Report: Sky Ride Leicester
Event: 29th August 2010, Leicester
Report and Images: Andy Whitehouse
NEW!: Check out the Sky Ride ipadio links embedded into the page for interviews and 'phlogs'
Heavy showers didn't dampen the spirits of the Leicester's cyclists today with a return visit to the city by Sky Ride. Things got underway just after 10am from Abbey Park where an estimated 12,500 riders weaved their way through the park and out onto the closed roads of the city, giving many recreational cyclists a chance to ride on the safe, traffic-free roads. Riders of all ages turned up on all types of bikes - including Raleigh Choppers, tandems, recumbents, tourers and even hand crafted machines.
Above: A swarm of hi viz clad riders assemble in Abbey Park for the Grand Depart.
Evans Cycles were on hand in the depart village to check over bikes which had been gathering dust in sheds and make sure they were in tiptop shape to venture onto the city's highways - the queue never diminished from the start of the day and the Mechanics were kept busy sorting all kinds of problems and giving advice on the maintenance of riders' machines.
Above: The downpour clearly didn't dampen the spirits of this Sky Rider!
Thousands of Hi Viz Sky Ride bibs were given away to all comers and the bib girls were kept on their toes in the centre of the village, making sure everyone was kitted out in bright yellow. In fact the bibs proved very useful later in the day when the invited celebrities were on hand to sign these mementos from the day. Sky Ride ambassador and former Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones was a popular figure, interviewing riders and signing hundreds of bibs and even found time to lead the ride out of the park along with fellow star Munzy Stranger who also performed on the Sky stage with roving reporter and host, BMX rider CK Flash and Eastenders/Bend It Like Beckham actress Preeya Kalidas (even though she was late because she had had a puncture on her bike!).
Above: Sunshine and smiles - while we can't guarantee the former you can bank on the latter.
The British Cycling membership team were out in force giving away goodie bags to new BC recruits who signed on the day and the prize draw proved very popular with a chance to win a signed GB racing jersey. Team Sky riders were given a taste of the circuit when they rode along with everyone else on the 9km loop. Seeing the likes of top professionals Mathew Hayman, Steve Cummings, Greg Henderson, Davide Vigano, Nicolas Portal and Dario Cioni must have come as a bit of a shock to the cycling public, well at least they can say they held off five of the Team Sky riders on the road! The star riders were given a 'gentle' grilling later on the sofa by Sky Movies presenter Mark Dolan who found out what it entailed to be a top class bike rider.
Above: Out on the route - wall to wall cyclists.
British swimming star Jo Jackson and local hero Leicester Tigers' George Chuter were on hand with the Gadorade team, signing autographs and helping keep the crowd well hydrated with hundreds of bottles of Gatorade energy drink and Drench water, ironic really after the soaking we all had from the deluge of rain at lunchtime, but cyclists being a hardy bunch, the ride still continued.
Above: Another Sky Ride 'USP' - the ability to ride shoulder to shoulder with the Team Sky pros.
The Go-Ride team were based at the Abbey Pumping station museum, on hand to give all kinds of advice to would-be young racers and to put them through their paces with time trials and group races, the braver dads jumped on the Watt Bike to try and emulate the output of the pros and some finding they were a lot fitter then they probably realized. Darth Vader was on hand at the Space Centre to keep an eye on the youngsters. For one day only he was a ‘nice' Darth, willing to pose for photographs.
Above: Sky Ride takes over the Leicester streets
The crew on the Kidney Research stand were in the right place for sustenance with bhajis, samosas and cold drinks to get us round the final half of the route which was needed to get up Belgrave Bypass which was nasty little climb which got folks searching for the small chain ring. However it was a nice drop over the top to send the riders back down to a final loop taking them past the clock tower and the Curve Theatre before heading back to Abbey Park and a well deserved drink.
Above: Thumbs up for Sky Ride Leicester!
The atmosphere both on the route and at the depart village was great and a smile and a wave to the camera showed what an excellent day was had by all - both young and old. And who knows - there may be a few future stars in those yellow Sky Ride bibs?
We interviewed a few Sky Riders and asked them what they thought of the day:
A returning rider was Paul Hagan who is Ex Navy and rides a recumbent after losing a leg:
"I came here last year and did 58 miles but missed the start so I've come here a little earlier this time so I can go from the off. I'm really looking forward to the ride, can't wait to get going.
Richard, Trevor and Sanjay (who we found trying to tape a flag to a bike before the off!)
"This our first Sky Ride but we've done other mass participation rides, really looking forward to this though"
Three friends who had just finished the ride, Leanne, Hayley and Loz
"The ride was really good, well planned, everyone was considerate of each other and it was safe so it was really good."
For more information on Sky Ride and Sky Ride Local go to www.goskyride.com