I signed up for Ride London for many reasons, but it always seemed a bit unreal. So, in spite of all the training and preparation, there was a definite feel of 'how did this happen' as I cycled up to Richmond station at 5am.
The Olympic park was buzzing but dry and the forecast of day-long drizzle seemed, thankfully, to be wrong - for long enough for some riders to leave their jackets on the kit bag lorries. Unfortunately it turned out to be incorrect in totally the wrong way. The rain started soon after the loading pen closed and we started moving round the park - by the time we reached the start line and were being asked to choose our starting music it was getting pretty wet and I was shivering, even with a jacket. This was more than just drizzle.
Then we were off into the deluge. It might have been wet but it was still a thrill to be able to zoom through car-free roads in a deserted London. By Richmond Park I was fighting thoughts of 'if I turn off here I'll be home in 10 minutes' but the cheering charity groups in Kingston and my lovely husband and friends (and bewildered dog) at the Lion Gate gave me a boost - that and the knowledge that I was doing the rest of the ride with a friend who'd left in an earlier wave.
From then on it was wet, windy (up to 55mph according to the official reports) and cold with the roads lined with people fixing punctures, but also an astonishing number of people who'd come out to cheer people on in the pouring rain, some of them with track pumps for anyone who needed them. And if you wanted a thrill you could always go round a roundabout the wrong way or ride on the right hand side of the road - just because you could!!
Apart from the relentless weather, down points were the realisation that something bad had happened on Leith Hill - there were several motorbikes going up the diverted route - and that there'd been accidents which closed Box Hill and caused the hold ups in Leatherhead - the conditions really were treacherous in places.
The positives were the people cheering on the roadside, those who'd decided to have a party on the pavement even if it was wet, the bands and people playing music from home stereos, and the high-fiving kids. A huge number of Welsh flags on display to give us that TdF feel. And of course the fact you could get from Oxshott to Esher without crawling through traffic!
Finally, with the rain finally stopped, we swept (is that being too generous?!) up Wimbledon Hill and the rest of the ride was a blur of London sights as we rode down Chelsea Embankment, up Pall Mall and round the corner into the Mall. By then the adrenalin had well and truly taken over and I'd have been happy to carry on as far as I could if the officials hadn't brought us to a stop!
It was a tough day, no mistake (I don't think I could have done it on my own so thank you Sarah!) and diversions meant we didn't do the full 100. I know I was lucky to have avoided punctures, crashes and to have had enough clothes. But I'm so glad I did it - the atmosphere and support was fantastic in places and the excitement of having the roads dedicated to cyclists is like nothing else. I may even consider doing it again!