After all the endurance training by the team, the event had come around quickly and the weekend started with us all descending upon London to finalise the registration process. We were all greeted by cheery volunteers dressed in orange at the Excel arena, where we picked up our pack of race numbers and there was also some last minute shopping at the expo, where Cookie and Mr Secretary took full advantage!
The excitement of the night before commenced in trendy Shoreditch with a pizza and a couple of beers, then it progressed over to the beach rugby at Finsbury Square. Cookie had decided this was the best location to settle the nerves with real ale and real men in speedos! Afterwards, rather than head over to a curry house before bedtime like last year, we decided to take the sensible approach and head back to the hotel for 11pm, before Digger turned into a pumpkin.
The alarm was set for 5am and Will was woken up with a bang on the bedroom wall from Digger who was keen to get us on the road sharpish. Mr Secretary was feeling very grumpy this early on a Sunday morning, but after porridge in a pot, bananas and a flapjack, everyone was carbed up and ready to go. The journey to the start line was 5 miles with plenty of other cyclists to follow; some falling over due to not clipping out in a sleepy state, punctures on the side of the road and a few walks of shame from passers by.
We managed to meet Rich at the meeting point in the Olympic Park and spent 45 mins queuing in a constant line of 26,000 cyclists which started at 6.00am, with the final riders away by 9.00am. This sets a new standard for group riding! We eventually got to the start line where each wave of starters are asked for their starting music of choice and we cycled away to the tune of……..what was it?
The first 40 miles of the ride were fairly flat through the Limehouse Link tunnel, past the sights of central London and on through Richmond Park towards the Surrey villages. All was going well until we hit our first delay of the day at Pyrford village. There was a reported crash just down the road and one of the riders had to get airlifted to hospital, so we came to a stop for nearly an hour and then had a mile walk in cleats before we set off again!
The middle section of the ride included the infamous Leith & Box Hills, which were packed with cyclists due to the earlier stoppage. It was a challenge to get up them but we made it and re-grouped at the top for some nutrition and to fill up our bottles & free snacks at one of the stations.
The rest of the ride was all downhill and rolling from here apart from a cheeky little climb through Wimbledon village at 90 miles. It was great to finish coming back through London past some iconic sights and finally down The Mall to the finish line heading towards the Queen’s palatial residence. At the end we were presented with our impressive medals and we all felt a real sense of achievement.
There was great support throughout the ride with people lining the route and Team Wheelers really enjoyed the closed roads riding experience. We would recommend it to anyone in the club to enter next year.