Published: 24 July 2013
Blogger: Gavin Hughes
When the concept of the Olympic Legacy was first aired many people could have been forgiven for believing that this was a cynical sound bite used by over-eager politicians, keen on cashing in on the afterglow of the London Olympics success.
Over the weekend of August 3-4 the cycling establishment took their opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of the concept and show the very real legacy of the Olympic spirit. From the family friendly FreeCycle on Saturday, to the men's Classic Road Race on Sunday it is clear that although the embers of the Olympic flame are cold - and the Doves have flown - the appetite to continue the Olympic spirit is still red-hot.
My own participation over the weekend started when my son, Hugo, and I boarded the train to Waterloo for the Free Cycle. The carriage was packed with families and their bikes but this was nothing compared to the sight that greeted us on the Embankment - where a carnival on wheels was taking place.
On the eight-mile closed road circuit London's greatest landmarks could be enjoyed from the unique perspective of a traffic free safe environment. From the regal Buckingham Palace, to the historic Tower of London via the very modern Gherkin. Tourists - many clearly taken by surprise - were fighting over hire bikes and relishing this unscheduled amendment to their day's sightseeing. You could see families of perplexed travellers rifling through the pages of guide books trying to fathom out what was going on - and though not yet mentioned in any Lonely Planet Guide - surely the authors are scrambling to include this event in the next amendment.
After Hugo's second sprint up the Mall there was time for an ice cream and a photo in front of Big Ben before heading home.
The fun and jollity of the FreeCycle was then followed by as great a show of ferocity and bravery that will ever be seen on the streets of the capital. The Wiggle Honda trio of Laura Trott, Dani King and Jo Rowsell sought to renew their rivalry with Hannah Barnes in the Grand Prix event. The keenly contested sprint was won by Trott - but not before Jo Rowsell showed the kind of spirit and bravery that is helping to send women's cycling in a spiralling ascendency and put greater weight behind the calls for parity in pay and kudos with the men's events. Let's hope her injury heals quickly and she will soon be out again with her teammates.
On Sunday morning I watched the sunrise at 04:30 on a boat at Surrey Quays, today it would be my turn. My riding pal Dave and I had secured places on the much vaunted Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. Rudely early start times necessitated that we stay closer to the start at Stratford and ride to the event rather than relying on taxis at such an anti-social hour.
Despite it being an inaugural event, over 16,000 cyclists participated in this one hundred mile, closed road sportive that started in East London, ventured in to the Surrey Hills and back to finish on the Mall. Having missed my starting pen did not detract from the absolute pleasure in riding along closed roads in such beautiful scenery. Even as early as 07:30 on a Sunday morning people were out on their doorsteps in dressing gowns cheering on the thousands of cyclists and their carbon fibre machines. The sun stayed out and at the second feeding zone, Boris Johnson was causing a furore and happily posing for photos.
The low point came as I was lying on the floor at the foot of Leith Hill straddled by a leather-clad St John's Ambulance motorcyclist who kindly assisted me with the cramp that gripped me in my leg, my thanks go out to him.
The pain was soon forgotten as the route passed by Dorking, Leatherhead and Kingston - where the crowds of supporters started gaining in volume as was the encouragement. Outside The Angel pub, Thames Ditton, newlyweds Michael and Sue were enthusiastically cheering on the many riders including their friend Darren who was posing for photos with his family raising money for Kidney Research.
The highlight of the day for many of the participants must have been the final sprint up The Mall - unfortunately for me my pace did not match that of Hugo the day before and I limped over the line in to the welcoming queue for a finisher's medal.
This event did cause great upheaval and required a tremendous amount of buy-in from the residents of the capital and Surrey, to whom each participant must surely owe a tremendous amount of thanks to. This was an extremely well organised event - as you would expect from the people who deliver the London Marathon year after year, it is only left to hope that - like the London Marathon - this event grows and becomes a fixture in the calendar.