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How to enjoy Prudential RideLondon: tips and advice from Vamper.cc

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The Prudential RideLondon event is almost upon us. If this will be your first time, you’re probably feeling a little bit apprehensive about a whole host of things. I’m going to share some of the worries I had before I took part for the first time, and hopefully provide some reassurance…

 

My RideLondon cycling buddy is starting in a different zone at a different time from me. What if we can’t find each other and I have to ride 100 miles alone?

What if I get a puncture and, even though I know how to deal with it, in reality the levers of my wheel skewers are stiff and I might not be able to fix it? Plus, I’ll just be really lonely, riding 100 miles without someone to talk to…

Don’t panic. Yes, if you’ve signed up with a friend or your partner, there is a very good chance that you will have been allocated different start times in different zones. But all is not lost: there are plenty of places to meet up only a short distance in to the ride. Our first year, we identified St Paul’s Church in Shadwell as being an easy landmark, and as Matt was the first to start, he pulled into the next side street to wait for me. No problem at all (unless the person you’re meeting is determined to get a good finishing time and doesn’t want to wait around. In which case… I don’t have any advice, I’m afraid. Except, tell them to chill out.)

Scope the area out on the Saturday if you can, and pick a spot where you think you’ll be able to find each other easily.

Prudential RideLondon 2016
Taking part in the Prudential RideLondon event is exciting, but a little nerve wracking – particularly if you are taking part for the first time.

 

I’m really not sure how to fuel myself over that distance. What should I eat on the Prudential 100 to keep my energy levels up for that amount of exertion? What can I easily carry in my pockets?

I’m no sports nutritionist, but I’ve learned a few things about fuelling long rides. The first is this: do not go mad with the gels and powders.

Last year and the year before, the Prudential RideLondon event was hot. The first time we took part, we refilled our water bottles at every hub and, naively, merrily added the free powders at the drinks stations each time. We had a few gels over the course of the day, too. Terrible idea – we woke up the next morning with upset stomachs, which lasted for the next two days. Go easy on that stuff and ration it. Start the ride with orange squash in your water bottles and save the powders for the later in the day.

Secondly: energy bars and flapjacks are all very well, but we really envied the guy we saw at Hampton Court whose friend had met him with a box of pasta. If you can tuck a tasty wrap into your jersey pocket, it will make a welcome change from a Clif Bar.

Incidentally, we recently sampled natural energy bars from Veloforte and Lucho Dillitos which are both tasty alternatives to more synthetic sports nutrition bars.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016

 

Veloforte bars are based on an old Italian recipe and contain fruits, almonds and spices to provide the carbohydrates, proteins and fibre you need to fuel your body on a ride. We’re rather keen on the Ciocco flavour. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, GM-free and, above all, it’s easy to digest.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016

 

Lucho Dillitos bocadillo are another tasty natural alternative. From Colombia, bocadillos are something of a gel/energy bar hybrid. They are solid blocks of guava paste which looks really dry, but melt in your mouth (M&M style). They only involve two ingredients, and they’re wrapped in a natural, dried leaf.

Finally, if you’re wondering whether you’ll be able to face breakfast at 5am – how about a bowl of porridge or Bircher muesli before bed, and a smoothie when you wake up? (If you’re staying in a hotel, try a Moma porridge pot which just requires you to add boiling water.) You might find it easier than forcing down solids hours earlier than usual. But maybe take a banana to eat in your zone before you set off – you’ll be waiting around for a while.

 

I’m worried about climbing hills on the Prudential 100. I’m particularly worried about climbing hills in a group in case I’m slower than everyone else.

And that I might have to get off and push, and then I’ll be ashamed of myself…

There are a few climbs in RideLondon, sure. And hopefully you will have done at least a bit of hill training beforehand, otherwise, it’s going to be a shock to the system. But try not to worry.

Like a fool, I blithely trusted Matt when he told me that Box Hill was the worst thing I had to worry about on RideLondon. I’d ridden Box Hill several times – no problem at all, I thought! If that’s the biggest hill I have to deal with, I’ll be fine! He failed to mention that Newlands Corner and Leith Hill are both more challenging climbs.

Newlands Corner sort of comes out of nowhere, and it’s a steep pull. But there’s a hub at the top where you can regroup and catch your breath, followed by a marvellous downhill.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016
Remember that uphill slogs are rewarded by joyous downhills. Keep going – it doesn’t matter how slow you go, just keep those wheels turning!

 

I can’t speak with any authority on Leith Hill – both years, right before we hit it the ride was diverted after someone very sadly suffered a heart attack and an air ambulance was summoned. However, from the amount of climbing I’ve done since, there are a few things I’ve learned.

 

crown_30Firstly, don’t pay any attention to the riders who are going faster than you. It doesn’t matter what speed they’re doing, and if they have the energy to judge you on the climb, they’re clearly not trying hard enough. Keep your eyes down (don’t focus on what lies ahead) and pace yourself.

crown_30Secondly, keep calm and steady. Don’t get flustered. What’s important is getting up there – you don’t have to get up there fast.

crown_30Don’t be shy about going into that granny gear if you need to. Don’t leave it too long to drop down a gear, either – if you’re feeling good on a climb you can always go up a couple, but if you’ve burned yourself out too early on, it’s much harder to recover.

crown_30Finally, if you really are struggling, keep to the left so that other riders can easily pass you. On one of the climbs last year there were hoards of slower cyclists strewn across the road, which made it really difficult for anyone else to get past. And if you veer across the road, you might cause an accident.

And a note for the final few miles: Wimbledon Hill isn’t particularly large, but 90 miles in to a ride and when you’re homeward bound, it can take you by surprise. Keep something in reserve so you have the energy to tackle it!

 

I’m not very experienced when it comes to riding in groups…

For the most part, you actually won’t be riding in very close proximity to other riders on RideLondon. There are certain pinch points, though, where you do need to take care and bear a few things in mind.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016
You won’t be consistently riding in a group, but there are pinch points where you need to be aware of other riders. Ride consistently, don’t brake suddenly, and maintain a steady course.

 

You’ll be bunched up when you set off from the starting pen, so take care at the starting line. Don’t ride like an idiot. Be consistent, and don’t slam your brakes on without warning. Keep a steady course and don’t veer across the path of other riders. This is really important on the hills, too.

On the ride, be sure to signal your intent and remember that a helpful call of “On your right” when overtaking other riders lets them know that you’re there and not to pull out on you. You will hear it a lot, and if your ride is going well, you might find yourself using it a lot!

It’s worth learning a couple of basic hand signals, particularly to warn riders that the group is slowing: make a patting gesture with your right hand, as if you are patting a dog’s head. (You can find more helpful guidelines for riding in a group at British Cycling if you are still worried.)

 

How much am I going to hurt after RideLondon? I don’t think my saddle is going to be very comfortable…

If you’re in this boat, you have my sympathies.

This time last year I had been desperately trying to find a saddle which would be comfortable, and failing miserably. I’d been crippled by the Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow – some people rave about it, but for me, it was a torture device that left me with serious saddle pain and small lesions in my soft tissue. Not really knowing what else to try, I’d gone for a Fabric Scoop in the hope that a completely different shape would help. No. It did not. That, too, left me incredibly sore.

It was only after the Prudential 100 that I went to Cycle Fit for a saddle mapping session and learned about my sit bones and what makes them tick. I’d imagine you’re too late to get a saddle mapping session at this late stage, but going to a good bike shop where they can measure your sit bones and get you on the correct width of saddle is still an option.

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016
A saddle mapping session at Cycle Fit helped me to find a saddle which would put the pressure on my sit bones, not on delicate soft tissue.

 

After almost a year on the Bontrager Ajna, I’ve just switched to the Specialized Power Expert which was comfortable on my longest training ride of 80 miles.

You’re never going to be without any pain after cycling 100 miles. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to spend that much time sitting on any saddle without experiencing a little discomfort. But you shouldn’t be crippled by saddle pain 50 miles in. If you think you will be, you still have time to do something about it.

I read a lot about chamois cream. This time last year I would have told you it’s not tremendously helpful, but over the past year I’ve been converted by Rapha and Assos, both of which make excellent chamois creams that really help ease your day in the saddle.

Finally, make sure you’re wearing a good pair of shorts. Matt and I are big fans of Rivelo bib shorts which have an excellent chamois pad. We’re also very impressed by the RedWhite Bib Shorts, which are available from Always Riding. They’re listed under men’s, but don’t let that deter you – they’re very good. Morvelo make good chamois pads, too.

Are you worried about anything else? By all means, Tweet us with the hashtag #RideLondonWorries and we’ll try to calm your nerves. But do try not to worry – it’s a fantastic event with loads of support, and your nerves will settle in no time. Just relax and soak up the atmosphere – it will be a day to remember!

 

Prudential RideLondon 2016

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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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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!

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