My Mercian cleaned and loaded, I was ready to start my challenge of a lifetime and head to London
and get ourselves registered onto the Starting Rosta which was at the Excel Centre just across the river from the O2 Centre.
Worried about the logistics of getting to the start on time we had booked into a hotel close to the Olympic Park and that became Race HQ for the event. ( As an aside when my son asked me to join him on a * ramble * around London on a father-son ride it was just a saunter, as time went on the missives from the organizers started changing in tone,, event- sportive - teams - business relay races etc with the pressure on my usual tea shop tour meander pace increasing considerably )
And so the night before we had our final pre -event checks, with particular attention to my nutrition needs
and getting all the numbers attached to everything that stayed still long enough
And so to the event. We were one of the last few to leave the starting gate, the last wave, V, at 08-00 and this had caused us further concern as there was a 4 km neutral zone before the Official Start and as the first time cut off was at 40 km we were concerned that our race would be over before it had properly begun
In the event we proved to be well on track and my trusty Mercian must have had the shock of its life as the Big Ring was in constant use, and indeed remained in constant use throughout 90% of the ride. Previously, before I started on training for this, the Big Ring was something to look at, talk about and admire, certainly NOT to use and definitley out of the question whenever the road went upwards. As it was I only changed down to the Inner Ring on Leith and Box Hills; all those practice rides in the Derbyshire Peaks turned out to have conditioned me well.
I knew from past experience that stopping for a rest can be fatal as my legs want to shut down and rest so I did the entire 164 km without stopping apart from the need to reload my pockets with food from the saddle pouch.
Leith Hill proved a challenge, not only in its length and gradient but because of the bike pushers and those riders whose legs suddenly gave out and stopped in the middle of a very narrow ride on an 18% incline. Overtaking proved difficult and slowed me down but I kept on pedalling and eventually was rewarded with some stupendous views.
( Thanks to Andy Wright for permission to use both this and the next image )
The stream of cyclists seemed endless and you could see the look of exhileration on their faces as they crested the final summit .
With Leith and Box conquored it was time to turn to home and though there was a final nasty surprise as the road ramped skywards out of Wimbledon before I was soon finally entering the Mall with the crowds cheering cheering.
And then it was over, 7 hours after leaving the Olympic Park I was back outside Buckingham Palace. I had sent my son on ahead as we reached the start of the Surrey Hills as I did not want to hold him up but he was waiting for me at the end
Team Roberts had made it !
And this was what it was all about
But of course the real winner was the mental health charity Mind for whom we had raised over £2600 and as I cycled down the Mall it was those who I knew that needed their support that I was thnking about.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement over the last weeks and months, without you I doubt whether I would have kept going, especially in those cold dark days of winter.