So, five members of team GRAC felt that they were ready to do a 100-mile sportive, so what better ride to do than the Prudential London-Surrey Ride100 on 2 August?
Aided by amazing logistical support from Team Captain Heyddie, and fuelled by copious quantities of food and drink courtesy of the busy Raymond Blanc Brasserie in Beaconsfield, a very early start brought Heyddie, Alanssandro, Jan, Alberto and Fabian to pre-dawn central London, and we were soon joining thousands of other riders making their way over to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the mass start.
The organisers did a splendid job of getting everyone away in 'waves,' and we were soon speeding through the glittering tower blocks of the Canary Wharf area and into the city of London. An amazing experience, literally flying through the Limehouse Underpass, the roads all along the route closed off for this now iconic annual cycle event. It seemed only minutes before we flashed through St James's, through Knightsbridge and then a couple of us hanging on to the rear of a strong peloton which dragged us down the Cromwell Road at well over 40 kph.
Because of different start time allotments, we didn't cycle as a group initially, although everyone rode strongly and we met up at various intervals.
Riding through Richmond Park was a joy and we were soon out into the increasingly narrow lanes of Surrey, the sun now bathing us in heat but the local woods affording plenty of shade.
Reaching the Surrey Hills, however, brought us to the first of several incidents which brought thousands of riders to a halt. The first, a fatal heart attack of a 55 year old rider ahead of us on Leith Hill, meant that we waited for the emergency services to deal with everything, and we spent over an hour slowly walking up the bottom section of the hill, before being released to tackle the top half, a not particularly difficult climb by our recent standards.
Further accidents hindered progress, one leading us to walk through Dorking, and another on a bypass where one lady looked very poorly indeed after a crash. A timely reminder to us all...
Box Hill was easily despatched, and we were soon riding strongly back through the various towns, Leatherhead, Kingston-upon-Thames and Wimbledon being noticeably supportive of the riders roaring through their locale. The greeting was, of course, noisiest outside the well attended pubs!
By now, four of us more or less rode together, but Alanssandro, who had a much later starting time, got diverted around Leith Hill because of the logjam ahead, and finished a couple hours earlier than the rest of us on a slightly shortened route, a mere 150 km.
Heyddie and Fabian particularly enjoyed being amongst the fastest riders up the last hill of the day, through Wimbledon, and made short work of Putney, roaring down the hill to the bridge over the Thames. Awesome fun.
But the great moment, riding along the finishing straight of the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, was shared by all four of us coming into together, hot, tired but ultimately very pleased with ourselves.
Getting to the start and then finding our way back to the van at the end of the ride added another 24km of riding to the day, so about 184km in all, not a bad days work. Well done the lads!
Back at Chateau Heyddie, Mrs Merckx, ably assisted by Mrs Ulrichard and Mrs Johntador, had prepared a feast to replenish the athletes, and did so in fine style, beautifully cooked pork (with sublime crackling) and wonderful accompaniments, rounding off the day perfectly.
Team GRAC slept very soundly after all that, in readiness for the next adventure, more cycling, but this time in the south west of Ireland. The blog, likely to be written in the warm confines of Irish hostelries given the expected sodden weather, will follow in due course. However, there may be a few grammatical errors due to the influence of excessive rehydration with a local brew called Guinness...