Entering the final week of training for next weekend's London Revolution ride now. Rode a combined 177km (109 miles) over this weekend just gone, firstly 47 solo miles across the Chilterns on Saturday from my mum's house in Herts. Despite the headwinds and rain I was pleased with how easy the spin up Ivinghoe Beacon felt (kind of the nearest local equivalent of Box Hill and also famous as one end of the Ridgeway) and also made it up Bison Hill, the steep road that climbs up past Whipsnade Zoo. This has a bit of a fierce reputation locally but it wasn't that bad in the end, felt like a smaller version of Ditchling, similar chalky surroundings and false summits but made it up with no real issues which is hopefully a good sign. Although it is quite surreal to be panting up a steep hill with a load of penguins just the other side of the fence.
I followed this up on Sunday with a ride into the Surrey Hills with Sanks, 62 miles with a tidy 1,150m of climbs including such North Downs classics as Crocknorth, Ranmore, Combe Lane and of course Box Hill (data for all these climbs here). Started to get a bit grumpy towards the end and the rain didn't help but a caffeinated Mule gel got me across the line. Also managed to set a load of new Strava PBs on the hills, which was nice. Now I just have a couple of gentle taper rides left before the first major milestone of my cycling year.
Legs feeling a bit heavy today so goodness knows how they'll react to the small matter of 289km (180 miles) next weekend but we shall see, a recovery ice bath may be in order. I have followed the training plan pretty much to the letter, barring the odd session, so fingers crossed. Basically it's the cycling equivalent of a marathon pretty much so just making it around will be achievement enough for a first-timer, I'm not expecting to set any PBs. That said, I would really love it if these pesky westerlies that seem to have been blowing incessantly for the past two months would give it a rest - day one promises to be a bit of a slog otherwise. Rain I can handle up to a point but headwinds just suck, end of. On the plus side, I suppose westerlies will also help blow us back to ExCeL on day two but I would still prefer less of a breeze if poss.
Anyway, I am rambling on but this post wasn't supposed to be about me. I actually wanted to write about something rather different I did this morning for work. Basically, the agency I work for has been supporting a Paralympic athlete called Claire Lomas on a 400 mile charity handcycle ride around England. Claire if you've never heard of her is an ex-eventer who was paralysed from the chest down in 2007 following a riding accident. She has since gone on to become the first paraplegic to complete the London Marathon in an amazing 'robotic' exoskeleton suit and also lit the Paralympic cauldron last year in Trafalgar Square in front of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Seb Coe. So a pretty inspiring character basically.
Today was the last leg of Claire's challenge and basically they needed someone who knows London's road well to act as ride leader for her and her entourage. As a known cycling bore around the office I was nominated and wasn't about to refuse, certainly beats a morning spent pushing papers around my desk.
Here I am looking like a right herbert just before the start with Claire's bike...
The ride itself went pretty much like clockwork. The weather gods smiled and I met Claire and her team of supporters at Chelsea Academy first thing this morning, guiding them on a route past some famous London landmarks where we'd set up photo opportunities for the media: the Albert Hall, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Palace of Westminster etc. The riding was actually the easy bit, especially at handcycle speeds - trying to corral people for the photos and broadcast footage less so, a rare glimpse into the world of the publicist, fun on occasion but not something I'd necessarily want to do every single day.
Here's Claire pausing for photos in Hyde Park with Dan Lobb (he of ITV Daybreak fame, apparently) who joined us for the final stretch. This was the first time he'd ever tried using a handcycle, he's quite a big unit but judging by the grunts and groans, it is a lot tougher than Claire makes it look. The thought of 400 miles on one with English hills and headwinds is sobering. They also have really wide turning circles, which makes junctions a bit squeaky bum.
We were also joined for the final part from Trafalgar Square down to the London Eye by one of Claire's celeb supporters, Melanie C AKA Sporty Spice, which was quite funny. She seemed very nice but not quite as nice as her bike, a Seven Cycles iD with Ksyriums and full Dura-Ace gruppo, tasty machine, here is some photographic proof...
Despite all the interruptions for photography and the like the whole
experience was inspiring and seeing Claire cross the finish line at
Southbank in front of a big group of supporters was a great moment. Ever the good sport, Gary Lineker even put in an appearance to help bolster media coverage, which was nice of him though reinforced the vague feeling of being trapped in a budget version of Madame Tussaud's. Here's Gaz, look... (he is not actually that short in real life incidentally, the camera crew were just really tall).
Anyway, I wanted to post about this today as all my bike riding is one thing but seeing someone who's overcome such life-mangling injuries taking on such inspiring challenges and using their bike to raise awareness and money for such good causes really put any worries I might have had about the London Revolution and Dolomites etc into perspective. Chapeau, Claire!
You can still donate to her charity here, incidentally.