Prudential Ride London 2016 – A Day to Remember
A “Night to Remember” was an old 1950’s or early 1960’s black and white film about the Titanic – long before James Cameron went into the detail of that event. Well this was a “Day to Remember” and it was a case of survival. So once again I blagged a spot on the Prudential Ride London. For those of you who don’t know what that is it’s the route of the 2012 Olympic Road Race through the sleepy Surrey countryside. Closed roads and 26,000 participants. This year I decided that I would train and get properly prepared. That of course didn’t happen. Hardly any cycling worth talking about. Then of course the week of the event neighbours kids were dosed, our rascals were dosed so it’s a forgone conclusion – I was dosed. You all know me, I don’t play the softie or the pet so it was get over yourself and just do it.
This year my time was 9:23. So called cyclists, Strava Bunnies and Average speed junkies just don’t bother reading on. I have nothing in common with you. I don’t give a toss what you have in your bottle and how many watts you can put out. This year was epic and a real survival game. I managed to “persuade” our long suffering Secretary Diane and a girl called Ann-Marie who works in the lab next door. This year I was better organised. I got a self-catering apartment in Stratford itself. The vintage bike was absolutely tip top and for a bike of 33 years and she was in better shape than any modern bike that I have seen of late. Pity about the jockey.
Of course, a last minute panic. I got two brand new tubs for the vintage bike and went off to get them glued on. What no glue …? Does anybody actually use these anymore ? A couple of quick phone calls and I got in contact with few lads in Condor Cycles in London who had tub tape. For those who are not familiar with ‘tub tape’ it is a double sided affair which I never really liked. It takes 36 hours minimum for the glue to set, so that was out. More about the tubs later….!!
I arrived at 10am and got the bike unboxed and built up. There was enough time for a trip to Condor for the aforementioned and a social call to the ‘Vintage Bike Cave’. I have dealt with Graham [in the VBC] for about 5 years and he is a top guy. The shop itself was full of really nice stuff – not just racing related but stuff from as far back as 1909 ! A penny farthing adorned the wall. His selection of racing bikes and vintage attire was enough to make a retro man cry. This was his final week in the shop as the building itself is condemned and will be redeveloped into yet another shopping centre. It’s the actual building where Lotus Cars started the production of their hand built nightmares and continued on until 1959. Graham will be moving his business to Eastbourne soon and will concentrate more on internet based sales.
The tubs were changed and properly affixed. After a feed fit for a prince it was registration time. I met a couple of ladies, Mandy and Nicky, who do charity gigs all over the UK at Stratford DLR. True to form, I heard them discuss the Ride Surrey 100 and couldn’t help but introduce myself. We were a bit late, well 19:58 so had to run to registration. We just got in and along with about 15 other tardy cyclists. Mandy didn’t make it but a quick word to the person in charge from me ..actually I told him to catch himself on and ‘hey presto!’ it was sorted. Mandy reckoned she was going to turn on the waterworks if he didn’t let her register!
The next morning we joined up with Newham Cyclists for a group ride to the London Freecycle. Not your average cyclists this crowd – vastly experienced commuters on a variety of machines. There was quite a variety of members. Everything from a family of 5 to a courier riding a carbon hybrid fixie. There was a crowd of 81 including 10 marshal outriders. They did a fantastic job of blocking junctions and letting us amble on down ‘Cycling Superhighway 2’ into Lindenhall. The ‘Courier Lad’ James does a load of track cycling and it shows. The Lee Valley Velodrome is next door so why would he not? Free cycle is an 8 mile lap of London City closed off to traffic. There were around 70,000 participants. There was everything from a 2 year old with stabilisers, a lady dressed up as the queen, hand cyclists, guys on old black raleighs, a couple of ‘cool dudes’ towing boom box trailers and a couple of 17 year old Chelsea toffs on penny farthings with period gear. There were 6 festival zones with all sorts of stuff going on – for example stunts and mountain biking. I had a go on a set of racing rollers which was savage. Boris Johnson like him or not has done so much for cycling around London. There are 8 ‘Cycling Superhighways’ on which cyclists have priority. I can’t see this ever happening in this country.
After a monster feed and a final check of the bike it was off to bed for ‘Rider Pink F 61040’. In the morning breakfast consisted of 2 bowls of porridge, 2 fruit bowls with yoghurt and a truck load of granola. Start time was 8:24 same as Ann-Marie. Diane was on the track an hour earlier. We took off to “Walking on Sunshine” and it was away. There were approximaely 500 riders in each wave. I was reliably informed by Ann-Marie that any rider number starting with a 6 was overseas. All of a sudden all I could see were Paddies…!
On the first section I fell in with a group of lads from Kent. We all did our pull at the front and we were moving well. I wasn’t going to stop until the top of Box Hill but then just as we passed the 40 miles mark there was a massive delay [at Ripley]. There was a stop off and the lads decided to plough on. I was stopped by the CEO of Bike Swanky who wanted to take pics of me and the Peugeot. He told a lad on a carbon bike that his bike was “All Crass and No Class” . We were stopped for about 90 mins. The delay was caused by a major pile up which left 3 cyclists in a serious condition. The ride was halted as the air-ambulance took the lads to hospital. I heard later that 12 in total suffered injuries.
Ahh well up the road again and I wasn’t feeling great after being stopped – Then ‘BANG’ , Rear tub gone. I had the spare but taking the tub off broke the adhesive! While fixing the bike a girl punctured so I did ‘Sir Galahad’ and duly changed out her tube as well. She had glass stuck in the tyre and judging by the catastrophic nature of my failure I had succumbed to the same fate. Another 20 minutes gone.
Have you ever driven on a motorway when the sheer volume of traffic causes the whole flow to grind to a halt ? It was thesame scenario here with frequent hold ups. My legs were beginning to twinge and then the inevitable cramp set in. I nearly stalled on quite a number of occasions. There was a slight downhill and I pulled in with a few others at a road closed sign to recover. There were a few riders about waiting on others. Another cyclist ‘Ian’ punctured – I fixed his puncture to pass the time! A rider came back against the flow and said Leith Hill was blocked solid but the road we were on led ¾ the way up the hill but was a harder climb. “Who is with me” I asked. “I’m on” said about 5 riders and we braved the hill. Only 2 stayed on the bikes .. Ian and me.. I ground out the 42/24 which was my lowest gear. None of this compact bullshit for me….! I hurt at the top but got a clean run to ‘The Box’. The rest of the riders and Ann-Marie got re-routed around Leith. Diane got to give it a lash as she was earlier on the road. Funny we are living in the same area, part of the same club, we are in the same event but never even met up… Different start times and different locations and save for the odd call I would never had known she was in London.
Box Hill was handy enough with no walkers to report this year. I was feeling a bit shook at the top and stopped up. There were burgers, hot dogs, chips and I duly got tore in. The same guy that fixed my seat bolt last year was there as well.. He was in the middle of a handlebar clamp bolt that was sheared. Mandy and Nicky then landed up as I was just taking off again. We had a bit of ould chat. 75 miles done another 25 will see me home and dry. Well so I thought.
Well you know the human body is a wonderful piece of kit. You basically have 2 sugar sources and I was running low on the glycogen side and being Type 1 Diabetic this is never a good place to be. This is what your liver stores and with the long day and the delays I was basically spent. I had checked my sugars at The Box and taking into account the king feed of burgers takes at least 3-4hrs to replenish your liver I was running on fresh air. I was getting slower and slower until I got to Haynes Park where I just had to pull in. I was becoming a liability, but had the sense to just pull into a bus shelter. I had an absolute load of jelly babies, fig rolls and Turkish Delights. A lady and her husband were at the bus-stop so I got chatting to them. They were waiting for their son and his girlfriend. She gave me a bottle of Lucozade 500ml and told me that she wondered why she bought 3 bottles … Well fare play to her…! This was like a curry to a piss-head.. Her son Adam and his missus Karen landed then I was starting to chirp rightly , a lethal combination of burgers, fig rolls jelly babies, Turkish delights all washed down with 500ml of Lucozade had me on a high so off the 3 of us went. They were going savage fast so I told him to just mow on as I didn’t have the legs for it. I knew it wouldn’t be too long before my liver would start robbing my system of vital sugar so I just tipped along nice and steady. I knew I was well down the pecking order having lost around 2 hours with stops. John Brown always told us as U-16’s “No matter how bad you feel or how spent you are there is always somebody worse” I kept focussed on this when I heard a familiar voice beside me. It was Gary the lad who had one arm I met last year – He was in great form and it was flying it. I told him I was absolutely kippered and he got a great laugh from that. Not even Gary was in as bad a shape as me. Wimbledon Hill was a steady affair and then down the hill and I could see the Thames – Are we there yet ?– are we there yet? – are we there yet ?
Coming up alongside the Thames I was chatting to a nice girl Sofia from Swansea. ‘My aunt lives in Barry you know?’. Then the unthinkable, 2 miles from The Mall, an errant white bottle dropped by another cyclist rolled across Sofia’s path which startled her. She swerved and locked bars with me pushing me sideways …. The tubular came off the back and my beloved Mavic GP4 locked tight and it was rim to road contact for about 20 yards. Poor Sofia landed very heavily on the road and seemed to slide for what felt like ages. I didn’t come off and got my bike on to the kerb. Sofia was lying stricken on the road with masses of cyclists coming at her from all sides. I waited for a gap and got her and bike rescued before the next onslaught of riders reached us. She was all ‘road rash’ and bruised to the hilt. The fact is us fellas just get back on again and carry on unless you are a softie or a pet but she got an awful shock and was shaking with shock.
The first aider came to her and called for the medical staff. A Renault ambulance made its way through the back streets to where we were. The medics tended to her as I let the air out of the tub and refitted it. GP4 rim was well scoobed. Sofia’s bike was punctured and had a broken lever. A couple of the marshals were attempting to change out the tube. There is only so much incompetence and inexperience a man can take “I can’t sit and watch you young fellas fanny about with that wheel any longer – just give Donal that wheel” Total number of punctures fixed 4….! I got the bike into a half gear and went to see what the story in the ambulance was. “We can’t let you go on until we are sure you haven’t a concussion or have broken anything”. 40 mins had passed at this stage. The amount of riders had dwindled to a trickle…. Then I heard the sirens in the distance
Sofia wanted to go on and I definitely wanted to go on. “Please lads Chris Froome will be roaring down this road in 5mins. If we don’t get on the road now we will not be classified as finishers” “As long as you promise to get checked out at the medical tent at the finish” “Aye Aye Aye” A motorcycle marshal came up and announced the Prudential Classic was 10mins back.. If you are going then now is the time.
On to the bikes and up the road like the hammers. Streets were totally empty – The crowds were out to see the pros but it was really us they were out for. The cheers and roars we got gave us a big boost. Through Admiralty Arch and on to The Mall. Mall was totally clear and I said why not. I rode the whole Mall with the hands off the bars waving to the crowd. Everyone was cheering and shouting at us as the commentator announced the arrival of 2 of the final 6 finishers adding “Team Peugeot – I haven’t seen that jersey for 30 years – Bike and all mate Well Done” The crowd went wild. A TV crew in to cover the Classic Event swung the camera round to catch us as the man with the mike said “Well done you two” That was our 10 seconds of fame.. We got our medals and just forgot to get Sofia checked out. She was in a big panic to get home to Swansea as she had work on the Monday. A slow painful run back to Stratford but smiled all the way up CS2. The trip on the plane home was “interesting” but you will have to ask me about that…!
This event is easily the best event I have ever done. At least it is measured in miles as well. Cycling has gone soft since the change over to Eurotrash ‘kilometres’. This event isn’t about average speed or time – its an adventure and you can take nothing for granted. If a man can take his own cycling shoes off at the end of an event then he has had a good day. Robin Chard 48 from Bicester Oxfordshire was riding for Cancer Research UK. He had lost his father, stepfather and mother-in-law to the disease. He had suffered from Hodgkin’s Disease himself. Unfortunately Robin suffered a heart attack at 25miles and died in Kingston Hospital. He had aimed to raise £400 but by the event start he had £1200 – At the minute this stands at £70,000+ . 2 major crashes ended up with 7 cyclists seriously injured. 37 cyclists ended up in hospital that day.Event was stopped for these. Statistics say that this is going to happen if you put 26,000 cyclists on a road. The reason why I did 9:23 is easy to understand. Numerous stops, lack of sleep, no real training, fixing punctures, chatting, cramp, knock and a skirmish don’t make a good time but the buzz of riding down the Mall crowds cheering and all that was forgot about. Will I go next year again? For definite if I can get a place. Are you with me….?
- Donal Caddye