Group 1 Ride Review, by Michael Blann
So with less than 2 weeks to go before the start of The L2P there was a chance for one more training ride to sharpen up the form and compare the legs against fellow riders. By this stage there's little more training that can be done so if you haven't done the base miles by now, forget it. It's the best time really though as you can start tapering off and rest up to be fresh for the start. It also gives you a chance to accumulate as many brownie points as possible with the family because you know you will pay for your escapades in the end!
So although Sundays ride had intended to be a little easier than previous training rides it didnt' turn out quite that way. The pace set at the start was steady enough and the route managed to avoid all the major Surrey hills as it cut up past Epsom and headed south to Rusper and St. Leonards Wood. It was here with no predetermined route that things started to unravel, as the navigation became a magical mystery tour into West Sussex. Garmins started to beep and it wasn't until the sea appeared on the screen and a sign "20 Brighton" appeared that I decided we should probably re-orientate ourselves northwards. By this stage we had already lost the Collins brothers to a shattered rear mech and conversion to a single free bike and it was with some amusement that we passed them again going in the opposite direction.
I've always been a strong believer in exploring and following your nose when out training but it's a little disconcerting when all the town names are unfamiliar. I couldn't tell you the route we took on Sunday or retrace it but it was fun and probably looked like spaghetti on the "Map My Tracks" route. By the time we had made it over White Down and back to Walton there was 130km on the clock.
If you want to retrace the route, here it is! http://www.mapmytracks.com/explore/activity/584965
Group 2 Ride Review, by Eddy
The final HotChillee training ride before The L2P 2012 arrived as the main event now draws near. It was a last chance saloon to hone fitness and brush up on any technique required for the 3 day odyssey to come and once again the weathermen forecast Armageddon.
It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise to be greeted by 20 cheery Group 2 riders and dry roads. Ride Captain Will was away chasing a dragon or something heroic like that (Riding The Dragon Ride) so new Ride Captain John Sadler very ably stepped up to the plate to ease the riders away from their coffee and out onto the roads. John's super smooth style and gentle starting pace hypnotised the group as they headed out through busy Byfleet and the flatlands of Pyrford to Ripley. From there we started a shallow uphill gradient that continues to steepen all the way to the top of Horsley with the last ramp of Shere Road providing the first real test.
This was the training ride to sort out any issues with hills and there were certainly plenty to practice on! The group faired well on the ascents as it appeared the spectre of Capel le Ferne on Stage 1 had forced the riders to do plenty of their own hill work. The descents were a little more problematic with the stinging bend in the tail of Whitedown providing an excursion into the undergrowth for a rider as he locked his brakes. A reminder to descend on your drops for security, braking early and progressively with a release and re-apply strategy should the brakes lock.
The group honked up Holmbury, raced up Ranmore and chilled to the top of Coldharbour, the latter via a track lost in time and slowly being reclaimed by nature. With all the remaining descents safely negotiated we made a run for home before the forecasted rain arrived. The bunch knew the HQ was drawing near and the pressure went on and so they were soon neatly lined out down Ripley Lane. It was a sight to behold, as were the grins on the faces when the pace slackened for warming down, just like those of giddy schoolboys alighting from a fairground ride.
Group 2, fully prepared and can't wait for Sign On. See you there!
Group 3 Ride Review, by David Kirkby (aka Capt)
The rain held at bay and a cool start saw Group 3 head south through Esher, Cobham and Effingham and over the lumpy Downs through Shere and down to Dunsfold race circuit.
Jay and I were lucky enough to have secured radio's which ensured smooth running down to Dunsfold. A good pace out, a few light showers encountered, without incident except for a few minor mechanicals. The small issues with bikes are easliy avoided with a thorough check of your bike and replacing any part that is worn or tired!
A few riders up from Group 4 were a little surprised when they were told to have clean bar tape, proper cycling socks and smaller saddle bags (although in jest and we all had a laugh), well thought out gear and attention to detail allows smooth running. We were told that Group 4 Ride Captains are much nicer than us, but hard love is what are riders really want!
We picked up Sven on our return journey near Coombe Bottom Lane and rode as a slightly larger group home at a solid tempo for much of the ride. This hopefully helped Group 3 to get used to some faster riding in a gruppetto.
With several solid climbs, some tempo riding and 125km travelled, we are ready for our L2P journey.
See you next week, lets hope for some sunshine.
Group 4 Ride Review, by Andrew Gill (aka Gilly)
What a great turnout for Group 4. As always Carluccios nailed it's weeks quota of coffee in 10 minutes which gave us all a great chance discuss the ride ahead and the final preparation for The L2P.
Following a quick introduction and rider briefing we were ready to go.. Our fine peleton set off from Walton out to Byfleet to Pyford and the Clandon's. At last the concrete vanished as the greenery emerged as we blasted through Greatly and Pasture Wood and nipped up Leith Hill prior to rolling along Riding Copse to Peaslake before reaching the appropriately named Hurt Wood. We then aimed for Ewhurst turning into Horsham Lane to Frenches Cope to take us out to Bear Green and Ockley. Coldharbour Lane did it's best to wake up the tired legs which made the roads to Dorking seem a little sticky. The thought of cake got us all up Ranmore Road with a smooth(ish) ride down to Great Bookham. The second wind came and G4 lit up the pedals with an average speed of 22.6mph from Effingham to Cobham. We then followed our noses passing Cobham and Esher back to Carluccios. Distance: 65miles / Time (moving): 4:10hrs / 1300m climbing.
We had quite a mix of riding skills and knowledge, but, I have to commend this group. The level of awareness and communication was excellent with riders remaining neatly 2 abreast, breaking sympathetically and keeping the pace smooth and consistent. Critically as per the briefing the rules of the road were obeyed and we safely navigated the course. I was also delighted to have so many keen volunteers to sit on the front with me and alternate as appropriate, this was smart riding. We had a few comfort breaks, stops for mechanicals and to get the bunch together, again. Thank you for for being patient. As I explained we only stop if necessary to ensure all the group has a safe and fun ride.
With just over a week to go I thought I would share a few last minute reminders to help with The L2P. In the peleton: Keep thinking awareness, communication, consistency, positioning and silky smooth breaking. I noticed a few riders being caught out on climbs by gear slips and riders getting out of the saddle. Both situations mean the bike in front could either stop or go backwards, so please leave space. Kit tips: quality cycling kit is everything. Comfort is critical for long rides, also, watch out for the fashion police, coordination is critical for cyclists! Bike tips: I know I laboured this point with everyone through the ride, but, please make sure your bike is fully serviced and safe. I spotted a number of chains, tyres and cassettes that were due for retirement (get online to Chain Reaction Cycles).
I hope you all enjoyed being part of Group 4 as much as I did, the company was fantastic and the riding was of an excellent standard. I very much look forward to our tour and celebrating with you in Paris.
Groups 5 & 6 Ride Review, by David Sidgwick (aka Whisk)
As the combined Group 5 & 6 gathered for Ride Captain Dan Lawrence's pre-ride briefing, it was clear that the two main fears were the threat of rain and the hills. Routemaster Eddy Lewis's route promised plenty of the latter and for now the rain was holding off, but the glorious sunshine that we all enjoyed for the last training ride was a distant memory.
We rolled out with fellow Ride Captain Martin Markowski and myself setting the pace on the front and Dan bringing up the rear. We hadn't even reached Weybridge when the first cry of Puncture! went up and we brought the group to a halt. It would be the first of several puncture stops during the day. Now is probably a good time to put new tyres on your bike so that they are nicely scrubbed in by the start of the ride. The mechanical support for punctures on The L2P is excellent, but prevention is far better than cure and no one wants the stress of a quick wheel change and a chase back onto the group. If you don't know how to change an inner tube, now is probably a good time to learn this essential skill too, just in case we have one of "those days" when the volume of punctures overwhelms the mechanics and you need to fix your own.
Pretty soon we were on our way again. The route lulled us into a nice false sense of security with a fairly flat start, but 20km in the first proper hill of the day kicked in as we hit the climb up Shere Road. It quickly became clear that we had a wide range of climbing abilities within the group, but with a bit of help and encouragement from the Ride Captains we all made it safely to the top.
At this point we made our first deviation from Eddy's route and diverted onto the Olympic road race course, down Coombe Bottom and along the A25, before picking up the route again near the bottom of Leith Hill. From here, the hills came thick and fast and we saw some great grit and determination deployed to keep everyone moving. It might not have felt like it at the time, but your legs will be grateful for the workout that they were put through when you reach Capel le Ferne!
As a group, it seemed like we were being plagued by shipped chains on the climbs. Changing from the big ring to the small ring while under full load on a climb is a recipe for dropping your chain, so if you see a hill coming that you think you'll need your "granny ring" for it's a good idea to change down before the gradient hits you properly.
On the descent into Peaslake, we had our 2nd puncture of the day, giving a welcome breather to the group while the tube was replaced. As the distance clicked along and the hills kept coming, we took an executive decision to deviate again from the planned route and cut the ride short to ensure that we arrived back in Walton at a sensible hour.
Our new route took us back down the same descent into Peaslake and by coincidence, the same rider punctured again in more or less the same place but in the other wheel. I stopped with Martin to give assistance while the group rolled on to the village. When we got moving again, we found Dan helping fix another puncture further down the hill. As we came to a halt, we were greeted by "bang" as the pressure in the newly-inflated tyre caused the wheel rim to explosively split. Close inspection revealed that the braking track on the wheel was very badly worn, so it was probably fortunate that the rim failed while the bike was stationary and not while flying down a hill. In Peaslake a taxi was called to get the poor unfortunate rider and his bike back to Walton and Dan stayed with him to ensure that he was safely on his way home, before riding solo back to Walton.
After a brief refreshment stop, the rest of the group headed for Shere and the last real test of the ride - Coombe Bottom. With lots of gritting of teeth (and only a little bit of walking), we all made it to up the fiendishly-steep top section of the climb and we were rewarded with a nice fast descent down Staple Lane. The rest of the route home was best described as "rolling" and some of the stronger members of the group were eager to push the pace on. Before too long, we were rolling back into Walton for some much-needed refreshment, ready to bask in that self-satisfied glow that a hard ride brings. Apart from a few spots, we'd managed to avoid the rain and we'd all conquered some pretty nasty hills on the way.
With little over a week to go, we can't stress enough how important it is to ensure that your bike is in good working order and you have new tyres. The mechanical support on The L2P is excellent, but no one wants to make use of their services.
Fitness levels of the regular attendees to the training rides are progressing nicely and I have no doubt that you will all make it to Paris without visiting the "broom wagon". We look forward to seeing you all nicely rested and ready to go on the 21st.
Group 7 Ride Review, by David Thomas
The June HotChillee training ride, not a ride I normally associate with arm warmers, knee warmers & gilets but all these were necessary on Sunday morning. Perhaps because the weather had been so grim, it was a much reduced turnout at Carluccios compared to the May ride but still a good number of Group 7 were there. Eddy, the routemaster, had come up with a tough route for us so we knew that there was a big test ahead for us as we rolled out from Walton.
Eddy wasn't kidding. It certainly was a hilly route but Group 7 tackled it very well. Hand cyclist & cyclists alike, the group is much improved over the course of the Training Rides. Worthy of special mention is Luke's performance on Leith Hill. Last time he was there it was for the HotChillee Sportive in March. That time, Luke got to the top but stopping many times on the way. This time he took it in one, bottom to top without stopping.. Amongst the cyclists there were lots of strong performances, any stronger and I'll be pushing people up to higher groups!
Well done everyone! Now no more long rides. Clean and service your bike, then rest. I'll see you at Imber Court.