Cyclist completes century ride around London

Cyclist completes century ride around London

Brenda Mehnert had hoped her 2018 race plans would include running the London Marathon. Last year, she and two of her running partners entered the lottery for the April marathon, but none of them got in.

Instead of running 26.2 miles through London, Mehnert cycled 100 miles in and around London in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. The ride is organized by the same company as the London Marathon, and after Mehnert didn’t get into the marathon, she received an email about entering the lottery for the ride. This time, she got a spot in the event.

The RideLondon-Surrey 100 was started in 2013. The July 29 ride started in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and nearly 27,000 riders pedaled through London and the Surrey countryside and finished at Buckingham Palace, all on roads closed to traffic.

Blog PhotoThe event was Mehnert’s first century ride. She cycles in the summer and she does a spin class once a week at the Stephens Family YMCA year-round, but she had never ridden more than 30 miles at one time when she entered the London ride. She started training at longer distances just after running the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon at the end of April.

Mehnert joined Prairie Cycle Club and rode some of its group rides. Several of the club’s cyclists who have completed century rides shared their training knowledge and experiences with her.

Her longest ride before London was organized by a local cyclist on rural roads around Mahomet in mid-July. Mehnert rode through pouring rain and wind and had to stop and wait out a thunderstorm before completing 75 miles. It turned out to be good training for London. The weather for her century ride included driving rain and winds gusting to 55 mph.

“There were a lot of wipeouts because people were going too fast for the conditions around the corners,” Mehnert said.

The cyclists would occasionally get backed up at certain spots where race officials were allowing only a certain number of riders at a time on some of the narrow, curving roads due to the wet conditions.

The route went along the River Thames and through London’s Richmond Park -- one of Mehnert’s favorite parts of the ride. It included parts of the cycling courses from the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Mehnert also cycled along narrow, winding roads lined with trees and estate-like homes behind hedges or stone walls and through rolling hills in Surrey.

“There were times when it was like, pinch me, I can’t believe I’m in the middle of these little towns in the country with these castle-like homes,” she said.

Blog PhotoMehnert said she was well-prepared for the distance, but not for the hills. The hilliest part of the course was between miles 45 and 70, and included climbs up hills with a 5 to 7 percent grade.

There were several bypasses along the route for riders who wanted to skip the hills and for riders who didn’t make various cutoffs within the time limits.

“The hills were hard, and the wind, the rain. But I got it done. I’m so happy to have gotten it done,” said Mehnert, who finished the ride in just over eight hours.

The logistics of getting her bike to London was almost as challenging as the race. She carried her lightweight racing bike, disassembled, in a bicycle travel case. She chose an Airbnb that was near the race start, a bicycle shop and a train station, and she had the bike shop check over her bike after she arrived and re-assembled it.

After the ride, she had to find a train station a few miles away from the finish that allowed bicycles on the train. Then she had to disassemble the bike again and transport it across the city to another Airbnb near the airport where she would stay before flying home. Her hosts there stored the bike while Mehnert spent several days sightseeing in France.

She’d like to do another century ride, but she’s considering choosing one with a flatter course.

She compared the experience to training for her first marathon and wondering, “Can I do that distance?”

At the ride finish, Mehnert was again thinking about how the ride compared to a running event.

“It’s really neat to see how marathon runners and bikers are so much alike. We bring our families to support us and we’re excited to share that we have completed our challenge,” she said.

 

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.

 

Photos: Top: Brenda Mehnert of Champaign raises her bike up in front of Buckingham Palace at the finish of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100-mile ride. Bottom: Cyclists begin the climb at Box Hill, nearing mile 70 of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100.

 

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