RideLondon: feel the fear and do it anyway

As I contemplate the RideLondon 100, I have some concerns. Some of these concerns verge on being full-blown fears.

Maybe you’re in the same boat, as you look forward to RideLondon or another long distance sportive ride (if you haven’t done so, read my analysis of the RideLondon 100 route).

In this post, I will try to turn this general sense of disquiet into a specific set of concerns, each of which I can confront and prepare for. In doing so, not only will I allay my fears, but I will also identify those factors that will contribute to a strong performance (and maximum enjoyment) on the day.

An aggregation of marginal gains you say? If it’s good enough for Sir Dave of Brailsford….

Why should you care about my irrational fears?

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Some of you may currently be in the same “oh sh&t, what have I just signed up for” phase. Perhaps my methodology may help address your fears by breaking down the challenge into more manageable chunks.

Whilst I am looking at performance from my own perspective, some of the factors I identify could be ones that you too wish to focus on as you prepare for riding sportives in 2013.

If you’re a semi-pro already, and you’re less concerned about actually finishing the course, maybe this post will serve as a reminder that it’s always a good idea to reflect on your performance from time to time, in order to identify and focus upon abilities that can be improved.

Who’s afraid of the big bad hill?

Today’s mission is to identify the component parts that will make up my RideLondon performance. In future posts I will take a detailed look at how I’m going to deal with each component, concern or fear.

Let’s start identifying, people.


When I think about being able to cycle 100 miles in a single ride, fitness (or the lack thereof) springs immediately to mind. I’m sure it is the main concern of many first-time long distance sportive riders.

Clearly I will need to train. The scale of the undertaking means that this will need to be quite organised, in order to take me from my current fitness level to that required on the day.

But as I select the training programme to follow, can I be more specific about the nature of the fitness that I require?

It strikes me that my fitness requirement can be broken down into 3 capabilities.


In even the most optimistic scenarios, I will need to cycle for well over 7 hours. My body still needs to be capable of continuing to propel me at 17mph (ever the optimist), having already cycled 80 miles.


As we saw in this previous post, RideLondon features two major climbs (and a few more smaller ones) in its middle section. I need to be able to ride up these hills at a reasonable pace, having already cycled 55 miles and, once Box Hill is summitted, with 35 miles still to ride. Ideally I’d like to be able to do this with a certain amount of panache.

Speed on the flat

Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself

Hermione Granger

Ninety per cent of the RideLondon route is flat. There will only be so much time I can lose on the climbs. Being slow on the flat, or being unable to battle against any wind on the day, could make the difference between staying in front of or being swept up by the broom wagon.


You could define technique in a number of ways (for instance I looked specifically at pedalling technique in this post here).

For this post, I am using ‘technique’ to describe those general on-bike skills that will be useful (in some cases vital) for cyclists undertaking a mass-participation or long distance event.

Being able to ride in a group

There will be a lot of cyclists on the road. At the very least I need to be able to ride safely in a pack to avoid injuring myself and others. More than that, with the drafting effect being able to offer an energy saving of up to 30% versus cycling head on into the wind, I want a piece of that action.

Eating and drinking whilst riding

I can just about drink from a water bottle at slow speed on a flat road. I’ve been known to drop water bottles as I try to replace them in the cage. I’m not sure I’ve tried eating anything on the move. Given the energy requirement on the day and the potential for high temperatures, I’d like to at least have on-bike drinking and eating as an option.

Controlling effort

Being able to control my effort (in other words, not getting too excited at the start of the ride) is going to be a huge contributor to my enjoyment of the day

Blow out too early and the Surrey climbs will be unpleasant and the yomp back through south west London is going to be a nauseous blur.

Of course, I could end the ride thinking that I hadn’t fully emptied the tank, but I imagine the risk of this is low.


A number of things may go wrong with the bike over the course of the event. Some will be out of my control (visions of wheels buckling or bottom brackets exploding). Others will not.

If I get a flat, I need to i) make sure I have the necessary spares and tools with me; and ii) know how to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

I think there will be mechanical support on the day but if I can fix such problems in a not-too-incompetent fashion, this has to be quicker than waiting for a support mechanic to appear.

Whilst I would like to think I would stop to help a distressed recipient of a puncture (I might… maybe… depending on my time), I can at least aim not to use up the time of a mechanic, who might otherwise be fixing the bike of someone more needy.


Over the course of RideLondon, I will burn over 4,000 calories (maybe more?). I need to make sure that I have sufficient fuel to get round. I certainly don’t want to have a calorie deficit on any of the climbs.

So I need to think about my total energy requirement.

I also need to think about how that energy will be delivered (or, to use less w£nky language, what I am going to eat).

Finally, and most importantly, I need to think about how I am going to remember to keep eating on a regular basis. In all the excitement, and with Leith Hill playing on my mind, remembering to keep popping the Haribos (other sugar-based treats are available) might go by the wayside.

I don’t want to bonk on the Mall. No one wants to see that.


… or ‘drinking enough’. You’ve got to believe that I will find regular drinking easier to achieve than remembering to eat early enough. But still an area worth thinking about, not least because weeing from the saddle is neither possible (I will crash) or socially acceptable.

General considerations

This is a bit of a catch-all classification for those concerns that are related to the ride, but are not to do with the actual cycling.

So, for me, these concerns (or, more correctly, arrangements to be made) include:

  • Accommodation over the weekend (the Grimpeur et famille will have moved out of London by then – a topic for another post)
  • Getting to the ride start in the Olympic Park and getting back from the Mall (likely in a state of profound distress)
  • Whether or not my children will be there to distract stress me out support me

The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light

It is interesting that as I thought about my list of sportive concerns, and began to formulate them into a list for this post, I became increasingly reluctant to use the term ‘fears’.

I have not said (or even really thought about) what I will do to address each concern, but simply by writing them down, it feels as if each ‘fear’ has become an ‘an identified thing, ready to be addressed’. The event as a whole has already become a lot less frightening.

Hopefully, by reading this post, you have seen some of your own fears allayed. If you don’t share the same specific concerns as me, perhaps you have still seen some value in my methodology.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any particular fears that I or one of the other readers can address? Did you have a concern before your first sportive that you subsequently found to be unfounded. Please do let me know in the comments below.

As always, if you liked this article or found it useful, please do share it on Twitter and Facebook, particularly with friends and colleagues that might be tackling RideLondon or other cyclosportives this year.

5 thoughts on “RideLondon: feel the fear and do it anyway”

  1. Another nice post. I am fairly confident about my ability to finish ride, a big factor for me is to lose more weight by then. I want to get to 14 stone by then. This will mean that I will be about 3 – 4 stone lighter this year on L2B than last year so Ditchling Beacon should be a bit easier, well maybe quicker if not easier!
    I am considering cycling back to London after L2B as training for the 100, not sure about that yet though…

  2. Enjoying your blog. I’ve signed up to RL100 to motivate me to get from 18st to 14st. Moved up from hybrid bike to road bike last week and have just got back today from (car-based) recce of the two Hills. Very, very scary. Leith looks worse than Box but both gave me the chills. Keep up the good work, there’s many of us expecting to suffer and will be grateful for all motivation aids possible.

  3. I am amused and interested in your blog but do think you need to man up. I am a 53 yr old woman who has never cycled more than 70 miles (Leics super tour). You are lucky to live somewhere hilly. We live in lincs and have to drive to find a hill! On the day I will stop for a few mins at every food station and will eat and drink as much as I can. Stop stressing and start planning to enjoy it. See you at the start!


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