After a few months of hard training it was time for the big day, but before that Mr Smith had to get to London and pick up the ride number from the Cycle Show at the Excel Centre…
After getting all the kit ready and packing it in to a rucksack Mr Smith headed off and caught the train to London, before heading across to the hotel on the tube. A first for Mr Smith. Not the easiest thing to do on the tube with a bike and rucksack, but travelling mid afternoon meant that it was not to busy.
After getting checked in and the bike put away it was time for the Excel Centre.
Mr Smith was hopeful that it would not be too busy on the Friday night, which was the case, but even if it had been busy it all worked very smoothly and the number was picked up along with the final event details.
After a brief wander around the show and a catch up with the people on The Alzheimers Society stand Mr Smith treated himself to a much needed back massage. It was not the rucksack that caused the need, just the general day in and day out of life. There were definitely some serious knots that were ironed out!
So that was it, back to the hotel for a nice relaxed evening and a good relaxed day on the Saturday, including a ride down to the Olympic Park to check out the best way to get there for the start.
There was only one thing of concern, the feeling of a cold coming on. Unfortunately several people in the office had come down with one and it had been on the verge of coming out since Wednesday, but Mr Smith was hoping it would clear before the ride.
So the big day arrived. The alarm went off at 4:30. A bit earlier than potentially needed, but Mr Smith was ensuring that he was properly fueled and ready for the start. Mind you, the wave loading closed at 6:10 and with at least a 20 minute ride to get there, there was not that much spare time when you include bag drop and getting to the pen.
After the porridge, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and a couple of cups of tea it was time for the off. All of the gels and drinks were loaded on the bike and Mr Smith left the hotel just as dawn was breaking.
Riding down to the start line Mr Smith joined hundreds of others on their way, lots of nervous tension in the air and sleepy people, but it was great to see so many riders.
The baggage drop was very smooth and Mr Smith got to the wave pen in the nick of time as is it closed as soon as he got in it. The ride down had taken a bit longer than expected due to the lights and volume of riders.
There was nothing else to do now other than wait and gradually make our way forward to the start. On the way Mr Smith was chatting to Angie, someone who was a regular cyclist and was hoping to achieve a time around 5 hours. It was great chatting and it definitely held off the final nerves. It also gave Mr Smith a boost in terms of confidence as she said I should go for a time of 5 hours, not 6.
To put it in to perspective though, when Mr Smith signed up the initial target was 7 hours, which had been adjusted to 6 with all of the training. Also, some software had projected a time of 6:11 based on my training rides. Surely 5 hours was a pipe dream? If the time had started with a 5, even with a 59 after it, Mr Smith would have been delighted.
We were then off, bang on time, brilliantly organised.
Setting off Mr Smith was trying not got too hard, but it was so good riding on the closed roads of London, zipping along at well over 20 mph, without pushing too hard.
By this time Angie had gone ahead a bit, but Mr Smith was more than happy to set his own pace so that he could judge the effort. Even at 7am in the morning there were spectators out cheering people on. The first hour took Mr Smith out through Richmond Park and he was at the top of the hill at the hour mark, covering 32.6km (20.1 miles). Was this too fast? Hopefully not. The route had been flat until this point, the closed roads and riding with others was always going to be faster, but this was much quicker than anticipated.
The good news was that at this stage Mr Smith thought that the legs were coming to him. They had felt a bit dead until that point, but by now they were loose and rolling well.
Also, Mr Smith was being disciplined with the drink and nutrition ensuring he was hydrated and starting to take on gels, even though the body did not feel it needed them at this stage. Getting the nutrition right was going to be key to success.
The next hour took the riders out of London and out through the Surrey countryside. Again another flat section, but that was not going to last much longer. This hour was even quicker, flying through 34.9km (21.7 miles). Surely too quick and the legs would fade?
Although the route had been pretty flat to this point the roads had been busy, when out of London, but Mr Smith was starting to think that Angie might be right and that 5 hours could be on. Surely not.
This would all depend on how the hills went and how much time Mr Smith would loose on any pit stops.
It was then time for some climbing. First up came Newlands Corner, with some amazing views across the Surrey countryside. Mr Smith may not be a fast climber, but he is steady, will hit a rhythm and make it up in his own pace. It was good to be passing people on the way up. The training was definitely paying off.
This hour took in Newlands and Leith Hill. Leith Hill has a reputation and Mr Smith had never ridden the full length before, so a bit of unknown territory. Again he got in to gear and cruised up. The road was tight and busy with cyclists, but Mr Smith gradually worked his way past a lot of people and was really pleased to not need to be out of the saddle at any time. From what he could see from those around him he was the only one that did not need to get up.
The pace was still amazing him and bearing in mind there were 2 steep climbs in this hour the distance covered was 29.6km (18.4 miles). So after 3 hours it was around 60 miles covered. This was bang on for a 5 hour finish. At this point Mr Smith started to believe he could do it and abandoned the 6 hour target and was going to push for 5, a huge leap in the target.
There was a need for a quick pit stop to fill up the water, but that was kept to a minimum, just a couple of minutes to get things topped up. At this point there had not been a comfort break and Mr Smith just carried on and would worry about the need for that if it arose. He did not want to loose any time as he was going to go for it.
Next up came Box Hill. It is one of the more famous climbs, but in the scheme of things it is not that tough. It is a fairly consistent gradient with switch backs. The challenge with this would be that it came at 70 miles in to the ride.
Turning on to the climb there was a pinch point as an event car was having to go up. This slowed the bottom part down, but it was not a problem as that soon cleared. Again passing people on the climb and remembering something that Marianne Vos had said in an article, accelerate in to the switchbacks to get a better exit, it definitely worked.
Cresting Box Hill Mr Smith ignored another feed station. There was plenty of water, no need for food as the gels were working nicely and he pushed on. The pace on that hour was up again to 31.7km (19.7miles) covered.
20 miles or so to go, 1 hour to do it in. This was definitely on.
Working with other cyclists the pace was high and they were flying along until Kingston. Unfortunately, there was a complete stop at this point. Mr Smith did not know why, but they got going again after a few a minutes, but then in the next town there was another stop. This probably cost about 5 minutes or so.
At the second of the stops Mr Smith was talking to another cyclist who had started at the same time and both were hoping to hit the 5 hour mark and were basically going to go flat out until the end. Mr Smith had stopped the watch at these times so he knew that the moving time was about 6 minutes less than the elapsed. That pleased them both.
Mr Smith said he hoped to see him down on the Mall. Who would get there first?
They set off again and no more hold ups. The sting in the tale was Wimbledon Hill, just what you do not need after 4 1/2 hours and a stop, but once that was done it was full bore in to central London. No cruising down hills (not that Mr Smith does that anyway) and really pushing hard.
During the last 20 miles Mr Smith kept remembering that this is what the training schedule had been about, the ability to push hard on the final stretch. It definitely paid dividend with the legs feeling good and able to push on. Those hours on the road and the power sessions using Zwift (a virtual training tool) were perfect and a lot of thanks go to Tom (my coach) for getting Mr Smith through the training and to have such a great ride.
All of a sudden the group was flying in to London, really speeding along by the river and then they were flying round Westminster and suddenly popping up and through Admiralty Arch. Mr Smith could see the guy who was also chasing 5 hours in front of him and that he was really pushing, so it was head down and chase hard. Mr Smith knew that the official 5 hours was not possible, but the moving time was surely going to be under 5.
With every last ounce of effort Mr Smith was putting as much power through the pedals as he could. Not out of the saddle, but Mr Smith is not a sprinter (something to be worked on for the future), but there was no more power to give, he was at max. He was gaining though and the speed was increasing, going through Admiralty Arch he was doing 32.4kph, but it peaked about 20metres from the line at 44.6kph, (27.6mph), not bad acceleration after a short up hill to Trafalgar Square and after 100 miles!
Counting down the metre boards, as the pros would, the pace was peaking nicely towards the line and as it happened Mr Smith thinks he just caught the other rider and they crossed the line around the same time. Official photos awaited to see whether he was right. On review Mr Smith just made it in a photo finish by about half a wheel. Following the catch, draft and pull out the momentum took him past just in time.
Then it was over. Dismounting the bike and having a chat to the other rider about the experience was a great way to end. Walking down the mall with the bike and chatting about how it went was the perfect finish. After composing himself and heading off to the medal collection zone Mr Smith spotted another ONE Pro Cycling top and being #oneteam they spoke and it really put the icing on the cake, with Mr Smith and rob posing for team photos (hope they appear in the official ones, which they did) at the end. Being a founder member of ONE Pro Cycling is great and it was so nice to randomly bump in to another member and get to know them. Hopefully will be seeing Rob, and other members, at future events.
Checking the time on the app Mr Smith saw what he had done, what he thought was a miraculous official time of 5:01, the gob was well and truly smacked, even more so when he checked the moving time (excluding the stops) of 4:54:24! Over an hour ahead of the best expectations.
To check out the full ride and see key stats and Relive the ride you can check it out here
The medal collected and the goody bag in hand it was time to grab the bag and say bye to Rob, but it was not over for the day.
The official photos
The official video
Mr Smith’s post race pictures
Mr Smith headed off to watch the start of the men’s Classic ride (the advantage of being ahead of schedule meant he had plenty of time). Great to see the whole peloton riding out with ONE Pro amongst them. Then it was time to head to the ONE Pro bus for a quick chat with a few members of the very important back room team.
Then the final element was to wait for ‘Mrs Smith’ to arrive. She was starting later and was held up by 2 unfortunate crashes which delayed her by an hour or so. That was a shame, but everyone’s thoughts were with the riders that had crashed.
She did amazingly well. As a fairly new cyclist and only just being clipped in she had a moving time just over 5 1/2 hours. I would say that was pretty much the challenges complete (this challenge goes back a while now, cycling to running and vice versa)
After a good relax and catch up it was time to head off to the hotel, but not before vowing to be back next year to officially break the 5 hour mark!
This was quite possibly the best feeling that Mr Smith has had, this was definitely his marathon moment and it is even better to know that he had raised some funds for The Alzheimers Society. Making a small contribution towards a total in excess of £300,000 for the charity from the event.
Here are just a few of the achievements from the event, the very best he has ever done:
- Fastest Speed – 74 kph (46mph) could have gone faster if others were not in the way
- Highest Average Speed – 32.5 kph (20.19mph)
- Longest Ride – 100 miles
- Highest Heart Rate on the bike – 173bpm for 5 seconds
- Most Burnt Calories in an event – 3026
- Fastest 40km – 1:09:13, that sets a tough benchmark for the future
- Most KM in the first hour of a ride – 32.6 (20.2 miles) or 33.2 depending on which app is looked at!
- Over 1400 gear changes! 74 front & 1391 rear
- Longest time without a comfort break, 6 hours!
Some other notable achievements that he did not think were possible:
- Average cadence – 94 (includes times of free wheeling, over 20 minutes at under 5rpm)
- Average power – 172 (normalised to exclude zeros 193)
- Speed – 12 consecutive minutes averaging over 40kph (24.85mph), coming off Wimbledon Hill and sprinting for home
- Speed – 1 hour 56 over 35kph (21.7 mph)
Just about the only record that was not broken was the climbing. Although the climbing was over 4000ft, in training Mr Smith did a ride with 4600ft of climbing.
Could the day have gone any better? Not really, the ride was beyond expectations, with a great feeling all day long. The nutrition was perfect and the last 3 months of hard training was spot on, the organisation amazing, the volunteers great and the spectators really helping on the way (especially the cheer of come on ONE Pro as Mr Smith went through Kingston).
There were only a couple of hairy moments, one of them at 70kph where another rider braked harder than expected/he needed too, but this was a wide stretch of road, with a good slam of the anchors and a slide of the back wheel Mr Smith was still going full bore. The last one was when one of the riders from the 46 was in front of the group going full gas towards Westminster where he suddenly drifted off his line causing Mr Smith to swerve, but not loosing speed (crucial at that point to maintain the pace). There may have been a few choice words about not drifting across the road!
It is not easy riding in such a big field and all riders need to have an awareness (and responsibility) to know what is happening around them, to ensure everyone’s safety. It takes a lot of concentration to do it, almost as much mental effort as physical at times, especially when riding at speed just a few inches away from the wheel of a rider in front of you or side by side. Any changes in direction, sudden braking, etc can have a big impact on those around you.
Having said that, even if you are not a keen cyclist or worried about the distance Mr Smith would highly recommend signing up and going for it. It was the most amazing experience and with a few months of hard focused training it is definitely possible. If Mr Smith can go from an original target of 7 hours, which was smashed, a revised target of 2 hours (well and truly beaten) and without the 2 stops the improvised on road target would also have been beaten, anyone can and achieve their goals!
Can he get in next year? Hopefully. If so the target will be 4:45 or even less. That would take a lot of doing (over 21mph average speed), but if Mr Smith gets in he will go for it! He will be entering the ballot when it opens on 8th August!