Two terrific charity riders tackled tricky conditions during the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 charity bike race on Sunday 29 July 2018 as part of their fantastic fundraising pledges for our Ability Bow gym.
Former financier Ray Fielding and teacher Chris Graves (pictured above centre, with Ray left and Chris right) took on the rain-sodden route past London's most iconic landmarks and splendid Surrey countryside amidst a torrential downpour of one month's worth of rain; and still recorded an impressive finish time of 5 hours and 50 minutes each (only nine minutes behind celebrity cyclist and ex-England 2003 Rugby World Cup winning captain, Martin Johnson).
Ray and Chris - Essex-based friends who have acquired years of cycling experience - have taken on this year's 100 mile annual charity cycling challenge to raise at least £1,000 each for our gym, which features highly qualified instructors leading on specialist activities tailored to the needs of people with disabilities and long term health conditions.
Starting from the spectacular Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London at 6:15am, the dedicated pair navigated their way past Canary Wharf and the Tower of London during their first stint, before moving swiftly through south west London and the capital's largest greenspace, Richmond Park.
By the 30 mile mark at Walton-on-Thames in leafy Surrey - near to the historic setting of Hampton Court Palace - Ray, 57 and Chris, 61, had each set a blistering pace of 1 hour and 30 minutes approximately (at that point, well on target to finish in under 5 hours and 30 minutes until further challenging conditions took effect), before negotiating the urban terrain near the historic Brooklands Museum in Weybridge and idylic Surrey scenery of rock musician Eric Clapton's birthplace, Ripley, and West Horsley.
Describing this as the toughest section of the route, Ray and Chris - with the former taking on his third Prudential RideLondonr race in 2018 for our gym - then diverted through the splendid-yet-gruelling Surrey Hills, with heady highlights including Leith Hill and Box Hill's sweeping Zig Zag section, as both recorded credible times of 4 hours and 25 minutes by mile 75.
Pedalling past one of the UK's richest boroughs - Elmbridge in Surrey - the dedicated pair re-entered London in increasingly tricky spray and wind-laden conditions, taking in sights such as Wimbledon Village and Westminster before entering the final straight onto St James' Park and The Mall, all to the delight of thousands of weather-hardy supporters; recording astonishing times in what was Chris' first ever attempt at the RideLondon-Surrey 100.
Riding amongst approximately 100,000 professional and amateur cyclists at what is now regarded as the world's biggest cycling event - which saw German entrant Pascal Ackermann take the RideLondon Surrey Classic professionals crown in 4 hours and 20 minutes - Prudential RideLondon participants Ray and Chris secured some stunning achievements in the process.
As well as finishing near legendary sportsman Martin Johnson in the timesheets, both beat some established celebrity stars taking part specifically in the Surrey-100 event, including ex-England rugby stalwart Rory Underwood - who recorded a time of 8 hours and 58 minutes and former Olympic gold medallist and 400 metre hurdle specialist, Sally Gunnell (who finished in 6 hours and 50 minutes).
Other notable competitors that Ray and Chris finished ahead of include respected journalistic/broadcasting trio Dermot Murnaghan, Louise Minchin and Naga Munchetty, as well as soulful r'n'b/pop artist and Dancing On Ice star, Lemar Obika.
Meeting the Ability Bow supporters in Green Park for a shorter than usual post-race get together yesterday due to the weather, Ray said: "It's been a tough race yet the rewards are worth it for this fantastic gym and Chris and I are just happy to get across the line.
"Ability Bow achieves some remarkable results and it's really great to be part of fundraising events like this for them - as taking on RideLondon is relatively straightforward to get involved in - so raising awareness of a gym which transforms the lives of so many in such a short space of time is always worth dedicating time both riding and fundraising towards.
"I'd encourage anyone to sign up and support Ability Bow at any of their fundraising events, as you get such a great reception on the day of the ride from the gym's supporters and throughout the pre-event bits of fundraising too, which makes it all so worthwhile."
Ability Bow's Director and Founder, Victoria Kent, said: "I am as always so proud of our fundraisers, including our RideLondon cyclists, who have made a brave and brilliant effort today in completing 100 miles of what is an astonishing course and excellent fundraising achievement.
"Thanks to the dedication of all our supporters who helped pre-event and who braved the rain today - whether gym members, volunteers, trustees, staff, partners and fundraisers - we can continue to show you, our funders - who make such kind contributions to our service - the impact we can make in changing people's lives through person-centred and accessibly-tailored support at our community gym.
"We'd love to see more cyclists sign up next year for what is hopefully a drier occasion and it's very easy to do too - you can apply by just visiting: www.abilitybow.org/prudential-ridelondon-surrey-100-application-form.
"Thank you to all involved as always for your heroic efforts no matter how big or small; it's always greatly appreciated!"
To find out more about this year's event and general details about the annual cycling challenge: