You've put in the hard miles, asked your colleagues around the office for charity donations for the big day and laid out your energy gels, bars and bottles in anticipation. The day is almost upon us and whether this is your first 100-mile ride or your 90th, with its closed roads, masses of people and cross-county route, RideLondon is a riding experience up there with the best of them.
Here is our preview for the route plus a couple of tips for last minute prep.
Likely to be an early start for anyone who couldn't find anywhere to stay close to the Olympic Park; the 6:00am to 9:00am rollout will be anticipated with bated breath. Don't be deceived by the sleepy start time though, riders will shoot off at breakneck speed from the starting gun down the A12 towards the Isle of Dogs.
For those of you who work in the City the next section of the route will feel like a dream as you are able to weave across the entire stretch of the road without the fear of the ever-present London traffic. The flat and fast section up to Hatton Garden is a great opportunity to warm up those legs before dropping down to the Strand, up to Hyde Park Corner and then on out to Hammersmith and Richmond Park.
All of this comes before the 20-mile mark, which also sees the first little ramp of the day up Sawyers Hill. Averaging only 2.1% thanks to its two short downhill sections, Sawyers hill tops out at 10.2% and should provide a good little warm-up for the larger challenges to come.
From here it's onto the first food and mechanical hub at Hampton Court Palace at the 26-mile mark. Unless you really packed light on food and drink from before the race it could be worth giving this hub a miss and waiting for one of the later ones as it is likely to be busy, especially if you had a later start time.
Continuing out into Surrey, it will be after Ripley at the 40-mile mark that the gradient really starts picking up- marking the start of the undulating middle part of the course.
Newlands Corner is a short but sweet 1.8 kilometre climb that tops out at 11.8% but averages 4.6%. The key to Newlands as with the two other main climbs in the route, Leith Hill and Box Hill, is to pace yourself steadily up them. You're not likely to get your Strava PB, so don't blow your doors off early as time can be made up on the nice undulating descents.
There is rarely a flat section of road over the next ten or so miles before you reach the most imposing climb of the day- Leith Hill. Leith is a proper little climb and one of the toughest in the area. At an average of 6.5% with a max of 12.4% over 2.3 kilometres, you'll be pleased when it is over. Watch for the two sweeping bends and try to stay out of the poorly surfaced gutters as punctures await you there.
From the summit of Leith Hill it is a fast and undulating largely downhill ride to the foot of the famous Box Hill. At one point in time the most popular section in the world on Strava, Box Hill has a bark that is worse than its bite. At 2.4 kilometres with an average of 5% and a max of 12.8%, Box Hill is steadier than Leith Hill. Falling exactly at the two-thirds mark of the ride, its summit forms a nice send off to the Surrey Hills.
After Box Hill you are quickly down to the final hub at Leatherhead, which is a good choice for a second stop on a two-stop strategy. Oxshott and Esher are your last Surrey calling points before you return to Kingston.
Despite its appearance on the route chart as a little pimple, Wimbledon Hill, at around the 90-mile mark, is a tough little ramp that could definitely prove some rider's downfall so close to the finish.
Once Wimbledon is out of the way it is time to burn whatever you have left in the tank ready for the sprint up the Mall. Tackled in the opposite direction to Stage 3 of last year's Tour de France, the final Sprint down the Mall is the perfect send-off to what, weather permitting, should be one of the best days you've ever had on the bike.
Top Tips for RideLondon:
- Get a good night's sleep - Sleep is key to making sure your body has enough energy to tackle the tough day's riding ahead, especially given the early start that it will be for most.
- Eat Early - Breakfast is a must pre-ride. A nice bowl of porridge or something high in complex carbohydrates will stock your muscles up with energy that they can burn throughout the day. Also eat in the start pen; a banana or oatcake provides the perfect boost of energy and electrolytes just before you start.
- Test you kit beforehand - If you've just invested in some sweet kit just for Ride London make sure you test it out beforehand to make sure it works properly and to ensure it is comfortable for you. There is no point buying a luxurious new saddle the day before the race, only to find that it chafes you awfully after 60 miles. Ride with what you find most comfortable.
- Go at your own pace - Riders will inevitably shoot off the front from the word go. Remember, 100 miles is one heck of distance if you are not used to it, so try and find a group of riders who are riding at a similar speed to you and try and join them as riding in a group can save anything from 10 to 40% of your energy.
- Enjoy the closed roads - RideLondon first and foremost is supposed to be fun. You'll possibly spend the rest of the year toiling away on congested central London roads, dodging in and out of buses, taxis, Lorries and Boris Bikes so enjoy this one day of pedal-based freedom. Also, traffic lights will still change but you needn't pay any attention to them.
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