London Edinburgh London 2013 Stage Preview

The interactive maps can be a little fussy at loading – if you don’t see a handy red route hit refresh a few times…

OK, it’s not quite the Tour de France, but given London Edinburgh London (LEL) kicks off on Sunday morning I thought I’d share a quick rundown of the route.

In case you’ve somehow missed the growing terror eminating from this blog, LEL is an audax (a long distance cycling event with a maximum time limit) which runs every four years. This time round just under 1000 folk will endeavour to cycle the 1400km, starting early on Sunday outside Buckingham Palace, hitting Edinburgh around Tuesday, and then hopefully returning to the outskirts of London by Friday morning. Along the way each rider will have to get a card stamped at a number of previously advertised control points (and there’s normally a secret control or two thrown in as well to catch out anyone stealing a sneaky vehicular lift…).

The route isn’t signposted, so it’s GPS, routesheets and maps to the fore. Strictly speaking you’re free to choose your own path between controls, although the organisers have put so much effort into creating the suggested route that it would be a shame not to try and stick to it. All the following discusses the official route, including the ammendments published this week and the ‘night time diversion’ near the finish.

Overall Route.

The big picture routemap from the LEL website. There's no scale, but the bottom bit of the map is England, and the top is Scotland.
The big picture routemap from the LEL website. There’s no scale, but the bottom bit of the map is England, and the top is Scotland.

1453.4km travelled and 12,005m climbed in just under five days. Not including any unintended diversions as a result of getting lost.

Moving on to the stages themselves, each are numbered with a prefix letter indicating whether you’re heading north or south. I’ve including the stage distance in the title, as well as the meters climbed and descended.

N0 (Prologue) – Buckingham Palace to Loughton. 30.3 km, +284m / -251m

Nice easy start through the centre of London, which will hopefully be quiet at 6am on a Sunday morning. Everyone on the prologue cycles en masse, so there’s not even any need to navigate (so long as the person at the front knows what’s going on…)

N1 – Loughton to St Ives. 99.6km, +790m / -813m

The first proper stage, and oddly bumpy for southern England. Hopefully fresh legs will make short work of the hills.

N2 – St Ives to Kirton. 81.1km, +196m / -214m

Pushing up towards The Wash, this stage is about as flat as it gets. A headwind could make it pretty hideous, but hopefully everyone will still be clumped up enough from the start for a good few chaingangs to form and drive onwards.

N3 – Kirton to Market Rasen. 68.5km, +260m / -232m

Another flat one, although the second half has a bit of climbing as we reach the Lincolnshire Wolds. Pass a couple of airbases in the early stages, as well as the Dambusters memorial in Woodhall Spa.

N4 – Market Rasen to Pocklington. 84.8km, +689m / -686m

A pair of decent hills either side of the Humber Bridge. High winds have the potential to close the bridge to cyclists, resulting in a substantial diversion and probably tears. Fingers crossed… We’ll be aiming to make our first sleeping stop at the end of this leg, sometime in the early hours of Monday morning.

N5 – Pocklington to Thirsk. 65.9km, +624m / -622m

Skirting the edge of York, we push north west. SHould be quite a pleasant ride, with only Monday morning rush hour near York to confuse the issue.

N6 – Thirsk to Barnard Castle. 67.4km, +560m / -403m

Hello Pennines. A couple of decent lumps to push over, but nothing too bad just yet.

N7 – Barnard Castle to Brampton. 81.8km, +1029m / -1149m

Plus points; only eight navigational instructions to follow over the 80km. Negatives; the 25km ascent of Yad Moss. The grade never gets silly, but it is pretty relentless and exposed. We’re aiming to be here on Monday evening.

N8 – Brampton to Moffat. 74.5km, +455m / -417m

We reach the border after 22km at Gretna. Bonus points for anyone managing to get their bike in a wedding photo. Hills pretty reasonable as we nip past the edge of the Cheviots. Moffat marks another sleep stop at around 2am on Tuesday.

N9 – Moffat to Edinburgh. 81.0km, +958m / -956m

Fresh legs to tackle a grim first 10km, but then we reap the benefits of our height for the next 70km into Edinburgh. Should be another fun stage, hopefully leaving us with enough time at the end to push deeper into Edinburgh than the control and get a photo outside Laid Back Bikes.

S1 – Edinburgh to Brampton. 146.5km, +1914m / -1955m

This has the potential to be ride-endingly-grim if the weather bites hard. The stage includes a pair of additional controls, but neither with a great number of beds, so we’re currently thinking of it as one big one. With six climbs of over 100m and two real biggies, we’re really hoping for a nice tailwind to drive us southwards. It’s likely we’ll be deploying our currently unallocated sleep stop at Brampton.

S2 – Brampton to Barnard Castle. 83.6km, +1112m / -991m

Back over Yad Moss. If we didn’t sleep at the start, we’ll certainly be sleeping at the end!

S3 – Barnard Castle to Thirsk. 66.9km, +400m / -556m

The reverse of N6. We’ll hopefully be hitting this Wednesday lunchtime.

S4 – Thirsk to Pocklington. 67.2km, +617m / -620m

N5 from the other end.

S5 – Pocklington to Market Rasen. 84.8km, +686m / -689m

And the reverse of N4. Fingers still crossed for good weather over the Humber Bridge. Market Rasen marks our last planned sleep stop on Wednesday night.

S6 – Market Rasen to Kirton. 68.5km, +232m / -260m

Fresh legs on Thursday morning to hit the reverse of N3. Hopefully make good time on the long, flat second half.

S7 – Kirton to St Ives. 80.9km, +216m / -198m

N3 again, with yet more flat stuff taking us into Thursday lunchtime.

S8 – St Ives to Gt Easton. 74.5km, +626m / -564m

We dogleg east here, rather than repeating the route we followed North several days previously. A couple of reasonable climbs which would be fine under normal conditions, but possible a bit of a challenge with 1200km already in the legs.

S9 – Gt Easton to Loughton. 45.6km, +367m / -406m

The final stretch, where hopefully the euphoria of finishing will drag us over the last remaining hills. Finish at Loughton. Collapse.