Rising to the occasion

There are downsides to big, organized bike rides. En masse, us cyclists have an unfortunate tendency to lose our common sense as the occasion gets the better of us. We swerve unpredictably, take risks we’d never normally take, plough into potholes and fail to warn those behind us about hazards.

Our impact on the people and places we cycle past can be upsetting, disruptive or even dangerous, reinforcing the views of the anti-bike brigade that we’re nothing but a bunch of testosterone-fuelled Lycra louts. It’s no surprise that many experienced cyclists eschew mass participation events in favour of lower-key, lower impact rides.

But to turn your back on all big rides is to deny yourself some rare treats, as we were reminded last weekend on the third Prudential RideLondon 100-miler.

Being one of 27,000 cyclists tapping along on central London roads that are usually choked with traffic is a truly uplifting experience. Add cheering crowds, impeccable route marking, logistics management and marshaling and you have an experience that every cyclist should try at least once.

Turning into the home straight on The Mall, where thousands lined the route, banging the hoardings and screaming us to the finish line 300 metres away, we allowed ourselves to imagine how it might feel to be involved in the sprint finish of a Grand Tour, as the adrenaline peaks and those weary leg muscles twitch into action for one last superhuman push to the line.

Easing out of the saddle for a final big-ring blast, just inches away from all those clapping hands and waving flags, we set our jaw with steely determination and gave it full gas for the first 100 metres…before realizing that both legs were about to cramp and that 300 metres is a lot further than you might think when your muscles are awash with lactic acid.

Never mind. It’s good to dream.