It was up with the larks at 5.00 to catch the train to London. I didn’t need to be at the station until 6.20 but had to catch a train from home to Southend to catch the train to London – if that makes sense!
Got to the Southend station at 6.00 only to find it hadn’t opened yet and there among the cyclist were an assortment of revellers of Southend’s night clubs waiting to catch the first train home.
We were told that our train didn’t leave until 7.00 but could catch an earlier regular service if we wanted to. So of course we all piled on the first train to leave which was a pity for others wanting to catch the train as there were bikes everywhere making access to the doors impossible.
On route to London we passed through a tropical thunderstorm, complete with forked lightning and torrential rain – everyone starts praying that that doesn’t become the order of the day. Luckily by the time we get to London, the rain had cleared and it was beginning to look like a good day weather wise was in store.
After riding a meandering route through the back streets of east London, we finally arrive at the start in Victoria Park. The start was very well organised, as was the rest of the ride, with no queues for registering as we rode through what was described as a drive through tent to hand in the registration form. Then it was on to the starting line a couple of thundered yards further forward. A five minute wait and the group I was in were off!
It didn’t take long to reach the outskirts of London, although that was when the fun began with a long, steep uphill climb. Quite a few people were already walking and, without being cruel, I did wonder how many of them would make it – there was still a further 50 odd miles to go and some already looked exhausted.
From then, it was a fantastic ride, going through country lanes. Mind you, whoever said Essex was flat should try cycling this route some time. And the headwinds we rode into all of the way, made it just that bit more challenging.
There seemed to be a lot of riders getting suffering punctures along the way but no real mechanical breakdowns that I could see. And there were a wide ride variety of bikes – from carbon frame road bikes, to mountain bikes and yes, even a Brompton.
One particularly memorial moment was when I was with a group cycling down a slight hill, only to round a corner and be faced with a ford right in front of us. The person I was drafting managed to shoot across the road and brake in time, but for me it was hang on and pray. Luckily, in spite of the rain we have had lately, the ford had barely any water in it and so I got through ok. Although I did hear someone talking after the ride about how they had seen someone ad come off there.
With only 20 miles to go, I was still feeling pretty much ok but decide to stop at the next refreshment point for a break. Feeling rather peckish and tired of cereal bars, could I resist that big, fresh cheeseburger being cooked on the pub BBQ? You guessed it, no! And what a mistake that turned out to be. I got back on the bike and metabolism had slowed to a snail’s pace while my stomach got to work on the burger. The next 10 miles were a slow, hard ride. Never again!
I finally reached Southend and caught up with a group of riders as were crossed the finish line. That was fantastic as the crowd there waiting for friends and family clapped and cheered everyone home.
And so it was that I met up with the family and we headed off to a local spaghetti house for recovery food – a large plate of pasta washed down with a pint. Oh well, at least I had burnt off the calories already!
Timewise, I completed the 60 miles in around 4 and a half hours, averaging 14 mph which I was very pleased with – but if only I hadn’t had that cheeseburger.
Would I do it again? Most definitely and am seriously considering the London to Paris ride next year.