Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dessert Storm takes on the London to Brighton

The London to Brighton British Heart Foundation 54 mile on-road race is the UK's largest charity bike ride with 27,000 riders cycling the scenic route between London and Brighton on the south coast.

Since 1980 when the BHF first became involved with the London to Brighton Bike Ride, over 650,000 riders have taken part in the event and more than £40 million has been raised to help fund pioneering research, patient care and vital information. (Please click on the picture above to donate). This year team Dessert Storm – catch phrase ‘Bring on the pudding!’ took up the challenge, made up of 5 ‘Dustbadgers’: AD Matthews, Charlie Gough, Jenny Moran, Charlie Sims, Ed Hazeldean and a coupla extras (and initial organisers) Jules (Prouting) Matthews and Gill Salisbury.

We met on mass in London on the Saturday night and so began a frantic attempt to prepare for the following day. Last minute bike repairs were made, race cards lost and found, team flags named and attached to bikes, tubes blown (way to go AD) and debates over the weather forecast (how can the BBC give three different forecasts in one day!??) and what to take by way of waterproofs were had before we all uploaded and headed for the pub for some quality English grub.

Rising bright and early on Sunday morning we made a good start from Jenny’s flat in Camberwell and commenced our 3.7 mile warm-up ride (courtesy of Charlie-man’s GPS) to Clapham Common. This took us through the surprisingly quiet streets of London picking up unknown competitors on route swelling the ranks of the relatively small peleton. Despite the knowledge of many miles ahead some play cycling was had to get to the grounds. Once at Clapham Common it became obvious that we, along with about 20,000 others were starting in staggered rows from 7.30am onwards which made the opportunity for a quick toilet stop in bushes as opposed to queuing for the portaloos an attractive option. Then time for a quick team photo before heading toward the start line.

Team Dessert Storm: bring on the pudding!

We stood in the 8.00am queue full of anticipation for the ride ahead, proving too much in some cases when more than half the group succumbed to the portaloos leaving AD, Jules and Jenny holding 7 bikes. Finally, the race started and it was all go. Or should have been but tens of thousands of people trying to get through the streets of London, on bikes, close together, with SPDs and lots of starts and stops meant that it took us around 1 and a half hours to cover the first 10 miles to the outskirts of the big city. Just like being stuck in stop start traffic on the M25 but worse as the danger of crashing is so much greater! Luckily the group emerged from the mass of cyclists together, frustrated but unscathed, expecting a freer ride now the city was left behind. Despite upholding the great English tradition of keeping to the left if going slowing (think motorway and London tube stations!) it was still frustratingly congested and hard to pass slower riders without cunning, aggressive (and sometimes, lets admit it, showy) riding (no names mentioned). We hit the first hill and as more and more people got off to walk so the congestion worsened and formed a bottleneck. Jules and Charlie took the lead, attacking the hill not at speed but with guile and gradually gained on the lead police car but despite their best efforts became stuck behind an impenetrable wall of riders. Not far behind Charlie-girl was pumping up the hill when a man in front of her stopped suddenly, with nowhere to go but down she fell with the bike, the first (but not the last) Dessert Storm casualty of the day. Bouncing back up she was at the top in no time and the team headed for hill no 2. This was reached at the 20 mile mark and once again the road became thick with riders. Once at the top Dessert Storm and the rest of the riders came to a grinding halt as an accident impeded any further progress for the next half hour.

‘Riders take a break whilst waiting for traffic to clear.’

Making the most of the sun, the team members (minus AD who was stuck somewhere up ahead) chatted, applied sunscreen, snacked and made friends with the random cyclists surrounding them. Stayed away from the old guy with the big sidies and the blow up doll though! AD eventually made his way to the team and the crowd started to move forward, passed the Dog and Duck pub. At around the 25 mile mark we flew passed the Burstow Scouts and on toward the second biggest hill of the ride, Turners Hill, at the top of which marked the half way point.

At the top of the hill we were met by Ed’s Mum, Dad and sister who had a spot on the green by the Lancing Brass Band with a prime time view of our fellow racers including punks, the pink panther, Fred Flintstone, Batman and the 118 118 men. We enjoyed a quick lunch in the rapidly fading sun and contemplated whether or not we’d get to Brighton before the forecast heavy showers set it in. Jules and Gill decided their KDC MBC luck would hold and rain would be avoided. So we took off with minds set on completing the last 24 miles and the giant obstacle that is Ditchling Beacon.

After an 8 mile blitz we passed the entrance to the Ardingly Showground and continued to push on stopping only for a water refill. Jules took on board another 2 litres after emptying her camelpack and whilst the other girls pushed on towards Ditchling, the boys waited (by accident only a few metres in front of 4 official photographers stationed on the gentle rise leaving Lindfield). After a few minutes we started to help the camera men and women out by making jokes to the traffic as they rose out of the picturesque village.

Once Jules rejoined the team, the remaining foursome took the chance to use their speed and try their overtaking skills on the hundreds of riders surrounding them. Ad & Jules tried slip streaming one another to save valuable energy for the last slog! Soon the group were up together again and closing in on their pre-arranged Ditchling break.

We pulled of the road and enjoyed a break from the saddle before planning our tactics for the ascent and descent before meeting the city limits. The Ditchling Village rest and refreshment stop had all the usual treats, portaloos, drinking water, bike mechanics and resting space in the gardens of a beautiful private dwelling opened up by the owner who welcomed everyone into the garden and was happy to have several hundred strangers spread out across his manicured lawns.

The time had come and the ascent had to be nailed, so we mounted up and started pumping those peddles, most of us chose to stay right and ride as fast as we could overtaking where possible. ‘The Beacon’ had been billed as ‘nothing we had ever summitted before’ due in the main to the sheer number of riders and more particularly walkers choking the narrow road. When the 400m rest stop sign was passed it spurred us on and when the PA system could be heard clearly enthusing the riders to keep going the ascent was basically over and gave us time to lower the heart rates, calm the breathing and take in the panorama. Not that this was a race, but the order was Ed, Ad, Charlie Man, Jules, Gill, Jen and Charlie Girl. We regrouped and started the long descent toward the finish, Charlie Man and Ed streaked away whilst AD was looking back the other way, leaving the local yokel in their wake. It took the next 10 minutes of flat out peddling by Mr. Matthews and good luck at the traffic lights for the 3 boys to be in convoy once again. The last section along the half open roads through Brighton was a little interesting as the group were more used to non-traffic routes, so the boys tried their hands at lane hoping and white-lining between the steady and stopped traffic on the busying roads.

In sight of the finish and Ad faked a sprint then sat back in the saddle, but it was too late and Charlie and Ed zoomed away once again crossing the finish before jamming the anchors to receive their medals in efficient BHF organised fashion.

The group re-gathered and beat their way through the thousands of finishers and on lookers between Madeira drive and the Beach towards the fish and chip stands for a well earned dinner, however the weather was turning sour and the group decided to head for the bus and get back to the big smoke! This seemed to be going well and with bikes carefully bubble wrapped and in the truck and tired bums on the coach seats we were happy… Then after being stationary in Streatham for 25 minutes, the driver announced that a tube station fire had caused the hold up and was unlikely to be cleared for an hour at least, so we took the option to off load 100 passengers and bikes and ride the remaining 5ish miles back to Jenny’s flat!

Charlie Man off-loading!

Ride Elevation (click to enlarge):

If you think Dessert storm have earnt their pudding
you can add to the value raised on behalf of
the British Heart Foundation by clicking

(Posted by: Ad)

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At 12:00 pm, June 20, 2008, Blogger kiwi mother said...

Oh my goodness I cannot believe that I, from little ol' NZ, am the FIRST person to add a comment!
Well Mr & Mrs Matthews and fellow members of the Desert Storm Team I think you have all done a fantastic job and it sounds as though it was great fun as well. I am so impressed with your spirit and your fortitude. I am sending my donation direct to Ju & AD who will no doubt pass it on.
Well done!! Go the All Blacks

At 12:14 pm, June 20, 2008, Blogger kiwi mother said...

PS I just LOVE the picture of you two love birds. I miss you :-(

At 1:07 pm, June 20, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

Nice posting guys and a good effort. Hope the congestion didn't ruin it for you. I had a miserable time on the Great South Run under similar circumstances and I'll never do it again.

That Ditchling Beacon is a nasty one - I remember it from walking the South Downs Way.

Sponsor money on the way to you on-line as promised, hoping to catch up you on the Chi Challenge, are you up for it?


At 12:31 am, June 21, 2008, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

So proud of the Dustbadgers et al. You guys are all awesome!

At 1:12 pm, June 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone for your help an support, It was very congested, but 'head down-bum up' and peddle was the technique - We are definately up for the Chi Challenge again and hope to say in sight of hardcore TCA riders!!!

AD :-)

At 5:59 pm, June 22, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

Good work Team Desert Storm! A top ride indeed! See you at the Chi Challenge, I will bring the blow up thats hardcore.


At 11:30 am, June 23, 2008, Blogger simon said...

how long did it take?? did i miss something? I did a "bridge to bride" kayak classic race 114km paddle... the start was just as congested!


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