Dulux Trade London Revolution Day 2
And he's still snoring?! Now he's hacking up phlegm and last night's disappointing dinner. We had to top up the stomach with a bowl of chips as even the organisers would admit the dinner provided by the racecourse was...how to put it...we can't! We had planned to have a little lie in and there was no rollout times, literally get up, get ready, get on your bike and go. Breakfast was open from 5.30am and it seemed everyone had their alarms set because all I heard was tent zips opening, groggy voices from those who had too many drinks at the bar and even the sounds of the trucks pulling up ready to ship our bags back to the start. As we decided to join the early risers and climbed out of our well sized tent, it felt like everyone had been up for hours, brushing teeth, already kitted up, filling up water bottles. We wanted to again pace the day so we was in no rush. Breakfast was better than the dinner, a small fry up but enough to get you through the morning. Who wants to ride with 10 rashers of bacon and 6 sausages in their stomach?!
We had filled up water bottles the night as we had foreseen the queue for the huge water containers. That's the teacher in us coming out! There was a bit of a wait to get through the start but with no scheduled roll out times, they were staggering riders through 50 at a time to minimise traffic on the local roads. Wise as you don't know how Sunday drivers will take being stuck behind a couple of thousand riders. Bananas were also being given out as a last minute boost. Few warnings from the man with the microphone regarding some tricky roads as there had been rain overnight. I was roughly familiar with some of the Chilterns but as soon as the route starts to head back East, that's the limit of my local knowledge done. I knew a couple of the climbs but a lot of this area would be relatively new to us. I was also worried I had pushed too hard at the end of Day 1 and the legs would start to seize early on so was quite committed to keeping the pace easy for the day...
Why do I even say things like that?! As soon as we had rolled out of Windsor, the pace around me by the other riders and I mean no disrespect was not to my liking and I also wanted to get the legs warmed up. So I upped the pace a little and kept a good rpm going. I had overtook a small chaingang and they latched on to my wheel as I rode past. Couple of glances back and I realised I was leading a small peloton. Not really what I wanted because the inner chimp in us started to increase the pace. We prefer to be out in front (not-in-the-peloton?!) but it also brings the mentality of keeping others at bay. So here we were doing the work and letting others draft getting a free ride for a good 15 minutes. A slight rise into Cookham was met by a safety motorcycle telling us all to slow on a downhill bend as someone had come off on the slippery turn, an ambulance was parked on the side road so the back roads had nowhere near dried up. The descent into Marlow was as tricky especially with the 2 switchbacks, Quarry Wood must of been a relative of Box Hill but obviously not as nice. The suspension bridge crossing into Marlow caught everyone's eye. One guy even stopped to ask a couple to take his picture on the middle of the bridge, little did he knew that one of the official photographers of the day was sitting just to the side of him, opportunity missed my friend!
First climb of the day took us up through Marlow Common turning at Freith. We knew this was a very long drag, hope others read our route breakdown and took note. The rain had made this sometimes single lane climb very mucky. Often having to weave across the road to avoid muddy piles of debris, surprised not to see more punctures this early on. Crossing through some very small villages, we were wondering where do these people go to get the milk and papers?! It seemed we were right in the sticks. A downhill section approached and you could tell it was a steep one. Coupled with it looking like a tsunami had blown through, we knew straight away this was going to be a brake killer! The whole day down was accompanied by squealing breaks and everyone looking for a clean track through the muck. If anyone needed to emergency stop, they couldn't. The gradient would of kept them going and a pile up would of definitely been on the cards. Personally, this road in the dry would of been a no go for us, too risky especially with mass group descending down it. When we reached the bottom, a car had pulled up to turn into the lane, they're probably still there waiting for riders to come down!
Our second climb of the day was up ahead up Bledlow Ridge but just as we were approaching it, we were greeted with a sight no one wants to see anywhere. We were diverted down a country lane because there had been an incident up on the hill. An air ambulance had also landed in the neighbouring field which upped the serious level of diversion. Unfortunately, it turned out that a rider had suffered a heart attack on the hill and despite the quick thinking from other riders and medical support, they passed away. You read about these things on other sportives (Ride London springs to mind) but never hits home unless you're actually involved in it. This poor guy was not to return home today and he only came out to ride his bike. It definitely made us think of what was the point of risking anything today. Our thoughts go out to his family and everyone who tried to save his life, it's a situation we all hope never to experience.
The country lane had a slight rise but a main climb had been avoided. But the Queen climb of the day was not far ahead. The diversion around took us down some undulating roads, very rolling, we had made sure our gear changes matched the changes in gradient so as to not strain the legs as Kop was waiting for us all. The d*** of the day award though goes to the impatient d*** who couldn't wait a little longer behind a horse rider as I was approaching from the front and swerved around her too closely for the horse's liking and nearly threw the woman off. I shouted at him as he drove past and asked if she was ok. We've all got to look out for each other, we are human first and foremost. Who cares if you're a driver, cyclist, horse rider, just takes a moment of your humanity to question yourself does that person need more care, more time, more looking after? We don't like to spread it too much but teaching is our trade and we always make sure the children are looking out for each other. We hope that this way the next generation is more caring than some members of this one.
Pit Stop 1 was busy. There was often a coffee van at these stops and coffee being a cyclists choice of drug (we are a hot chocolate kind of rider!), the queue was looooong. We thought we would take a few minutes to fuel up and stretch and then head on back out. But just as we were about to cross the timing station again, the front wheel had become light. No f.......... way!!!! Seriously?! Right now?! I'm just about to leave the pit stop and you throw this at me! These tyres had seriously seen their last ride (they are still on the bike helping me to commute but ditching the Michelins - did we mention they were £30 per tyre?!- back to Continentals). So we trudged back to near the mechanics as they had the track pumps and set about changing the tube. We had found so many nicks and shards of stones and glass in the tyre, definitely a tyre not for grimey weather. We brought another tube as we didn't want to ride vulnerable for the rest of the ride and eventually made our way to the hill that had we been worried about all weekend.
There was a slight rise up to the turning into Kop Hill which I corrected to a rider that no, this wasn't the start. We had been down Kop before but not up it. We knew it's steep. 20% gradients on the ramps. Turning into the start, the hill was busy with riders spread across the road. We were determined not to stop. It's always good to give others a shout if you're passing especially those weaving back across the road looking to ease the gradient off. We say just drive on straight through the heart of it! We unzipped our long sleeve jersey which we were starting to regret wearing as the sun was making the day a warm one but we had least ditched the gloves. You could see the ramps had claimed a few victims with some opting to choose to walk it up. We were determined not to give in. What we also didn't realise is that we had a 'fan' following us up who had us on camera focusing on our tempo. Mike, if you're reading this, stop stalking us! Last ramp was in sight and we had to call out to a couple of riders to stay left so we could plough on. As the we crested the top, some of the support staff were there cheering us all on when one 'walker' called out 'It's quicker to walk up!'. Maybe it was in the moment of self-achievement but we had to respond with 'not sure about that' as we pedalled past!
The main climbs were over, just some minor hills between now and the finish to contend with. The descent down from Kop was rough, it made us question is there anywhere in Britain which has consistently decent surfaced roads?! Please let yourself known! The next rise in elevation was in Dunsmore which was a pleasant climb until it showed it's 'dip' which caught out the rider in front. We anticipated this really steep section as we descended, you could see the road ahead begin to rise and hide to the left of the trees. We just had a feeling that something horrid was coming up so we dropped down to the small ring and shifted the rear into the big cog. This was a wise decision as the rider in front was pushing squares as soon as he met this short but leg burner ascent! It felt like that we were had been riding uphill for a long time so the long descent into Chesham and beyond was a great respite and a joy. Traffic did become a bit heavier but nothing too dangerous and the 'peloton' had definitely splintered. I often found myself alone or overtaking groups of 2 or 3. Legs felt surprisingly good again but we were cautious as we could hit the wall at any time. You don't want to bonk with another 40 miles still to go.
Arguably the most enjoyable moment of the day apart from defeating Kop was coming across the cheerful community of Chipperfield. Another village hosting a festival for the London Revolution, we were greeted by a narrowing of cones giving it a proper ride-by. Cowbells started to sound again and much cheering from the locals encouraged us on. Once again, it gave us goosebumps and we upped the pace again. We now have a soft spot for Chipperfield, if the lotto ever looks down us and chooses us, we will be investing in a home here (with wife approval!). Another climb approached which began under a narrow bridge. We heard from others that there was some impatient drivers throughout the day who made some close passes, just not needed. We was expecting for our legs to buckle at this point but as we climbed out of the saddle to give the muscles a stretch, the rpm maintained and we climbed Tom's Lane with ease. The breakfast sausages must of been doing their job and fuelling the engine with much efficiency.
Final pit stop of the weekend was at Chiswell Green. The sun was now beaming, the thought of riding topless did cross my mind but 1/ didn't want to scare people off and 2/ risk of horrific Halloween style road rash wouldn't be a good look either so we decided just to lower the zip a little further. If you spotted a Chippendale riding a red specialized that day, that was us! Good selection of food again on offer, stocked up on the jaffa cakes this time and caught up with Richard again who I met the day earlier at the same time! He informed us of the unfortunate incident on Bledlow Ridge earlier but at this time, we did not he had passed away. After a quick toilet break in which we could hear a mother having a go at her son for a toilet accident next door, we rolled on for the final time.
We had never been this far North (in terms of London!) but looking at the route beforehand, we knew there was a part that would snake across the m25. Knowing these roads from experience, these are often fast A roads and we wasn't far off. Roads could definitely be classed as rolling and although you were surrounded by fields with the m25 cutting through the middle of them, there wasn't too much to see or experience in this section. The excitement of the ride had started to die down on us. It also didn't help that our trusted K-mount which was looking after our Garmin and GoPro started to come loose and even though we had the tools to tighten it up, the screws were just not having it. Rattle, rattle, rattle for the next 20 minutes. It was like ear torture, you know the kind when they stick a pair of headphones on you for hours just blaring out a crying baby until you crack! We snapped. We pulled over and took that damn thing off. Refreshingly, it revitalised us not just because of the rattle, but your eyes had a break from looking at a screen, you were just focused on cycling.
The last 10 miles or so took us through Potters Bar and parts of Enfield. Traffic now was similar to what a regular Sunday afternoon would be like, fast roads with some drivers looking for an opportunity to squeeze past. The route eventually turned itself South towards the finish line but it was now the pedestrians looking for opportunities to dart across the road before we rode by. We felt like we were on our commute! The scenery started to become familiar and we crossed the railway bridge and realised we had one more turning to make. We had grouped with a few other riders for the past half hour and I stupidly made the mistake of taking the left turn too early and ended up in the wholesale building! I circled back and there was a gap between us which would work out fine as who wants their final photos with others in the background. So we left the zip undone and turned into the finish to claim our medal. Dulux Trade London Revolution conquered!
Apart from that last 20 odd miles where it was just unwelcoming and fast roads, hats off to the route organisers. They can't be blamed for some of the state of our roads, councils need to get their act together and fix the potholes and rough surfaces which do actually lead to injury and in some cases death from accidents. There was a couple of lanes I would of personally avoided, we like to plan our rides for good roads avoiding the muck but obviously this is all weather dependent. I would even up the mileage to the 200 mark if it meant a better or more entertaining end to the ride, the last 20 miles were forgettable really. The climbs were challenging enough but nothing to the point where walking was an option (no offence to those who did walk, we're all different riders, I'm no pro but I aim to conquer every hill I encounter). Pit stops were excellent, some riders did complain of long queues for coffee but this was a near 200 mile ride not a Sunday club run and there was plenty of cafes along the way to stop and grab a caffeine fix. Only major let down really and we wasn't alone was the dinner. Slop basically. Suggestion for next year maybe to turn it into a foodie festival and give out food tokens so people can choose from a wide range of cuisines. As events go, staffing was excellent, very supportive and informative from the mechanics to security to the Threshold Sports workers, think everyone was impressed with the organisation and fluency of the 2 days.
Our package would of cost us £189 for the 2 days riding and camping overnight. Some might say, jeez, you'll need a saving fund for that but break it down, you get: a very well signed route, a download of the route, regular pre-information emails, free photography uploaded to your facebook, food and drink at pit stop, free mechanical assistance at the pit stops and via the service cars on route, dinner (questionable this time round!), breakfast, secured bike storage, a tent, a sleeping mat (sleeping bag is you responsibility), showers, pampering station, ride breakdown sticker (although we climbed Combe Lane, not Staple Lane!), charging station, chillout areas, free massage and of course your medal. That's alot. We wrote a blog a couple of years ago questioning the value of the sportive, events had become overpriced all to ride on roads you probably know better than the organisers. The London Revolution is a different kind of sportive, they've adopted the festival approach, making it a weekend rather than ride, get your flapjack and medal and off you go back home. We rode this on our own and I think if if we had a couple of mates to tag along, it would of been a laugh but we didn't mind to people watch. We also got a little homesick as the acoustic band who looked like extras out of Peaky Blinders played our wedding song 'Ho Hey' to a bunch of guys. The wife did offer to come down and keep us company (we didn't live too far from Windsor) but we were ok, we had a Guinness to keep us company. So would I recommend it? Yeah we would, but we would say grab a couple of mates, set some KOM challenges between you (there's another suggestion organisers?!), make a weekend out of it, make sure you know what you're getting yourself in for. The bike is for everyone so go be someone!