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Change things up a gear in 2019: Cycle the RideLondon 100 for VSO

It’s winter, it’s miserable and we’re failing at keeping those 'new year, new me' resolutions we promised ourselves not all that long ago. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In August, Prudential RideLondon 100 will return to the capital. You’ve got six months to prepare for the challenge of the year – a 100 mile cycle around London.

Paul Phillips took to the saddle, riding for #TeamVSO. Here’s his story.

No Chris Froome

VSO staff member Paul Phillips rode the Ride London100 in 2016 © Paul Phillips / VSO

'I recognised that feeling that only a great achievement brings': Paul (left) cycled for VSO at Ride London100 2016

As a commuter who cycles into work, I’d barely sussed out the clip-in pedals on my new racing bike. So you can imagine the anticipation about squeezing in to a Lycra top to join my adrenaline-junkie colleagues Chris and Andy for a 100 mile ride around London.

I’m going to be honest – I’m no pro fundraiser. Thankfully, the support of the VSO events team were right behind us to help us plan and think big, with ideas and support at every stage of the process.

From an adult summer sports day in the local park to sweepstakes on the referendum result, we smashed our target with time to spare.

On your bike

Sadly, what that meant was all attention was now on training. I spent many evenings with Chris racing round Richmond Park, trying to achieve the fabled three circuits in an hour.

It was too much of a challenge for me, but at least Chris had the grace of letting me plod along breathlessly behind rather than powering off into the distance.

Fellow colleague Peter gives a thumbs up after completing the ride © VSO

Fellow colleague Peter gives a thumbs up as he pauses for a pit stop

Before we knew it, it was the evening before the race. I checked into a hostel near to the starting point, where I shared in the pre-race nerves with all my fellow bikers.

Race day

Bundling out before sunrise broke, we descended en masse to Victoria Park like a swarm of Lycra locusts. The ride was a blur as we pedalled through empty London streets, abandoning laws of the road as amateurs and experts alike formed an orderly chaos resembling a low budget Mad Max.

It was a truly incredible experience to have the streets to ourselves.

Cheered on by a growing throng of supporters, by the time we’d reached the summit of Box Hill, I’d consumed so many power gels and carb bars I felt like going back round for another go.

The final hurdle

Riders make their way through Kingston upon Thames © VSO

Riders make their way through Kingston upon Thames

Maybe I spoke a little too soon. On mile 80, I felt about 90 years old and my body was screaming for me to stop. Fortunately, we were carried for the last few miles along the Thames by the encouragement of the huge crowds and dreams of eating a burger in bed.

And as I crossed the finish line, I heard shouting. “Well done, VSO! Great job!” Turning round to see if it was someone I knew, I was humbled to realise it was just the public congratulating us.

It was a wonderful reminder as to why I’d just ridden a gruelling 100 miles. As I limped into Green Park, medal around my neck, I recognised that feeling that only a great achievement brings.

Right then, I made the decision to do it again next time. Are you going to join me?

Prudential RideLondon 100 takes place on 4 August 2019. Entry is just £19, and we’ll support you at every step to reach your fundraising target.

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