Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Andy takes on the challenge of Ride London 2014 and experiences heavy weather and the friendliness of the crowd

Andy Smith writes: My mate Sam picked me up at the crack of dawn – 0430hrs to be precise – and drove me to my alloted drop-off point on the Jamaica Road. Despite the early hour, the traffic was heavy when we arrived at 0530hrs and I still had a five-mile ride to the Olympic Park from where Ride London began.
Andy with medal and bike after Ride London 2014 – here's to next year!
The weather was fine. A little overcast, perhaps, and the roads were slippery, but nothing to write home about. As I neared the park I found myself riding with increasing numbers of cyclists who, like me, were eager to get started. But that British obsession with the weather was nagging at me and I began to pray silently that the weathermen would be proved wrong and that Hurricane Bertha had quietly slipped away and forgotten about the UK.

It was 0745hrs when I finally got underway, cycling through London with nothing but other cyclists and managing to overtake a few of the Lycra monkeys.

It took two hours to cover 40 miles but the time seemed to pass quickly and to say I was pleased would be an understatement. Pleased, that is, until it started to rain. In fact, the weather went crazy. First it was heavy rain. The roads started to flood. Then there was wind, heavy wind. At one stage I encountered a bridge covering a good ten inches of standing water.

The rain eased off after an hour but was replaced a few miles later with hailstones and then more heavy rain. And then, as if to add insult to injury, I got a puncture. Fortunately, a spectator held an umbrella over me while I repaired it and then did the same for another cyclist as she repaired her fifth puncture of the day. I crossed my fingers and prayed that I wouldn't be getting any more punctures as they seriously slow you down.

80 miles covered and the rain had stopped. It even started to warm up so I took off my coat and continued, showing off my SCMSTC tee shirt and managing to pick up a bit of a tan in the process. There was hot sun as I cycled back through Kingston and Putney and the spectators were fantastic – as they had been all day, cheering me and my fellow riders on. With the weather vastly improved, more spectators took to the streets and their encouragement kept me going.

The euphoric feeling I was getting as I cycled through Whitehall and rounded Trafalgar Square was incredible. The finish line at The Mall lie ahead and as I it I realised that this was easily the hardest charity event I had ever done – a real test of mental strength (you have to be slightly mental to embark on something like this, especially in severely bad weather).

I don't mind saying that I was a little emotional after finishing, something that took me by surprise. I collected my medal and prepared for the ride home through London's streets – just 15 miles to go. The hailstones returned and everybody ran for whatever cover they could find, but it only lasted a couple of minutes.

As I rode home I wondered whether I would consider doing it again. Well, would I? The answer was a resounding 'yes'. I can't wait to put my name down for it.

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