The challenge for Indian riders

We make no apology for aiming an article at a single nation’s riders. India is LEL’s third largest source of interest, far greater than any other European country except Germany. More than France, more than Italy. And the Indian riders are especially keen too. We get more emails and messages from India than any other country.

Yet Indian riders struggle to finish the event. To date fewer than a dozen have finished in time, yet we received hundreds of applications for places on LEL2021 from India. For a lot of riders, taking part is the aim, and finishing in time is merely an ambition, if not an aspiration. But wouldn’t you rather get on the finishers’ list? Here is where we think you could work on your skills in anticipation of 2021 (or 2022). They come from experienced randonneurs from India and elsewhere. If you can master these, you stand a much greater chance of finishing.

Delhi Randonneurs' Brevet Climb Ka Baap 1200

Too many of you ride long distances on flat terrain. This is fine for the 300km of LEL that is on the plains. But the other 1300km is mostly hilly. And because it is hilly you climb more, smaller hills. This can really sap your energy and your spirits, as you grind your way uphill and pick your way down hill.

So like Prashant Tidke above, and Sharvari below, you need hill practice. Failing that you need to head to the mountains. Delhi Randonneurs' Brevet Climb Ka Baap 1200, organised by Chiro Mitra, looks just the sort of thing you should be aspiring to finish if you want to be confident of completing LEL. It’s also good training for….

Yes, I know I go on about the weather a lot. Again, I make no apology. I’m sure you have plenty of weather in India too, but it’s unlikely to be this cold when it is bad. You will need the sort of equipment a British rider would wear for the winter.

This photo of Manjunath Shenoy shows you the sort of kit you will need. You will be able to buy LEL gilet, armwarmers and kneewarmers in time for the event, but I recommend Hyve Sports for a winter jacket. My other top tip is, if the weather gets bad, DO NOT STOP CYCLING. If you are wet and you stop, you will get very cold very quickly. Your best source of heat is yourself, so keep riding, if even you get caught in a storm. This will be tough, but it will be a lot easier if you make sure you are prepared with your…

The United Kingdom is one of the most densely populated large(r) countries in the world. This is especially true of England, where most of the event takes place. To avoid the traffic of population centres, LEL uses the country's dense patchwork of rural lanes. The lanes are very pretty, and traffic is light. But oh! the navigation!. For long sections of the route, there will be a direction every 1km or so. You rarely get 10km of uninterrupted cyucling.

Sharvari Kher, 2017 LEL ancienne, in the hills

Even with a GPS, the turnings can be unclear. I have three pieces of advice.

  • Invest in a GPS unit. Download UK road maps too. We will supply a full set of GPS tracks for you. After you've uploaded them, check them on the map to see if they look right. Don't wait until you are in the UK to do this - it will cause you unnecessary stress to sort out if anything goes wrong.
  • Learn to read the routesheet. This is a good backup to your GPS unit. It will have additional information such as heavy traffic warnings, fords, and more information on complicated junctions. We'll publish a guide to the routesheet soon. As well as out usual routesheet, our 2021 route director Nick Wilkinson will publish a more descriptive, narrative routesheet which may be more suited to you. We'll take you through both of them to help you understand how they work. 
  • Learn what distance feels like. It's really helpful to get a sense of what it feels like, in terms of time and spped, to cycle 1,2,3,5, or 10km. A keen sense of distance acts as a useful check to your GPS unit or (especially) the route sheet. 

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