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  • 06/06/2022 - The only way is Essex - Part 2

    What about the new RideLondon 100 as an event? In truth, I am a little underwhelmed. I’m a big fan and have ridden the Surrey RideLondon a few times, so I absolutely don’t want to rubbish it. I think some of the issues are to do with it being the first one for three years and having been planned in a pandemic. I’m very sympathetic to the organisers in that respect and grateful they got it on. OK, that’s my disclaimer out of the way.

    Let’s start at the beginning a very good place to start. Now that the nonsense of the speed limited safety car (or fun sponge, as GCN put it), had been canned, I showed up wondering where and how 25,000 cyclists were going to be accommodated and supported pre ride. I’m not sure they were. You just funnelled through to the start line, passing some porta potties on the way. Nothing like the mini festival at Queen Elizabeth Park in previous editions. We edged to the start line and the start was so low key, I missed it. We were cruising along and I hadn’t pressed start on my bike computer! “Have we started?” “Yes.” Oops. Now my Strava ride would not be 100 miles, but 99 point something.

    Having built a route around Essex for The Great Escape with Laura Perret and Richard May, I was interested to see what the organisers had come up with. Without blowing my own horn too much, let’s just say that TGE is a far prettier route and more enjoyable. The RL100 route is somewhat dull in comparison. I even indulged in some closed eyes cycling at one point (please don’t try this at home, unless you’re at the rear end of a tandem). Flat it certainly was, but I felt this route really missed the three climbs that its Surrey predecessor had (Newlands Corner, Leith Hill and Box Hill). They are events along the way. You remember them. This is one of the reasons for putting a farm track in TGE. A little off roading is quite an audax tradition. It breaks things up, wakes you up and I guarantee, every rider will remember that track.

    Of course riding on closed roads is a great privilege and makes for a different kind of ride. I don’t know if it was just me, but I’ve never seen so many marshals out on this kind of event. They were everywhere. Even on the entrances to farms, where vehicles might come out once or twice a day. Many appeared to be quite bored, on their phones or distracting each other. I think this was a contributing factor to two issues I witnessed. One was a car that got on the course. We were behind this vehicle for a while. It must have gone a mile (and passed several marshals) before a police officer leapt up and charged after it on foot, to try to control things. I have never seen a car on a closed road event before. The other issue was a dozy so-and-so who wandered onto the course past three or four (equally dozy) marshals. This was somewhere in East London on quite a fast stretch of the course with a ton of cyclist screaming by and could have been quite nasty.

    What about the finish? Again I wondered what they’d do here. Southwark Park is really near Tower Bridge, but instead of using this (or something similar) as Hyde Park was used previously, we crossed Tower Bridge to a quick fanfare and cheer and then were told to dismount. We all shuffled off to the right on a back street and a quarter of a mile later were handed a medal. You could get water and a power bar or make use of a porta potty. That was it. Shuffle along another quarter of a mile and then goodbye. I think of all the missing elements, this was to most profound. Nowhere for riders to set down and recover, meet up with riding mates, meet up with supporters, refuel, be entertained. No big celebration. For people who had come take part from outside London, there was not even a baggage drop. We headed off the Look Mum No Hands for lunch and that was that.

    I hope that there will be more for riders at the start and finish next year. Maybe with Covid fading a little more, it will be easier to plan a proper celebration into proceedings. The event deserves this, as do all the finishers, many who have ridden a 100 miles for the first time.

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