For once it was bright and the sun was gently climbing over the cricket sightscreens at Imber Court - the Metropolitan Police sports ground. So fine was the morning, anyone thinking of pulling on a pair of flannels and bowling a few overs from the Pavilion end would not have raised the suspicions of any passing pandas. Today though - it would be bikes and not bats at this venue.
It was six thirty in the morning - and preparations were well under way for the Hot Chillee sportive. I was there, at this untimely hour, in my capacity of a volunteer and was assigned the duties of manning the registration desk at this UKCycling Events organised sportive.
Up to this point - my perception of the organisation of sportives was simplistic. I turned up, registered, rode the route and went home. I could later re-live the agonies and ecstasies of the event in the form of event results, Strava segments and event photos. Nothing to it, what could be simpler? Well I now know that my smooth experience of sportives has been down to some excellent logistical planning and preparation. While events may be judged on signage and route - that is not the whole story.
In the rare early morning sunlight, car parking attendants were being briefed, mechanics were setting up, feed station supplies were being distributed and registration desks being organised.
My tasks included sticking magnetic strips on helmets, ensuring riders had signed in and the occasional piece of crowd control - at one point three over eager riders surged the desk to register - each eventually being moved along quietly after being issued with a free tea ticket, map, magnetic timer and dosssard. All this was completed under the watchful eye of photos of Met Police Cricket Teams from days gone by. No need for the riot act to be read here - just a continual stream of banter and enthusiasm, as a chance of riding in the sunshine raised the spirits of everyone.
Eventually we were stood down and presented with the chance to tackle the course. he standard route that I opted for had a quick smash and grab on the hills of the Pilgrims Way, followed by a nippy getaway through some typically rolling countryside - aided and abetted by a helpful tailwind. Turning north, the usual suspects of Leith Hill - Surrey's highest point - and WhiteDown - a villain that menaces with an 18% gradient - fitted the MO of a Surrey sportive quite nicely.
After a shock final 20% climb at Polesden Lacy it was a quick ride through Esher and back to the HQ. While the swag I captured was silver, this was a marvellous event - helped by the extraordinary weather and the fantastic opportunity to see behind the scenes of a well organised sportive event.
With two more upcoming events to be taken in to account - and the need to be let out again for good behaviour - the evening was spent with my wife at the Rose Theatre, Kingston - enjoying "Smack Family Robinson" with loose woman star Denise Welch and Kieth Allen a play that rather ironically pointed out that crime - does pay.