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Back in the saddle!

More than 20,000 cyclists take on the RideLondon challenge rides for the first time since 2019

Former champion jockey Sir AP McCoy was in a saddle of a different kind today [Sunday 29 May] as he joined thousands of other amateur cyclists in the RideLondon-Essex 100.

The event, held on 100 miles of traffic-free roads in London and Essex, was part of RideLondon – the world’s greatest festival of cycling – which saw other riders taking on 60 and 30-mile routes, as well as the return of the hugely popular free family-friendly RideLondon FreeCycle event, designed for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.

McCoy (or to give him his full name Sir Anthony Peter McCoy OBE) said: “It’s a great day, and a great thing to do. I did it for the charity SpecialEffect after my doctor of 20 years, Dr Phil Pritchard, managed to convince me.

“It was for Ian Camm, who was one of the chief veterinary officers at Cheltenham, as his son got paralysed in a car crash when he was 19. He’s used SpecialEffect’s technology to be able to use a computer with his eyes, so it was for a good cause and was really enjoyable.

“If you can do the event for a good cause, you probably should. I wouldn’t like to be doing 100 miles too often though…”

Spectacular finish at Tower Bridge

McCoy was just one of more than 20,000 riders to cross the spectacular new Finish Line at Tower Bridge – but he wasn’t the only well-known face taking on the challenge for charity, British Lions Mike Teague and Peter Winterbottom joined him to raise funds for SpecialEffects, while Emmerdale actor Tony Audenshaw rode for the charity Pancreatic Cancer Research UK (PCUK) in memory of his wife Ruth, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2017 aged just 43.

The 100, 60 and 30-mile events started early from Victoria Embankment in the heart of the capital and saw thousands streaming along closed roads out into the Essex countryside for the first time in RideLondon’s history.

Diana Mullineux, an Australian living in London, enjoyed the new RideLondon-Essex 100 route: “The route in Essex is really accessible, as there aren’t any tough climbs, but it was still a real challenge thanks to its rolling nature.

“There was good support along the way, and it wasn’t too hectic as people were nicely spread out from the start – and there were plenty of rest stops and toilets.”

Support from the crowds

Lara Newell, who lives near the Finish Line in SE1 and took part in the RideLondon-Essex 100 with some friends, agreed the support had been a big help: “We were in an early wave so there weren’t that many supporters in the first half, but on the way back people were definitely coming out to give the riders a cheer.

“The charity cheer points were brilliant too. They were supporting all the riders, not just the ones riding for their charity.

And she also was a fan of the new Finish Line: “Finishing at Tower Bridge was incredible, literally on my doorstep. You can’t beat finishing on Tower Bridge, especially the year of the Jubilee!”

The London Classics

Also among the participants were more than 500 riders aiming to conquer the London Classics by completing the 100-mile challenge. To claim a London Classics medal you need to have completed the London Marathon and the two-mile event at Swim Serpentine.

Ian Wimpenny from Potters Bar was the first London Classics finisher of the day – as he was delighted to discover: “I can’t believe I’m the first London Classics finisher today – that’s the icing on the cake and a complete and utter shock! What a day. It’s been absolutely fantastic!

“If anyone’s thinking of taking on the London Classics, I’d tell them to just go for it. You won’t regret it and you’ll have something to look back on for the rest of your life.”

A real treat

Pat Campbell from Clapham was riding to support the charity Antony Nolan at the event, and also loved the new route: “It really flowed for the riders and the atmosphere was amazing, lots of chatting among riders. The Finish Line on Tower Bridge had a really scenic view at the end.”

And he summed up the general sense of happiness participants felt at seeing RideLondon return after more than 1,000 away due to the pandemic: “There was a feeling that it’s great events like this are returning. It’s a privilege to ride along closed roads – it doesn’t happen very often so events like RideLondon are a real treat.”