domingo, 31 de julio de 2016

RideLondon 100, my first experience

A week travelling in Kenya. Taking a flight on Friday at 23:30 and landing in Heathrow on Saturday at 6:30 is not precisely the best preparation to ride the London 100 with the simple plan of "haven't ridden it before so don't have a target time but will try to ride non-stop and as fast as possible".

Specially when you consider that after the flight the night from Friday to Saturday the night from Saturday to Sunday I woke up at 2:45!!! had a good breakfast and rode the 35km to the start. But hey, I don't complain. Riding to the start was a nice warm up and I was looking forward to riding my first Ride London 100. 

I was in the first wave with a bunch of fellow Kingston Wheelers. The start was delayed a few minutes and we were sent off at 6:04.

I was kind of expecting a fast start but the speed of the first miles really surprised me. It was full speed from the start, sprinting after every corner. It looked to me that more than one was not having in mind we still had 100 miles (160km) ahead. 

By the time we got to Kingston, only one hour into the ride, I felt the need for a pee stop. Stopping would have meant to loose contact with this peloton, there was no way I could ride my way back considering the speed at which we were riding. 

Now time to switch to my long distance bike and switch to 1001 Miglia preparation mode. The idea of taking a pee on the go crossed my mind but after the Milan San Remo experience it was immediately discarded, it would have been suicidal. I ended up making a deal with myself, I would stop after the first climb (Newlands corner).

Before the first climb came I started to feel the effort of the first hour and a half and had a flow of negative feelings. "I'm not going to make it", "I'm too tired", "This is too hard", "Legs are not strong", etc. I ended up making another deal with myself, "wait until Newlands corner and we will see".

And Newlands corner arrived. And I happened to be well situated near the front of the peloton. I have ridden this hills two or three times lately and that helped to pace myself. By the time I made it to the top I was still in contact with the front of the peloton. Forget about the negative feelings and forget about the pee stop. I was over the moon, I'll stop when I'm dropped. [Now, looking at the numbers I see I did a PB, both in time and power, in that climb; still have not decided if that is a good or a bad signal]

After Newlands the climb from Abinger to Holmbury came, but this is a constant drag not very steep and sitting in the peloton I managed to climb it somehow "relaxed". Straight after that one, Leith Hill came. 

I feared Leith Hill. It is a hill I don't like. It is one of those hills that change the gradient a few times, now easy(ish) now very steep and I feel they don't suit me. I never managed to get a pace I feel comfortable with. 

Again I was well positioned but that didn't change the fact that soon enough riders started to pass me left and right. I didn't worry to much but I new the front of the bunch was going away. I was being dropped. But the time I got to the top I was at my limit but Leith does not descent strait away, there is a flatish section, I thought that if I pushed hard it I could make contact with the front. No way I was going to stop for that pee. 

I tried but I couldn't. Looking at the numbers now I see I did my PB in Leith Hill, both in time and power, so it is no surprise I couldn't... now. Because at the time I didn't have a high opinion of my performance. More riders passed me in the flat section and I couldn't even jump on their wheel. I kept pedalling, which is good, but I wasn't really happy about myself.

It took me a while to get in contact with the riders that had passed me at the top of Leith. They were descending faster than me and it was only when I felt comfortable with the road and the speed that I managed to get in contact with them. We were 5 riders, in my mind there were two groups in front of us. A group of 10/15 riders around 30 seconds that we could see every now and them and the front group ahead of that one.

We didn't communicate, I took a couple of turns in the front to see if that spiked the interest of working together but we were quite anarchic in the turns so I decided to save my legs and wait for Box Hill.

When Box Hill came we dropped two riders. A London Dynamo rider took the lead, I sat on his wheel and another rider sat on mine. After the first turn I saw Richard H as we were passing him he was kind enough to offer me a bottle and a gel I said no to both, I had plenty of energy drinks and gels, that part I had well covered. I asked him for a pair of fresh legs but that he could not offer. In the second turn he let us go and before the third turn the Dynamo rider got in contact with the group that was riding in front of us, with me on his wheel, not sure about the other rider. I took a second to thank and congratulate him for his effort; catching up with that group was great to keep riding at good pace. ["Only" my 4th best time but again my power PB].

My hopes of riding fast did not materialise, we tried to ride a paceline but the group was too big, there were too many turns and too many riders opted for just sit. No wonder the front group of the second wave caught us, which was good news because the pace increased very quickly. Time for me to sit in the peloton, relax and enjoy the ride until Wimbledon hill.

I took the opportunity to say hello to a few riders, enjoyed crossing Kingston and all the cheers of the spectators. The sun was shining in the sky and I was feeling great. 

When we approached Wimbledon hill I saw Rupert riding slowly on the left hand side. He was in the front group so I thought he had a puncture and was waiting for our group to catch him. I moved to the left hand side and as we passed him I something like "go, go, go Rupert", not very original, I know.

After Wimbledon Hill, a tiny bump I don't think deserves to be called "hill", we were a few kilometres away of the finish line, I new the route and I was feeling well, at least compared with how hard the group was riding, time to move to the front and contribute to the speed of the group. 

The finish line came a bit as a surprised. Straight after the finish line we were given a finisher bag, a few meters later we were given a finisher medal and after that the bag we had dropped at the start. In just 200 metres and a few seconds I was sorted out. Very, very efficient.

A happy finisher
I don't have any personal reference to compare with but considering I did power PB in the three climbs and I hit my power PB all the way from 1:30 to 9:00. Official time was 04:02:57 which means I have finished 97th out of 25,784 registered riders (top 99.6%) AND this has been my longest ever no-pee stop ride!!!! I think I can be reasonably happy with my effort (8th among the Kingston Wheelers though)...

If you had read this blog before you probably know I now have the objective of doing this ride in less than 4 hours. I shouldn't be allowed to enter these events for my own sanity.

Take care
Javier Arias González

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