The following views are based on my own experiences from the 2013 event. The organisers may make changes to the 2014 event.
1. Stay the night before near the start line, as close to the Olympic Park as you can get – start times range from 06:00am – 08:00am but you check in to your loading gate approx 40 minutes before your start time. The roads on the route, even to event riders are closed, the tubes and trains won’t allow bikes and will most likely be closed at that time. You have to collect your ride number from the Excel Arena bike expo anyway so we made a family day out of it, went across on the Emirates Air, had lunch out etc. it was lovely sunny weather and we had a really nice day.
2. Plan how you’re going to get home, if you’re not staying in a hotel arrange for your friends / family to park somewhere you can cycle to after the event. Tubes don’t allow bikes at anytime (except fold up) and trains banned bikes on the day due to the large numbers. Remember the event route stays closed as the professional race happens after the amateur sportive. I live north of London so my family parked in St Johns Wood and I cycled there post event, easily through Regents Park and avoiding any hills. They do have exclusion zones north and south of the cycle route for Ride 100 parking. They will detail this in the final event pack sent near the date.
3. 2 weeks before the event ride a sportive with lots of hills and around 75 miles or plan a route and ride it at a good pace, push / challenge yourself. The London course is mostly flat and fast so your body will thank you for doing this.
4. Enjoy all of the support from the people lining the streets, they’re amazing. Mums, Dads, Grandma’s, Grandad’s, kids, everyone is out young and old. Cheering you along and giving you so much support, the kids are especially brilliant. I remember hearing shouts of “Come on lady rider” “Go Go Go lady” “Girl Power. Girl Power” all from little kids, it’s really inspirational and motivates you to keep pedaling. Dorking & Leatherhead were my favourite places to ride through, this is the moment you’ll feel like a pro. If you ever feel like giving up think about The Mall, riding down there to people screaming and cheering is such a buzz so hang in there and keep thinking about this once in lifetime moment.
5. On race day fuel up well before the start. I bought a pot of porridge you can make with hot water so I could use the hotel room kettle as my hotel only offered a continental breakfast in a bag e.g. croissant and yogurt. I filled it with banana and I had a protein shake. I filled my jersey pockets with gels, bars and ride shots. I used energy products that I’d trained with, this is a good idea as some people suffer upset stomachs from certain products.
6. In your race pack you’re given a bag to put all your belongings in, they will transport them to the finish line for you. It’s well organised and easy to pick your bag up again at the end. One mistake I made, I wore flip flops the day before, trying to keep my luggage to a minimum. We walked quite a lot around the Expo and around London the day before. During the ride the soles of my feet hurt like never before and I had to ignore that pain for the whole 100 miles, it really wasn’t pleasant.
7. It’s quite cold at 05:30, even in the summer standing around in shorts and a jersey so I took a sweatshirt that I didn’t mind throwing away. I wore it until we started and the event staff pick them up and give them to charity. Do you really need your big waterproof jacket? I spotted lots of people with them tied around their waist, it must have been really annoying cycling 100 miles like that. Invest in a light, rain jacket that fits in your jersey pocket if the weather is looking changeable. There’s an offer to get one free if you subscribe to Cycling Plus for 6 months. Arm warmers are a great option, I wore them for the first 2hrs.
8. There’s lots of toilets and food at the starting area and everything is well signed posted. You get started in waves, there was a Black gate and a Blue gate and each wave had a letter. For example you might be Blue gate G. The earlier your letter, the earlier your start time, this will all be detailed in your start pack. It will tell you what time to check in and what time your start time is. It’s a rolling start, you leave the Olympic Park and ride about 2 miles before you cross the timing gate. This is to help avoid any crashes from people eager to get away. Grouped entries aren’t guaranteed to start together so lots of people who want to ride together wait shortly after the Olympic park rolling start, before they’ve crossed the timing mat. They wait for their friends and they join up before the point of crossing the timing mat. My partner & I rode last year, his start time was 20 mins before me but we didn’t know about the option to wait so we didn’t meet again until the finish line. The waiting option is not official. Point worth noting don’t start your Garmin (or other GPS device) until you get to the timing mat if you want an accurate account of how you’re doing over the official course distance.
9. If you need to stop, there’s plenty of water, gels, energy powder etc along the route as well as the feeding stations. High 5 were a sponsor in 2013 so this could change. There’s also lots of toilets, random single portaloo’s as well as groups of toilets at the feeding stations. I stopped twice to refill my water bottles and for the toilet. I didn’t visit the feeding stations so I can’t comment on what they’re like. All of the volunteers and marshals were brilliant, friendly and helpful and gave you so much support and encouragement. They fill up your bottles as quickly as possible so you can get away again. It’s a very well organised event (I think I’ve said this before but it really is a huge operation). Some people chose to power through without stopping and will ride it in 4hrs, others enjoy the scenery, stop at the feed stations and come home in the full 9hrs.
10. Always keep left and allow the faster riders to pass on the right. You’ll hear them coming, it’s pretty awesome, big chains of strong guys on very expensive bikes with deep rim wheels. You can’t mistake that sound. Don’t be intimated by them if you’re new to cycling, they have a different agenda. They will be riding at an average 23/25mph and will make it home somewhere near 4hrs. I was lucky enough to ride without a mechanical problem but I understand there is assistance along the route. I did see lots of people with punctures and there’s also loads of debris, dropped bottles, bits of bikes and the worst part, litter. Gel wrappers all along the route, it wasn’t nice to see.
11. Training, cycle when you can and enjoy it. Work out when training is going to fit in to your life. I have a young daughter and I work full time a 50 mile commute away in London. My only option was to get out of bed at 5am and ride before work. It was horrible at first but my body soon adjusted to it and when we had that lovely heat wave in the summer I actually looked forward to my morning ride before work. Try and include some gym work, endurance / strength training but remember Boris did it so pretty much anyone can do it. Focus on mostly shorter rides (15/20miles) and at least one longer ride (40/60 miles) per week but don’t overdo it. You don’t need to ride the full distance before the event, don’t burn yourself out. Rest is really important. If you have a turbo trainer check out the sufferfest videos, they make it less boring. I’ve loaded a few on my laptop and have it on top of my tumble dryer in my kitchen so you don’t need a big tv set up http://www.thesufferfest.com Read about training techniques, interval training, hill training etc. The info is out there, online, in magazines etc Bike Radar is a great source of info e.g. http://training.bikeradar.com/plan/viewdetail/310367 If you have a smart phone get Strava. It’s a great app and shows you how you’re improving. The free version is good enough. A bike computer makes a big difference, seeing your average speed, distance etc. You don’t need to spend a fortune.
12. Join a cycling club – there’s lots of cycling clubs all over the country, you can find them online, via local newspapers, Facebook, cycle shops. Riding in a group makes you fitter, faster and stronger. There’s some less competitive ones out there, look at Sky Ride for example. You can make new friends and there’s a good social life if you want it.
13. Nutrition is really important, start fuelling your body right when you ride and post workout. There’s lots of information out there, online, in stores, in magazines so find what suits you and get yourself in good shape. I used a combination of carbohydrate drinks while riding and protein shakes post work out. I think they made a difference. I also drink chocolate Nesquik as a post ride recovery drink, it’s cheaper than sports recovery shakes. I alternate with this and a more expensive endurance shake from Herbalife.
14. Keep your bike in good order, regular servicing makes a big difference. An upgrade to your wheels could improve your performance / speed without the massive outlay of a new bike. Take off all the bits you don’t need on the day, lights, locks etc.
15. Riding on closed roads is a unique experience, especially along this now famous route. I found myself still checking at roundabouts and slowing at the first few traffic lights, it’s in built in your brain. You’ll gain some mph’s on your overall average thanks to the closed roads so if you’re looking to ride home in a fast time ignore the lights.
Smile, enjoy it and I hope you have the most amazing day. The memory of the 2013 event will stay with me forever.