This is a challenge you'll never forget
Hospice supporter Rob Luscombe writes about his Prudential Ride London cycle challenge.
The Ride London was a hard 100 miles, made much easier knowing I was supporting Thames Hospice.
The day started well - a breakfast of instant porridge (not many hotels serve breakfast at 5am) before we headed off on the five-mile ride to the start, at London’s Olympic Park. Gladly that passed without incident, but I counted 12 people fixing punctures on that short journey. The start area was very busy when we arrived, so much so that my godson couldn’t get into his start pen, which was 16 minutes before mine (so we cheekily jumped over a fence into the next one - the bonus being we could ride out together!). The ride out was to the tune of Sweet Caroline, chosen by event participant Lucy, who was doing the ride on her 30th birthday. Not many people do a 100-mile bike ride on their 30th birthday, but then I suppose it takes all sorts!
Riding around London with no traffic is very strange, but great fun. On the early stages, in the City district, it felt a little like a zombie apocalypse movie - luckily without the zombies! We entered the 1.1-mile-long Limehouse Link tunnel under grey, cloudy skies, however exited it greeted by bright sunshine, which then held for most of the day. The rest of the outbound London section was a showcase of the best our wonderful Capital has to offer; the Tower of London, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, St James’s Palace, The Ritz, Hyde Park Corner, Harrods and he Natural History Museum. A swift left turn at Fuller’s Brewery and we entered the suburbs, and into Richmond Park. I was pleased with myself to this point, having kept up with my 18-year-old godson. But on the first slight incline, he was off and away - only to be seen again briefly at a water stop and the finish.
A pleasantly uneventful ride got me to 37 miles and my first water stop. It was here last year I was delayed by 90 minutes due to a major accident – luckily no such incident this time. On recharging my bottles and eating a quick sandwich, it was into the 30-mile long hilly section. Newlands Corner was first - quite long, but offering stunning views from the top; although as I caught my breath on the long, fast descent, there was little time to take them in. I was pleased to easily make the cut-off for Leith Hill, which I missed last year. At the bottom of the Hill it was great to get encouragement from another Thames Hospice rider - amazing really as there were only six of us among the 25,000 participants! Leith Hill is very narrow and steep, with a 17% incline in places. Unfortunately, this meant me having to walk most of it due a traffic jam on the hill. I have ridden it twice this year, and to be honest riding it is easier than walking it; although it was nice to be offered some cake by a spectator! Another fast decent took me into Dorking, then to the foot of the iconic Box Hill. I was happy to do it once, rather than the 9 times the men did it in the 2012 Olympics!
That was the major hills over with, and I was onto the finish - mainly through beautiful countryside, where at every village people had come out to cheer the riders on. Many made a party of it; barbeques were out and beer and wine was flowing. Cruising through English villages to the sound of cheers and cowbells made the day extra special. Macmillan Cancer Support also ride in green, so it was nice to get loud cheers from their supporters as I approached!
After the last rise up to Wimbledon Common (where I didn’t see any Wombles!) it was downhill all the way. I made excellent progress through Putney and Fulham up to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, when my bike started making an awful noise and became difficult to ride. Less than a mile from the finish I had broken a rear spoke, just at the hub. I now had three options:
a) Take the wheel apart and remove the broken spoke
b) Remove the broken spoke using brute force near the rim allowing the wheel to turn
c) Carry the bike over the finish line
I opted for b and gingerly rode on. Option C, while slower, would have got me a much bigger cheer coming down the Mall to the finish, but that only occurred to me when I got home!
The slow last mile down Whitehall, past Downing Street, back through Trafalgar square and through Admiralty Arch, got me to the finishing straight towards Buckingham Palace. No sprint finish on my broken wheel, but it was wonderful and emotional to see my family and friends cheering from the side. I had completed 100 miles; a tired, sore, but happy man.
Many people benefit from the work of Thames Hospice, which made a difficult challenge easier for me. The ballot is now open for next year's ride, if you're looking for a challenge this is one you'll never forget.