Is it that time already? It feels like only yesterday that I was doing RideLondon 2013.
But now we have to think about RideLondon 2014. The ballot opens on Monday. Yes, next Monday. Crazy shizzle.
To be honest, you’re likely to be someone who did this year’s event (and can make their own mind up on 2014) or you are sick to the back teeth of people going on about how great it was.
Whatever. Here are my top eleven reasons why you should enter the ballot for a place in RideLondon 2014.
That’s right. Eleven.
1. A Sportive Held On Closed Roads
Don’t tell me you didn’t realise that RideLondon is held on closed roads? It was billed as the main selling point of the inaugural event (that, and the fact the closed roads included some iconic central London thoroughfares).
And the truth is, the organisers were right. Cycling on closed roads is awesome.
You can count on one hand the number of closed road sportives in the UK, and those tend to be at the more challenging end of the spectrum. RideLondon offers up closed-road sportive cycling to the masses.
2. It’s Fast
The combination of closed roads and generally flat terrain make for high cycling speeds, whatever your fitness level.
This matters for two reasons.
One, for experienced road cyclists looking to set their best imperial century, this is the event in which to do it. If you carry your own food and drink, there is no need to unclip from your pedals at any point on the ride. Fast groups can put in long periods of effort, with little to disrupt the flow.
More importantly (as far as I’m concerned), less experienced riders can participate without worrying that they’ll miss the time cut-offs, or be swept up by the broom wagon. And, all else being equal, spending 6-7 hours in the saddle is a lot better than 8-9 hours, not least on the undercarriage.
3. It’s Doable for Non-Gollum-Like Chiselled Whippets
Whilst cycling 100 miles on any terrain is not something to be undertaken likely, the RideLondon course on Sunday was doable for anyone that commited to a modest (relatively) training regime.
It isn’t the sort of course that chews people up and chucks them out the back. Even those with an admitted lack of training, but a determination to get round, could do so without causing irreparable damage.
This should give anyone the confidence to sign up.
4. The Organisation Is Great
Even without the logistical nightmare required to close most of London for a day, keeping 15,000 cyclists safe, fed and watered over 100 miles is no mean feat.
It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect massive queues for toilets, bananas and energy drink – part of the sacrifice for a place in such a large event. The fact is, this didn’t really happen.
There was a long queue for the toilets at the first hub, but elsewhere, and most importantly, at the start, comfort breaks were easy to take.
Getting through the hubs took time (there were a lot of people) but the process of getting the food and drink you wanted was easy. The volunteers manning the feed stops were quick and enthusiastic.
5. The Support From Spectators
I can tell you from experience that no one gets up on a cold morning in April and thinks, “I’m going to go up on to the moors and cheer on the riders doing today’s Peak District sportive.”
They do, on the other hand, awaken to dappled August sunshine and pronounce, “I will get my finest deck chair, position it alongside the A307 and cheer valiant cyclists back to central London.”
Given that my lowest ebb was felt on that stretch of road between Cobham and Esher, I cannot speak too highly of those supporters. Or, indeed, the many thousands (?) that lined the rest of the route.
6. It’s a Good First Imperial Century
I was fortunate that my RideLondon registration coincided with Jo Rowsell being interviewed just prior to the women’s grand prix (where unfortunately she was involved in a nasty crash). I was shocked (yes, SHOCKED!) to discover that she’d never ridden 100 miles before (in one go, obviously).
As someone relatively new to sportive participation, I assumed that everyone had cycled that sort of distance before, and that my struggle to get beyond 100km (~62 miles) was a sign of my personal frailty.
Whilst there may be a residual argument that I am a weakling, the fact is that not every Lycra-clad weekend warrior, astride his svelte carbon steed (with matching deep-rimmed wheels) has ridden that far. It’s no mean achievement.
It feels good to have got my first imperial century under my belt (which is not a sexual Star Wars euphemism). Now I can move onto my next challenge.
7. Shared Endeavour With Tens of Thousands of Other Cyclists
In most sportives I’ve done, you only see cyclists at the start and the finish. In between, the field stretches out. Occasionally you find yourself passing someone (or, more likely, being passed) on some bleak, windswept moor.
Not at RideLondon. You share the road with so many cyclists. All the time.
From the starting pens, through the streets of London and Surrey, at the hubs and drinks stops, on the finishing sprint (ahem) on the Mall.
You won’t get lonely on RideLondon.
8. It’s Friendly
And the good thing is, at least towards the rear of the race, the vast majority of the participating riders were not tossers. I heard one person tell another rider (which would be me) to hold his line.
It is remarkable, given the number of people on the road, and the speeds that people were reaching, I didn’t hear another word spoken in anger.
Despite all the Lycra, carbon and chamois cream, I found RideLondon a very welcoming event. Clearly there will have been some bells obsessing about the tensioning of their wheel spokes, but thankfully the closed roads (did I mention them?) provided enough space for all.
9. There Is A RideLondon Community
As someone who has blogged about RideLondon, maybe I would say this, but it feels like the event is unique, at least in the world of sportives, in terms of having built a community of participants, almost instantaneously.
Like a two-wheeled London Marathon, RideLondon appeals to novice and experienced road cyclists alike, and enjoys a high profile beyond cycling enthusiasts.
Right now it feels like there is a community of cyclists that want to do this ride every year. And each year will bring a cohort of new cyclists that want to undertake the challenge, many of whom have never done any sort of organised bike ride before.
The community is active throughout the year: around the time the ballot opens; in the New Year as places are allocated; in the spring and early summer as training plans are prepared and executed.
So join me. Comrade.
10. It’s Part Of A Festival Of Cycling
This year I was very obsessed with my own personal performance in the RideLondon 100 (by that, I mean I was desperate to finish). The broo-haa-haa around the weekend (the registration and expo, the women’s and men’s races, Freecycle) were distractions that I tolerated or ignored as appropriate. After we got to our hosts in Kingston, my wife and kids were largely left to fend for themselves in terms of their own enjoyment of the event.
I’d like to think my attitude was understandable (I was fugging nervous). I was, however, wrong.
What I should have done is take my son, on his Islabike, to Freecycle and revel in the safe and enjoyable cycling atmosphere.
RideLondon is definitely about more than just the 100 mile sportive.
11. You’re Supporting Cycling in Britain
RideLondon serves a political purpose beyond the UK government’s desire to present it’s ‘Olympic legacy’.
It’s a unique event in cycling, to shut down huge swathes of a major international city solely for the purpose of pootling around on bikes. It sends a very strong signal that we, as a people, value cycling.
The London Marathon was inspired by the New York and Boston Marathons. The popularity of the London event spawned countless full and half marathons around the country.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if the ongoing, and growing, success of RideLondon over the years resulted similar events being born in cities and towns across the UK, in addition to all the sportives that are organised currently. It makes me want to shed a little tear.
What Are You Waiting For?
For Monday perhaps.
As you might have guessed, I’ll be signing up for the ballet, sorry, ballot as soon as entries open.
Maybe my chances of success would be higher if I wasn’t trying to persuade you to apply as well (that’s assuming any of you give any credence to my recommendations).
In any event, if we want RideLondon to become a regular annual event, we need it to be phantasmagorically popular, so that the policitians can’t say no. So, the more the merrier.
Whatever your road cycling ambitions, RideLondon or no, please do subscribe to the Grimpeur Heureux email list. You’ll receive each post sent directly to your email inbox. There’ll be other goodies for subscribers as well. Together we’ll improve our road cycling performance (however you want to define it).