This weekend was the Mitie London Revolution, a two-day circumnavigation of London run by Threshold Sports, the guys who will be running the Ride Across Britain in September. It’s billed as a good training event to see how you cope with two big days back-to-back, and also to experience the campsite arrangements that we’ll be living in between Land’s End and John O’Groats. As I’d ridden a few stages last year, and had a kind offer of a bed for the night locally, I was just signed up for the “ride only” package. To be in the right place at the right time, I’d arranged my Friday meeting in Holland to be a flight out-and-back from Heathrow. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, when you’re recovering from back pain, cramming yourself into a plane, pulling out luggage at unnatural angles and generally doing the travel thing isn’t best preparation. My back, that had been gradually getting less painful, wasn’t in a good place on Friday night. However, riding around Brian’s street was do-able, so I thought “in for a penny, in for a pound.”
Saturday morning was a quick dash around the North Circular Road to Lee Valley stadium, and efficient registration process, and a meet-up with Neal and Anthony. The Flanders dream-team was back together.
On the starting line our Dulux team was grouped up with a big bunch of folk in London Pride jerseys. The route organiser, Andy Cook, spotted us, and seeing us in team kit from last year’s Ride Across Britain, with a nod and a wink let us out onto the road. The initial ride out through Enfield was a series of traffic lights, traffic and junctions, but rather quickly we found ourselves out in the countryside and outside the M25. Skirting Hertford and Welwyn Garden City on lovely back-roads, we arrived at our first feed station at the little village of Kimpton.
The route thus far had been “lumpy” and this theme was to continue through the day. The route had been changed from the previous year, and more climbing had been added (advertised at 1200m, but at the end of the day, it was closer to 1900m).
Four hours in at Little Gaddesden Neal insisted we stop for an unauthorized food stop at a nice little pub. This broke things up nicely, but did get us some cat-calls from other passing cyclists. A family on the next table asked where we had cycled from, and were very impressed when we told them “East London.” Others in the bar thought we might be on the Chiltern Hundred, where cyclists were doing timed laps of the Chilterns (though why you’d stop for a leisurely pub lunch on such an event didn’t register).
Onwards, and more hills. At this point we started to see people walking up the more challenging hills. As we headed to our second feed station at Princes Risborough, both water bottles were empty. The day had turned into a scorcher.
We were now heading back onto familiar territory from my time working in Slough, and it didn’t seem long before we were crossing the M40 and descending to Marlow. The route took us up the zig-zags onto Winter Hill. A year ago when training with Brian, I’d suggested we ride up this route, and his reply can’t be reproduced here. However, a year on and 90 miles into our ride, we just got on with it. We knew this was the last major climb, and there would be a fast run along the Drift Road to the finish at Ascot Racecourse.
So we did it, we had a celebratory beer at the end, and by the time we were back at Brian’s, washed and fed, it was time for bed.
The down-side was that the following day my back was giving me problems. While it would have been great to ride Day 2 in perfect weather (too hot, maybe), I decided letting my back rest and recover was more important, and ducked out. Anthony rode Day 2, and texted me at around 10:30 telling me it was an easier day and he was already on top of Box Hill. He later texted me again telling me he had to walk up the climb onto the North Downs (many did) and the ride into and through London wasn’t too enjoyable (lots of traffic lights breaking up the flow). Kudos to him for completing it though!
So now back at work, and rode to/from work, with Strava reporting a handful of PBs, so something must have improved over the weekend. Just waiting for the back to fully recover now – hopefully no more flights for a month or two!