The L’Etape London 2016 was my first cycling sportive. Originally a runner, I ventured into the world of road cycling when I entered my first Duathlon last year in 2015. Shortly after, a gluteal niggle necessitated the need to spend more time on the saddle, instead of pounding the pavement. This has resulted in me cycling ~4,300 km in 2016 so far. Not high mileage from any serious cyclist’s standpoint, but I am fairly happy with it, as I am also back running now! The L’Etape London is a sportive that starts in East London at the Velopark, Stratford (home of the 2012 Olympics), and moves out into the Essex countryside, going through Epping Forest and beyond. Living in Essex, I was quite familiar with most of the early parts of the Essex route. This particular event has three routes; short (~42 miles), medium (~92 miles) and long (~117 miles). I Initially, signed up for the medium route with my friends Mark and Dan. However, I wasn’t feeling too great and Dan also had to drop out at the last minute, so Mark and I decided to do the shorter route together.
I met Mark at the Velopark outside Cycle Surgery (the event village) just before 9am. I was already soaked by the time I got there. Starting the ride wet to my socks was not particularly exciting. We made our way to the start line, listened to some brief safety instructions and declared an oath (with other riders) that we would not jump any red lights. Safety first!
After a slow start through the busy Leyton High Street, we finally made our way to Woodford, and in no time were up to Epping Forest. The riders spread out as we hit the countryside roads, and we were soon throttling along at very satisfying speeds of well over 30km/hr. Mark got very excited, and was pressing on ahead, with me playing catch-up. We reached a junction and I continued on, but was in fact supposed to turn right, as this was the split for the short and medium routes! I did not see the turn. And the Marshall didn’t indicate anything, so I continued to follow the other riders. Not long after, I knew that I had taken the incorrect turning , as I saw that I had conveyed almost 40km (>50km including my commute to the event), and was still heading North. I eventually made it to the first feed station (on the medium route), and saw Mark here! We got some snacks from the feed station (food tastes so good on a ride!) and also met Chris Froome here, too! After a handshake and picture, we were also interviewed by The Cycling Channel who asked us how the event was going so far, and a few other general questions.
We then broke off from the medium route, in an attempt to get back onto the shorter course. I had now done 55km. After around another 10km of cycling, I realised that I had forgot to start my Garmin! This was frustrating, and completely messed up my Garmin/Strava data. I won’t bore you with the details… Anyway, we finally navigated our way in the right direction and began to see the TdF arrows once again. Seeing other riders along the way was also reassuring! I was beginning to get a little hungry by this point, having cycled 50 miles and only had one stop. We finally got back to the Velopark and did a final 1km lap on the road track. I really do like this track, having both cycled and run on it at various events. We made out way through the finish, and Chris Froome handed us out medals.
I then saw Sania who had been waiting for me since 10:30am (it was now almost 2pm!). We got some food from the event village, which had a number of vendors. Mark then made his way home as he was cycling back. I made my way to Leyton station and got the train home from there. Unfortunately no post race coffee, but I did manage to get one later on in the evening! Okay, so very mixed feelings here.
-Scenic and familiar route
-Met Chris Froome!
-Got wet before the ride started
-Must navigate better/have better direction signs
-Forgot to start my Garmin and lost 10km (+ screwed up my ride data)
The cons can largely be rectified. Apart from the Marshals being a little clearer at junctions, a top quality event. I will 100% be returning next year for the medium route. Living in Essex only 12km from Stratford, there is no better sportive that is going to be so close. I know a lot of people will travel for these events, most of which are really far from me, so I am glad that I have at least one great sportive close-by! Correcting my data, I cycled 108.5km today in 4 hours and 1 minutes, which I am personally content with as it was quite windy today. Finally, I would highly recommend this event due to the friendly atmosphere, good feed stations and lovely medal at the end.