Prudential Ride London 100
Exactly a year ago, I was watching those crazy cyclists shooting past the gallery in Wimbledon village in the pouring rain. I thought they were mad. Doing a 100 mile bike ride on a day like that? What’s the big fuss?
I’m talking about the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100. Those of you who don’t know why this route is so special, very simple. This event is a lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games. Amateur riders like myself get to cycle on closed roads (no cars, no traffic, no lights), same road as the professionals for a hundred miles from central London to Surrey and back. I’ve just found my registration form, applied for a place at the end of August last year. I hadn’t even had a road bike back then so no idea what I was thinking. Anyway, didn’t get a place through the ballot and my charity b-eat weren’t involved so I gave up on the idea. Until I got an email from the organisers in March, during a holiday to say there was a charity looking for riders. The amount I had to raise did seem realistic and after all it’s for a good cause so I hit the register button. With the help of my amazing friends I managed to hit the required target by June so all I had to was keep my fingers crossed for good weather.
This event was always going to be a fun, getting more miles in the legs sort of ride. After having climbed Denali successfully in June, finishing stage 19 of the Tour de France in July, all I was hoping was to cross the Ride 100 finish sign and not to come last. I’ve never cycled this distance before so I couldn’t even give an idea to my friends when I’d be crossing certain points!
There were over 25,000 riders gathering on Sunday the 7th of August at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Despite being there on my own, the atmosphere as we were edging towards the start line was fantastic. Last bike check (too late Alex too bloody late!) and at 7.10am I rolled out with hundreds of others from my pen, blue M. Straight away after the start I realised adjusting my right shoe cleats the night before and not practising to clip in was a rockie mistake and had to ride 2.5 miles with my left foot clipped in, right desperately trying to get itself into place. Magic moment after a sweaty start, both clipped in I was back in the game. Quite a bizarre experience cycling past places like Knightsbridge, Selfridges where on a usual day you can hardly move from the traffic yet last Sunday it was just us, cyclists on the road pedalling fast and loving every minute.
At mile 20 we were in Richmond Park, I looked at my watch and I did an hour. This point I was really hoping that the field would thin out and I could ride at my own pace but I’m sure all the other 25,000 cyclists thought the same. Cycling through the park was fantastic, it’s where I train quite a bit (both cycling and running) and I ride through it almost every day to work. Next thing I knew we were getting into the beautiful countryside Surrey; cute villages, sheep munching away on nearby hills, some smooth, some not so smooth roads. After a couple of hours of riding, I was excited to get to the real hills and tackle them.
Leith Hill was first which I found quite easy and actually enjoyable, Surrey’s highest point. The descent, as I mentioned in my Etape du Tour blog was going to be a challenge especially surrounded by so many (so and fast) riders. The opposite happened and I was flying downhill. Didn’t tense up, no teeth gritting no handlebar crunching. Couldn’t wait to arrive at the bottom of Box Hill, where I had my very first sportive last year, ‘Legs if steel’. I’ve been back a few times since and loved it. It’s such a stunning ride up on resurfaced roads and four hairpins. No back pain this point and I felt very strong. Shouted at one of the marshals asking where the next feed station was (hadn't stopped for a break at this point) and found out there was a water station coming up, food was a lot further ahead. Did a water bottle check, all fine so I carried on. Of course I missed the third and last feed station. I didn’t really want to stop anyway but how very typical! At mile 82 both water bottles were empty so I stopped briefly to fill one up with water, other with electrolytes, quick pee and back on the road. Psychologically I knew the rest of the ride was going to be even more fun as we
were getting close to Kingston, again roads I know quite well. I particularly enjoyed cycling through Raynes Park and Wimbledon (right past my flat) then up Wimbledon Hill, down Parkside then Putney. I was psyched as my american buddies say!
Crossing Putney Bridge meant one thing; the finish was at touching distance. This is when I looked at my wristwatch and thought I might be able to come under 5h 30mins. No malfunctions, punctures or excruciating back pain so I decided to give it a big last push and pedalled as fast as I could down by the Thames. I remember cycling for about 10minutes thinking why it suddenly got a bit hard. No one came past me for a while and it felt like I was pulling a ton behind me. I turned back and saw about six seven drafting behind me. Then finally a guy pulls up next to me and thanks me for the speedy ride and apologised for the ‘train’. It wasn’t a race I kept telling myself, don’t get upset instead I felt quite flattered!
Finishing at The Mall was just epic. I looked at my watch and knew I did a decent time. I called my friend Nick who was going to pick me up, he hadn’t even left Wimbledon thinking I was going to be another couple of hours, told him not to venture into central London and twenty minutes later I was on the tube on my way home with Rocket and the a finisher medal. Later that day (after some pizza of course) found out I did it in 5:19:47 which I think places me in the top 10% of the women. If I’m lucky enough to ride it again next my goal is to come under 5hours and have as much fun as I did. I would like to say a big thank you to all my friends who chipped in, you made it possible for me to get to start line. Love you guys, you were in my heart and thoughts all day.
[the look on my face when I saw my finishing time..]
© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth