Before this ride my longest UK ride was the Cheshire Cheetah 70 mile sportive although I had done a 110 mile and 85 mile ride as part of the ARIZONA TO LAS VEGAS CYCLE CHALLENGE last year so I knew I could cover the 185 miles over this weekend. My main goal for this weekend was to have a good ride and use it as a good training base for the two upcoming Ironman events, as well as trying out some on bike nutrition to use during Ironman as well.
I made the 3 hour drive from home to Enfield on the Friday night, staying at the Premier Inn Enfield which left a 10 min drive to the start the following day. I made sure that I had my kit out and bike stocked with snacks, fully lubed up and just basically had everything sorted the night before.
Saturday morning, I woke at 5:30am packed up the car. There were a lot of other cyclists loading their cars and heading down to the start. Looks like I wasn’t the only one to use the Premier Inn as an overnight base.
Once I arrived at Lee Valley, Parking was simple enough and well managed by the volunteers. Registration was quick. The registration tents were arranged in surname order, there was nobody waiting in the “H” queue. Some others had a bit of a wait but nothing major. The registration pack contained my bike number, timing and photo stickers which were attached to my helmet and a stick for the bike which showed the distances to the major climbs and feed stations.
Day 1 – Enfield – Windsor – 101.7 Miles.
I was in wave C and due to set off at 7:15am, I was running a little late and had already made up my mind that I would be dropping into the next wave, but after I dropped my bag on the van wave C was only just going through the race brief so I had made that fine. The waves were well split, roughly around 100 riders in each wave and they send you off in groups of 50 with around a 10 min gap, so it wasn’t too crowded on the roads. More so to make it easier for other road users than making it easier for us cyclists. It couldn’t have been easy riding around 50 cyclists let alone 100.
The first 11.5 miles from Enfield down to Tower Bridge were pretty much stop / start with traffic lights and junctions. The pace was slow but I think this is a good thing, it made it easier to concentrate on the road and road conditions. Plus its nice to have a bit of a warm up before opening out and picking up the pace. From the get go the course was really well marked out. I have done sportives in the past where there is just one arrow marking each turn and sometimes these are tampered with over night. With the London Revolution, they had an arrow approx 100m before any turn or major junction, one at the turn and a confirmation arrow afterwards. I never once felt like I didn’t know where I was heading. I had the route on my Garmin GPS just in case but I turned this off pretty quickly. I had been looking forward to riding over Tower Bridge. Until this year I had never actually been on the bridge. In March and April I ran over the bridge during the Big Half and London Marathon races. This was my first experience of the bridge on the bike. As it turned out, it was a bit of a let down really, the road traffic was quite bad as you can see from this photo, but then, it is central London so to be expected really.
From Tower Bridge the next 10 miles were again stop / start through south London but I was getting fed up with the slower pace so I started to move up through the pack. We came to a hill called Titsey I think which on the ride, didn’t feel like much. I was riding past lots of people yet still in the big ring. It wasn’t until I checked my Strava later that evening that I realised I had just cruised up a 740ft climb. At least now I was well ahead of the pack and riding through the first half of wave C who went off before me. There was a good 400ft drop and 5 miles of riding to the first feed station so I put the hammer down, trying to average around 20-21mph for this little section.
Between the first and second feed station there was a 33.6 mile stretch which was pretty much flat. My plan was to hit this hard and keep going at my 20mph average. The feed stations themselves were great, really well managed by the volunteers and well stocked with sweets, High5 gels & powders, fruits, toilets and plenty of drinking water available. I probably spent a bit too long here eating Freddo bars.
There is not too much to say about the middle section of day 1, it was flat and fast. I was out by myself for the majority of this pushing on and picking people off as I went by. I really enjoyed this after spending most of the first 34 miles in traffic. It was nice to be on some quiet lanes.
The lunch selection was just as good as the first feed station. Lots of sandwiches to chose from and plenty of water, toilets etc once again. It did start spitting with rain as I was eating lunch so I set off a bit quicker than planned to try and get out ahead of the rain. I had opted to not bring my jacket out with me today. I made the epic mistake of trusting the BBC weather app, having seen that there was a 45% chance of rain from 3pm I thought I would be done by then so no need for the jacket. Big mistake. The rain starting coming down heavy from 1pm. I set off with no jacket for the last 33 miles. Within one mile of the lunch stop there was the first really serious hill of the day, Pitch Hill. This was a 340ft climb which averaged around 6% gradient at times it was up to 10% – 12% but felt very manageable, although I did definitely drop down to the little ring for this one. I didn’t fancy meeting my BLT sandwich again. Around 5 miles later we came to the second and final big climb of the day, Combe Lane, which I believe is one of the 100 toughest climbs in the UK, but that was just a 0.9 mile 345ft climb averaging 7% and topping out around 20% near to the top. This felt pretty manageable again. I guess all those training rides up the Mow Cop Killer Mile at home really paid off. The wet road did make it a little tricky on the steep section, the back wheel did slip a few times but thats my fault for putting down too much power in a low gear. The decent down the other side was very slippery and was taken at a very slow speed by myself, I didn’t feel too comfortable sending it down there today in the rain.
After Combe Lane, the last 20 miles into Windsor were fairly flat and I was able to go at a fairly decent pace. It continued to rain for the rest of the ride. I felt very cold, my fingers and feet were numb with cold by the time I reached Windsor, I just wanted to get the bike dropped off and into the warm shower to recover. It was that warm shower which acted as my motivation to ride faster and keep pushing on. I was telling myself that each person I overtake is one less person in front of you in the shower queue.
Once I racked my bike at Windsor Race Course, I went through to the festival area, was allocated my tent and collected a mat for the tent. I collected my bag and went to the tent to get everything sorted out ready for tomorrow and get ready for that warm shower. The whole process was seamless, I really couldn’t fault the volunteers, even in the pouring rain they were really helpful and smiley, trying to lift spirits.
There were about 8 people in the queue for the showers when I got there. They had 14 showers so this queue soon went down which was good as I was shivering so much from the cold and being so wet. The shower itself was actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be. The water was really warm and a pretty good pressure too. This was just the ticket for me, I felt warm and clean again and so much happier than 10 mins prior.
The dinner again was far better than I had thought it was going to be. A buffet style with a choice of British, Mexican and Italian, or in my case one of each plus some nice deserts to chose from.
For those like me who took their Garmins, phones and GoPro charging was going to be an issue. I did take my GoPro portable charger which ensured my Garmin had sufficient power during the 101 miles, however, they were all running a little low so I was worried that they might not last the trip back to Enfield tomorrow.
It turned out that there was nothing to worry about, in the festival area they had a charging station with hundreds of power points (see below for a pic of one of the four tables). I managed to fully charge my phone, Garmin, GoPro and the portable charger so nothing to worry about any more.
I actually slept really well in the tent, the rain had stopped around 9pm and I think I slept from 10pm straight through to 5:30am.
Day 2 – Windsor – Enfield – 85.9 Miles
I was up at 5:30am, the same time that breakfast opened. The start line did not open until 7am and would remain open until 9am. I was going to set off around 7:30ish and just get a good early start with having a long drive home after the ride.
Even by 6am the queue for breakfast was out of the tent, I waited in line for around half an hour. Not too bad and it was dry today. The choice of breakfast isn’t as good as dinner. I had a bap with a sausage, bacon and egg on it plus a tub of porridge washed down with a orange juice. I would recommend getting to breakfast before 6am if you are thinking of doing this ride, the people coming out when I was queuing said that there was no queue when they got there.
Bag was dropped off in the van and I collected my bike after a mild panic when I couldn’t find where I had racked it. In my cold wet state last night I had just ditched the bike and not taken any note on where. This cost me 10 minutes hunting the rack for it. I made a stop off at the mechanic tent to put some air in the tyres, they were down 10psi, I used to pump to blast off a lot of the dirt and grass.
It was 7:40am when I left the start area. The first part of today’s ride didn’t look too bad on paper. Just two big hills to contend with according to the sticker they had given us. One at 20.4 miles called Lane End and one at 25.5 miles called Bedlow Ridge.
The first 15 miles were flat, I set off at a steady 16mph for 5 miles to get some warmth in my legs, it was dry today but still a little chilly early on. As we were leaving Marlow there was a bit of a hill for around 2 miles, the Lane End hill was nothing I didn’t even noticed I had gone up that. The second hill, Bedlow Ridge was a little more challenging but nothing much to worry about.
The feed station was just as good as yesterday’s. Again I was tucking into the Freddo’s and stocking up on the High5 powder for the middle section. This looked the toughest out of all the sections on this ride. 31 miles with five big hills to tackle. The first coming straight after the feed station. One called Kop Hill, this is a 0.6 mile steep stretch averaging just over 10%, London Rev kindly positioned their photographer on this hill snipering us as we struggled up (see below).
Next up was Lodge Hill at 37.4 miles, this was a half mile 190ft climb at 7%, didn’t feel too bad, just have to drop the gears and keep the wheels turning. Then came Kings Ash at 40 miles which was a 1 mile 250ft climb at 4%, which to be honest, didn’t feel like it deserved a place on the “big hill list”. We had an 11 mile flat / down hill section thankfully before hitting the forth of the hills, Flaunden, a 0.3 mile 120ft climb at 7%. Nothing much to that one really then at 57.1 miles we came to the final big climb before lunch called Bedmond, this was a half mile 150ft climb at 5%. I get the feeling that some of these climbs were added to the list to make it look a little more challenging. I get that a lot of people will have struggled up these climbs but to me they seemed very easy. As mentioned previously though, I do train on Mow Cop with is a 1 mile 595ft climb averaging 15% and topping 27% in places. The reason I train on there and put myself through that hell is to make other climbs feel easier. Seems to do the trick.
Lunch was great again, lots of sandwiches and drinks to chose from. I didn’t hang around too long this time, I wanted to get back and head off on the 3 hour drive home as soon as possible. I made up my mind that the final section of the day will be a 25 mile time trial for me. The hill sticker was showing two hills but I just discounted these and went for it.
I averaged just under 21mph across those last 25 miles, overtaking 24 people. Or 24 less people in the bike wash queue, using yesterday’s virtual shower queue as motivation. As I thought, I went straight through the two hills without noticing them. Looking at them on my Strava profile now, they were both averaging at 3% and only short climbs. The final 5 miles were a bit of a drag coming through Enfield, as with the trip out of London it was stop / start and weaving around cars.
I crossed the finish line and collected my medal and decided I would treat myself or my bike to a bike wash from the Pro Bile Wash guys, they were charging £10 and my bike was a mess from the mud and rain yesterday. Their machine did an amazing job, I can thoroughly recommend them to anyone thinking of doing the ride. It took 10 mins and the bike was as good as new again. I managed to pack my bags in the car, get changed and have a burger whilst my bike was cleaned for me.
So a quick summery.
I loved this ride, I had such a great time from start to finish. Yes the traffic in London slowed things down but this was expected and gave a good chance to see some of the sights from the road. Riding the lanes through the North Downs and Chilterns was fantastic. Some of the climbs and down hill sections. The rain made it a challenge on Saturday afternoon. The guys looking after us at base camp in Windsor and all of the feed stations were fantastic, they made the ride far more enjoyable with their attitude.
I would definitely recommend this ride to anyone looking at it for 2019 and beyond.