British Heart Foundation London to Brighton – 17th June

Well, the day started with a stunning dawn, a beautiful firey red….. “Red sky in the morning…..” Ahhh, that’s not so good! But of course that was Coventry, and we were heading South.

A 9am start time meant we got to the start Clapham Common in time to see the 8:30 start, with the sun breaking through the clouds. Pretty soon we were checked through to the start area, I started to take my arm warmers off and before I’d had a chance to put them in my pack the organisers were getting ready to let us go, we crossed the line at 8:55.

Heading out onto the streets it was stop, start, especially when we joined a main road, as now several thousand cyclists mixed it with London Buses and car drivers who even though the London to Brighton is an annual event seemed suprised and very annoyed that cyclists were getting in their way. You must be pretty stupid not to notice or just plain ignore the big yellow signs stating that there will be the annual London to Brighton on June 17th and “You are advised that there will be serious congestion on this road between 06:00 and 10:00”

We passed Tooting Broadway tube station, about 3 miles into the ride at just about 10. The stop, start continued, and rolling through South London I realised just how much I’d hate living there. Coventry isn’t exactly paradise but it’s pretty good compared to Tooting and the other areas who’s names didn’t even register as I rode from one lot of urban sprawl to the next.

For those non Coventrians reading this Coventry does have an area called Paradise…… but whoever named it had a twisted sense of humour!

Without really noticing it happening, the stops became less and less, and the pace quickened…. I’m not talking sprinting for sure, but there were sections were you could hit a real nice pace. We headed down a hill, that was almost a tree lined tunnel, suddenly we went under a huge concrete bridge… the M25, it was 11:00 dead. It felt great that we’d escaped London. I’ve no idea when we actually left ‘London’ as I don’t think they have ‘Welcome to London’ signs like ‘normal’ cities, I certainly didn’t see any sign saying ‘You are now leaving London, we hoped you enjoyed your stay’

We were now heading out through small villages, once again I’ve no idea which ones, I’d just got my head down, occasionally talking to Dave, but most of the time I think we were just riding, enjoying being out in the countryside. The distance between villages seemed to gradually increase and soon there were signs for Turners Hill. I’d heard that Turners Hill was one of the ‘big climbs’ on the route, but to be honest it wasn’t that bad at all. The village of Turners Hill however was a nightmare, the whole of the villiage green area being turned over to BBQs and stalls, with the couple of pubs rammed with riders enjoying a pint in the sun.

We pressed on, Dave seemed happy to keep going and I’m got a bag of Maynards Sports Mixture that as gradually being eaten. Nearly out of water we stopped at a rest stop, but the queue for water was massive, we rode on, with about a mouthful left. Soon we were at another, with hardly any queue for water we stopped there and topped up the drinks bottles.

Now in the far distance I could see a ridgeline, that seemed to stretch as far as the horizon in both directions. Then came a sign Ditchling 1 mile, Dave seemed to be struggling a bit now, I’m not sure how far he’d ridden in one go before, but we were at just under 50 miles and I’m sure he was riding into uncharted territory. I had to tell him, “I’m pretty sure we’re going up and over that”…… the look said it all!

We were stopped at the junction in Ditchling and had a crack with a bloke sitting outside a cafe, then he waved his pint at us, I told him he was just a mirage and didn’t really exist. Now we were off, Dave said to go on as he’d be slow, so I told him I’d wait at the top and to just get his head down and not look up. I rode ahead and the eventually the road turned left…and up… and up… and up. This is one serious climb, looking on the internet it’s a 531ft climb in 1560 yds, but there was no way I was going to let it beat me… and there was no way I intended to have to push a 32lb fat bike up a hill!

I got to the top, and waited for Dave.. and waited…. and waited…. I started to think he may have had a mechanical, so I waited some more. I’d not checked the time when I got to the top so I’d no idea how long I’d been waiting, but now people who we’d past miles before were appearing. I tried ringing him, but got no answer. So I sent him a text “At top on left”, and I waited…. I got a text “I’ve just crossed the line”! I replied “Still at the top of the hill…”

Somehow I’m missed him and he’d not seen me and had presumed I’d carried on and would stop somewhere less busy. He’d ridden the 4 miles to Brighton, not seen me and expected me to be at the finish! When he’d got the text “At top on left” he’d thought I was at the finish and had gone wandering off up the steps above Madeira Drive thinking I was up there!

I headed into Brighton, the extended rest meant it took a while to get going but as it was pretty much all downhill it wasn’t a problem. Soon I was in town, playing drag racing from the traffic lights with a couple of Londoners. Several practice runs later, we were at the sea front and the turn into Madeira Drive. The lights stopped us for what seemed like ages, we looked at each other, and without saying anything we knew.

Green, Go! All three of us went for it. I’d got the jump on the bloke on my left and managed to close the door by almost clipping the barriers. He had to back off, but Mr Righty was still there, I have no idea what speed we were doing as we headed down towards the finish, but I was in top gear (42:11) and spinning it as fast as I could. The spectators lining the run in were cheering, was it because they could see we were obviously racing or just because we’d got to the finish? I’ve no idea who won, it was probably a photo finish, but neither of us could speak when we crossed the line, a thumbs up said it all.

As I got my finishers medal I could see Dave waiting, with a big grin, he’d finished it and could go into work and tell the supervisor who’d told him he’d never get fit enough to do the London to Brighton bike ride, that he owed him some sponsorship money! I had a big grin too, I’d ridden a bike originally designed to be ridden in Alaskan snow from London to Brighton.

Down onto the beach to celebrate with an ice cream and a sit in the sun….. oh, and yes, I rode the Mukluk onto Brighton Beach with everyone wondering what the hell the crazy bike with the big wheels was all about!

Ride – #104     Bike – ’12 Salsa Mukluk

Miles – 54.0     Total 2012 miles – 2134.8

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