It’s funny how fast time flies; after taking part in L’Etape London in 2016 I knew I wanted to take part again for 2017. When the time came to sign up though, I decided to stick with the same distance (the short route, 49 miles) as I knew it’d be the end of my summer cycling “season”. With our epic ride to Paris in July, the reality was that I would want a break so cycling 49 miles was “doable” on whatever training I would or wouldn’t manage to do over the rest of the summer.
And it’s a good job too because I accidentally signed up for Tough Mudder on the day before L’Etape (my diary runs from Sunday to Saturday so it looked like two different weekends when I agreed to one on the Saturday and one of the sunday!) And after the 6 miles of Tough Mudder I woke up on the Sunday feeling a little sore to say the least…
I planned to ride the event with Sophie (my Paris buddy) and Andrea (our Dirty Wknd buddy) so we all signed up for the Cycletta – women’s only wave – which also happened to be the very last wave of the morning at 9.15am. I’m not really sure what happened but the combination of not that many women signing up to the wave and the start marshals not even knowing the wave existed meant we started late… all 6/7 of us (pictured above).
I didn’t have a plan in my head for these 49 miles; I just planned on catching up with Sophie and chatting our way round. We knew what to expect in terms of the route and how to fuel so it kinda was like any other long ride Sunday but with a medal at the end. One thing you have to take into consideration with this event is that the roads are open and within the first few minutes Sophie and I were separated from Andrea (and in a good way, we never saw her again till the finish cos she absolutely smashed her ride!). We were also treated to a pretty warm day for late September which has its perks…
I was feeling pretty exhausted on the morning due to Tough Mudder, having returned from my vacation just 5 days before and from what I now realise is anemia. But all in all, I didn’t feel too bad. When we got out of “the city” and hit Essex I knew this was where the hills were gonna be and I was ready… actually I was more ready than I realised. We rode Toot Hill and honestly, I’m still not sure we really did as it didn’t feel anywhere as bad as it has done previously so I guess that’s testament to the hours I’ve put in on the saddle in the past year, or past six months especially.
It was nice to be riding at a pace where I could take in the views, recognise some of my solo routes on weekend rides and enjoy Sophie’s company. A quick stop at the feed station just past the half way mark for some roasted new potatoes, jelly babies, pain au chocolait (I ate some of everything!), to top up our water bottles and a bathroom visit then we were off again for the final 20 something miles.
It was after this that we hit Epping High Road and the combination of leaving the Olympic Park so late along with everyone (drivers especially) being in a bad mood meant that we hit traffic and some very unfriendly (and vocal) drivers along the way. Playing dodgems with cars is not exactly what you wanna experience in the middle of a sportive… so by this point my main goal was just to get back to the finish line in a safe manner as quickly as possible. The route back to Stratford from there was a familiar one as our Paris crew has done quite a few rides out East starting from the very same Velodrome. It was flat and would be fast, had there been less traffic. Just as we got to Whipps Cross Hospital, I lost Sophie at some traffic lights and decided to just put my head down and get to the finish line. I’m not sure how far away it was at this point… maybe 3 miles, maybe 5 but it felt like forever! Finally, I made it back to the road track for the final km sprint finish. It was great to see that the finish line had been moved so spectators could see it and it meant that once I got my medal I was right there along with Andrea to cheer Sophie across the finish line too!
One medal, one pint of Erdinger (alcohol free beer) and one podium picture later and all the fun was over, it was time to head home…
Just like last year, I had a great time but I’m left wondering so many things… like why is female participation in cycling so low? Why do drivers dislike cyclists so much? What can I personally do to help encourage women into cycling? And what can I personally do to bridge the gap between drivers and cyclists?!