The Rapha Womens 100 is all about empowerment. It was also a lesson in how to laugh your way through 10 hours of pissing rain, 25% hills descents and busted breaks.
When 100 women met at Crystal Palace this weekend to ride 100K, joined by several thousand others around the world, it looked unusual. Not just because it was women but because it was a female club ride, too. Anything resembling a club ride is new to me. I’m used to jabbing at a far-off point on a map and then working out an interesting route to get to it, then typically hopping on a train home. So, a looping lap of Kent heading out and back to London with ride leaders in charge of the route, was a new one. The advantage of a led cycle is that you can ride in a pack, mindlessly following and letting your mind think about cycling. Or the rain, of which there was a lot and features heavily in this story.
Some of the hills were ridiculous – the descents made more terrifying than the uphills in the rain, with my brakes desperately worn down. But after last week’s misadventure of cross-country mud, rain and hospitals, getting soaked to the skin is A-OK. I was also relieved that I’d had an early night, and laughed my way through it, fuelled by good company and rocky road E-numbers. Riding with three rad friends, and a bunch of new friends in the peloton made the entire experience a really friendly affair. Naomi’s used to battling her way up Welsh hills, Fred was taking on the ride as her first initiation to serious cycling with cleats, Magda’s riding across continents later this year and came along to loudly shout “allow this rain.” Having seen the weather forecast, I prepared by oversleeping, skipping breakfast and wearing no base layer. None of us are particularly well versed in drowned rat cycling but everyone grinned, gurned and grumbled their way through it happily and bravely.
Have a look at the GPS route for the 100K ride around Kent. It was pretty gorgeous, and would be completely beautiful in the sunshine. It starts out in Crystal Palace and incorporated a couple of hilly bits. Rapha describe it: “As you can see from the ride profile, this is a challenging ride so not being adversed to a few hills is a advisable.” There was a cafe stop around 70k in, by some gorgeous lavender fields that a) were very beautiful, b) made you feel like you were eating said lavender and c) were great for posing in.
The day in numbers:
– 24 hours / 26.07.15
– 8,919+ women rode globally
– 100 kilometres cycled
– 30 minutes of solid peanut devouring
– Five opportunities for gun flexing
– Three moments of anger from countryside strangers
– Two memorable descents (25%)
– Two coffees in the middle of a corn field
– One graveyard misadventure
– One lavender field photoshoot moment
– One pint (room for improvement)
– Endless rain
Sock game strong with Magda, ready to start the ride.
Then the rain came and with it brought a gleeful excuse for my Red Hook Crit London Ass Saver.
For the first half of the day, there was a lot of this view.
Then some fields, which were lovely and would pretty stunning to whizz past in the sunshine when not distinctly distracted with rain in eyes and hunger in tummy.
This little Rapha H-Van coming in to view by a corn field in the pouring rain was utter joy.
Coffee at the H-Van at the halfway mark never tasted so good. Naomi will vouch for this.
Gun show, as performed by idiots.
And then I got a puncture. But there were coffee and peanuts on tap at the H-Van, and over-zealous mechanics. Win win.
Magda shows off her mythical ‘tan lines’ and refuses to believe it’s dirt.
Multicolour magic with Fred going on an adventure to pose with her bike above her head in a lavender field, then having a small discussion with her bicycle.
Final gun show by these silly heroes.
My main motivations in life.
It was an ace day, and Fred wrote about it beautifully with these joyous words: “Genuinely one of the scariest days of my life – not for the distance but for my irrational fear of not being able to unclip and put my foot down, which is very REAL in sheets of rain 💦 peddling up mad ascents 📈 and down mad descents 📉 when you can’t see the end. I beat the terror thanks to the best hype team #coreontour and knowing I had the strength thanks to @energylabbendurance. If this was an initiation to serious cycling, I hope I’ve succeeded 🙏 I’m no longer struggling at the back of the pack 🐌, and that’s what I set out to achieve with this challenge, Thank you.”