Well it has started, albeit painfully slowly. Leaving central London required us to ride 6 km to the course start along incredibly busy roads clogged with the double decker red buses, cars and pedestrians running around like turbo chooks.
Upon arriving at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the London Eye, We got to hug old friends (Phil, Bevis, Graham and Steve) and meet some of our riding companions for the next fortnight. It would appear that there are at least 8 Australians our group, half of whom are named Tony!!
We left London as a group to ensure that we did not lose anyone along the incredibly convoluted route, it was incredibly slow and included having to walk our bikes for sections and carry them down stairs. Even on paths we were lucky to get much above 10 km/hr as we had to avoid so many obstacles of the human variety.
We crossed over the Thames with a good view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
We followed the river under Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges turning towards Clapham Common. We rode through dense residential areas that looked like the set used for George and Mildred, and rode through countless parks.
It took 28 km to clear London. The average speed was 10km/hr by then but we were in one piece.
A number of the group had dropped back and others stopped at a cafe in Oaks Park but we puddled on as we had arranged to meet Brian, a friend who had done the France ride with us last year. We found him on the side of the road just after Woodmansterne.
That was a master stroke as this area of Surrey is Brian’s bike riding backyard and he was able to navigate us.
We stopped for lunch at the Dog and Duck pub a few km short of Smallfield. A number of the riders also stopped although others continued their journey.
After lunch we were joined by David and Bevis and the five of us rode together for the rest of the day.
We were very close to Gatwick airport which seems to be very busy.
The afternoon ride was very undulating but through the beautiful countryside of the North and South Downs. There were many tunnelled forests, some brilliant bitumen the in places, farms as we passed through villages including Copthorne, Turners Hill, West Hoathley, Sharpthorne, Horsted Keynes and Barcombe.
Arriving at Lewes by 3.45 pm we stored our bikes and hit the showers before enjoying an afternoon tea with Bevis and Brian.
After biding farewell to Brian who was heading home via train, we then caught up with Graeme ( friend from the France ride) and his daughter Matilda.
PS We are staying in a pub built in the late 1700’s. Interesting history including dungeons that were once used to store martyrs before they were burned at the stake over the road. They are now used as a wine cellar.
PPS The floors are reflective of the age of the building and have a severe adverse camber. When I get out of bed it slopes steeply to the wall.