Pearson 150: hot, but not bothered


You can work up a thirst riding a sportive

I don’t mind riding in the heat. In fact, I quite like it. Which is just as well, since Sunday’s Pearson 150 sportive took place on the hottest day of the year so far.

The organisers of the London to Paris sportive arranged for L2P riders to get an early start slot, so I was on the line ready for a 7.30am start. I joined group 1 (the fastest of the five London-to-Paris groups), hoping nobody would laugh in my face and some proper riders would tow me at least as far as Brighton.

Each rider swiped their timing chip individually at the start, so we dawdled for the first mile or so to allow a bunch to form. By the time we reached Banstead we were about eight strong, and started to up the pace a little.

Still, compared with the other group 1 L2P rides I’ve been on, we were taking things quite easy. Partly, it turns out, because the designated L2P ride captain had no idea where we were going.

My old clubmate, Jon Masters, thought he knew the way well enough to lead us pretty much the whole way. Another cyclist had downloaded the route to his Garmin. Trouble was, Jon and the Garmin rarely seemed to agree, and someone helpful seemed to have removed half the signs. At one roundabout we tried every possible wrong direction before settling on the right one.

After some more head scratching, we followed one of the golden rules of Surrey cycling: if in doubt, head to Fanny’s Farm Shop. Luckily Jon’s internal sat-nav knew the way, while the Garmin bleeped in protest and tried to take us back to Sutton…

Although still early, the heat was already rising. Definitely a good call to have made an early start, I thought. The route (now that we were following it) was great, too, following quiet lanes out beyond Merstham and on to Smallfield.

Our easy early pace and inability to go in the right direction had an unexpected side effect. Group 2 caught us up. Maybe egos were bruised, because for whatever reason this finally encouraged the injection of some serious pace. We headed down the A23 with 23mph being the minimum permitted speed.

Someone rode up alongside me and said: ‘You wouldn’t want to drop off the back of this group.’

‘Yeah,’ was the best one syllable answer I could come up with, and one syllable was all I could manage.

After what seemed like just a few minutes we were at the foot of Ditchling Beacon. This was the point of the ride at which I’d been prepared to pull the handle on the parachute and let faster riders leave me behind, dropping back to the comfort of a steadier group. However, I still felt strong and decided to stay with group 1 if I could.

Like a drunken bridegroom on his wedding night, there was much sweating, grovelling and heavy breathing. But I made it to the top without imploding completely. So on I went, still with the group as we plunged off the top of Ditchling, down into Brighton.

A series of red lights (well, the few our colour-blind peloton bothered to obey) slowed progress and gave me a chance to catch my breath before the feed stop on the way to Devil’s Dyke. Although it was only half past ten, it was seriously warm by now and bottles needed to be replenished.

(Not to mention bladders emptied. Can anyone explain why almost every rider went for a widdle in the bushes when the feed was 20 yards from some public toilets?)

Soon we were off, continuing to climb to the top of Devil’s Dyke then plunging back down and enjoying the day’s fastest decent. Before long we were onto narrow minor roads, heading back north through Warninglid, Colgate and Rusper.

Maybe it was my imagination, but the pace definitely seemed to jump up a notch on the return leg. The group 1/2 amnesty was definitely off, and riders started to drop off the back.

Part-way through this leg of the ride, I spent a few miles riding next to the proud owner of a brand new Ridley Noah. I have a bit of a thing for Ridleys, but even allowing for my positive bias, this is one gorgeous bike. However, it sounded like a petrol lawnmower with a broken exhaust. Did this bike have one of those hidden engines the UCI are chasing? No, just a loose headset, but it must have driven the rider nuts.

I was still sucking wheels like a baby with a dummy by the time we reached Dorking. However, Jon M was on the front and pushing the pace up Lodgebottom Road. My legs started to cramp and it was damage limitation from here on.

A few miles later, climbing up to Epsom race course my legs cramped up badly again. My body finally waved the white flag, my ego conceded and signed a peace treat with the inevitable. The next few miles passed in solitary silence.

Still, I made it back to the Royal Marsden Hospital in around five hours 10 minutes. I was happy enough with that, especially once I had poured some fluids down my throat.

Yes, two or three feed stops would have been far more sensible than one. Yes, the signage could have been better. But the route was great, and the weather was better.

Plus, the Pearson 150 looks set to raise over £40,000 for charity, and the total is still rising. Much like the thermometer did all day.


One Response to “Pearson 150: hot, but not bothered”

  1. 1 Mark Davison

    Hi Bike Chimp
    I rode the Pearson 150 starting off in the group 2 which caught you guys and finished in a similar time. I was wearing London Dynamo kit. As you say it was a really great day, particularly fun riding a sportive in a gruppetto for a change, and your blog above is spot on – hope that Ridley gets fixed before we leave Hampton Court or I’m packing earplugs 🙂
    We’ve been debating which group to ride the L2P this year. I did it last year and started the first day in group 2 only for five of us to get bored that the pace was a bit too leisurely and be told off by the ride captain for breaking up the group so, in trepidation, we joined group 1 for the next two days which was fun but made it but bl**dy hard on the race sections. It would be fun to go with group 1 all the way but still not certain (good for the ego….until I get dropped).
    Happy pedalling

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