A Forbidding Weather Forecast
Sunday 29 July – Weather forecast: torrential downpour
It must be said, heavy rainstorms are not considered favourable at the best of times, let alone by two cyclists who are minutes away from braving a gruelling 100-mile bike ride. And yet, these were precisely the forbidding conditions faced by Sim and Neil as they waited anxiously on their saddles at the Prudential RideLondon starting line amongst hundreds of other participants.
Looming storm clouds aside, the two knew they needed to cross that finish line, no matter what, if they were to guarantee the funds they had raised. With this engrained securely in their minds, they were off.
Sim set off around half an hour later than Neil. It’s fair to say that Sim was ever-so-slightly less prepared, having only done a maximum of 18 miles in any given training session prior to the race. But that’s the thing with Sim: he has an incredible ability to achieve whatever he sets his mind to, so if he knows he needs to cross the finish line, he will cross that finish line – training or no training.
Twenty miles in (already two miles more than his furthest training distance), Sim started to feel the burn. In fact, his legs started to falter, and he began to realise just how tough the next eighty miles were going to be. Even so, his mind was set on the task at hand: “I really enjoy doing things that test me mentally. My body was struggling, but my mind was just looking ahead to the finish line.”
Halfway through the race at forty-five miles, Sim got a cramp in his leg and needed to stop; to compound the problem, the rain was showing no signs of subsiding and punishing forty-mile-per-hour winds were testing his mental strength. During one conversation between Sim and a neighbouring cyclist about the weather (classic Brits), Sim lamented: “this is torrential” to which the latter aptly replied: “No! This is “biblical”.
The rest of the race, though a real challenge, was relatively smooth sailing. Sim suffered a couple of hallucinogenic episodes along the way – no biggie – and struggled up the big climbs, but he impressively made it to the finish line in one piece.
Neil set off optimistically alongside the first wave of cyclists at six in the morning. Within the first ten miles he had already witnessed a few disastrous crashes, but that wasn’t going to deter Neil and he kept powering on.
In hindsight, such incidents were perhaps a sign of things yet to come; forty-odd miles in, doing well and staying comfortably on schedule, Neil heard a sudden “bang”! His tyre had punctured. The rain was lashing down, the wind biting, and he was in the middle of nowhere. Neil pumped up the tyre as quickly as possible and hopped back on the saddle. But it wasn’t long until Neil heard the second “bang” – the tyre had gone again. It just wasn’t Neil’s day: after pumping up his tyre for a second time, it punctured yet again only half a mile onwards.
After the third tyre puncture, Neil was near enough ready to give up, but raising money for Children with Cancer UK kept him determined. After a quick call to his wife and an inward pep talk, he carried on.
Throughout the rest of the race, Neil powered on like a champion, pacing up Leith Hill – the toughest climb of the race – without a problem, thanks to having had practice riding up similarly-steep gradients on his Wattbike. Eventually, miles on and with the finish line at Buckingham Palace visible in the distance, Neil raced down The Mall for the home stretch and finished to a cheering supportive crowd.
Neil was proud to have finished given the adverse conditions he faced – and so he should be – though he was a little disheartened having had to make three unplanned stops. That was nothing Sim couldn’t fix: Neil dismounted his bike only to find a text from our Managing Director jokingly asking, “have you stopped for Sunday lunch?”
Both Sim and Neil have raised a great deal of money for their charities, and they couldn’t have done it without your generous donations, so thank you! For those of you that have yet to donate, there is still time to do so if you can – just click the links below.
Donate to Sim Donate to Neil