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Dani Rowe declares Prudential RideLondon ‘a perfect day’

British Olympic champion Dani Rowe rode side by side with thousands of cyclists of all ages and abilities in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive on Sunday and, just like all of them, ended up declaring what a simply perfect day it had been.

This time last year, Rowe was winning the sprint classification in the professionals’ race, the Prudential RideLondon Classique, but the recently-retired three-time world champion found the new experience of completing a more leisurely – if lengthier Sunday spin – the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, just as satisfying in its own way.

The 28-year-old rider completed the first leg of her intended treble of ‘London Classics’ in just over four-and-a-half hours, and intends to complete the hat-trick by completing Swim Serpentine in September and then running next year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.

“It was absolutely amazing today, riding on such iconic roads, and safe roads, with so many fans out on the road, cheering us. I was just buzzing all the way round,” smiled Rowe, who is raising money for the British Heart Foundation.

Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland’s double Olympic champion, was also a surprise face among an estimated 30,000 riders who took part in the three mass sportive events and could hardly credit how enjoyable the experience had been.

“It was amazing. I’d already done some public rides before but I think this one is really special, just like the messages behind it – for health, and for the environment. To have this many thousand people on not an easy route, I think the organisers have done an amazing job and given a great message to the world,” he said.

The great 38-year-old one-day specialist, who retired at the end of 2016, had taken little persuasion to make the late decision to take part alongside Hugh Brasher, the Event Director, and was glad that he did, as he enjoyed the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 event.

This was the shorter version of the 100, which started early from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and saw thousands streaming along closed roads through the capital.

Plenty of the riders had no clue they were riding with a legend known as ‘Spartacus’ who has won four world titles, eight stages of the Tour de France and a whole series of one-day Classic races.

“There were one or two people who recognised me, and one or two who thought they knew me – but there were others who didn’t have a clue and this is exactly what I like. This was not a professional event but an event for the people who can get inspired by riding a bicycle. Forty-six miles – it was the perfect, early Sunday ride,” smiled Cancellara.

The sentiment was felt by everyone, even celebrities like Martin Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning rugby captain who has tackled the last six 100s and found this one probably the hardest on a warm morning as he battled round in four hours 42 minutes and 17 seconds.

“I went out too fast over the first 20 miles and thought ‘oh, this is going to be hard’ - and it was!” said Johnson, who could not hide his exhaustion at the end of the event. “It was still enjoyable, though - it always is.”

Like the singer and record producer Lemar, Johnson gets hooked into taking part annually. “If you want to know how good it is, all you need to know is that this was the fourth time I’ve taken part. It was exhilarating when I first did it, and it still is,” said Lemar, who finished in just over six hours.

The cyclists had been presented with a much more gentle experience than last year, when cold and miserable conditions proved really trying.

“In 2018, I crossed that line shivering, an emotional wreck and I didn’t want that to be my experience of RideLondon so I thought I’d come back next year and break my time – which I did in about six hours – and really enjoy the experience,” said Gail Emms, 2004 Olympic badminton silver medallist.

“I’m not a cyclist – but today I feel like I’m a cyclist. I feel I’m in a cycling community. It’s a humbling and inspiring day,” added Emms, whose Olympic doubles partner Nathan Robertson also took part.

The 30,500 riders who tackled the sportives were raising millions for charity through their efforts and for some Olympians, like Dame Sarah Storey, one of the heroes of the 2012 Paralympics, it brought back fond memories.

“Everyone loves the chance to ride on the route that was held at the Olympic Games,” said the 14-time Paralympic swimming and cycling champion. “Having a bike festival like this is fantastic, an opportunity for people to get together and ride their bikes and have some fun. That’s what it’s all about.

“This is the city leading the way in the UK with its cycling infrastructure,” added the woman who is now trying to do the same for Sheffield.

“It was brilliant. I’d definitely recommend everyone to get involved with RideLondon.”

So would we. The online ballot entry system for the 2020 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday 16 August officially opened today, so you can also get the chance to ride those 100 unforgettable traffic-free miles through London and Surrey.

Entry costs £79. The ballot entry system will remain open until 80,000 registrations have been received or Friday 3 January 2020, whichever is the earlier.

Brasher summed it up: “It has been an incredible weekend. The seventh edition has without doubt been the biggest and best yet, inspiring more people than ever to get on their bikes.

“Prudential RideLondon truly is the world’s greatest festival of cycling. From small kids on bikes in the FreeCycle event to the best pro cyclists taking part in the world’s richest one-day races, this weekend has it all.

“It’s amazing to see so many people out on their bikes and supporting this event. We work to make it better every year and we’re already looking forward to the eighth edition in 2020.”