- Posted by Nigel Wynn
- comments (8)
Thirty thousand of anything is a lot. Thirty thousand cyclists creates an immense snake of humans and metal. The London to Brighton bike ride is the annual institution organised by the British Heart Foundation that can easily lay claim to be Britain's biggest bike ride. And quite possibly one of the biggest in the world.
I've never ridden L2B, even though part of the 54-mile route does run very close to my home in Surrey. This year I decided to take part just to see what the 'London Marathon of cycling' was like, so my father-in-law Ken and I turned up at Clapham Common on Sunday, June 20, at the crack of a sparrow's.
Before we even got there, it's pretty evident that a big cycle event is going on. The roads into London were packed with cars and vans loaded up with bikes. In the opposite direction, a stream of cars with empty bike racks.
Parking a couple of miles away from Clapham, Ken and I cycled to the start, where you are met with a sea of 27,000 official starters all dutifully lining up in a queue relevant to their start time. Every imaginable permutation of bike was there - road, mountain, BMX, cross, tandem, trike, shopper. If each bike was, on average, worth £150 (and that's being very kind to some of them) then that's over £4 million worth of bikes.
We'd elected to set off at 8am. With hindsight, this was too late - we should have joined the early crew at 6.30am. You pretty soon catch up with the squeak of unoiled chains coming from the back markers of the previous group on the streets of south London.
In front, behind and beside you are hundreds of people on bikes, with more unofficial riders joining in along the route, swelling the ranks to well over 30,000.
I'd heard that it can take an hour just to get out of London due to cycle congestion, but it wasn't London that was the sticking point. The army of 400 marshals and police kept the cyclists flowing. Although most of the roads are not closed to traffic, the police made sure that bikes and cars didn't mix.
Nearing Cycling Weekly's home of Croydon, the ride started to slow down and by the time we hit the North Downs and the first proper hills of the ride, a logjam at the base of an ascent meant it was time to get off and walk. This happened a few times and there was a fair bit of standing about waiting for the way to clear.
Chipstead hill jam
This could have caused frustration among riders, but actually everyone was in carnival mood and it just presented an opportunity for a chatter. Where are you from? Have you done this before? How many miles to go? One hot topic seemed to be whether it was worth using clipless pedals. The question was soon answered for the doubters, with one hapless rider - incidentally in full Astana kit - failing to unclip and landing in a bank of nettles. He said something like 'Contador', but I didn't quite catch it.
Several people had decided to strap large stereos to the back of their bikes, creating a slow-moving karaoke.
It also gave the bike geek a chance to check out other people's kit. I was surprised to see so many people have already bought official Team Sky replica kit. Didn't see anyone in any Footon-Servetto strip though.
Past the North Downs and we'd achieved the feat of averaging 9mph for the first 15 miles or so, but the pace very quickly picked up as the bike congestion eased and it was a breeze through the pretty towns, villages and countryside of Surrey and West Sussex.
The feedstops come thick and fast, both official and unofficial. Many enterprising residents along the route bring out their wallpaper pasting tables and set them out with homemade cakes and orange squash. The official stop stations - and there were a lot of them - all had hot and cold food, bike mechanics, first aid tents and toilets.
Other riders seemed to be treating the ride as a pub crawl, stopping off at every watering hole for a pint before continuing onwards.
Over the half-way point of Turners Hill and on towards the looming South Downs and the sting in the tail of the L2B - Ditchling Beacon. The road to the top of the Beacon runs up the steep chalk scarp slope of the downs. Normally, it would be a hard but steady climb up the narrow road. But by this point weary legs and heavy cycles meant that many opted to walk. A margin on the right-hand side was left for those to ride up.
Top of Ditchling Beacon
Your reward at the top is a stunning view out to sea and the finish in Brighton. It's a long, sweeping downhill pretty much all the way to the line where massive crowds of families and bemused tourists wave and cheer.
Everyone gets a finishing medal and the nice man on the PA welcomed riders home and reminded everyone why they were there - £4.5million raised for the British Heart Foundation.
You can't compare L2B with a cyclo-sportive, and shouldn't do. The wide variety of riding abilities and bikes marks the event out as a unique experience. And one worth taking part in.
Big welcome for weary riders in Brighton
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (7)
I didn't imagine that I would be comparing myself to Mark Cavendish any time soon, but it seems we've got plenty in common after we both managed to hit the tarmac this week.
Cav reckons his crash at the end of the fourth stage of the Tour of Switzerland was the worst of his career and I can make similar claims after my mishap on last Tuesday's CW lunchtime ride.
In some 37 years of bike riding I have never suffered much more than road rash. I'm the cautious sort who doesn't tend to crash a lot. Well, I've certainly made up for that now, injuring pretty much most of my left side.
There's a fair bit of skin missing and bruising but the main problems are my wrecked hamstring and the tendons in my shoulder which have kept me housebound for a week.
It's certainly not good, but amazingly nothing is broken so I shouldn't be complaining too much.
Instead I'm directing my displeasure at the bike. In a lifetime of cycling I've exceeded 100,000 miles in the saddle and have ridden hundreds of different bikes without experiencing the extreme speed wobble that caused my crash.
Fortunately it's a pretty rare occurrence but I'm sure I'm not the only one, so if anyone has similar experiences, please get in touch.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (3)
If you're a regular reader, the chances are that your number one sport is likely to be bike racing. It doesn't mean that you're not allowed to like football but on the evidence of Saturday night's performance I reckon Bradley Wiggins's ride in last year's Tour puts the England squad to shame.
If only more of the nation were exposed to our glorious sport, then I'm sure they would agree. ITV's Tour coverage is pretty good but it is tucked away on their fourth channel, along with Cops With Cameras, Police Patrol and repeats of Minder. Most of the regular viewers will be unemployed or unwell.
Football, on the other hand, is unmissable. Quite literally. When I expressed a lack of interest in the Big Game on Saturday I was accused of being unpatriotic, so I took the plunge and joined the nation in front of my TV.
Great first four minutes, then pretty much nothing for another hour and a half. Worse than a Vuelta sprinters' stage. At least you know what to expect with a boring bike race and only need to watch the last 10 kilometres.
Now I see employers are giving their staff Friday afternoon off to watch the next England match. Try seeing if your boss will let you stay at home for the Tour showdown on the Col du Tourmalet on July 22.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Luke Evans
- comments (1)
Luke Evans is at the Tour de Suisse piloting top cycling photographer Graham Watson through the peloton on a motorbike
Last week I was driving Graham Watson at the Dauphine and after Saturday's stage to Alpe d'Huez we crossed into Switzerland to pick up their national tour.
It's a star-studded field here compared to the Dauphine and you can't help be a little more aware of who might curse you if you get a bit too close when passing the bunch.
But the racing has so far been super tranquillo and there was even time yesterday for Graham to have a short chat to Lance Armstrong as we drifted through the peloton.
These days a 200km leg of a stage race is quite long and if the bunch lets the break go up the road for 10 minutes the day can drag a bit.
At least we had the prospect of a Mark Cavendish stage win we thought.
As you may have seen from a photo sent by Graham from his iPad about 15 minutes after the crash, Cav hit the deck with several others just as the sprint was about to be decided.
A dramatic image ended a doleful day on the road to Wettingen.
Graham is the first cycling photographer to grasp the potential of the iPad and he is using these two weeks to practice with it.
The idea is to send an image within minutes to the CW website, anything from a scenic view to a newsworthy pic.
It takes just a few moments to download the pic and send it via a 3G signal but there are some pitfalls and procedures to learn which he is hoping to get sorted before the Tour de France.
Keep an eye out and let us know what you think.
- Posted by Hugh Gladstone
- comments (1)
Ever woken at six in the morning and ridden a criterium before breakfast? I hadn't either until this morning.
The thing is: that's having it easy. Some of my team mates in the Castelli 24-Hour criterium here in Italy have had shifts at one or four in the morning. At least I got to have a reasonably conventional night's sleep.
Having now had my first taste of racing in this unique event, I have to agree with Cycling Weekly's deputy editor who returned from last year's event raving about it. We need more of these.
As he explained in his initial impressions, it is indeed real racing - fast and furious. But what gran fondos and sportives are to road racing, this is the criterium equivalent. You make of it what you want; it's open to all abilities.
If a group's too fast: just join the next one. If you want out altogether, signal to your team mate in the pits. They probably can't wait to get out there and give those fresh legs a working.
It's always the riders just a lap or two out the transition zone who lift the pace on the climb. It's because of this relay effect, the pace is continuously high.
Riders in our Castelli Media Team have generally been attacking the race in half hour stints. My first came at 7AM, followed by another one at 8:30. By the time I finished that second blast, the day was already getting hot. Those riders who were on the early morning shift are going to have it hard when they come out 12 hours later (following their disjointed night's sleep) for another effort in the mid afternoon sun.
Thankfully I quickly found good groups to settle into on both my outings this morning. The pace was high -sometimes painful on the climb- but sustainable.
As a rule, chaos reigns here. In total there are over 1000 riders shared between just over 100 teams. There may only ever be one member of a team on the course, but riders differ in ability, laps are gained and lost and no-one is quite sure where the front is.
Understanding what's going on and who is winning is left to a transponder and computer system. Apparently when I set out we were lying in 19th place. Where we were afterwards I have no idea. My only strategy for contributing to the team's effort was trying to stay on the right side of every split of the group I was in.
The most important thing to look out for was not so much accelerations at the front, but riders dropping back through the group and inadvertently taking you with them. With a moment's inattention, a gap of several lengths can open. Pause, hesitate, or look around to see if someone else is going to close it and the margin may have doubled.
With all the drama and talk of racing, it's easy to ignore the splendour of our surroundings here. The circuit itself is based around the rustic town centre of Feltre which sit in a junction of three valleys in the Dolomites. Jagged peaks rear up in the background creating their own cloud formations. Taking a warm-down in the town's tiny cobbled backstreets in the still of the early morning was tranquillity itself.
‘Tranquilo' could not be used to describe last night's activities, though. When the race set off at ten o'clock, the town felt near fever pitch. The PA was bumping the beats and the barbeques were smoking. At the Castelli tent, I stood in t-shirt and shorts drinking beer with other members of the party who'd travelled out with the company's UK distributors, Saddleback.
As spectators at the roadside rung their cowbells under the warm glow of street lights, I turned my attention to the racing where a number of pros (past, present and currently suspended due to anomalies in their biological passport) tore things up at the front of what was then still a distinct bunch. That atmosphere is nothing compared to how tonight will unfold, I'm told. As riders finish their quota of racing, the party starts around lunchtime and crescendos through the afternoon.
Since I'll be racing some of the last shifts, I'm going have to have to take it easy. Apparently as the event nears its 10PM conclusion, some of the teams send their big guns out. That doesn't explain why I've been scheduled to ride then, but word is there's going be some fellow called Basso racing.