Today was a Dallaglio Flintoff 2012 Cycle Slam Training Ride test event with a 64 mile round trip from SW London into the Surrey Hills for 50-60 participating riders. See the photos here.
So eight weeks after I found out that I was participating in stage 5 of the Dallaglio Flintoff Cycle Slam, this was my first opportunity to experience what it would be like riding as part of this years event. Sure, I had been doing plenty of local cycle training, but this was the time to finally meet some of the people I would be spending time with in May.
There was some nice banter over Twitter last night with some virtual team mates, establishing who was going to be there today and how we would recognise each other. Not quite blind date “red carnations” stuff, but not far off.
And for once in my life, this morning I got to the car park rendez-vous sufficiently early to allow a leisurely preparation for me and bike. Arriving at Halfords in Mitcham, there was a buzz of activity. Just like a sportive there was a registration process, where I got an electronic tagging device. Sounds like the “lost in France” song of the 198os will not apply to me in the Cycle Slam of 2012!
Instructions were given on the format for the day, followed by press photos of all the participants, and then I was allocated to a group of 8 riders, with core rider Bonzo as our leader. Off we set, weaving our way through the Saturday morning traffic of suburban South West London. Gradually the views got greener, and the roads more attractive, as we crossed Epsom Downs and descended Box Hill. Quick opportunity to munch on a nutrition bar and then the first Surrey Hills climb was upon us.
Now we were in the heart of the North Downs, and the roads were undulating, narrow and twisty. Just how we like them! Riding into Ewhurst meant our lunch stop beckoned, and what a nice a surprise to see a fully stocked outdoor catering tent. Hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cake, jelly babies – a cyclist’s heaven! And best of all, the Catermasters get to come on the Slam as well and feed us everyday. What’s not to like!
Refueled and ready to go, we continued through the pretty Surrey countryside, despatching two further climbs with the corresponding descents. What goes up, must come down! As a cycle ride leader myself, what was noticeable by now was the good standard of riding. Plenty of communication amongst the group as to the hazards ahead, and good bike technique on the twisty descents. Understandably some participants were at different levels of fitness, so that meant waiting at the top of the climbs for the group to reassemble, but there was a real sense of looking out for each other, which augers well for the riding challenges that lie ahead.
Next we were traversing the M25, through Cobham, Esher and past Sandown Park. By now the northerly wind had turned against us, causing the group to slipstream and draft to find shelter. By the time we got to Kingston, and the perils of suburban riding had returned. Boy, am I pleased I live and ride some 40 miles outside of London. Finally after some 5 ½ hours in the saddle we returned to Halfords in Mitcham. Nice to see Lawrence there – with a broad grin of appreciation on his face to those that had completed today’s task.
One day down – four days in May to go. Bring it on!