The buzz/hype/fervour at the start of events like these can only be appreciated by being there. Like going to a festival, everyone is there for the same thing and they all know what's coming!
My start time was 7 am and after all the loading of bikes and riders, the coach arrived with about 10 minutes to spare, enough time to wake up and get composed. The organisation required for this event is extensive and I was reminded of this when I saw the 6:30 am riders completing their start as we prepared for ours. This level of organisation continued throughout the ride - refreshment breaks felt like Formula 1 pit stops.
The ride can be split into 4 sections based on the hills: How Lane in Chipstead, Church Hill past Nutfield Marsh, Turners Hill and Ditchling Beacon. Leaving London is the easiest (most annoying) part of the ride. The frequent traffic light stops curb your excitement, to the point where you forget you're in a charity ride. However, this is understandable and can't be avoided. My hat goes off to all the patient drivers waiting in the side streets, clapping, gesticulating and swearing - You are heroes!
Once you hit the outskirts of London, things get serious. All the 'pro' riders (cyclists with no backpacks!) start to pick up the pace and overtake, heads down, smiley faces off. It's at this point I remembered I no longer live in London anymore and it's too late to turn back - head down, smiley face off.
It was good to see so many types of cyclists during the event and many ability levels. There were no egos, as far as I could tell and only one surprising moment where during one of the fastest descents, I saw a man on roller skates desperately trying to remain upright, while 30mph cyclists flew around him shouting.
I decided to only coast/freewheel on descents - Build up enough speed to get down rapidly, then control the descent. Coasting and controlling the descent provided a few rare moments to rest. 30/40mph down a hill is challenging when other bikes are flying past you, and you're also trying to overtake and get down in one piece. When on flat bits I pushed. Hard. I didn't take it seriously the last time I entered, so I was intent on finishing in a good time.
The only time I took it slowly was on the approach to The Beacon. If you're not a mountain goat, The Beacon is HARD. The only way to beat it is with the lowest gear you have, and to not stop pedalling. This is achievable if you or your chain do not come off the bike! After that, it is literally downhill all the way to the finish line.
It took 4hrs 30mins (roughly) to complete. The finish line in Brighton and the attached amenities were excellent. I was too tired to hang around, and only wanted a bath and bed, at the same time!
With Tillo doubling our amounts raised, we raised over £1500, which we're all really proud of. The donations are still open, so feel free to donate:
Looking forward to next year, with no bag and a faster bike.