This weekend I was a ‘Ride Angel’ on the first Ride the Night event of 2018.
What’s a Ride Angel? Basically a volunteer cyclist who rides the route with participants offering, support, encouragement and assistance to the event participants.
Women V Cancer Ride the Night is officially the largest female cycling event in the UK. Starting at Windsor Racecourse the participants cycle 100km throughout the night on a circular route. The route heads into London past many famous landmarks including Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace! Funds raised by Women V Cancer Ride the Night support Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action.
An amazing cause and a brilliant event, with many participants being personally affected by cancer, either having had cancer themselves in the past, currently undergoing treatment or being affected by family members having cancer. The whole event is very emotional and inspiring and I was proud to be able to help out.
The start/finish area is like a mini festival, with a stage, music, food vendors, performers and so much to see, it helped that the weather this weekend was amazing so the atmosphere was very relaxed and social.
I managed to spot one of the lovely ladies – Nadjie, from my cycling club RomfordCC and have a quick catch up ahead of the event. Nadjie has ridden this event before with it being the first big sportive she participated in following a breast cancer diagnosis, it holds a special place in her heart and she keeps coming back to participate year after year. I am so lucky to know some very brave and determined ladies.
I checked in, picking up my event hi-vis and Ride Angel tag to go on the back of my helmet to ensure I could be identified easily by all participants. Once checked in there was a briefing for all the Ride Angels just to let us know what to expect on the course, some changes that had been made since the previous years and ensuring that we had all the emergency contact numbers. Then it was almost time for the start.
There was a mass warm up in front of the stage and some participants were recognised for their significant fundraising efforts. Then the participants were funneled into the start area and I joined the other Ride Angel’s near the start.
The participants set off in waves of 40 – 50 riders at a time and a Ride Angel joined each wave as they went through the start, I was the 3rd Angel to start, so was on the road by about 9.10pm. It had just got dark but the weekend had been so warm it was still quite a pleasant temperature.
I was wearing my Primal Onyx Prisma bib shorts with a long sleeve base layer under my Primal Pixel8 jersey, I had also popped my matching arm warmers into my bar bag, but luckily it didn’t get cold enough for me to need these.
The first few miles passed very quickly heading out of Windsor chatting to various competitors, some of whom had ridden the event before and some who had never even ridden in the dark. For a lot of people this was a huge challenge. I chatted to a lovely lady for a while who has had brain cancer, she was determined to complete the event, and was so inspiring.
After a while one of the participants was cycling next to me and asked if I was cycling alone, her name was Bethan and she had had to defer her participation from 2017 due to surgery on her back, so she was riding alone. I explained that I was a Ride Angel and she was more than welcome to ride with me for a while. Actually Bethan ended up riding to the end with me, cheering on other participants, checking if people were ok, and anyone would have thought she was an experienced sportive rider, little would they have known that this was the first time she was riding this distance, first time in the dark, and had fallen in love with cycling following a horse riding accident that had broken her back. Numerous operations later here she was loving cycling and participating in a great event for a brilliant cause, another very inspiring lady!
One of my favorite parts of the event was as I had reached approximately 40 miles with the riders I was with we could see loads of ladies on their way into London, still on the first half of the ride. Many people were dressed up, fairy lights on their helmets and bikes and it was a lovely sight to see. I cheered all these ladies as we passed paths, they were already doing incredibly well.
Around 2am it started to get a bit colder, but by now the groups I was riding with were almost done. There was a bit of a hill only 4 miles from the end which was tough going for tired participants, however certainly warmed people up a bit.
Then the end was almost in sight. An incredible night time journey was completed around 2.40am. Back into the race course, hard earned medals were handed to all finishers and it was time to be proud of what they had achieved and rest. Cycling 100km is quite a challenge, doing it overnight provides a whole new challenge in the darkness whilst tired.
These participants had done amazingly! There is another ride the night event on the 26th May 2018, and once again I will be back volunteering as a Ride Angel, I am already looking forward to meeting many more inspiring female cyclists.