My first experience of using the I-phone as an alarm clock resulted in being woken at 4 am by Mike And The Mechanics singing Beggar On A Beach Of Gold. Don’t ask me how that became my alarm, I have no idea and at 4 am I wished I had carried on reading the instructions showing me how to turn it off.
Being a bit OCD all the kit and the bike was ready and laid out in regimented order the night before and in short time we were on the road to meet with son Dave and his father in law Jeremy the other members of team “Missing Lincs” named after Jeremy’s home county.
Our 5 am rendezvous saw a beautiful sunrise and required some skilful driving to avoid the suicidal rabbits and wood pigeons that wanted to play chicken on the country lanes. Arriving at Clapham at 6 am for our 6-30 start saw the Common already heaving with all manner and shape of cyclists, a fair few in fancy dress on every imaginable type of machine that passed as a bike, road, mtb, tandem, hybrid, unicycle and penny farthing as well as a group on roller blades.
The start was well managed with groups of a few hundred being released every couple of minutes. Needless to say with so many cyclists of varying ability the first ten miles were a bottleneck but it was hard not to smile and I even had just a touch of sorrow for the motorists caught up in this mass exodus from London. Every junction was marshalled and at traffic light signals that were active one lucky expendable volunteer was given a stop board and the task of jumping in front of the mass as the light went red just in case there were any colour blind cyclists.
The line eventually thinned out and as the flat turned to a few undulations and at Carshalton the first sight of the unfit pushing their bikes. How Lane at Chipsted provided the first serious climb and this was made testing by the narrow lane and sheer number of people walking, leaving little room for cycling.
From here a series of ascents and descents, with every mile the riders became strung out further and every few miles a feed station, either official or some private enterprise in a front garden, the bacon sandwiches smelt delightful but my home-made flapjacks served their purpose.
All too soon Ditchling was on the signposts, the “Green Monster” beckoned. A long gentle climb on Beacon Rd suddenly got steeper and all you could hear was the clicks as a smaller gear was sought. Conversation stopped as oxygen was conserved. At this early hour of the ride there was plenty of room to cycle past those choosing the easier option of a walk to the top, the views were stunning as the summit beckoned and a loud hailer shouted encouragement for the final few metres to the crest.
The last 3 miles along the flat straight Lewes Road to the pier should have been straightforward but tragedy struck. Following Dave’s wheel I hit a pothole and went down, Jeremy and another rider ploughed into me which resulted in an ambulance ride and a broken collarbone for Jeremy, miraculously I escaped without injury and was able to complete the course with son Dave before we continued on to the hospital to wait for Jeremy to get patched up. Overall not the most auspicious day and a salutary lesson that concentration is needed all the way to the finish.
I am not sure I would do the ride again, it is one of those “to do” rides and given it is a charity ride accommodating 35,000 plus riders and raising millions for BHF progress can be painfully slow. I must give credit to the amazing level of organisation I saw with marshals and police at every junction to smooth progress and control traffic and to every competitor for taking the time and putting in the effort to support a worthy cause. I am still baffled as to how the group on roller blades got up the Beacon !!