First big challenge of the year (not the first event though- see other posts)! This is a two day event, 100 miles each day – I’ve no idea if I can do it, but I’m going to try – it’s been a dream (hopefully not a nightmare) for some time. It’s around 50 years since I’ve ridden multi day events and even then they were fairly leisurely touring events, laden with luggage and not aiming at 100 miles a day – I can’t remember ever racing two days in a row. Not that sportives are races – but they are challenges to complete in a reasonable time (7 – 71/2 hours is now about right for me).
Tour de Broads is organised by my favourite sportive organiser – Pedal Revolution in Norwich – I ride their events whenever I can and am particularly pleased when I come across young children riding with their parents on shorter, carefully chosen routes. They also organise ParkRide events each week in Norwich, especially for those just learning to ride or coming back to a bike later in life.
This starts in Great Yarmouth and approaches the Broads from the South – route has not yet been published but I will update when it is. I normally plan emergency cut-outs so I’d shorten the route if things aren’t going well but the Broads (plenty of water, not that many roads!) might make that a little challenging and may simply mean I have to ride it all!
This is an interesting sportive – it can include several off-road elements that mimic the Paris-Roubaix professional race which will take place the next day – with cobbled roads, often poor weather – very challenging, exhausted mud-caked riders, numerous accidents and broken bikes! I rode this sportive last year with one off road section (sandy, deeply rutted lane – not really my scene) but this year am opting to stay on tarmac. We did have some poor weather with a little rain, wind, hail/snow – no way to avoid those! – some sun but still cold.
The roads are quite good, quiet but I well remember seeing what looked like a very tall cyclist way ahead of me coming into Framlingham – he was riding a Penny Farthing with considerable grace. I managed to take a wrong turning last year, so will try to get it right this year.
This will be the fifth year I’ve ridden this event. It starts in Newmarket and meanders around the Suffolk countryside, along some quiet roads, through some delightful villages – but it’s quite a tough start to the year. There are no major hills, but lots of small hills which take their toll on my legs by the end. One year it was 100 miles (and I was really quite glad to finish that one), but normally the distances have been 75-85 miles.
Very near to the finish, just when I could be thinking it’s nearly over, there is a nasty little hill that looks a bit like a vertical wall – it’s partly the effect of coming downhill towards it and then suddenly having to climb it with very little left in the tank!
A really good day. The weather was quite good, a very brief shower around midday, some wind (inevitably) as we headed south but never too hot or cold. I’d have liked to have gone faster but I finished without any cramp and with enough energy to ride home so can’t really complain.
I was able to ride to the start (Whitlingham Broad) from home, then we set off through a little bit of Norwich and up towards Wroxham then to the coast. We then headed south through Great Yarmouth (not as picturesque as the villages) and then headed back to Norwich and the finish.
Some very pleasant riding along both familiar and unfamiliar roads, a few small Norfolk hills, well behaved traffic, not sure I could have asked for anything more!
This is the only photo I could find with me in it, at the start – look carefully, on the very left of the photo there’s a chap with an orange jersey and I’m just to the right of him (the only way I can be quickly sure is the red cuff of my jersey sleeve with “2017” (Ride London – still my favourite jersey for organised events).
(Click to enlarge, then again)
Most sportives come with a medal for finishing – the Tour de Broads medals (one for the Spring and another for the summer event) are quite interesting if you ride both events they join together (and the windmill sails do go round!):
This ride was an antidote to last year’s Tour de Yorkshire where I found the hills often reduced me to walking up them. Cambridgeshire is pretty flat – but can get very windy instead!
There were to be 12,000 other riders on this event which started from the East of England Showground in Peterborough, alongside a number of races and other events over the weekend. I wondered how they would manage to get all 12,000 riders away in a good time – I don’t think I need have worried too much but I made sure I was near the start from about an hour and a half before we were actually due to start. In order to reduce the impact of heavy traffic parking charges were free until 7am then went up to £20 for those arriving after 9. I went for the free option though this meant getting up at 4 am but also gave me the luxury of parking very near the start and all the facilities. I really didn’t want to be stuck waiting for an hour to start riding – and then not finish until well into the evening.
The ride itself started with all the riders needing to walk or scoot or ride very slowly for half a mile or so when we were finally able to start riding properly.
This was a completely closed road event, sometimes on quite narrow lanes but often went through small villages where people were cheering us on – real encouragement, especially as these folk were effectively “marooned” – unable to get out in their cars, but they seemed ready to enjoy the day instead.
No hills to speak of but some long stretches of straight and level roads through the fens, occasionally into the teeth of the wind.
One surprise was coming to the former RAF base of Alconbury where we had a pit stop amidst hundreds or even thousands of brand new Audi and Skoda cars, probably also VW and Mercedes, some with late 2018 number plates, others with 2019 or unregistered. The base must have been huge in its day with miles and miles of concrete runways and taxiways.
I suffered with mechanical problems as my gears had developed an intermittent fault – I was really annoyed to think that I had accidentally cut through part of an electrical cable, but subsequently (back home) found it to have been a loose connection underneath handlebar tape. For quite a few miles I was stuck in a single gear – not so bad when it was a middle gear, but bad news when it was a low gear. With about 25 miles to go, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to go faster then 12 mph without spinning my legs frantically – but fortunately something seemed to reconnect in time for the last 15-20 miles.
A little sprinkle of rain quite welcome as I arrived at the finish. A good day, though I wasn’t best pleased with my 7 hours plus time, the mechanical problems did have quite an impact with frequent stops to try to resolve the issue.
Sunday 29 July: Many thanks for your support, encouragement and sponsorship for the 2018 Ride London-Surrey. Having initially planned for a hot day, plans were hastily changed to deal with the wet – this year’s ride started with light rain and continued with it for about 60 of my 100 miles.
Having had weeks of dry weather, roads were potentially very slippery and I soon abandoned any hopes of improving on last year’s time, concentrating more on finishing safely. So 6:44 overall time, lots of challenges, plenty of fun as well as some gritting of teeth and just grinding up some of the hills, as well as causing traffic chaos in London with lots of closed roads. Once again, a real privilege to have been able to take part.
Actual crowds were smaller in number because of the rain but were much appreciated because they braved it! Your encouragement certainly helped, as did the knowledge that my sponsorship target had now been exceeded – about £760 raised so far. A big thank you to all of you, especially the anonymous donor because I can’t thank you personally.
As last year, this was simply amazing – the sheer amount of organisation and team work with both paid staff and volunteers is huge and really seems to work well. Of course, the actual cycling is pretty easy compared to that!
Cycling towards the start at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford (at 5 something am), I began to see the directions for the different colour starting groups – mine was green and there were possibly 6, maybe more, different colours. Within each colour we all had Wave letters – mine was F, so I headed off to the holding area for that Wave. There I, and several hundred others, waited until we were called to start to move towards the actual start. We gradually moved forwards to find that there were two parallel starting grids so that one Wave was getting fully into position while another Wave was actually starting to ride. It had taken us nearly an hour to reach the start line from when we started moving – but bang on 7:12am (the exact time my instructions said we would start), my Wave was started and we rode onto the A12 towards the Blackwall Tunnel.
Turning left just before the tunnel, we headed East then to the area around City Airport and then West, through the Limehouse Link tunnel, along the Highway, past the Tower and onto the Embankment, around Trafalgar Square, onto Pall Mall, then past the Ritz, Harrods, over the Hammersmith fly-over and crossed the river at Chiswick. All these roads fully closed to traffic, so I frequently delighted in riding on the right-hand side of the road.
Then off to Richmond Park, Kingston, Molesey, Weybridge.
After about 40 miles, we started to climb the hills – Newlands Corner (warm up), Leith Hill (a bit of a prelude then around a bend and it’s steep and hard, but fortunately not that long). Careful descent in the wet, then a few miles grace until Box Hill (zig-zags for over a mile but never quite as steep as Leith Hill).
No more big hills to come so keep the power on while remembering the sharp little bump at Wimbledon, which does hurt a bit at 90 miles. Then through Putney and onto the Embankment winding up towards Whitehall, through Admiralty Arch for the final 500 metres or so in the Mall with Buckingham Palace possibly visible (I only had eyes for the
finish line) – no opportunity for a real sprint finish as there was too big a group in front of me to spend the effort.
Now, you can also see a series of video clips in which I appear. It can be quite challenging to spot me, but, as you’ll have seen from the photos, here are some clues: white helmet, pink socks, orange and dark grey Arthritis Research jersey, mostly white bike, red handlebars and gloves, number F11788 with green background, mostly upright riding position:
Did you note the weather and also the effort needed on Wimbledon Hill – that was easy-ish compared to the other hills!
More clues, if you can see the timings on the video
0:16 on the left, 0:34, 0:44 behind rider in light blue, part hidden by rider in black, 1:05 same, 1:19 on left, 1:45-48, 1:53-58, 2:09-16, 2:48,
3:03, 3:16, 3:29, 3:42, 3:55, 4:03, 4:24, 4:40 (gets a bit boring towards the end)
Wow – that was hard! Norfolk is a poor training ground for Yorkshire hills. There were 6 major hills, all but one of which I walked up – too steep for me when in company of others who were also finding them challenging and, like me, weaving over the road so there wasn’t always a clear path to ride in. I opted for the easy way out and walked.
But Yorkshire was amazing: roads in the towns and villages decorated with official light blue Tour de Yorkshire flags etc and with a delightful assortment of bunting, flags, miniature jerseys, painted bikes – and people cheering us on from their front gardens, laybys, outside the pubs etc.
Yorkshire has a great reputation among cyclists for its welcome and I can now attest to that. Yes, there was also a professional race coming through – but several hours after us. I saw one mum setting up with two young children and chairs and picnic. Bridge Church in Otley with jugs of orange squash to refill our bottles (very welcome in the heat – it was a really nice day).
The sound of people drumming on the finish barriers both very welcome and highly memorable.
Knowing the hills, I deliberately set out with no target time, planning only to finish in one piece, frequent stops plus a mile or two walking (only way to admire the view – the descents obviously also very steep!).
Simply amazing. Can’t fault the organisation and pleased with my own ride aimed for 6 hours riding time but didn’t quite make it (6:18). A tremendous privilege to ride through closed roads in our capital city and Surrey with thousands of other riders.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Managed the hills, overwhelmed by the crowds who gathered along most of the road, especially in town centres and, of course, the finish. Over £1,400 raised for charity, split between Parkinsons and Wymondham Dementia
Support Group – thank you if you were among those who gave so generously.
This video does give an impression of some of the day. You’ll need to look carefully at what I’m wearing to spot me!
During the song at the finish, I should be in the picture when you hear “Scooby-doo, I see you”
While this wasn’t my first event since returning to cycling, it’s the event that sparked off this website and the idea of encouraging people to encourage me!
This is a detailed record, all for my benefit – only read if you’re bored!
Stayed at Mark and Jen’s in Kennington – perfect location.
Set off soon after 5am from Mark’s, arrived about 6. Scores of other riders so just followed them. Also scores of punctures – must have been at least 20 before even got to the start. Also lots en route…puzzled – roads didn’t seem that much of a problem.
Sat around in Pink zone, had second breakfast, read, then toilet stop, then kit bag store – this was easy. Was a stall selling coffee but a long queue. Stacks of toilets, not really a need to queue – just waited till all looked quiet.
Put leg warmers in kitbag and also jacket (don’t do this next time). Could have carried a real book to preserve battery – though wasn’t an issue. Kept arm warmers on till a stop somewhere.
Joined the wave at wave opening time (7am). OK, waiting around till wave closing time (7.40) soon after which we started to move forwards to the start. Probably several hundred in the wave, seemed mixed abilities.
Actually two starts so two waves were alternating all the time.
Start at exactly 8.20, by now weather very pleasant (having started with rain overnight and light showers early).
No problems of bunching once on the road – plenty wide, used A12 for a bit then through dockland area near airport, on towards Limehouse Link tunnel, through it, along the Highway, around the Tower onto Gt Tower St then Embankment, Northumberland Ave. Can’t remember if we only had one half of these roads, but width was never an issue.
Up to Trafalgar Sq, Pall Mall, St James St, Piccadilly, Knightsbridge. At some point here we had lots of road. On to Hammersmith, up the flyover, onto Chiswick and over the river. Through to Richmond Park. While it was great going along Brompton Rd, Cromwell Rd and other roads where we had the whole road, going across Richmond Park was a bit more of a trial as slower riders didn’t stay on the left and often bunched. Nearly taken out by someone suddenly stopping in front of me.
Once past the Park, going was good, plenty of space, I used the right side of the road frequently. Still not used to going through red lights so mentally if not physically covering the brakes!
All turns were warned 100m ahead (though not the direction of the turn). No possibility of going astray as side roads cordoned off/marshalled.
Feed stations – avoided completely except for one stop for water – queues too long for food. Used a local park hidden in the woods. May have made a mistake in fuelling with a gel and not drinking enough water with it before the hills – felt a tiny bit sick.
Newlands Corner – deceptive, thought I might have even gone up it but that was just a prelude. Sharp, hard but not that long – but narrow. Problem was other cyclists who wobbled more than I or walked – or were storming up. I just took it steadily and managed – just.
Leith Hill – Hard and longer, same problem, but made it. Took the descent cautiously as damp in places; stayed behind a young lady and let the faster ones go.
Box Hill – not as steep but a lot longer, seemed to go on for ever with twists and turns. By now the walkers seemed to have taken the diversions so a little easier to manage. Took the descent faster – nearly hit 40mph
Paused to eat an energy bar as wasn’t feeling that great – bit shaky, but after rest, drink and bar carried on no problem.
Fine, bowling along until Wimbledon Hill whose steepness was an unpleasant surprise, though the hill wasn’t unexpected! Stopped and stretched as was a bit worried re cramp
Now flattish, really helped by the crowds (and passing slower riders). (didn’t take any notice of faster ones – weren’t many by then). Tried to find wheels to sit on but no success. Over Putney bridge, cranking up as much as I could, onto Kings Rd then onto the Embankment. Mostly had the right side of the road to myself so 20mph+ all the way (wanted to get over 30!), up to Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty arch and onto the Mall as hard as I could. Chris Boardman’s comment – if you think you can sustain the pace, you’re not going fast enough – ringing in my head so kept the pressure on. Head down, occasional look up to ensure path clear.
Several accidents/people lying in the road (all attended) no idea what was wrong. Added a note of caution on the descents though. Heard someone died from a heart attack early on on the 46 mile route, apparently a pre-existing condition.