I desperately need to get some long distance qualification rides in for Paris-Brest-Paris, so signed up for a ride in its inaugural year. It was all a bit last minute, so packing was frantic and late. I like to get all my usual long distance travel gear out the night before and go through things like a check-list, then make final adjustments the following morning after I’ve slept on and digested my options. First pack…..
I woke up in the morning and did something they say you should never do, totally change your plan at the last second, scrap everything you’ve prepped for, and just wing it. I decide I’m going for a different approach to the multi-day camping approach most of my fellow competitors will be opting for, I decide I don’t need any of that shit above, I’m going to travel light and try and smash through it all in one hit. The weather look good so even if I bonk and can’t continue, and have to sleep on the roadside, its not going to be a life and death situation to no have a tent. I set myself a target of completing it in under 48 hours.
Though the weather forecast was good, traffic and public transport this weekend was predicted to be a total nightmare, so this just seemed an obvious opportunity to get a few more miles onto the total by riding to the start.
And then onto the dilemma of what bike to take. I’m expecting 80% of riders to be on gravel bikes, with about 20% being on old or newer mountain bikes repurposed for overnighting. With my last minute change of plan comes a last minute bike choice too, with my new aim being speed over comfort, I opt for a road bike with 28c tyres. It could all go horribly wrong but as I said it looks like its going to stay dry, and we’ve had such a dry summer the ground should be pretty hard packed...here’s hoping.
And so the day arrives, I don’t sleep well the night before because of usual pre epic ride excitement, but I’m up early, I’ve carbo loaded the night before, triple espresso’d up this morning, had a massive shit, its on, lets do this. This is going to be epic...and so it begins, I’m off on the first ever ‘ride the queue 2022’ randonee. Just got to hope the low profile tread on my Vittoria Corsa graphene tyres are able to maintain traction with roads covered in the salty tears of a nation.
I battle through some predictably sleepy drivers and south London grimness early doors, grey turns briefly to green and brown as I cycle through the first park of the day, Kennington park, where I immediately regret not having a gravel bike.
I see a crow and 2 pigeons, both native to the area according to my guide book. I can’t get too distracted by the wildlife this early in the ride so I press on, back out onto the post apocalyptic Walworth Road. Luckily this stretch was brief and after a quick left turn I’m suddenly riding along the great lakes of Burgess Park, recently declared a world heritage sight, its a regular stop off for many of northern Europe’s migratory birds and people wanting to smoke skunk outside and pretend to do some fishing.
I then cross the urban superhighway and south eastern clusterfuck known as the Old Kent Road, I survive and live to tell the tale, the noob e-hybrid sector were taking more risks, renegades!
Then onto the 3rd park of the day, and this is just getting to the official start!! Finally arrived at the Southwark Park in Bermondsey.
Just through the gates, I’m greeted with a reality check and a reminder this is going to be no cake walk, which is a shame cos I love cake and a shock because of the high WI presence. The scale of the challenge is writ large on the LCD.
I smash a flapjack and take inspiration from a local sculpture on a nearby roundabout. Aero for the win!
The queue snakes to and fro making its way towards the first bridge of the day, London’s famous Tower Bridge.
Spirits are high even this far out, people are smiling, the police aren’t tasering anyone, the sun is out and there’s some great British queuing going on. And the monkey business was kept to a minimum, what’s not to like!
Passing Tower Bridge feels like a real marker, proper London town. And we can now chalk off each bridge we pass as we inch closer to the finish.
Press crews from here on are much more noticeable which makes us feel pro, and it felt like something special is happening, miracles even. This lady suddenly appeared to not need her zimmer frame any longer, praise the Lord, its a miracle, she’s cured!
Or maybe she way carrying it for someone further up the queue. Whichever one, its amazing, what a crowd! There’s definitely a magic feeling in the air.
I smash a gel and decide to take a slight diversion up the col de London Bridge to get some elevation for nice photos. A panorama of the Metropolis looking back to Tower Bridge from where we’ve just come.
Onward, and I do the same elevation seeking trick again as I climb the hors categorie Blackfriars Bridge for, some of the highest fully segregated bike lanes in Europe . This also secures my Audax AAA points. I’m expecting my elevation for this ride to equate to summiting 1.2 Mount Everest’s. From here I look down on the silent conga as it snakes its way along the river without even a hint of rhythm.
I lose a bit of time on the Lombardia section, when the gravel boys and girls have the edge, but I man up and use my old MTB skills to stay upright and make it through unscathed.
Photo opp outside the front of Tate Modern and some dedicated her maj signage. Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral can be spotted across the valley in the distance.
Cycling in urban environs can present a challenge when it comes to going to the toilet. Are all these people holding it in? The age profile of many puts them in what I consider the prostate is shot category, how are these heroes managing this? Or are they carrying bottles to piss in, or pissing on any bushes they see? Is stepping out of line for a wee or a pooh classed as leaving your place in the queue? Its a long way to the back of the queue from here. As these thoughts race through my sleep deprived brain….and then like an Oasis suddenly appearing in the desert, hope is spotted on the horizon…
….never has hope looked so bleak, but those in need have no choice. I overhear some chatter from the queue, Doris from Tower Hamlets is telling us how she wouldn’t have missed this for the world, London’s had it rough in recent years, what with losing Barbara Windsor, and now this. Blitz spirit Britain at its best, just with less terror, bombs and fire. But then like now, these people’s spirit cannot be crushed.
We’re getting towards the end now, the London Eye is one of the final markers to cross off. My arse is in bits and stomach can’t face any more food. I’m out of gels, so I break out the emergency rations, I insert my last fig role into my destroyed sphincter , hoping the dying last twitches of its life can absorb enough nutrients to get me to the finish....
...it does, finally, onto the last bridge of the day, Westminster Bridge.
I made it without sleep, I’m drained but elated. This is the final checkpoint, beyond here is the final approach to Westminster Hall, where Liz2 lies, where she has one more sleep before being put in the ground. She’s touched us all and now the nation is queuing up to touch her back, she will remain forever in our hearts. . This last bit probably involves frisking, I smell so bad as a mark of respect I decide not to walk this final section and leave the walking heroes to their grand finale, instead opting the long ride back home and the promise of a warm shower, a cold beer and good nights sleep.
An amazing day out and met so many cool people. I’ve already signed up for next years ride! All my batteries died so I’ve not got enough charge to extract full ride data and stats yet, but its defo epic, I sure I’ve done enough qualifying mileage for PBP now, so can cancel Lands End to John O’Groats now and spend tomorrow and the rest of the season in the pub. Its what she would have wanted.
Great ride report.
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