Ski Club CC cyclist Zoe Phillips shares her experience about the day the team swapped skis and boards for wheels at Prudential Ride London

It's 2.45am on Sunday 4th August 2019. I began to wonder what on earth I'd done by agreeing to represent the Ski Club of Great Britain along with three other Reps, to cycle 100 miles from the east London down to the Surrey hills and back in time for lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

'Come on Zoe,' I recall saying to myself, 'It will feel alright once I'm up and going'. I dragged myself into the shower, heated up my 'take away porridge' (which unfortunately exploded in the microwave), grabbed my packed bag, bike and energy bars and set off. 

My carriage awaited, whisking me across to the London 2012 Olympic Park over in Stratford. An early taxi was necessary in order to avoid the bridge closures, since London starts to close up from 4am in order to make the roads free for the 25,000 cyclists that have taken to the streets annually, since Boris Johnson set up the event in 2013.

As the taxi pulled into the Olympic park at about 4.30am, I was slightly embarrassed to be the first cyclist to arrive, second only to the security and even the baggage van attendants. The world was still asleep.

The continental tyre stand offered me a director's chair and I sat there, slightly shivering, definitely yawning and generally wondering what the hell I was doing, being the first person into the 'black zone' for cyclists. However, one by one, as the sun gradually started to say hello and other cyclists started to arrive.

I was thankful to meet with Kim who rocked up at about 6am and we prepared to make our way to the starting gate,  Black C section. We were slightly worried about the boys who we had not heard or seen from but eventually, they arrived. Checking we had sunglasses, helmet, nutrition and drinks loaded up we headed to the start. There were many loo breaks en route but I'll put that down to the nerves kicking in.

The clock counted down, we took a few crazy photos and then pow, the gun went off and off we sped.

On reflection, it felt absolutely amazing as we left the gate alongside thousands of other cyclists. It was huge benefit having closed roads and one direction of traffic with plenty of cyclists and supporters at the sides of the roads so we would not get lost. We cycled in towards town and waved at Harrods, still sleeping, and out onto the A4 as party revellers were just getting back to their hotels, peering bleary-eyed at the wheels coming towards them. 

Then it was off to Chiswick bridge where one of our fellow Reps, Rosie Cow, very kindly came out to support and I managed to sign her copy of my book! Onwards again, we slowly climbed towards the Surrey hills and countryside which was beautiful. The deer were starting to stir in Richmond park and the occasional early Sunday runner out to cheer us on. We continued on our journey, sadly passing four or five ambulances along the way which were tending to cyclists who had passed out already or had a bad knock. Thank goodness we were through.

We passed one of my most favourite scenes on the way: the ruins of the abbey at Ripley. It is one of the monasteries dissolved by Henry VIII who pensioned off the prior and sent all valuables to the Tower of London. A canon demolished what were then extensive buildings and eventually the establishment was surrounded in 1538. The mystic of cycling past this always runs through me and I swear I see the ghosts of that time as I cross the old wooden bridges across the River Wey.

Rounding the bend to Newlands Corner, we pass where our famous super sleuth, Agatha Christie, parked her car over 90 years ago and, well, just disappeared. It's always a milestone for me as this is really the first of the proper 'Surrey hills.' We started to claw away at a gradient of about 7%, reaching 13% in parts, but this was a mere warm-up prior to the Holmbury St Mary. Following that was the magnificent Leith, officially one of the world's top 100 cycle rides and the highest point of the Surrey hills.

Sadly, at Leith, there were more cyclists jamming the steep incline than a busy Victoria underground platform on a rainy winter's day after work, so we all ground to a halt having to remove our clips urgently from our pedals to avoid becoming a pack off dominos. The Ski Club Four became separated in the affray at that point and so we just had to climb up as best we could. It's always a feat to get to the top and a relief to find some loos at the side of the road to break the journey. I pressed on. The next milestone would be Box Hill at about 70 miles, a steady climb, but with tired legs. On descending the Box, it was good to tick off a few places as I rode the path to the finishing line. 

Kingston was packed with supporters and at just 15 miles to go, gentle relief was in mind. Climbing the hill into Wimbledon Village, I realised that I'd climbed all the way up in my top gear, no wonder I found it quite hard going! I missed the Ski Club display but was hoping that they were following our progress and their silent cheers echoed in my head to spur me on.

Onwards all the way across Putney Bridge and down the Kings Road, it was absolute heaven as all cyclists flew past. With no football traffic around, we had free rein to thrash out the speed before heading down the embankment, eventually rounding the corner at the Houses of Parliament, with Westminster Abbey chiming our arrivals. 

I made a dash for the finishing line, determined to give the spectators something to gasp about, and picked my way through a few other cyclists, anything for a few extra seconds off the clock. What a feeling as I passed under the gantry! Kim had just passed me and James was right behind, followed by Chris. After catching our breath, we took our triumphant finish line photos and retired for a well-earned refreshment at the Smith & Whistle on Piccadilly. 

It was an absolutely super day, a triumph! I have to say my legs did feel a little like jelly after five hours and 49 minutes in the saddle, but they were right as rain within about 10 minutes. I was so proud to have been a part of the action and to have completed the sportive, adorning the Ski Club GB strip. Roll on 2020, I've already entered the ballot, have you? 

Find out more about our summer cycles and Ski Club CC here.