On a very British, very wet summer’s day in 1948, 141 men from 31 countries lined up in Windsor Great Park to compete in the London Olympics cycling road race. A hard fought 120 miles (17 laps) with no team cars, no carbon fibre and no spare wheels. Riders had to repair their own punctures by the roadside and there were plenty! The loose gravel roads caused over 100 flats! These were the real hard men of racing.

The course starts half way down the straight alongside Guard's Polo Club. In 1948 the riders were cheered on by large crowds and launched into action by a young Prince Philip. On Sundays you can often see a game of Polo taking place and if you’re lucky spot some modern royalty. Today it's just me and a handful of dog walkers. I clip in and without fanfare, ride off...

The first miles are pan flat and I settle into steady a 19mph rhythm. This is soon broken though as unlike the Olympians, I need to stop and trigger the electric gates leading into the deer park. I quickly re-clip and set off again, swooping down past flocks of deer, the famous Long Walk on my right, Windsor Castle in the distance. Lucky for me there’s very little foot traffic today, on a sunny weekend it’s a different story!

Leaving the deer park I sneak a quick glance at my average speed. Down on what I'd hoped, but not to worry. The following section is smooth, mostly flat and on a good day, fast. Unfortunately today is gusty and my steady progress is hampered by crosswinds. I'm fighting along, nudging 16mph as a couple of pheasants take a running leap out in front of me! Not close enough to cause a scare, but on previous rides through the park they've cut it mighty close so I keep my eyes peeled. Approaching Prince Consort’s Gate I’m making good time, but I feel I owe it to those great men of yesteryear to kick it up a notch!

Through the gate and I'm onto the only public road on the entire course. This is a speedy section with just enough downhill and fast corners to keep it entertaining. There's very little traffic so I stamp the pedals a little harder than I should. Not too hard! I must remember there's still plenty of course left! A quick out of the saddle incline, fly down past the rows of parked cars and before I know it I'm back inside the Queen's estate.

Turning left through an open Blackness Gate I charge forward. A short straight awaits but it’s the roughest part of the course. The ever so slightly uphill, unforgiving gravel surface is tough on the legs. Sweeping around Johnson’s Pond I spy a couple of swans, but there’s no time for sightseeing today as it's out of the saddle and up Breakheart Hill. Sure, its only a mere 90ft of "climbing" but if you've already pushed yourself into the red, gunning for the finish, it'd be a real deal breaker. Over the crest and it's back onto the start/finish straight. A quick sprint here and I'm over the imaginary line. Lap complete! I give myself a discrete cheer, take a swig from my bidon and ride on.

There's many more laps to complete yet....

My fastest lap of the day saw me haul my Specialized Sirrus around the course in 24 minutes 35 seconds at an average speed of 17.4mph. Good enough to place me 15th on the Strava leaderboard (at the time). For a windy day in January I'm happy with that. To put it in perspective, if gold medalist Jose Beyaert of France had been using Strava back in 1948, he would have posted a KOM-smashing time of around 19 minutes. That's a KOM he'd still be holding sixty five years later.

Strava: http://www.strava.com/segments/1948-olympic-road-race-circuit-874186

Middle Ringer is an obsessive cyclist who is still too young to be a MAMIL, but way too old to mix it with the young guns. He can often be found gasping for breath, pedalling neat little circles around the Royal County of Berkshire.


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Comment by Wheelsuckers on June 24, 2013 at 11:21

Keep us updated on your attempts to secure that KOM!

Comment by Middle Ringer on June 21, 2013 at 16:47

Cheers guys. Did it on a road bike, but I do have a set of clip-on TT extensions that I used on the flatter open sections. Can't really use them too much around there as you need to keep a keen eye out for dog walkers, stray deer, the Queen, etc...

Next time I'll take the mudguards off and wear my aero helmet! ;-)

Comment by Andy Dawson on June 21, 2013 at 10:54

Well done MR. That's a big improvement. Did you know Strava now lets you favourite segments? I'm guessing this might be one of yours.

Are you doing this with a TT set-up?

Comment by Dave Nash on June 21, 2013 at 9:04

Something tells me that KOM is going to be yours by the end of the summer! Strong riding Middle Ringer. 

Comment by Middle Ringer on June 21, 2013 at 7:53

UPDATE: So it's been a while since I've had a chance to have a good go at this circuit. Yesterday evening I finally managed to get out during a reasonably quiet time for a spin around the park. I managed to come in at 20 minutes 47 seconds, averaging 20.6mph.

That's around four minutes quicker than last time. Now, back in January when I posted this blog I said that beating the current KOM would be difficuly, but I did it! My time would have been good enough for a Strava KOM by a couple of seconds. Since then one person has gone faster so I've had to settle for second place (for now). I need to shave off another 30+ seconds!

Comment by Chris Higgins on January 23, 2013 at 19:36

I'll never pedal through the park and look at it in quite the same way again. Thanks for a great bit of writing!

Comment by Middle Ringer on January 23, 2013 at 17:44

Jose Beyaert completed the 120 miles in a shade over 5 hours 18 minutes. I don't have a breakdown of lap times so that's a just rough average for the 17 laps.

Beating the current KOM would be pretty difficult. You'd have to get a perfect run, free of horses/carts and maybe even have people at each gate to hold them open so you can fly straight through (there's at least two, possibly three you need to open). In the warmer months I might have proper crack at getting into the top ten.

Comment by Andy Dawson on January 23, 2013 at 10:37

Jose Beyaert's average speed for a 19 minute lap was 22.31 mph - couldn't resist...

Was this his average lap speed for the entire 120 miles? The current KOM on Strava is 20.6 mph but I don't think there's anyway to know if the rider did just one lap or more.

Great post! What historic ride do you have planned next?

Comment by Dave Nash on January 22, 2013 at 22:00

That's a really enjoyable and inspiring post and makes you appreciate the speeds those guys in 1948 were hitting, despite the issues of punctures and lack of support cars/carbon fibre frames/electronic shifting etc! The Stava stats put in all in perspective - anyone prepared to take a stab at Beyaert's average speed for a 19 minute lap (I'm no mathematician).

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