Ride London-Surrey vs. Vätternrundan: a comparison

Motivation

The reason Ollie and I decided to look for a new challenge, and in doing so found Vätternrundan, was that we were unimpressed with the way London-Surrey Ride 100 (Prudential Ride 100) was organised.We felt that too many people were released onto the course at the same time, that many of these people were not regular cyclists, and that these two factors combined to make the course high risk. Finally, we were also unimpressed with the requirement to turn up mega early, to stand in pens (typically in the pouring rain) whilst slowly being herded towards the start line.

On the plus side, London-Surrey is a prestigious event, which we have been lucky to have a chance to do (for me, on more than one occasion), due to the fact that the roads are completely closed to traffic and participants can enjoy seeing London in a completely different light; a rare opportunity. It is also, just down the road, so it is accessible to us.

Conversely, Vätternrundan is a 2000 mile round trip, it involves two ferry crossings and many, many hours of driving (or alternatively the purchase of a bike box, a flight reservation, and a hire car). It takes time and money to get to. However…

We drove into Motala (the host town), we parked in a free, designated car park and took a free bus to centre of the activities. We flew through registration and despite not knowing the language, found everything we needed. We were allowed to cycle on the course to get to the start.

Start pens

The start pens were split into three (e.g. 2154/2156/2158), and our numbers told us if we were in the left, middle or right (though we could have worked it out for ourselves based on our start time). Once your time was showing you could enter the pen. I entered my pen at the very last minute (having been sat down and using the facilities, right up to the last minute), and that was not a problem at all.

The start pens, therefore, took up a very small amount of space, there was not a maze of pens leading into the one starting area (like London – groups orange, red, black, blue, times, group numbers… all converging on the one start area, slowly…), participants could relax until their time came up… it was just so, so much better.

Participation

The two events allow the same amount of participants (around 26,000), the difference is that Vätternrundan release participants on to the course over a much longer period of time (from 1900-0700) and thus spread them out across the course.

Whilst I did see a couple of injuries, I didn’t see or hear about anywhere near as many accidents as in London, and I didn’t get held up at all due to anyone else’s actions. Vätternrundan does still have inexperienced riders on the course, but they didn’t cause an issue because everyone was so much more spread out, plus the length of the course probably does deter some individuals from applying. Lesser mileages are catered for in the weekend prior to the main event; with a half Vatternrundan and also a ladies event; so everyone gets a chance, lessening the risk. (I believe London may be introducing a shorter event, which is a good thing).

Food

London provide food stops, with the standard gels, bananas, sweets etc… pretty good but I generally only used them for the water. Thing is, I can carry sweets, gels and cereal bars in my pocket – what I need at certain distances is some savoury and some salt in there as well. And when I am cold and wet, I need somewhere dry and warm to shelter. Vätternrundan provided two indoor stops with hot meals, which were very well received. Not only that, but they had also catered for gluten free and vegetarian (I expect others too), which seemed very modern and insightful.

Other traffic

London is closed roads. No other traffic other than emergency vehicles. No access for cyclists getting to the event. Just competitors.

Vätternrundan is less strict; some roads are closed to traffic, some have a much lower speed limit than others, some they’ve transferred traffic to the other carriageway (making a dual carriageway into two single lanes) and some remain open. It worked, and I wonder whether the knowledge that the road does have other users added to the improved discipline of riders. It also meant we could get to the event without going massively out of our way. Our host in Motala, was troubled by the traffic hold-ups, but she could get through – had it of been London she would have just been denied access.

Cost 

Vatternrundan was almost double the cost of London.

For the money, London provides a e-mail and facebook comms, a magazine, posted instructions, food stations, a medal and a bag of goodies at the end. They also cage off pretty much the entire course.The course is open from the early hours until mid-afternoon. Whilst, Vätternrundan provides e-mail and facebook comms, food stations including two main meals, and a medal. They cage off the start and end of the course. The course is open for 24 hours.

So…

I wouldn’t do either again! I wouldn’t do London because I didn’t enjoy either attempt and I felt it was risky. I wouldn’t do Vätternrundan again because it was a crazy thing to do and a once in a lifetime experience! It was challenging but fun, and there were waaay more opportunities to ride as a group and really help one another getting around.

In my opinion though, Vätternrundan was much more professionally run, much smoother, efficient and safer (but it has been running for much longer than London).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A day of two halves; Part One

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

After writing my last post, I left the hotel and found the start with absolutely no problems along the way. The weather was much warmer than I expected it would be at 0700 hours and I ended up taking my arm warmers off to stand in the waiting area. Within a few minutes I got chatting to two ladies, one of which was called Lauren – and I ended up cycling a bit of the first part of the course with her and then again a little later.

Mandatory start-line photo

Mandatory start-line photo

We set off on time, or possibly one minute early – and we flew past all of my 2014 puncture locations. The weather was perfect and the participants were friendly and fun.

After leaving Lauren behind I started to draft a few people, and then found someone going the right speed for me so I sat behind him for a while before feeling bad and introducing myself! His name was Rhys and he lives about 20 miles from us; his friends had left him behind. We cycled together through London, Richmond Park and through to the bottom of Newlands Corner, where I accidently dropped him. Feeling bad I did wait for him at the hub but didn’t see him come through, until I was too far away to get his attention.

Newlands Corner was the 47 mile point and it had taken me around three hours to get there – my Garmin stated that I had averaged 16.3 mph up to that point and I was super pleased with myself – I was feeling good and beginning to hope for a sub 7/6.5 hour time.

And that is where the second half of the day started…

Prudential Ride London; a bit of a messy ballot

My posts are like busses; none for ages and then two come at once.

Now here’s the thing. This morning I saw this post on Facebook:

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I was really excited, it surely cannot be any worse than last year and to do it in the sunshine and to do the whole course would be fantastic. Just 4 or 5 days to find out.

There seemed to be quite a few comments so I started browsing through them, and quite a few people had been able to access their result already. I clicked on a link, which had kindly been provided by one of the commenters. The link took me to an official page, the one I used to sign up with, which has my name, number, postal address and e-mail address listed. When I clicked on the receipt option I was able to see at the top in yellow that my application was cancelled on 28 January. Disappointment.

It is however, interesting, and slightly puzzling to read through the comments on the Ride London Facebook page; for an event which is into it's third year you would have thought that they would have learnt some lessons. But they don't seem to have done.

Although this link has been posted several times, and at the time of writing just over 80 people have commented that they have received their result in this manner (I am sure many more people, such as my brother and I, have also found out but have not commented), Prudential Ride London are claiming that the link did not come from them.

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The chap commenting has an extremely good point; the link is legit. The contractors which Ride London have sub contracted the application process to have allowed the ballot information to be visible on public profiles. Whilst this information hasn’t in the literal sense of the word come from Ride London, it is almost certainly the accurate information. I suspect that their ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ magazines have go out due to advertising deals, but that doesn’t really explain why, for consecutive years they’ve made the same mistake, or indeed why they are denying it even exists!

Just Ollie to find out if he got allocated a place now, and he will have to wait for the magazine, as he has forgotten his password! If not we have several hotel rooms in London up for grabs! If he does get a place…

Well I guess he’s very lucky.

The A-Z of 2014

A – Amazing/August: 2014 has been an amazing year and there was a massive build up to the main event in August.
B – Bicycle/Bertha/Blog: Bicycle speaks for itself. Bertha did her best to ruin the day. This blog has been great fun.
C – Century/Cadence/Caffeine: Completion of a century was the main goal of the year. Cadence was new to me, but made a difference when applied correctly. Caffeine was an amazing find.
D – Devizes/Dame: Devizes is where the 100 was finally completed. Dame cycling introduced me to many opportunities and lovely people throughout the year.
E – Energy: I never seem to have much anymore. 😄
F – Family: Were extremely supportive, and I wouldn’t have completed 100 miles without them.😘
G – Grand-beings: A new term, used to describe Grandparents and their various animals, as a collective.
H – Hurricane Bertha: Arrived at just the wrong time!
I – Italy: A great, cycle heavy holiday to relax after London!
J – Job: 2014 saw me starting a new job.
K – Killer hills: I still haven’t grown to love them. 😓
L – London: Closed roads, a hurricane and amazing crowds.
M -Master’s: It will be worth it. But it steals bike time.
N – Night riding: The Runway Rumble. Great fun and so disorientating in the dark.
O – One Hundred: The focus of the year.
P – Puncture: Way too many of these on 10th August.
Q – QOMs: I’ve actually got a few!!!
S – Sizzler: The Savernake SIzzler, our first big challenge.
T – Time trial/ Tandem/ Triathlon: So much choice! first time trial, first tandem purchase and my first team triathlon event.
U – Umbrella: Even an umbrella wouldn’t have helped on 10th August.
V – Vomit: What I’ve been scared of happening ever since the projectile vomit occurrence.
W – Wiggle: Great online cycling shop, Where all of my money goes. So addictive.
X – Xmas Day Cycling: A new up and coming tradition, which takes advantage of quiet roads and the laziness of other road users.
Y – Yellow Jersey: The only Y word I could think of.
Z – Zzzzzz: All of this cycling is tiring.

Happy New Year! 😃😀

Reflection on a year to treasure

Wow, it’s almost a month since I last posted.

Today is my birthday! 🙂

So I thought that I would briefly reflect on an interesting year. In fact one of the best years.

Since my last birthday I have:

  • been accepted to ride in a sportive I didn’t even enter
  • started this blog, to discuss the sportive which I didn’t even enter
  • projectile vomited, thanks to a bike ride
  • met the perfect man
  • inducted this same man into the cycling world
  • met some amazing cycling ladies (Dame Cycling)
  • competed in a time trial thanks to those ladies
  • joined a cycling club
  • ridden on an airfield, during the night
  • …and experienced being engulfed by a peloton
  • ridden in the sportive which I didn’t even enter (with the support of a couple of Dames!)
  • …in a hurricane, I will have you know
  • completed a century (but not the sportive that I didn’t even enter!)
  • raised £1,100 for Dressability
  • passed multiple Masters modules
  • competed in a team triathlon (something I would never previously of considered doing)
  • bought a tandem
  • started a new job
  • ridden 3,361.90 solo miles
  • ridden 67.7 tandem miles
  • completed 242 hours on my solo bike
  • completed 4 hours in the Rear Admiral’s saddle

All topped off with a cycling birthday treasure hunt of 31 miles, which resulted in me finding my presents right back at the start!

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Treasure! Right back where I started!

Treasure! Right back where I started!

I think Ollie wants more cakes... amazing present :)

I think Ollie wants more cakes… amazing present 🙂

A fairly quick post, but thank you for your support and to everyone who has made this year so special.Thanks for the boost to the Carbon Bike Fund, the winter gear to keep me warm on these cold days and the games to play when I just can’t be bothered to get out on the road. Here’s to the next one, to all of us getting into the sportive that I did sign myself up for, and to some party planning for the big 3-0.

Laura x

A complete century

The official time isn’t out yet, not that it was really about the time, but the moving time on my Garmin is 7 hrs and 6 mins over a distance of 101.70 mi and an elevation increase of 4,193ft. The official time will be around 8hrs 30 mins.

 

I am so happy to have finally completed a century! Today was obviously the day. For weeks I have been struggling with my fitness, joints and fatigue; today the weather was perfect, my fuelling plan worked and I didn’t bonk. It has become customary for me to have a half an hour lie down as soon as I get off the bike but today I felt so good at the end of the ride that this wasn’t necessary and four and a half hours later I am still vertical.  

On the way into Warminster I commented on the fact that I had got to the 20 mile point with no punctures, and that even at such an early stage this sportive was an improvement on London. On the way out of Warminster my gears suddenly stopped working, the cable hung loosely – it had snapped. I remember the disbelief that things were going wrong again, although I have learnt the basics of bike maintenance I had no idea whether this was a significant problem – to me it looked awful. It couldn’t have happened in a more convenient place though really, we had just left the rest stop so we turned around and headed back to the bike mechanic who replaced the cable free of charge. Apparently it was a strange thing to happen – goodness knows how I managed it. 

 

Much of the rest of the ride went without incident; parents, grandparents and granddog supported as usual – thank you very much 🙂 At our final stop we realised that we were likely to do the 100 miles in just over 8 hours and we increased our pace a bit to try and get as close to the 8 hours as possible. However at the 96 mile point we came across a lad on a bike, which was making an awful noise and Ollie stopped to help him. I carried on to the 97.2 mile point, from which I blogged, where I stopped thanks to my chain coming off! The boy had a puncture and hadn’t realised, so Ollie spent around 15 minutes mending it for him, (although he had a spare tube he hadn’t got any tyre levers and had no idea how to go about replacing the tube) while unbeknown to him I waited at the bottom of the hill and Chris was desperately trying to work out where we could have got to. Finally, all reunited at the bottom of the hill, we finished off the ride – it wasn’t London, but it was great to complete it with my brother who got me into it in the first place.

For Ollie – what a journey – no bike to a century within three months! Congratulations! 

 

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Posing with my brother!

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All three of us at about 40 miles

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Pulling in for some lunch.

 

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All three of us at Crofton Pumping Mill

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Ollie and I coming in to the finish. We had discussed a photo with all three of us holding hands, but no-one was too keen to be in the middle!

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Chris coming into the finish.

 

Almost a month late, but it’s complete albeit on a more difficult course than originally intended! 

Laura