How did I end up standing on Clapham Highstreet at 9am on a Saturday beside a giant Jagermeister and a dozen minions?
As a part of her Ironman training, my friend Laura organised a ride to Brighton last weekend. After one to many “come on our club ride this Sunday but expect to be dropped if you aren’t Bradley Wiggins” emails she decided to find some friends and enjoy the ride. 5 of us met up near Clapham Common on the morning of the Sevens Rugby (hence the costumes) to set off south. After a preparatory week of twitter conversations about overshoes, clipless pedals, and meth glasses we forgot to actually confirm the route so we took turns memorizing the street names from Polly’s helpful iPhone.
We slowly made our way through a soggy south London with only few honks from motorists who we could only assume were showing for their support towards women’s cycling. I knew things were going to be OK when my waterbottle flew off my bike, got run over by a few cars and was still in tact (minus the nuun inside).
Once we finally made it over the M25 we celebrated with a wee in the bushes and lot of crisps. From there it was a series of hills that really started to wear down my legs. I slowly realized I was keeping up with an Ironman-in-training, a 3:30 marathoner, an ultra marathoner, and a Rapha cycling model, I definitely had to use the mantra shut up legs a few times.
We stopped for coffee and sandwiches at the (reopened!) Dog & Duck pub and then slogged on up and over more rolling hills and the second hardest hill of the trip, Turner’s Hill. My bike wasn’t being really nice and it was skipping gears so it would be a surprise when each gear would actually kick in. But a few haribos & sportsmixes kept me going until we arrived in Ditchling with the looming Beacon ahead.
For those who don’t know, Ditchling Beacon is also know as the green monster, and it’s the last (and biggest) hill on the route before the lovely downhill to Brighton Pier. It alone is not that bad, a steep climb but not long it is doable if the previous 50 miles didn’t ruin your legs. I gave it a go but quickly realized that even in my lowest gear, I couldn’t muster the energy to spin up the steep incline so jumped off my bike and walked up to meet the other girls at the top.
The views of the South Downs from the top were stunning, but it was so windy. So windy that what was apparently supposed to be a mile of speedy downhill turned into a low gear slog trying not to be pushed into the hedge off our bikes. It was not the most enjoyable part of the ride and we were really happy to make it into Brighton at Cathy’s flat in one piece.
A quick warmup at Cathy’s and we rolled down to the pub to celebrate with pints & burgers as all professional cyclists do. I really enjoyed the 59.5 mile cycle (and 0.5 mile walk up Ditchling) and with watching the Women’s Tour all week I can confidently say that I am a huge fan and supporter of women getting out on their bikes with friends for a good ride.