The London Etape
Three years ago Blackmore was born. We rode RideLondon. A great day but we essentially did it on our own in our Blackmore kit. Three years ago a couple of guys from Hornchurch, Essex had finished playing football and began cycling. Hornchurch Cycling Club was born. Three years ago the Tour De France came through Essex.
Not quite new kit day but a great day to show it off!
In the time between then and now a lot of hard graft has been done by both parties and here we are at the 2017 London Etape, a sportive that goes out from the Olympic Park in Stratford in the shadow on the velodrome. Hornchurch Cycling Club is now thriving with around 200 active members and this year they are the club of the year with their own starting wave which contained around 80 riders. Blackmore has grown equally as well, has customers on every continent apart from the icy ones, and we are now standing amid the riders who are all decked out in their fresh Blackmore kit. Blackmore and Hornchurch has shared their journeys and today is a big milestone for both of us.
Lining up in the shadow of the Velodrome
The London Etape is an event born from the 2014 Tour taking the route from Stratford out to join the TdF route in the north of Essex around Saffron Walden and following it back in through Finchingfield, Felsted, Chelmsford, Epping and then back into the city. Unlike RideLondon the roads aren’t closed but an early depart makes for a pretty quiet outward journey. It also means you can park fairly nearby, so in a back road of Leytonstone some last minute museli was consumed and the short journey taken to the Olympic park and the start line which was outside the fabulous velodrome which dominates the morning sky. The lines of this stunning building cutting into the blue sky, it really is a beautiful piece of architecture that will endure for a long time indeed.
We met the HCC riders nice and early and as time passed numbers swelled. By 7am we were nearly up to full strength. A very proud time for the founder members of HCC and as more and more ducks gathered for us as well.
As club of the year HCC had not only been granted their own gazebo by the organisers, Human Race, but it was also us who led out the event out of Stratford after a brief interlude by TdF winner Frank Schleck who raised the pistol on the Etape. Finally released into the sleepy east end 80 Spitfires rode off into the morning light. At this point it was totally our intention to ride in the bunch, but it was all getting a bit much so we cracked on with the lead group which set off at a fairly decent pace out towards the countryside. Behind us waves of riders were released into the wilds of Walthamstow which was a lot quieter at 0730 than it was at 1400!
Lined up and ready for the off!
The Etape takes in some familiar roads for us, out to Epping, past arguably the home of cycling (North Weald airfield) and over the A414 which designates that you are officially in the countryside. We had ended up in a pretty decent group of around a dozen and were clipping along at an average of around 35kph. We had 4 spitfires as well as us in the lead group, as we winged through Saffron Walden and made the turn to head east and south back to London. We should have really savoured that point a bit more because from there it went downhill a bit for us!
When cycling is going well it is a fantastic feeling, working a bit within yourself and moving along at a pace, working together, having the odd chat and getting to know people on the little journey you’re taking is an experience to savour. However this does entail an element of risk as you are pretty close to each other most of the time and there are other hazards. 200 meters from the halfway feed stop a glance over the shoulder and a bump from another rider caused Phil to go off the road and into a grass bank which was really tight to the road possibly breaking his collarbone and his bike . That stopped our little HCC train in its tracks as we nursed him and his bike to the feed stop where we left him for extraction!
Now missing the 10 or so riders we had shared the initial load with the edge was taken off the pace but the slightly longer than planned stop also had detrimental effects on another member of our party. For the next 30 or 40 miles every extra push was greeted by what can only really be described as a scream from the back of our train as Doug's quad decided that today was not its day. It was protesting vehemently at doing anything it didn’t really want to! And so, occasionally breaking the quiet of the Essex countryside with a yelp the lead HCC train headed towards the city!
Phil's ghost bike making its way to the feed stop!
The second “sprint” stage saw the last of Dougie, a final injection of pace was too much for the quad to cope with and he sat up to await the next HCC group. Fortunately the route was lined with groups of HCC and help was never too far away. The route wound its way back through Chelmsford and the last feed stop at Great Waltham where the medium routes and longer routes converged. Here a man with a fake moustache played the accordion in a school car park. We were all feeling pretty French. Human Race did provide excellent feed stops, manned largely by volunteers who can only be applauded. A couple of hours previous Phil had been seen quickly by the Red Cross and we can only say thank you for that, the route was being monitored constantly by motorbikes, the route was marked effectively and the feed stops had roast potatoes! Excellent! So it was onto Roxwell and back onto the route which took us away from London initially. We rolled through Epping after well over 100 miles and by now any added pace or incline was a struggle. The timing stopped at around the Wake Arms roundabout before riders entered London. London post lunchtime is a different beast from the early morning and Walthamstow high road is a hard place to navigate especially in a group. This took the average speed down but also came as a welcome relief to the now tired legs! A lap of the velopark and over the finish line and 115 odd miles were done in the shadow of the velodrome which was now basking in the autumnal afternoon sunshine. We were greeted with a glass of red and some tired but smiling faces from all the riders who had finished one of the various routes all sharing their stories of their generally successful days out!
A great day was had by all! (Thanks to Erin for the pic!)
And so an end to a cracking season for both parties. A big thanks to Dave and Spenc and Sanj and everyone else at HCC and we roll into the Autumn!
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