Effortless….if only that was true!
After 6 hours of driving from Newcastle (where I was at BIM Show Live 2017 with bike in tow – a blog post on this to follow shortly), I arrived in Croydon about 11pm feeling knackered, with the prospect of about 5 hours sleep before I needed to be up and on the road again – just this time not in the car.
5am came too fast and I stepped out of bed and fumbled around until I had managed to find where I had taken out my contact lenses whilst doing my best effort to fall over the collection of stuff I had left at the bottom of the bed.
The purpose of today’s ride was to act as a ‘trial day’ at MIPIM. I had certainly learnt lesson 1 – get your kit sorted, clearly laid out and in order before you go to sleep the night before, no matter how tired you are. I had been warned.
Setting off to the Greyhound Inn at nearby Carshalton, I was grateful for being able to get a lift. The thought of having to lug my day bag on my bike for the circa 6 miles was too much at this time of the morning – I needed to man up!
Stepping out into the cold morning air of the car park, I was met by the familiar sound of cyclists kitting up, clip clopping around the tarmac, rummaging in bags to find the perfect pair of gloves on what was set to be a day of changeable weather and nearly falling over trying to put on overshoes – the last point may have been just me…
Once kitted, time to roll into the Greyhound Inn, get registered and tuck into a cup of coffee and, in my case, a full English vegetarian breakfast – like the highly-tuned athlete I am…
Groups assigned, coffee drank and numerous reminders from the ever helpful Club Peloton team, it was time to get back out in the cold for our rider briefing and to load our day bags into our designated ride lead vehicle.
This ride had been organised by Club Peloton as a Cycle to MIPIM training ride, ideally suited to giving a small flavour of the kind of experience the #CycleToMIPIM trip will provide. Each group (of which there were 2 made each of 35 riders) has an event director, lead vehicle, 9 ride captains, medic and mechanical van – a rather impressive set up.
The planned ride was to take us out to Brighton via Ditchling Beacon, across the top of the South Downs, through Devil’s Dike and back to London – circa 100 miles with 1600 metres of climbing…against the elements, of which there were a few – and not just the weather!
circa 100 miles with 1600 meters climbing awaited us
From setting off at 7:45am, it was clear very quickly that progress was going to be slow due to the time of day, traffic and of course everyone getting used to being on the road in such a big group. Rush hour ‘beaten’, we were soon out in the countryside, scaling some small bumps in the road early to wake the legs and lungs and keeping an eye on conditions above.
Moving my way around the bunch as we passed through the countryside, the usual icebreaker questions between new riders could be heard;
“So, is this your first MIPIM?”
“Think we will be lucky with the weather?”
“Just how bad is this Ditchling Beacon?”
And of course, the exchange of names that if you are anything like me went in our ear and straight out the other. I’m thinking of making a name sticker for my helmet…it would be great if others could too!
The ride was split into 4 sections to replicate the ‘staged’ approach to the main Cycle to MIPIM event across 6 days. The first and last stops provided an opportunity for coffee with the middle stop unsurprisingly providing lunch! I can say we were in no way going to go hungry or thirsty on the ride – I have never eaten so much over the course of 100 miles!
Before long the morning coffee stop and come and gone, friendships had already been formed and the group settled into a rhythm on the march towards the infamous Ditchling Beacon climb. Having all kept together on the smaller slopes in the morning, we were given the nod to be able to ride at our chosen pace up Ditchling and asked to re-group at car park at the top.
As the metaphorical flag dropped, 4 riders shot off the front and myself and a few others took chase. I felt good. I had sat in the bunch for much of the ride thus far and my HR had not tipped far over 120bpm (apart from when a car got rather too close for my liking on a descent earlier!) so it was time to go full gas.
From training I knew the effort that was required to maintain a good pace up the climb. The first challenge was to try and get a wheel to tow me up the first section. A bit of out the saddle sprinting brought me up to the initial chasing bunch and from there we started to tap out the climb. Some riders starting going backwards and just as I was about to do the same a rider came past giving me the impetus to jump on their wheel and keep the power down, even if my legs were screaming by this point.
Lesson 2 of the day, I had been warned about the false summit. Did I listen? Nope. But alas, after realisation I couldn’t quite stop yet I powered through, around the final bend with the car park in sight.
It was at this point I spotted Emma from the Club Peloton team taking photos. As you know, us cyclists are a vain bunch. It didn’t matter how much my legs hurt, or if my heart was in my chest, I fixed up, got out the saddle and tried to make it look as effortless as possible in the hope it was captured on camera…I know sad eh.
But for all that posing, I was very happy with my effort – a 6:05 over 1.4km at an average of 9% with an estimated power of 342 watts.
After re-grouping in the car park at the top, it was time to tackle some cross winds going across the South Downs at Devil’s Dike. At some points I was physically leaning into the wind trying not to get thrown off the bike into the adjacent ditch…or even worse another rider. In hindsight, 60mm deep section aero wheels are not the best for riding in in England, in February…
Legs sore, lungs burning…
Putting Devil’s Dike to task it was time for lunch. A circa 15-20km cruise (of which most seemed downhill) to the Singing Hills Golf Course. A feast awaited at lunch. Vegetarian lasagne with garlic bread and mixed salad – an absolute treat and more than enough – but to top it there was also sticky toffee puddling with custard!
Lesson 3 of the day – you can sometimes eat too much on a ride…
Food glorious food…and too much of it!
There was not much to report between the lunch break and the next coffee stop. I was regretting eating so much and the weather had begun to look like it was closing in. Tales of the ride so far from elsewhere in the bunch circulated and catching up with others you had met in the morning kept the ride on track.
Arriving at the last stop of the day, the heavens opened. Despite trying to hide in the pub for as long as possible there was no way out – rain jackets adorned and lights switched on with were homeward bound. About 35km to go.
And those first 20km or so passed quite quickly, despite the weather. As I mentioned to a fellow rider, it could have been worse, we would of still been in work and not on our bikes. At least we were out enjoying ourselves…well at least until about the final 15km where we encountered the same problems we did in the morning…traffic, traffic, traffic and ever increasing amounts of rain!
Slowly trundling and filtering where possible through the London commuter traffic of Reigate and neighbouring suburbs, we rolled into Carshalton at about 5pm and descended upon the pub to get dried off. It was at this point I felt for the people who had ridden to the starting point. I was glad my lift was on its way to pick me up…
A fantastic day out, a real insight into the organisation that goes behind putting on the Cycle to MIPIM event and it has only made me more excited to be a part of such a fantastic experience and the opportunity to raise money for an extremely worthwhile cause.