Today was the London Revolution Ultra, a 189 mile ride around London, starting and finishing at Windsor Racecourse. It’s one of my main target rides for 2018 and by far the longest ride I’ve ever done (longest to date was 131 miles).
I’d arrived in the area the day before and stayed over nearby before arriving at the venue about 5:15am for a planned start of 6am. I met up with a friend, Paul Evans who was also doing the ride.
As soon as I tried to ride my bike down to the start line I knew something was wrong. It’s the cleats again! I’d swapped the pedals on the Roubaix back to my normal Garmin Vector 2 pedals during the week and put brand new Look cleats on my shoes. Should have worked perfectly.
Look cleats have always been absolutely fine as that’s what the Garmin pedals are meant to take, but they would not clip in at all today. I found a mechanic and he put some version of Shimano cleats on my shoes and these seemed to clip in well enough to ride. Phew! Still no idea why the Look cleats would not work as they always have in the past!
This delayed our start by about 40 minutes and we soon ended up at the back of the Ultra riders and with a Threshold (the organisers of the event) Chaperone rides drafting behind us. I’m an experienced distance cyclist and while he was a lovely guy and everything, his presence soon became a bit irritating, especially as we constantly kept getting reminders of feed stop cut off times.
I prefer to enjoy the ride and not stress about times like that! We managed to give him the slip later on as we overtook some other riders and he had to back-mark them.
Anyway, we soon arrived at the first feed stop in Princes Risborough and were literally ushered through it in no time at all. One of the things I enjoy about sportives is chatting to other cyclists, especially at feed stops, and not only were there very few other cyclists around (only about 240 people did the Ultra) but we had no time to chat anyway!
The really bad climb of the whole ride immediately followed and I made my way up it very slowly but got there in the end. Then it was an undulating, but really nice ride through the Chiltern Hills before crossing the M1 and arriving at the next feed stop near St Albans.
Again, we were rushed through in double quick time and there was not a great choice of food. I played the rebel a bit here though and loitered around for a while longer than I needed to ;).
The next section of the ride takes you eastwards towards Essex before dropping down into Enfield and London itself. We soon arrived at the third feed stop at Lee Valley (where the 2 day event starts from). This was better as there was tea, coffee and hot food in the form of pizzas and soup. Yum! Much appreciated!
Suitably refreshed, we headed off to tackle the London traffic and the journey down through Tottenham, Shoreditch and over Tower Bridge. This was slow going as everywhere was busy with traffic. It is 1pm on a bust Saturday afternoon I guess.
Once over Tower Bridge the traffic thinned out a little and we could speed up a bit, but not a lot. Eventually, we left Croydon and into the lovely countryside to the south of London. That’s MUCH better!
Crossing the M25, we arrived at the fourth feed stop at Limpsfield. Here we were all told we’d missed the cut off time and would have to return to Windsor in the Broom Wagon! Needless to say, lots of riders had been caught out by lost time in the horrible London traffic and were not too happy!
Myself and Paul immediately said we’d be carrying on un-supported and were joined by another cyclist called Stacey (a boy). The rain had been coming down since the Lee Valley stop and the temperature was dropping rapidly, so we knew we needed to crack on at a decent pace to keep warm.
The next section of ride was fairly flat and we could get up a decent speed to try and make some time back from the lost time in London with traffic. Threshold had promised the signing would still be up but by the time we reached Reigate, all signs had totally disappeared. Lucky I had the route on my Wahoo and a backup USB battery to keep powering it.
By the time we reached the village of Capel, in the Surrey Hills, we were all absolutely soaked through, very, very cold and in need of a coffee. Stacey spotted a village shop so we went in to warm up. We stood there in-voluntary shivering and ridiculously cold. Even the coffee and riding hard would not warm us up and with 40 miles to go and the rain not stopping, we all made the executive decision to end the ride.
Luckily Stacey’s mate has a big pickup truck so he was summoned to pick us up, while we gatecrashed a 50th birthday party at the village pub to try and warm up some more.
Our lift arrived after about an hour and we were soon on our way back to Windsor Racecourse.
Back at event HQ, we said our goodbye’s and I went off in search of the glamping option I’d booked. I was going to have a shower, get some food and a pint or two, but ended up straight in bed and catching up with work emails before having a very sound sleep.
The next morning I was up early but the queue for breakfast (included in the event) was massive so I opted to get on the road home and stop at Oxford services for breakfast.
In summary then, a really nice ride, but totally ruined by a bad choice of clothing (should have gone for winter kit but the weather in the morning was beautiful and it was only forecast to rain for an hour or so). Also, many things to do with how the event was run spoiled what should have been a great day out.
I’d put this down as one of the worst sportives I’ve done to date and seriously don’t think I’ll be back next year and if I am, I’ll just set off very early, unsupported and do my own thing and enjoy the ride without any of the stress Threshold kept introducing to it with constant time nagging.
How could the Ultra be improved?
- Start the ride MUCH earlier e.g. 4am or 5am to allow riders time to enjoy it without being rushed and stressed all day.
- Better feed stops as the ones we had were a little sparse with things to eat. This is in massive contrast to last year’s 2 day event when I thought the feed stops were right up there as the best I’ve seen.
- Find a way not to have to traverse London at 1pm on a busy Saturday afternoon. We lost 1 – 1.5 hours of time sat around in traffic.
- More flexible cut off times for the feed stops. The event is here for the paying public (it’s not cheap either) and not for the convienience of Threshold Ltd staff members.
- Stop nagging and stressing riders. They are here to get away from the stress of everyday life, not get more stressed.
Route: click here