Readers of this blog have probably picked up on the fact that I will be taking part in the inaugural RideLondon-Surrey 100 cyclosportive in August.
As the name suggests, the event is a 100 mile bike ride that loops out from London into Surrey, before returning for a triumphal sprint along the Champs Elysees the Mall.
I am not a naturally gifted athlete. 100 miles is considerably further than I have ever cycled before. Just over half way around, I’ll have to climb a series of hills, including the foreboding Leith Hill and the Olympics-gilded Box Hill. I’ll be putting in considerable training time and effort in order to make sure I finish, ideally with some of my dignity left intact.
What has this got to do with you, you ask?
Well, I want you to sponsor me.
Why am I supporting Macmillan?
I have strong personal reasons for supporting a cancer charity.
Last year saw the death of John, my wife’s stepfather, from a particularly aggressive form of bladder cancer.
John was a truly awesome person. He was a practical man that delighted in helping others. His patience and good humour were demonstrated on a frequent basis, as he helped me resolve my latest DIY blunder.
Despite never having had children of his own and really only entering my wife’s life as she turned 18 and left for university, John embraced our children as if they were his own grandchildren (to all intents and purposes, they were). He spent hours building train tracks with our son and showing him his treasured collection of Matchbox cars (his ‘swapsies’ – even I wasn’t allowed to handle his first editions). Even though he only saw the first 18 months of our daughter’s life, he thought her wonderful.
I want to raise as much money as possible for Macmillan in order to honour John’s memory.
What do Macmillan do?
Macmillan provides practical, medical and financial support to people diagnosed with cancer and their families. Having seen firsthand the pain and suffering that comes from a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I believe that the help that Macmillan provides is vital.
The NHS is under increasing financial pressure. Its ability to provide support to those with cancer, and particularly those in its terminal stages is limited. Macmillan provides that support. We, in turn, need to support Macmillan.
Why should you sponsor me?
I would really appreciate it if you could sponsor me. You can donate as little or as much as you feel able.
If you have enjoyed reading the Grimpeur Heureux blog, then perhaps you could consider a small donation to Macmillan by way of thanks.
You might have noticed that there are no adverts on the site. The situation may change in the future, but for now and certainly until after the RideLondon event takes place, I will not be using the blog in any money making capacity.
If you are one of my former investment banking colleagues, then reach deep into those pockets of yours and give generously!
How can you sponsor me?
It couldn’t be easier. Simply click on this link to the mydonate website:
I chose mydonate because after some extensive research (i.e. a Google search), I determined that they have the lowest transaction fee of all the online charity websites. For every £10 you donate, £12.35 goes to the charity (due to gift aid), with only 15p going to mydonate as transaction charge.
Once again, if you sponsor me, you will have my eternal gratitude (well, okay, I’ll like you for a very long time).
Grimpeur is in pain. My knee is killing me. I’ll explain why in a bit.
The purpose of this post is to provide a bit more intelligence on the RideLondon route, specifically the two main climbs up Leith Hill and Box Hill.
You may have seen that I already wrote a post on the RideLondon route (if you didn’t, then you can read it here).
My initial analysis was mainly based on using the official summary route, plotting it into a route-planning website and then commenting on the elevation and gradient chart outputs. Helpfully this prompted a bunch of people with knowledge of the two main climbs (Leith Hill and Box Hill) to comment on their length and severity.
That was good and I know a lot of people that hadn’t ridden Leith Hill or Box Hill were grateful for the intel (whether it terrified or comforted them).
But, dear readers, I didn’t feel that was good enough for you. You want real, live, on-the-ground information. And I want to give it to you. Ahem.
So, with a view to providing more than just a ‘cyber reconnaissance’ of the route, I set off for Surrey. Via Croydon. Unfortunately.
Grimpeur Analyses the RideLondon Route: Redux
I may as well tell you the punchline now. You don’t have to worry about the climbs on RideLondon.
You do have to worry about something else though. More of that later.
In the meantime, let’s look at the section of the route I did, which was :
• from Abinger Hammer down towards Forest Green then looping back north up Leith Hill Road to the A25;
• the section of the A25 to Dorking; and
• up Box Hill on the Zig Zag Road and on through Box Hill village
Climbing Leith Hill – Putting Down the Abinger Hammer
If, like me, you had concerns about Leith Hill, you may as well stop worrying.
If you seriously think you can ride 100 miles / ~160km in a day (as a RideLondon participant, I’m assuming that’s what you’re training to do), then you won’t find Leith Hill a particular problem, even with 60 or so miles in your legs.
Starting from Abinger Hammer, the route heads south through Holmebury Saint Mary. You climb around 70 metres over the course of 4km, at pretty gentle gradients, before a nice long descent to the foot of the Leith Hill climb. The longish descent gives you a chance to spin out the legs and have a little rest.
The official (summary) route map suggests you climb Leith Hill from the south.
(Disclaimer: this is based on my best guess of the route – I might have read the map wrong / it might change etc).
The ascent starts on Ockley Road before quickly turning left onto Etherley Hill. Then it’s pretty much straight up for 2 kilometres, with gradients hitting 10-11% in places.
Having read the comments on my earlier post, I was expecting a long slog, but it was over surprisingly quickly.
I was passed on the climb by someone that looked as if he knew what he was doing (a cyclist, rather than a noticeably-competent rambler).
“Long way still to the top is it?”, I aspirated.
“Just round the corner and straight up”
I took this to mean that the climb started just round the corner, and sank into a depressed funk.
The next thing I knew he had turned around and was coasting back down towards me. He had meant that the top was literally around the corner and up a short ramp.
Having built the climb up in my head, I actually felt a bit short-changed. (This is of course folly – I really don’t want to have to empty myself getting up a climb when I still have 40 miles of the route remaining).
Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box (Hill)
Most people are pretty familiar with Box Hill. A quick internet search gets lots of great information.
My observations, for what they’re worth:
• The Zig Zag Road is a beautifully smooth piece of tarmac – the climb offers blissful respite from the judders and shudders of the road surface in the rest of southern England;
• The smooth surface and relatively constant gradient makes it easy to get into a nice rhythm as you climb – this certainly beats the potholes and sharp ramps that you’ll encounter when climbing Leith Hill;
• You get to enjoy the graffiti on the road, much of which was created to encourage Cav et al during the Olympic road race – without wishing to sound overly-emotional, thinking back to that period of British cycling success (albeit not in that particular race) does give you an extra bit of bounce as you make the climb;
• But be warned – the climb doesn’t finish at the National Trust Cafe or the viewpoint. The road continues to rise, albeit at a lower gradient, into and through Box Hill village. Even though I’d ridden Box Hill before, I forgot this – hilarity additional pain ensued.
Relax about the climbs, it really is all about the length
My RideLondon reconnaissance ride taught me a few things.
Firstly, if you can, it’s better to ride a route (or a section of it), than try to establish what it will be like by mapping the route on the internet. Comments from other people are helpful, but those comments are not spoken by someone at your fitness level or experience (he says, thereby negating the point of this post entirely).
Secondly, if you want to record a route on Strava for more than four hours, using your phone is not the way to do it. Trying to navigate my way home after my phone died somewhere near Epsom was somewhat trying.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the main issue for me with RideLondon will be length of the route, not the amount of climbing. 100 miles (~160km) is a seriously long distance.
My ride out to Surrey was in fact my first ever metric century ride (Ride With GPS puts it at just over 101km). I am obviously delighted to have broken through this mental barrier – less delighted that a significant proportion of my first century took place in Croydon.
The painful knee I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post started to twinge at around kilometre 85. I had been increasing my mileage gradually, but this ride was 40km longer than my previous best. Clearly it was a jump too far. I will need to continue building gradually to the 160km target.
The impact of long distance cycling manifests itself in other parts of your body, not just the legs. The last quarter of this ride was spent with a dull ache in my neck – the sort of neck ache that tends towards making you feel sick. I certainly need to make sure I am strengthening and stretching my neck and back as part of my RideLondon training programme.
C’est Tout, Voila
It is perhaps fitting that this ride (being both my first metric century and a recon ride ahead of RideLondon) will be my last as an honorary Londoner. This week, Famille Grimpeur is making its big move out of the city and towards the green and verdant hillsides of Derbyshire.
The climbs of the Peak District and beyond await, as does (we hope) an increase in the amount of cycling we do as a family.
The next time the wheels of my mighty Dawes steed hit London’s gold-paved streets will be in August, for RideLondon itself. I’m looking forward to it immensely.
Please Retweet Me, Let Me Go
As always, if you have enjoyed this article I would really appreciate it if you could share it via Twitter or Facebook.
If you have something to add on Leith Hill, Box Hill or anything at all, leave a comment below.
Are you more worried about the climbs or the total ride length, or both?
Finally, do sign up to receive the Grimpeur by email. Go on, you know you want to.
In this post, I will try to turn this general sense of disquiet into a specific set of concerns, each of which I can confront and prepare for. In doing so, not only will I allay my fears, but I will also identify those factors that will contribute to a strong performance (and maximum enjoyment) on the day.
An aggregation of marginal gains you say? If it’s good enough for Sir Dave of Brailsford….
Why should you care about my irrational fears?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt[/quote]
Some of you may currently be in the same “oh sh&t, what have I just signed up for” phase. Perhaps my methodology may help address your fears by breaking down the challenge into more manageable chunks.
Whilst I am looking at performance from my own perspective, some of the factors I identify could be ones that you too wish to focus on as you prepare for riding sportives in 2013.
If you’re a semi-pro already, and you’re less concerned about actually finishing the course, maybe this post will serve as a reminder that it’s always a good idea to reflect on your performance from time to time, in order to identify and focus upon abilities that can be improved.
Who’s afraid of the big bad hill?
Today’s mission is to identify the component parts that will make up my RideLondon performance. In future posts I will take a detailed look at how I’m going to deal with each component, concern or fear.
Let’s start identifying, people.
When I think about being able to cycle 100 miles in a single ride, fitness (or the lack thereof) springs immediately to mind. I’m sure it is the main concern of many first-time long distance sportive riders.
Clearly I will need to train. The scale of the undertaking means that this will need to be quite organised, in order to take me from my current fitness level to that required on the day.
But as I select the training programme to follow, can I be more specific about the nature of the fitness that I require?
It strikes me that my fitness requirement can be broken down into 3 capabilities.
In even the most optimistic scenarios, I will need to cycle for well over 7 hours. My body still needs to be capable of continuing to propel me at 17mph (ever the optimist), having already cycled 80 miles.
As we saw in this previous post, RideLondon features two major climbs (and a few more smaller ones) in its middle section. I need to be able to ride up these hills at a reasonable pace, having already cycled 55 miles and, once Box Hill is summitted, with 35 miles still to ride. Ideally I’d like to be able to do this with a certain amount of panache.
Speed on the flat
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself – Hermione Granger[/quote]
Ninety per cent of the RideLondon route is flat. There will only be so much time I can lose on the climbs. Being slow on the flat, or being unable to battle against any wind on the day, could make the difference between staying in front of or being swept up by the broom wagon.
You could define technique in a number of ways (for instance I looked specifically at pedalling technique in this post here).
For this post, I am using ‘technique’ to describe those general on-bike skills that will be useful (in some cases vital) for cyclists undertaking a mass-participation or long distance event.
Being able to ride in a group
There will be a lot of cyclists on the road. At the very least I need to be able to ride safely in a pack to avoid injuring myself and others. More than that, with the drafting effect being able to offer an energy saving of up to 30% versus cycling head on into the wind, I want a piece of that action.
Eating and drinking whilst riding
I can just about drink from a water bottle at slow speed on a flat road. I’ve been known to drop water bottles as I try to replace them in the cage. I’m not sure I’ve tried eating anything on the move. Given the energy requirement on the day and the potential for high temperatures, I’d like to at least have on-bike drinking and eating as an option.
Being able to control my effort (in other words, not getting too excited at the start of the ride) is going to be a huge contributor to my enjoyment of the day
Blow out too early and the Surrey climbs will be unpleasant and the yomp back through south west London is going to be a nauseous blur.
Of course, I could end the ride thinking that I hadn’t fully emptied the tank, but I imagine the risk of this is low.
A number of things may go wrong with the bike over the course of the event. Some will be out of my control (visions of wheels buckling or bottom brackets exploding). Others will not.
If I get a flat, I need to i) make sure I have the necessary spares and tools with me; and ii) know how to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
I think there will be mechanical support on the day but if I can fix such problems in a not-too-incompetent fashion, this has to be quicker than waiting for a support mechanic to appear.
Whilst I would like to think I would stop to help a distressed recipient of a puncture (I might… maybe… depending on my time), I can at least aim not to use up the time of a mechanic, who might otherwise be fixing the bike of someone more needy.
Over the course of RideLondon, I will burn over 4,000 calories (maybe more?). I need to make sure that I have sufficient fuel to get round. I certainly don’t want to have a calorie deficit on any of the climbs.
So I need to think about my total energy requirement.
I also need to think about how that energy will be delivered (or, to use less w£nky language, what I am going to eat).
Finally, and most importantly, I need to think about how I am going to remember to keep eating on a regular basis. In all the excitement, and with Leith Hill playing on my mind, remembering to keep popping the Haribos (other sugar-based treats are available) might go by the wayside.
I don’t want to bonk on the Mall. No one wants to see that.
… or ‘drinking enough’. You’ve got to believe that I will find regular drinking easier to achieve than remembering to eat early enough. But still an area worth thinking about, not least because weeing from the saddle is neither possible (I will crash) or socially acceptable.
This is a bit of a catch-all classification for those concerns that are related to the ride, but are not to do with the actual cycling.
So, for me, these concerns (or, more correctly, arrangements to be made) include:
Accommodation over the weekend (the Grimpeur et famille will have moved out of London by then – a topic for another post)
Getting to the ride start in the Olympic Park and getting back from the Mall (likely in a state of profound distress)
Whether or not my children will be there to distractstress me out support me
The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light
It is interesting that as I thought about my list of sportive concerns, and began to formulate them into a list for this post, I became increasingly reluctant to use the term ‘fears’.
I have not said (or even really thought about) what I will do to address each concern, but simply by writing them down, it feels as if each ‘fear’ has become an ‘an identified thing, ready to be addressed’. The event as a whole has already become a lot less frightening.
Hopefully, by reading this post, you have seen some of your own fears allayed. If you don’t share the same specific concerns as me, perhaps you have still seen some value in my methodology.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any particular fears that I or one of the other readers can address? Did you have a concern before your first sportive that you subsequently found to be unfounded. Please do let me know in the comments below.
As always, if you liked this article or found it useful, please do share it on Twitter and Facebook, particularly with friends and colleagues that might be tackling RideLondon or other cyclosportives this year.
*** UPDATE: You can read “The Ultimate Guide To RideLondon”, a collection of pretty much all the information I’ve written on the blog to help YOU make the most of your RideLondon experience – click here to read the post or finish reading this one and follow the link at the bottom ***
In this post we’ll take a detailed look at the route of the RideLondon-Surrey 100, which takes place on Sunday 4th August 2013. From my previous posts (such as this one and this one), you’ll know that I’ll be participating.
A route map for the ride was published earlier this month. Using that, I’ve plotted the course using bikehike.co.uk. I’ve included some screen grabs, including various sections of the course as well as elevation and gradient charts.
If people are interested (let me know in the comments box below), I will attempt to upload the TCX file to the site, which you should then be able to download and manipulate as you see fit.
So you will no doubt see plenty on this blog about my preparation for RideLondon (or RideLondon-Surrey 100 to give its full, rather catchy title).
After initially failing to secure a place in the ballot, I’ve been offered a place by Macmillan, the cancer support charity, to ride (and raise money) for them. I have a very strong personal reason for supporting this charity, which I’ll share in due course.
In the meantime, the purpose of this post was to ask a question (which may turn out to be rhetorical if no one responds). Please bear with me during the ‘set up’.
Here’s the background:
I know I should really get out on the bike, particularly in light of the need to ride 100 miles in 7hr 30m in August (that’s what I’ve said I can do…)
The riding conditions are ok: it’s above freezing and I don’t think there was a frost last night; it’s dry with perhaps the odd spit of rain
The biggie: I’m just not feeling it. I’m a little tired; there’s a bit of a fug going on in my head
Here’s what I know:
I should put my kit on – this is easy to do and the feel of tight lycra on skin is not unpleasant (ahem)
I should tell myself that all I’m going to do is ride around the block
Once I’m out and riding, I’ll just keep going and I will enjoy it
And here’s the question (thank you for your patience):
Why don’t I just do that (put the kit on and ride down my street)?
More specifically, why am I still thinking about the longer ride (which I’m obviously procrastinating about) and not trusting the judgement of the future me (the one that will be sat on the bike, either enjoying it or not) to make the decision then?
Am I worried that the future me will decide to go for it?
If so, why does that bother the current me, who should arguably be pleased that he would become the sort of future me that elects to ‘just fugging do it’?
What do you think? Am I just going mad (in a slightly philosophical way)?