time up Box Hill were all the other cyclists in the way !!!!
Due to a lot of slip steaming, which I know is somewhat frowned upon, I seemed to be going as quickly as I’ve ever done, so with a good time seemingly possible, I dug deep in the last few miles. Through Kingston again, up Wimbledon hill ,over Chelsea bridge, up the King’s road, along the Embankment , past Westminster, under Admiralty arch to the finish on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, magical !!
The effort was well worth while as I just managed, by 9 seconds, to sneak in, in under 5 hours.
After a very enjoyable lunch, it was back to the Mall to see the professional boys finish, which was a great spectacle, and made me realise how incredibly slow we were in comparison !!
A truly great day, even the journey back to Walton, again on the tube, wasn’t too bad, and not too sore on the long drive back to Scotland either.
If you get the chance to do this, take it, as it is a great experience, and was thoroughly enjoyable.
Here’s to 2016 !!!