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Vamper reflects on Prudential RideLondon 2016: the good, the bad and the ugly

Prudential RideLondon Mexican WaveEven after a two-hour delay, stationary cyclists kept their spirits up with a Mexican Wave
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Well, Prudential RideLondon 2016 has come to an end. All those months of preparation and anticipation, and it always seems to be over in the blink of an eye.

Despite the delays and diversions, Prudential RideLondon 2016 was a cycling event to remember. We feel so lucky to have had the chance to take part twice – when the sun has been shining, no less. Given how hotly contested ballot places are, we’re planning to take a break next year to give other cyclists a chance to take part in the event – riding past such iconic sights on traffic-free roads is something all keen cyclists should have the opportunity to experience at some point.

It was an eventful day which managed to showcase the best – and, unfortunately, the worst – of human nature. Read on for our thoughts on the Prudential RideLondon 2016.

Prudential RideLondon 2016: The Good

The organisation of Prudential RideLondon really is superb. We’d like to say a huge thank you to the event organisers and the fantastic marshals along the route – particularly the ones who made a huge effort to encourage weary cyclists along the way and who made us laugh when our legs were aching. You’re wonderful.

Prudential RideLondon 2016
I continue to find it amazing that the organisers manage to start the groups precisely on time. 08:19 – BOOM!

The supporters along the route are flippin’ fantastic. The villagers in Pyrford turning out with jugs of water to refill cyclists’ bottles during the long delay? The woman in Norbiton hollering encouragement, telling us all that we looked every bit as good as elite athletes? The kids cheering us on in Wimbledon, holding their hands out for a high five? Marvellous! The supporters make the Prudential RideLondon100 an event to remember.

I don’t yet know the gender breakdown of participants this year, but there seemed to be a lot more women taking part which is tremendously encouraging for women’s cycling. Everywhere I looked I seemed to be surrounded by fellow female cyclists of all ages which was fantastic.

Prudential RideLondon 2016: The Bad

There is always going to be a huge disparity between cyclists’ abilities and attitudes in an event of this scale. You have the novice riders challenging themselves, often for charity, who may have never ridden in a group before; and you have the arrogant, aggressive male (always male!) club riders yelling abuse at slower riders and barging through gaps where it really isn’t safe to do so. Is the number of participants too high? Running the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic event on the same day means that the push to get all the amateur riders out in three hours is tight; reducing the number of riders on the course might help reduce the crush when something invariably happens to slow things down. Is 27,000 cyclists too many? Does it need to be reviewed?

Prudential RideLondon 2016
Does the number of cyclists need to be reduced to ease congestion?

Cyclists who drop litter should be ashamed of themselves. You carried those gels when they were full – you can carry your empty wrapper home, too. Worried about it making a sticky mess in your pocket? Well, you’re going to put your jersey in the wash, aren’t you? Don’t tarnish the event and its legacy by littering.

Prudential RideLondon 2016: The Ugly

It is terribly sad that there was another fatality this year, and some very serious accidents. To all the miserable sods who were bitching and griping to @RideLondon on Twitter about the fact that they were delayed and not receiving second-by-second updates about when they could start riding again – how about reminding yourself that you’re going to complete the ride safely because the event organisers are taking participants’ safety seriously?

How about forgetting about the fact that you’re not going to beat last year’s time, and actually enjoying the atmosphere and camaraderie with fellow cyclists?

How about forgetting your massive ego?

(And, to the cyclists who tagged on to the back of the ambulance to get to the front of the queue – you really are the scum of the earth. Have a little respect.)

Prudential RideLondon 2016
Even after a two-hour delay, stationary cyclists kept their spirits up with a Mexican Wave – the best of British stoicism!

Grumbling aside, all in all, it was a fabulous day. It made me so happy that the enforced delay encouraged strangers to chat and pass the time of day. It was lovely that after two hours of waiting around, cyclists’ spirits were still high enough to do a Mexican Wave to pass the time. RideLondon organisers, we salute you. Thank you for producing a UK cycling event to be proud of.

 

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Zwift launches Prudential RideLondon course – cycle London and Surrey traffic-free year round

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Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Leith Hill, Box Hill – now you can enjoy the iconic sights of London and Surrey from the comfort of your turbo trainer as you experience the routes of one of the world’s greatest cycling festivals, courtesy of Zwift.

The new Prudential RideLondon course on the virtual, social indoor cycling platform will take you from the iconic landmarks of central London into the idyllic lanes of the Surrey Hills and back again. Better still, in the world of Zwift Prudential RideLondon roads will remain traffic-free and open to cyclists year round rather than one day out of 365!

To celebrate the Zwift Prudential RideLondon course, there are some special events lined up to coincide with the real world Prudential RideLondon schedule. Missed out on a ballot place this year? You can join in with the real ride from your home. Challenge yourself to the 100 mile ride through the streets and countryside of London, ending with an iconic finish through the Prudential RideLondon arch on The Mall. Riders will start together as a group with the ride leader setting the pace, but the goal is to finish the ride: if you can’t keep up with the peloton, ride by yourself or with others to the finish. Turn the fans on and fill your water bottles up! If you don’t fancy riding the full 100 mile route, you can take part in the 46 Challenge, too.

The events you can join are as follows:

Saturday, July 30th – Zwift Prudential RideLondon Classique Group Ride

8 am PDT (California) / 11am EDT (New York) / 4 pm BST (London)

Sunday, July 31st – Zwift Prudential RideLondon Surrey 100 Challenge

8 am AEST (Australia) / 8 am BST (London)

Sunday, July 31st – Zwift Prudential RideLondon Surrey 46 Challenge
8 pm AEST (Australia) and 7 pm BST (London)

 

(By the way – Zwift advises users that this is a big update – be sure to give yourself a little extra time before you plan to ride.)

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What do I like about road cycling? Where on earth do I begin?

Cycling MedalsThere's something really nice about following in my father's footsteps - or, rather, cycle tracks...
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When people ask me what I like about road cycling, it can be hard to know where to start.

There is the wonderful feeling of freedom, to be powering your own journey – that feeling that you are the master (or mistress) of your own destiny. Provided your legs are strong enough, you can get to wherever you want to be under your own steam. That feeling of independence is priceless; how wonderful, to not be worried about the cost of petrol. How liberating, to be travelling by a mode of transport that you yourself can repair. Short of something going catastrophically wrong, with a well stocked saddlebag there is a good chance you can get yourself back on the road.

There is the exhilaration of what feels like flying as you soar down hills, grinning like a dog with its head stuck out of the window of a fast car, the exhilaration heightened by the effort it took to reach the top of the hill in the first place.

There is the strength your body develops: the honed muscles in your legs and the happiness you feel when you lie in bed, tensing your thighs, flexing your calves and seeing that definition. The satisfaction when you swing your bike over your shoulder without batting an eyelid to jog up a flight of steps. The lift that cycling gives to your derrière – no Spanx required here, thank you very much!

There is that incredible appetite you develop, and the insatiable hunger after a 100 mile ride, and the sweet satisfaction that you feel, knowing you have earned every mouthful of that post-adventure feast: never has a pizza tasted so good as when you have already burned 2,000 calories doing what you love.

And then there is the timelessness of it all. The agelessness. The lovely feeling of being out on your bike and seeing families riding together. Fathers teaching their small daughters to pedal solo. Old men, still out cycling together at the weekend, the way they’ve been doing for 50 years. Riding out with a cycling club whose members span generations, your cohorts on your Sunday morning ride ranging from 16 to 70. What a wonderful, inclusive activity cycling is. And, no matter how much lighter bottle cages may get or how much more sophisticated GPS devices and power meters become, the knowledge that really, very little has changed in the world of cycling.

After we completed our first century last year, the Prudential RideLondon event, my dad sent me his cycling medals. He earned them on the tough hills of Lancashire with the Clitheroe Clarion Cycling Club in the 1960s. Of course, his steel-framed steed was heavier than my carbon bike. He didn’t have a Garmin to track his speed and elevation. He didn’t have a cadence tracker, and he didn’t have the moisture-wicking, advanced sports apparel that cyclists have in 2016. But he experienced everything we did: the excitement, the camaraderie, the exhaustion, the aches and pains, the exhilaration – and the deep, deep satisfaction of completing that 100 mile challenge under his own steam.

That’s what I like about road cycling.

road cycling
There is nothing to rival the feeling of exhilaration, satisfaction and physical exhaustion at the end of a 100 mile ride. Apart from maybe the ice cold beer you are about to drink…
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Vamper’s #NewYearRevolutions – our 2016 cycling resolutions

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Regular readers will no doubt have noticed our absence over the past few weeks.

We promise, it isn’t that we don’t care.

Unfortunately, as any amateur cyclist will understand, life has an unwelcome habit of obstructing one’s hobbies sometimes.

Left to our own devices, we would have gladly spent much of our Christmas break cycling – but our Christmas was spent driving around the country, from our home in Surrey up to the flooded land of Yorkshire, across to Cheshire, down to Devon and back up to The Cotswolds for a whirlwind of festive family activities. With a car already full of apparel to suit every eventuality, from dinner parties and country walks to husky driving in the rain (we kid you not), it dawned on us that trying to add bikes and kit to the mix for a possible ride out if the rain were ever to let up was probably not a worthwhile exercise. We’re happy to say that it was, actually, the right call: we struggled to drive along the flooded roads in Yorkshire and nothing would have made us risk our lives on bikes in those conditions.

Unfortunately, as any amateur cyclist will understand, life has an unwelcome habit of obstructing one’s hobbies sometimes.

The moment Christmas was over, we dove headfirst into completing the purchase of our first home – the new Vamper.cc HQ. Another fortnight of bike-free life, with evenings spent packing, and then unpacking, and finally, passing out with exhaustion.

A month after our last real bike ride, we’re happy to say that we’re all travelled out and settled in our new home. The bike room is up and running (bigger and better than ever!) and we’re now getting very excited about what the year holds for our two-wheeled adventures.

So, without further ado, here are our 2016 cycling resolutions… Share yours with us on Twitter with #NewYearRevolutions.

  1. Turbo charge our lives with Zwift: we have set up a dedicated bike room in our new home complete with turbo trainer and huge screen for indoor workouts. As I lack the attention span to ride indoors on my own, we’ll be adding a second turbo trainer so that we can train together. You’ll find us on Zwift as Matt – Vamper.cc and Victoria – Vamper.cc. Look out for us!
  2. Complete a Time Trial event: I signed up for The Tour of Cambridgeshire Chrono TT in June, which is going to require some serious practice and determination.
  3. Improve on last year’s Prudential 100 RideLondon times: ok, last year was our first try – not to mention my first sportive. We were proud to get round in one piece. But this year, we want to improve our times dramatically. We’re aiming for five hours.
  4. Incremental upgrades: Yes, we’d both love new bikes. Show us a cyclist who doesn’t hanker after a new ride and we’ll show you a pig fluttering through the sky. But we’ve just bought our first house, so we’re going to add incremental upgrades to the bikes we already own. Matt is planning a groupset upgrade to SRAM Red, and I’m planning a new wheelset purchase…
  5. Join the French Revolution: We will be undertaking the Granfondo Les Deux Alpes in the Ecrins National Park, which takes a superb route along unspoiled roads between Oisans and Valbonnais. We’ll take in climbs including Alpe d’Huez and Col de la Croix de Fer as well as exploring the area made famous by the Tour de France, Marmotte and Etape. Time to brush up our Français!

Is there anything you would like us to get involved with or come along to? Please feel free to contact us at matt@vamper.cc or victoria@vamper.cc.

The new bike room at Vamper.cc is coming together - we'll be adding a second turbo trainer shortly!
The new bike room at Vamper.cc is coming together – we’ll be adding a second turbo trainer shortly! No excuse to miss a ride because of the weather now…
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The Prudential RideLondon – Surrey 100: 10 things we wish we’d known

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With around 25,000 participants and covering 100 miles, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey sportive is a daunting prospect for many cyclists. This year we took part for the first time and we wanted to share our top tips for the event – and the things we wish we’d known beforehand.

The Ballot

When entering the ballot, be realistic but not pessimistic about the time you expect to finish in; we both overestimated by a long way (two hours!) which put us in much later starting groups. An earlier start will probably mean a faster ride with less congestion.

Disappointed that you didn’t get a place in the Prudential RideLondon ballot? Don’t worry – get a charity spot instead and raise money for a good cause. There are a huge number of charities with guaranteed places, all vying for cyclists to ride for them. They’ll typically ask you to raise a minimum of £500 – £750, which is pretty achievable for such a physical challenge!

100 miles is a long way. It makes a huge difference to flagging spirits and tired legs when the communities of Surrey turn out in droves to cheer you on.

Are you sitting comfortably?

On the run up to the Prudental RideLondon event, make sure you are completely comfortable on your bike. I was caught out with the wrong saddle which could have been rectified had I arranged a saddle mapping session in good time, but if you’re in the London area, these things book up fast ahead of such a major event. Be comfortable on your bike and don’t try anything new on the day!

If possible, stay locally the night before the event to reduce stress – it’s an early start! Local hotels – including the major chains – are really accommodating to cyclists. We stayed at the Radisson Blu New Providence Wharf and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful: a handwritten note in our room wished us luck, we were able to keep our bikes in the room with us, and an extra early breakfast was laid on to ensure riders had something to eat before setting off. Much easier than a long journey at an ungodly hour.

Remembering registration

You must register for Prudential RideLondon the day before the event, and we would recommend allowing plenty of time for this exercise. This year’s registration was at Excel – allow lots of time to get there, because it is vast. We wouldn’t want to be parking 15 minutes before registration closes – it might take you half an hour to reach the hall from the car park! (Also, parking is £15 – and that’s a flat rate. Ouch.)

Diversion due diligence

The morning of the ride, bear in mind that the closed roads make reaching Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park something of a challenge. We stayed locally the night before and cycled – if you do the same, ensure that you allow plenty of time to get there because you might not be able to take the most direct route depending on diversions. Reaching the park was a little bit more stressful than we had anticipated!

It’s a rare opportunity to experience Central London and the Surrey Hills free of traffic, in the company of other cyclists. Relax and enjoy it!

BFF finding

If you plan to ride Prudential RideLondon with a friend, be aware that you will most likely be allocated different start time and different zones. You can’t do anything about this, but don’t worry: provided you’re not setting off hours apart, it is easy to meet up just a few miles into the ride. We chose to meet just after St Paul’s church in Shadwell where it was easy to pull off the main road and wait.

It can be nerve wracking to set off ‘alone’ – or, at least, without your buddy. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with other cyclists in your wave – remember that everyone’s in the same boat and plenty of people are feeling nervous. A chat will calm your nerves! And don’t be afraid to ask for help from fellow riders –  and someone will help you, like the wonderful guys who helped me when my chain suddenly dropped off 90 seconds before my wave was due to depart…

Hub hubbub

The feed stations and hubs are fantastic and a great opportunity to replenish your water (and energy powder) supplies. We wished, though, that we had packed a greater variety of snacks in our pockets; Clif Bars are decent fuel but get very boring (not to mention dry) on such a long day.

Rather than telling our supporters to watch us from Kingston bridge, we wish we had realised that the hub at Hampton Court would have been the ideal spot with the opportunity to stop and say hello. Indeed, if you can meet someone at a hub, they can even supply a range of snacks – we envied the guy we saw tucking into a tupperware of pasta provided by a friend!

Elevation reconnaissance 

We live in Surrey and we thought we were fairly familiar with the route. However, Box Hill – though famous – is not the challenge on this course. We wished we’d done all the hills before the event so that we knew exactly what to expect. Newlands Corner is not the most well known hill on the course, but it’s a tough climb; try and have a go beforehand to familiarise yourself. (The descent does make it worthwhile, though. We promise.)

Rapturous reception

100 miles is a long way. It makes a huge difference to flagging spirits and tired legs when the communities of Surrey turn out in droves to cheer you on, so engage with them – a wave and a smile will let them know you appreciate their support, and will help keep your spirits up.

Post-ride fatigue

At the end of the ride, we wished we had arranged transport for our bikes, either back to Excel or even back home. We were very tired, I was very saddle sore, and the traffic was daunting after a day of riding closed roads. If you haven’t arranged transport, bear in mind that you can always get a cab to take you and your bike where you need to go – but it will be very busy and you might have a long wait…

The Prudential RideLondon is a day to remember

Finally, go with the flow! There might be hold ups along the way due to accidents, or overcrowding – don’t fret about your finishing time, just soak it all up. The Prudential RideLondon event is not a race – it’s a rare opportunity to experience Central London and the Surrey Hills free of traffic, in the company of other cyclists. Relax and enjoy it!

Prudential RideLondon