The highs and lows of RideLondon – by Graham Freer
When I heard the torrential rain in the night I wondered what I had let myself in for. But by the time the alarm went off at 4am (!) the roads were still wet but fortunately the rain had all but stopped. After struggling to find my ride buddy David Smith (pictured left, I’m right) at the Olympic Park in the twilight, we just had time to swallow down a boiled egg each which I had stuffed up my Diabetes UK jersey ( Don’t ask me why, extra protein I think – glad to get them down though as they were still so hot they were burning my skin). Then at the still uncivilised hour of 5.52am the tape went down and we were off!
It’s hard to explain, but when you are amongst 30,000 other riders it literally feels like you are riding a wave, the miles just fly by. It feels easy. But then suddenly you hit the 3 Surrey hills, in seconds the smiles disappear, to be replaced by grimaces – the second dawning of the day – the realisation of the enormity of the 100 miles challenge.
David was doing incredibly well, but as he got near the top of the second climb he got out of the saddle and suddenly both his legs cramped up. He toppled and nearly fell off his bike as he ground to a halt. Fortunately he managed to get going again and within a couple of miles there was a drinks stop. He did some stretching and then we sat in deck chairs for a break. Absolute bliss! Resuscitated by coffee he was ready to continue.
The final ascent of Box Hill is actually quite gentle, unlike most roads in the UK that tend to ignore contours and go straight up hills, this was more like an alpine climb, zig-zagging up the hillside with much more gentle gradients.
The final 30 miles were great. With the wind behind us and Diabetes UK and other charity supporters cheering us along the route the miles didn’t exactly fly but at least it felt we were on painkillers. Before we knew it we were on the mall and it was time for us to raise arms together as we crossed the line, smiles as wide as the Box Hill switchbacks.
The biggest thrill though was in seeing David achieve his dream of completing the ride. At the start of the year he hadn’t touched a bike for a couple of years. The transformation was amazing, he lost about a stone in weight during training and the developed a sparkle in his eyes I hadn’t seen before.
Thanks all those who supported me. I am now more than half way to my target of £300!
Graham and David work in the digital team at Diabetes UK.