I got to Guildford at 8.15am and met Rob from Team BOOM! Cycle's mens team and we were to ride out to hub three together and take over from Keith and Hilary. None of us had any local knowledge of Guildford and had only maps to guide us, since no one at the station knew anything about it and there weren't a single sign showing us the way to the start. Rob put in the location on Google maps and off we went. Almost straight away we had to climb this ginormous hill, which in hindsight not only acted as a warmup hill but might have been the hardest hill of the whole day. Once we'd gotten to the top of the hill Google Maps wanted us to go through a wooded area via footpath(!) which we reluctantly did with out narrow road tyres. From there it only got worse. After a little while we realised that it was most definitely not the right way to the hub but we'd been going too far to turn back - we just had to make the best of it. We found a local who gave us some quick directions, meaning that the last bit up to the hub we were crossing fields, barbed wire fences and mostly carrying our bikes as we had to go up the hill to Newlands corner but couldn't use the road as that would've meant going against the flow of the cyclists! Eventually we got up, and Hilary and Keith had been waiting for a while by that point.
I set off on my own down the same hill I'd just carried by bike up and hit some really decent speeds going down, while I kept thinking that it would be a miracle if I didn't end up with a flat tyre after crossing those thorny fields earlier (in the end my tyres were fine but Rob had apuncture 30 seconds after starting....). The first few miles were just gently rolling Surrey Hills and I'd done that stretch of road before on our training/recon ride. I kept a good pace on the flat and going up but I quickly realised that people would overtake me en masse going downhill - I'm a chicken going downhill, and not embarassed about it! When we turned off down to Leith Hill I got a bit nervous although the first few miles were pretty easy. Once I saw the KOM sign (King of the Mountain-sign for the professionals that were riding the Classic after us) I knew we were in business and I was right.... I quickly got into a good rhythm climbing and was climbing strongly up hill, passing loads of people without anyone passing me, when my chain came off! This has never happened before but I quickly got it back on and could carry on. On top of Leith Hill I heard people calling it 'Lethal Hll' but I honestly didn't think it was that bad...hard yes, lethal no.
Going down Leith Hill is a bit of a blurr....partly because of the speed and partly because of all the cyclists passing me - it was a flurry of lycra! I did come down though, albeit a bit slower than some, and could get back into the flow on the rolling hills again en route to Box Hill. Passing through Dorking there were loads of people cheering you on and I knew that Box Hill was just around the corner. When I hit Box Hill I was on familiar ground and I had my strategy clear for me, get onto a good gear, find my rhythm and just 'tap it out' as Coach Mark always tells us at BOOM!. I did just that but when I was changing gears to go through a hairpin curve (that IS what you call them, right?!) my chain came off again! This time I noticed a little branch from a tree stuck to my chain, probably a remainant from our earlier attempt at Cyclocross, and once that was gone I practically flew up Box Hill. Even when we got on the top I had so much power left in my legs that I just kept overtaking people for miles despite the rolling hills. Downhill to Leatherhead I got overtaken by some of them, again, but the last few miles to the hub I kept a great pace and just before the hub I saw my friends cheering me on and was wearing the most goofey smile evern when I entered the hub. When I got there it turned out that Rob had sent Daz and Mark going without chaging over properly as Rob was so much behind schedule with his puncture. I chatted with my friends for about half an hour before I decided to get on my bike again and ride back to London along the route.
I was first thinking that I should do the last 25 miles at a leisurely pace but then realised that I could use it as a solid training session and did just that. I kept my pace up as good as I could, hanging on to peoples' wheels and then passing them if they were too slow. I only got tired with about 10 miles to go but then I saw my friend Zoe walking down the road in Wimbledon and her shouts of encouragement gave me enough energy to keep going quite hard until I hit The Mall where I just gave it my all! After crossing the finish line and getting my medal I met up with Team BOOM! and we had a bit of a picnic and beers in the park for a few hours before going our separate ways again. All in all it was a great day out, and it turned out that I'd done almost 120k cycling to do on 25 miles leg of the relay! Next year I'm definitely doing the full race, cycling on closed off London roads with 20000 cycling enthusiasts is simply as good as it gets!
My cheerleaders! Love them all!
This is how your legs look after an impromptu cyclocross session...
At the 'finish' at the hub in Leatherhead (photo by Max Raymond)
It's pretty great finishing in front of Buckingham Palace....!
Team BOOM! in all it's glory! Photo by Rob at BOOM! Cycle