Overcoming inexperience and doubt at the M2L

The Manchester to London Challenge is not only the preserve of hardened cyclists. A relatively inexperienced all-female group of riders from the Rapha London office challenged themselves to train and take part together last year, with inspiring results.
We spoke to one such member of the team, Lucy Mullen, who told us of the importance of having strong support behind her and how special the day itself truly was.

What inspired you to sign up to the Rapha Manchester – London ride last year?
It was a moment of madness… The girls from the office wanted to do something as a team that challenged us, and it seemed challenging enough!

Have you ever tackled a ride like this before?
No. I had done the London Revolution – a two-day, 185 mile sportive – with my Dad, which I found tricky in parts, so it was a scary prospect to try and attempt an even bigger distance in a single day.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your passion for riding?
I rode a lot as a kid and our family holidays were geared towards cycling. I moved to London four years ago and could not stand public transport so I brought my little shopper down and fell back in love with riding through that.

What were your biggest concerns about taking on a 220-mile ride? How did you train and keep motivated for it?
My biggest concerns about riding the 220 miles was letting my team down if I could not make it. It was a powerful motivator to get out and train. Training as a group was also good as you couldn’t just give a ride a miss if you weren’t feeling like it that day because the others were waiting for you.

What would you say to any other women thinking of taking on this ride or getting into cycling in general?
Take as much advice as possible but try and filter it. Don’t be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, if you want to start training on a hybrid and no chamois cream in your shorts that’s fine, you don’t have to go all out straight away, it’s completely normal not to want to do that. As you develop as a cyclist and learn more you’ll learn what you want to get out of it. Just go to the level you want to go to, let it happen naturally and enjoy it for what it is.

What was the furthest you rode before the big day?
We rode together most weekends, building up slowly. The biggest distance we did was 205k, going to Battle and back in a day. Having the team around me was so important as I’m not a very strong rider. You don’t want to disappoint yourself but more than anything you don’t want to let your team down. Although that’s a lot of pressure, it’s good pressure.

Did it make a difference to be training and riding with colleagues/friends from the office on the day?
It made a massive difference to me. You get to know one another and when you’re not having a good time you don’t even need to say anything – the team know and pulls round you. We ended up being able to ride together very fast which helped a lot on the day. Lots of random things happen on a bike when you’re riding with other people that you share an experience with one another, you see things, and the conversations are really odd because you never quite finish one! To this day we still talk about the silly things that happened on the day.

How important was it for you to have support from your family?
I was so nervous that my Dad offered to drive the route behind the team with a bike rack and lots of food in case I needed to drop out. There was plenty of food at each stop but it was lovely to see him at each stop saying, “You’re doing great, kid!”

You fundraised to support Ambitious about Autism. How did you raise the money, who did you ask and how much did you raise in the end?
Our team didn’t just ride together, we did the fundraising together too. Working in product development, we decided to make a special edition jersey for a customer. We auctioned it off and the person who bought it could specify the colours, the fabric and trim. The person who bid the highest got a jersey made for a friend in his favourite football team’s colours.

Do you have a final message for your fellow Manchester to London riders or for anyone still thinking about signing up?
Just go for it! It was the most amazing ride I have done – the sensory experience was incredible and the sense of achievement was overwhelming. To start something that I believed was impossible, and finish with all my friends and me smiling was very special. Even on the day I honestly still didn’t think it was achievable and that I wasn’t going to make it, and I was sure I’d be jumping in my Dad’s car at some point. And yes there were some really low moments, but the highs were 100% worth it. Crossing the finish line was absolutely amazing, and it was such a beautiful route. I didn’t think it was going to be that good, but it was. I’d love to do it with my Dad next year because he hadn’t thought it possible either but watching us do it from the car made him want to do it too.