The Prudential RideLondon - A survival guide
by Graeme Hilditch
RideLondon - A Survival Guide
If you’ve been spending the last few months putting some long and hilly miles into your legs in preparation to take on Europe’s biggest cycling sportive, then there are a few vital things you need to know before you take your place on the start line.
RideLondon is an incredible event and come wind, rain or shine you will have the most incredible experience of your life - but there are one or two things you should know before you tackle the 100 miles of Surrey Countryside.
The following tips will help you to get the most out of the day and ensure you make it a truly memorable day - for all the right reasons.
Get up early
There are a number of ways to get to the start line at the Olympic park in Stratford, but with so many road closures, whatever option you choose, you’ll have to cycle at least part of the way there.
Leave plenty of time. Your wave will leave without you, so aim to arrive at the start well before your wave pen officially opens. Despite leaving (what i thought) was loads of time to get to the start, I very nearly missed the start - two years running!
All it takes is a puncture and once you’ve lost 15-20 minutes trying to sort it out, it can mean the difference between making it on time and missing your start time. So LEAVE EARLY.
Remember to refuel
With so much going on around you and the buzz of the cycling alongside hundreds of other cyclists, it’s easy to forget about the importance of your nutrition. Every year, despite being disciplined in refuelling during training, riders forget to snack on gels / jelly babies regularly which may not affect you in the first half of the ride, but come mile 60 and beyond, life can get pretty tough if you are running low on energy.
Remember to snack on sugary snacks regularly (every 20 minutes or so) to keep your blood sugar levels up and to help spare your stored glycogen (carbohydrate) to see you through to the end of the ride.
Drink little and often too. You should be looking to drink at least a bottle every hour - more if conditions are scorchio. For more nutrition guidance, read other posts in our blog or visit Science in Sport.
Avoid Newlands Corner if you can.
The hub at the top of the Newlands Corner climb, just before the half way point, is one of the biggest on the course and it has everything you need. St John Ambulance, Bike Mechanics, Coffee and cake and the chance to replenish your gels and water bottles.
However, as ideal as it sounds to stop here, DON’T unless you absolutely have to. Every other cyclist (and their dog) stops at Newlands Corner to restock, making it incredibly busy and a frustrating place to be if you want to make a swift getaway.
Not only is the queue for toilets, snacks and fluid incredibly long, but the queue to get out and back on the road is painfully slow, meaning it can easily take you over 45 minutes to stock up and be back on your way again.
There are plenty of other nutrition stops both before and after Newlands corner, so our advise is to stop there instead - unless you are in desperate need of the mechanical or medical facilities at Newlands Corner.
Leith Hill v’s Box Hill
Although the the media attention is focussed on Box Hill as the significant climb on the course - not for the first time in your life, “don’t believe the press”. It is Leith Hill that you’ve got be ready for.
The thing about Leith Hill is that not does the road get quite narrow in places, making it quite challenging to ride being surrounded by so many other riders but on a number of occasions near the top, it lulls you into thinking that you’re there. Don’t be fooled.
There are two or three unexpected “kicks” and stings in Leith Hill’s tail, so avoid being tempted to attack it near the end - it might just catch you out.
With regards to Box Hill, it’s by no means is it a doddle, but it’s a steady and attractive climb that you’ll actually find enjoyable. Once you’ve summited Box Hill, you can have peace of mind that that’s (pretty much) all the climbing done and you can now head back to London on the relative flat.
Stay alert on the downhill
What goes up must come down and this is certainly the case when you have reached the top of the major climbs.
After you’ve powered up Newlands Corner, Leith Hill and Box Hill, the downhill sections that follow are quick and you have to be alert and aware of your surroundings to ensure you and your fellow riders stay safe.
Avoid making any sudden or unexpected movements and always check over your shoulder if you need to change you position in the road.
The descent after you’ve summited Leith Hill is particularly challenging due to the narrow road also presenting a few lumps and bumps, so stay alert and look after yourself.
So, in short
RideLondon is an incredible event that you will never forget.
Provided you use a good dose of common sense on every aspect of the ride, hydrate and refuel regularly and respect other riders you’ll have an incredible day and be back for more next year.
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