It’s almost time to buckle up for this year’s Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 (a clue of what’s to come). Yes, you guessed it; this 100-mile route from London to Surrey makes for a cycling challenge like no other.
Of course, we can tell you everything you need to know about this unforgettable event, but we know that no one can tell you what to expect from an experience better than someone who has experienced it for themselves! With that in mind we’re reflecting on the ventures of one of last year’s Ride London participants, Martyn, who kindly told us all about his Team Revitalise Ride London adventure.
Written by Martyn Eggleton, a 2017 Team Revitalise Ride London participant
Memories of my time as a volunteer
I spent a few weeks over the years volunteering at Sandpipers, the charity’s respite holiday centre in Southport. They provide a real holiday experience for disabled people and carers and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Still after 24 years, I remember the smile of Mary, who I worked with during my second year. She had been the sole carer for her husband who had Alzheimer’s for a long time, and their visit to Sandpipers was her first break in over five years. I got such joy from helping them to make new, fun memories together and it was wonderful.
Getting back into contact
When the chance to help by doing something I was already interested in doing came up, I was on the phone straight away. The only issue being, I wasn’t really keeping up with riding my bike. A few weeks before, it was a nice sunny day and I’d decided to ride my bike between the two schools where I work a few times. I’d only managed 30 miles in six months, according to my tracking app, so I thought about doing Ride London in 2018. I spoke to Revitalise’s Events Team and decided to take three weeks to see if it was doable this year, as at the time I had sixteen weeks to go!
Soon enough I had rode to Conisbrough and back in a day, roughly 50 miles of off road trails, and decided I could give it a good go. So I found a 16 week training plan and started. Since April, I’ve taken road lessons and got used to riding on the road, brought lots of lycra, learned to love energy gels and practised enough yoga to fall over a lot!
I was making good progress, but eight weeks in the Ride London magazine arrived, scaring me with rules and etiquette guides and training plans and hints and tips, and – basically a huge new set of things to read and absorb into my plans and practice. One good thing is that it did introduce me to the idea of recovery weeks, which I really needed by then!
Then one day I had a bright idea to ride to Sandpipers for some photos and to look around at all the new facilities they have. My dad accompanied me and rode 75 miles in the wet (have I mentioned that my dad is ace and I couldn’t have done any of this without him!). When we arrived, it was great to see exactly the same care, love and joy around the place as was there was when I was there in the 90s. The army of volunteers, the staff and the guests make the place utterly wonderful.
My new bike came next, one that fits me and has racing handlebars. It has been a massive learning curve but is so much faster! The weather was hot at the time and school became really busy so I was flagging a bit and my wrist and shoulders began to hurt because of the new riding position. Despite all of that, I still managed to ride 75 miles in one go to York.
I’ve had some hard days but I’m in my final few days before the ride and I’ve done well over 1,200 miles of training! The 16% hills still stop me, but I have checked and there won’t be any of those in Surrey, and thankfully no traffic will be on the road either!
My reasons for making a difference
I’m so happy I decided to do this, I’m fitter than I have been since Uni, I’m adoring the views around Yorkshire and I’ve seen grass snakes, buzzards, water voles and a million rabbits along the way too. Most of all, I’m massively grateful to have an opportunity to once again help all those who Revitalise support and to give great holidays to those who need them.
The big day…
On the day of the ride I was out of the Airbnb by 6.30am, and then headed to the start. I had a route programmed in but there was a steady stream of people with numbers on heading past so I followed them down to the Greenway. As we made our way, following the ‘to the start’ signs, it got busier and busier. Then, when we turned off into the Olympic Park there was just a sea of bikes. Being tall, I could appreciate this beautiful sight. I got into the start pen with an hour to wait, so I spent some time chatting to other riders.
As we neared the start line, most of my tech failed – my speedo kept resetting its clock and changing things, so I set off thinking I had no info at all – a bit disconcerting, but there was no point in fretting. I tried to spot people who looked fit and tried to keep up with them for the first 10km. Then, everything started working again so I got my current speed back and knew that if I stuck to 25kph on the flat I’d be on target. My plan included pace notes, but the clock had reset itself to something random so I could only tell where I was on the plan at each food stop.
The stops were brilliantly organised, they had everything you needed and the volunteers were great. I knew I would have trouble with my hands so I had planned for eight or nine stops along the way, which I did, although most of them I just walked through so that I could eat a bar, have my bottles topped up and give my wrists a rest.
The hills weren’t bad. Getting around people so I could go fast enough not to weave was the biggest issue on Leith Hill, until I tried to shift down whilst on the granny gear and my chain jumped off and totally jammed the back wheel, meaning I had to carry it for about a kilometre. I got to the road side mechanic, dropped the bike back down, heard a ‘clink’ and looked down to see the chain move back into place. The mechanic looked at me a bit puzzled, as I just seemed to just stop carrying the bike and ride off!
As we were going through the country roads the supporters were great. Kids, who had collected 800 high-fives from riders, people who jumped off their deckchairs to help change tyres. The people of London and Surrey were fantastic too, volunteers were everywhere, cheering all through the towns and villages.
The last climb to Wimbledon was so quick – I was sure I was only halfway up at the last feed station. I’d run short of food by this point, so I stuffed my face with sweets. Not sure if it was the sugar or the relief that it was the last hill, but I came out of there like my wheels were on fire! There I was banging along the side of Wimbledon Common singing the Wombles song.
Making it to The Mall
I knew I was ahead of my pace for 8:30 but the roads heading into Central London were flat and the crowds louder. I knew I wanted to save a bit for the final sprint. And then…there it was, The Mall. I’ve always watched the Marathon and I was lucky enough to work for the organisers – I’ve even ran over Tower Bridge once. But being able to sprint full pelt down The Mall like my heroes was just amazing. The thunder sticks on the barriers, the people cheering, it was just ace.
I finished the ride in 08:03:29 and I am so happy. Considering I started pretty much from cold, to get close to the time that Mark, Revitalise’s Events Manager, predicted for me was great. I’m also really glad that with the support of my friends and family, I got to raise so much for Revitalise. I’m completely addicted to my bike, so who knows where it will take me next…
If Martyn’s story has left you feeling inspired, you can follow in his tracks at this year’s Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 taking place on Sunday 29 July 2018
For more information or to sign up get in touch with our Events Team, Kavita and Karolina, by visiting our Ride London event page. Or if you prefer you can email: email@example.com,uk or call: 0207 288 6897. See you there, we hope!