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 change of branding

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should change the branding of my blog; “Laura Kate cycles London…the trials of a novice cyclist attempting 100 miles..” really isn’t relevant anymore. I’ve not really had the time to do anything about it though – but now I have a reason and it was a fairly simple change too.

We are going to Sweden!!!!!!!

We spent all weekend considering it, and decided that now is the time to do it. It’s going to be a mission, an adventure and extremely hard but hopefully somewhere in there it will be amazing and kind of fun too!

So, we will leave after work, drive to the coast, hop on a ferry – sleep on the ferry for 8 hours, drive for something insane like an entire day, sleep, drive, cycle over night, sleep, drive, ferry…home, work. Work for about 2 weeks and then go to the Alps for some light relief.

At least cycling overnight means that you need one less bed and breakfast!

Better hope these supplements I’m taking help me to recover!

Laura

A day of two halves; Part Two

PARENTAL AND GRANDPARENTAL GUIDANCE: READING OF THIS POST IS DISCOURAGED.






…okay so, the first half of the day wasn’t completely rosy. I missed out the nasty parts and saved it for this half of the story! So a quick backtrack…

Although I was steaming along and having a great time, people were dropping everywhere. There were crashes galore! One chap a little further ahead of me slid off his bike in slow motion and took two down with him. There was the constant call of “ambulance, keep left” and then there was a body on the side of the road, which really shook me up.

As we were cycling along through a fairly urban part of the course, before Richmond park we could see an ambulance up ahead, stopped and attending to an incident. As we got closer we could see them on the floor dealing with a patient, at which point a wave of worry hit me. I knew it wouldn’t be Chris, he should be nearly finished. But Ollie? And then we were going past and I could see it was a female. Relief. Followed by guilt. Followed by an hour or so of distress at passing so closely by such a nasty accident (it didn’t look good).  I would have thought that the officials could have held up a sheet to protect her from the thousands of passing eyes.

So, when I started the descent from Newlands Corner I was still shaken and taking it fairly carefully, but beginning to enjoy myself again, and then another ambulance squeezed past and all of a sudden everyone stopped. We had stopped as a bunch before, but this one seemed like it might be more enduring.  And it was..90 minutes or so later we were finally released from our slow, start-stop clompy cleat walk up Leith Hill and allowed to get back on our bikes (on the steepest part of the course).

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However it had become clear through text messages that Ollie was actually behind me, and somewhere within a mile of me, so I stood to the edge and waiting for him to catch up. Unsurprisingly he was very fed up, his day hadn’t gone at all to plan; his wave had been delayed for an hour so he had actually started after me, and his brand new Continental tyre had a fault so he had, had to buy another. His early average speed of 22 mph had been ruined.

We cycled the rest of the route together. We saw many more ambulances and many more incompetent cyclists. The call of “ambulance” really does make some people panic. If you can hear a call but not the actual ambulance then you have some time to respond..however I saw one woman panic so much she fell off sideways from a pretty much stand still and another guy stopped dead in front of me whilst going down a hill (we were the only two people in sight).

We made the most of our last few miles, giving highfives to supporters, enjoying racing past people on Box HIll and finally by sprinting down the Mall and across the finish line. Official time: 8 hours 24 minutes 31 seconds.
I reckon it would have been 6.5 – 7 hours.
Ultimately, someone died on the course, all three of us returned unharmed and Chris had a great birthday present. I won’t do it again, but Ollie should give it a go on an early start with the the peloton, rather than later on.

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…

Another trip abroad..

Yesterday, Chris, Ollie and I, along with one of Ollie’s old school mates – Matt, cycled to Wales and back. Coincidentally, it was exactly a year since this.  You may well think “well that wasn’t a coincidence; they planned last years ride, and they planned yesterday’s ride”, but we didn’t plan to do them exactly a year apart!

It gives me a chance to see how my cycling has changed though; for one I did not projectile vomit after the ride, despite it being about 24 miles longer.

Here are some photos for comparison, followed by some facts and figures!

4th May 2014: On the Welsh side of the bridge

4th May 2014: On the Welsh side of the bridge

4th May 2015: Chris and I on the bridge.

4th May 2015: Chris and I on the bridge.

Ollie, Matt and I on the bridge

4th May 2015: Ollie, Matt and I on the bridge

A comparison of the 2014 Welsh Adventure with yesterdays adventure:

Mileage: 86 Miles vs. 110.6 Miles

Elevation Gain: 3,560 ft vs. 3,329 ft

Avg Speed: 14.1 Mph vs. 15.8 Mph

Moving Time: 6:07:25 vs. 7:00:37

Elapsed Time: 7:38:05 vs. 08:01:03

Luckily it was slightly flatter yesterday; the legs are still recovering from Yorkshire and two fairly fast rides during the week. Other than that, I am pretty happy with how my cycling is going. Definite improvement there!

Although I’m doing something wrong if I’m no longer sick!

Less than a week ’til the essay is due in and summer is here 🙂

Laura

Essays, Easter and Elevation

One essay handed in last weekend, and now on to the second – and last one, for this term! It’s a difficult one; a description of the technologies which are likely to come together to create the 5G mobile standard. It’ll be a stressful few weeks, especially as I am itching to get out on my bike as much as possible.

Last weekend, despite a looming deadline, was great fun! 232.50 miles and 12,597 ft cycled. It began with a solo ride on the Thursday, followed by a wet, muddy ride on the Friday when Ollie and I cycled to Castle Coombe to see my brother in his first race (he did well!) A rest day on the Saturday (and some essay writing) was followed by a longer than expected ride, with Sarah, on the Sunday due to my complete lack of ability to judge distances. Apologies to everyone worrying about where we were 6 hours after we had left for a three hour ride! Not great preparation for the long sibling ride we had planned for the Monday – one might think! But I managed it, the legs felt good. Ollie and I cycled with our brothers – both called Chris. It was a lovely day, we had a fantastic lunch and as we cycled through Bourton-on-the-Water (normally idyllic) we really appreciated our bicycles and that fact that they could get us far far away from there!

At the start of April, without really looking in to what I was doing, I signed up to the Strava Hill Climb challenge, which challenges users to climb 9,000 metres in April. This is almost exactly the same elevation which I have climbed in Jan through to Mar; so I initially thought I had no chance – but having given it some thought I realised it was probably do-able and have been giving it a go. As of about 10th April I was at 51% complete. Given that we have a trip to Yorkshire before the end of April, I am confident that I will complete it – all good practice for the Alps!

Ollie and his brother - Chris

Ollie and his brother – Chris

My brother - Chris

My brother – Chris

Ollie and I

Ollie and I

When talking to sheep isn’t such a good idea.

Today, as I was cycling along I saw a sheep in a field and it baaa’d at me, which I assumed meant “hello” and then I saw a limp, lifeless looking lamb next to it and thought that baaa might actually have meant “help”. So as I was cycling past, I said “Hello there, is your lamb okay? Oh dear. It looks a bit dead…”

..and then I looked forward, to see where I was going, and from the corner of my eye I saw two human faces, sat with another sheep, and staring at me (assume Farmer and Vet).

I think it’s probably about time that I stopped talking to animals in fields.