Ride London 2017

Ride London 2017 was my first ever sportive. It is therefore difficult for me to compare it with anything, but I still have a view about what went well, and what can be improved.

Although it’s my first sportive, I have done two big rides before, a half and a full Ironman. You can read more about my first Ironman here.

My first ever Ironman and only other time I have rode 100 miles

I actually wanted to do Ridelondon as part of my training for my second Ironman, which is in 3 weeks. This makes the timings pretty damn good. After 5 years of applying for the ballot I decided this year was the year, and I would raise money for Samaritans. I have an article you can read about it in the Breatheunity zone here.

Unfortunately my training for this did not go to plan. I have ran an awful lot, but a change in work location and family commitments, amongst other things, has meant that training has been limited. In fact instead of the thousands of miles that I should have done over the year, I have done a grand total of 80 miles this year, prior to Ridelondon. So, with all this being said, it was still really important for my Ironman to get this ride under my belt. I had however structured my expectations about how fast I would complete it.

Ridelondon

I was nervous coming to Ridelondon, and this wasn’t helped by the comments I was hearing leading up to the event. The truth is I didn’t know what to expect. I went to the expo on the Thursday and was a little underwhelmed by it. I didn’t stop for long, and went straight to work afterwards.

Collecting my number at Ridelondon expo

Planning the start I realised that I needed to be up for about 3:00 am to get ready and get to the start.

Race day essentials

As always I set my kit out the night before with all my race essentials. I don’t think I really slept at all. Rob picked me up at 3:45, and we made our way to park the car and ride to the start. I didn’t record the journey but this ride was longer than we thought, and must have been 6-7 miles.

Waiting to start

When I finally got to the start it involved a fair bit of waiting. I was Yellow A, but there were lots who started before us. I was towards the back of my wave. I was worried about the congestion, but to be honest it really wasn’t that bad. We spent a few minutes going a bit slow, but were soon up to speed. What I found crazy were the amount of people getting punctures on the course. I counted over 30 people in the first 2 miles.

The course was busy, I was often passed by a big group of cyclist, but I was happy doing my own thing. I was worried about crashing, so rather than taking advantage of the drafting I just kept my space.

I was surprised that for the majority of the first half I kept an average pace of 18-19 mph, which would have seen me finishing in about 5:45. I was never going to achieve this, especially with all the hills, and I am very poor on hills. But this gave me a boost for my Ironman. I have chosen #IMKalmar to take advantage of the flat bike course. I feel confident going into this, despite the lack of training.

Throughout the course, one thing I wasn’t initially impressed with was the water situation. Again I have no sportives to compare this with, but based on the two distance Triathlon I have done, I expected water to be passed to you in water bottles as you ride past. In fairness the course was so busy that if they did it would have been so hazardous, so although it’s not what I expected it is for the best. I only stopped the once, and everyone was very helpful, I filled up my water and got some Clif bars and shot blocs. I always feel better with a bit of Clif inside me.

The second half was all pretty tough. There were numerous hills which led to Leigh Hill, now this is fairly local to me so many have talked about it, but I’ve never done it. This makes Box Hill look look a bump in the road. I’m not the best at hills and was overtaken by many, but I kept going. Numerous people were pushing their bike up the hill, but I stayed on the bike. When we got to Box Hill it genuinely felt easier than normal, Leigh Hill put it in perspective. These weren’t the last of the hills, but the two most significant ones. I reached a max speed of 43 mph. I could have gone faster but a) I was being cautious with many in the road, lots who were not being very careful themselves, b) everyone around me kept going slow and not leaving enough room for me to go around.

I would say I really enjoyed Ridelondon, until about mile 80. It was around here (I think) that we merged with the 46 mile race. It was too busy after the merge, and frankly dangerous. Although I was being overtaken regularly, we had space and the pace was fine for everyone. I don’t know how the 46 was organised, but there was a real mixed ability here, and many were Zigzagging in front of other riders. I slowed and kept space. I saw a few crashes, one which saw someone dangerously move slowly in front of me, and carried on going to the right. I have no idea why she was doing this, there was no one in front of her. She clipped the front wheel of some guy and he flipped right over with the bike attached. She carried on going.

I was going to stop but when I looked back it was already crowded with people. I told a couple of marshals that someone had crashed (as I had previously for the other crashes I saw). The first just glared at me, the second said just keep going, and it wasn’t until the third that I got the sense of urgency and he sprung to action. In Putney I saw someone laying on the road with a neck brace and ambulance on their way.

I can’t help but think that the organisers have put people at risk by making it so congested with mixed abilities after the merge. On top of this from Kingston at about 85 miles, they kept stopping cyclist to let people cross. Yes that’s right, they stopped us like a traffic light to let people cross, this happened to me 6 times in the last 15 miles. So at the point of congestion, they created more congestion, which resulted in people acting dangerously. Towards the end they had a couple of the official crossings where they split the road. Why didn’t they do this for all the crossings. I seriously would never expect riders to be stopped like this.

As you can sense, I did not enjoy the last 20 miles. It didn’t help that I had a sore lower back, which is a real issue for me, and this slowed me down. I am really going to have to address this problem. Something new was a numbness in my toes, this got progressively worse until the point that I had to loosen my shoes. This seemed to ease it a little bit.

The finish stretch along the Mall to Buckingham Palace

I slowed in the middle, but picked up my pace once the hills levelled. I managed a bit of a sprint along the Mall, and finished in 6:31:07. I actually think I could get this under 6 with a bit of training, but I’m more than happy with this. It has given me the confidence I need for my Ironman. The best thing is, although my bike hurt, I was able to stand up straight, which is better than last time. I was also able to cycle to the car park.

The bling

I must say, the medal was very good, and chunky. The lack of goody bag was disappointing, but Clif were on hand to give out some bars. I’m not in a particular rush to do this event again, I do feel it was dangerous after the merge, but before that it was great. I may look at some other sportives to see how they compare. I think it is well worth completing, just be very careful out there.

Were you there? Do you agree with the comments, please feel free to comment with your views. I will also be adding a Racecheck review, take a look and add yours here.


12 thoughts on “Ride London 2017

  1. Good write-up Paul. Full disclosure- I raced a bike for 10 years and used to be on the Board at Scottish Cycling. I’m not a fan of sportives. I’ve only ever done one, the Etape Caledonia in 2011, and it was the most scary day I’ve had on a bike! Like you, I saw a lot of crashes, mostly caused by people inexperienced riding in a bunch. I ended up riding round on my own and vowed never to do another. No-one should be going home from an event like this in an ambulance, but many do. The problem is that these events are popular now, and very profitable for the organisers. Mass-participation cycling events have become a ‘thing’, however unlike running events, there’s much more risk of serious injury. It’s great that so much money will be raised for charity, but for me the risk of injury is just far too high. Good luck for your IM!

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    1. Thank you. Got to swim tonight although I’m considerably off where I should be. Training hasn’t gone to plan, but there is always next year right 😜

      Yes it was just too busy, and I was over cautious because of this. I’m sure there were many crashes which just didn’t need to happen IMO. It’s worth doing, but you need to be extra vigilant at all times.

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  2. Good write up, mostly fair comments but a couple of points;
    They did state (I don’t remember where I read it), that you would need to take bottles as there would only be taps on the water barrels.
    They did state you would need to stop on occasions – whilst the closed roads were great it’s only fair to let local residents cross the roads. Where possible they did it one half at a time (I saw this in London on the way out), but sometimes (due to road layout), it’s just not possible.
    I think (from the tone), you were a bit down in the last 20 miles which coloured your views. I was feeling broken at 80 miles but stopped at Kingston hub (85miles), and got my second wind after Wimbledon hill (drafting a big guy on the flat for about 5 miles helped). As a result I loved the last 8 miles or so.
    I agree there were too many riders and too many inexperienced however I don’t know how they could limit that fairly – any qualification on that would rule out both you and I (it’s only my second sportive), and also would rule out many of the charity riders which make up a lot of the atmosphere).

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    1. Thank you Mark and thank you for your comments. You are right, the points about the water I just didn’t read and as I said, just didn’t know what to expect .

      With the route it’s great you had a good ride. I take your point about having a bad back etc, but this didn’t distort my view, I have spoken to many who had a similar experience after the merge. Likewise I’ve spoken to many who didn’t. This very much depended on time of start and your speed.

      The way they closed with split road could have been done elsewhere. They were stopping cyclist too often, I got stopped numerous times in last 20 miles, one time I was stopped, they let some through, and stopped again at same point. This could be improved. The point that I merged with 46 was dangerous and people were crashing. That is a fact, but again I think this wasn’t the case for all. With over 30k riders we will all have different experiences.

      The waves start was fantastic. This event is probably too big, but you are right, any elitist system would rule me out. I don’t have the answers, but I think working on the merge, timings, and crossings could improve the experience for all.

      Overall I had a great day, it’s amazing to take on London with closed roads 👍

      What do you have planned next?

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  3. Great recap! I would consider RideLondon, but to be honest, I would be one of those slower/inexperienced riders making things difficult for people like you. Do they put people into waves based on expected finishing time? If not, perhaps that’s an option.

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    1. I’m not exactly an experienced rider myself. I also don’t blame “slower” riders. It’s full of mixed abilities and that is great. The waved start was great and allows for mixed abilities. The key issue in my opinion was the merge of the 100 and 46, making it too busy and the abilities here were not aligned.

      It was dangerous for all, regardless of ability, and for all the new riders not paying attention to surroundings, there were more experienced riders going far too fast for the surroundings.

      I think it’s a great event to take part in but think it needs to be completed with extreme caution

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