For most there was a carnival-like atmosphere accompanying the return of competitive cycling to the Olympic Velodrome last weekend. The sun shone unseasonably brightly on the crowds who made their way to the fifth and final round of the 2013-2014 Revolution Series and they were also treated to some magnificent racing in the superb building affectionately known as The Pringle.
But not everyone left the venue with that familiar rosy glow brought on by a combination of the sunshine outside and the artificially high heat inside. One person left the venue pale and shaken on a stretcher. Cycling is a tough sport and the heart-pumping thrills are often matched with heart-stopping spills.
The Lee Valley VeloPark / The Pringle
Sunday 4th August 2013. The Olympic Park, London.
A year on from the balmy party evening that became known as “Super Saturday” and the Olympic Park in the East End of London is looking a little less than super. For starters it’s 7am, it’s cloudy and decidedly cool. An enthusiastic PA is trying to rally the 8,000 or so cyclists still being corralled into starting lanes but most look half asleep and are more interested in eating a last minute banana or trying to jump the significant queues for the banks of Portaloo’s which have been set up between the Copper Box and what was the Media Centre. The other remaining buildings – the elegant but lonely Velodrome, the stripped-back Olympic Stadium and the now wingless Aquatic Centre are all off limits and surrounded by building site fences. Traces of the pathways between the key sites are now criss crossed with access roads and it’s hard to reconcile the air of lacklustre anticipation with the thronging energy of a year ago. With a number of articulated lorries and a small fleet of race cars waiting nearby for the afternoon action, it actually feels a bit like a ferry terminal. In terms of a showpiece legacy event the start of the inaugural Ride London-Surrey 100 is decidedly low-key.
I first thought about riding the Olympic Road Race route last year but somehow 2012 passed without me making it happen. The London-Surrey 100 seemed to be the perfect way of rectifying this and, having missed out on a place in what turned out to be the massively oversubscribed ballot, I was lucky enough to be offered a charity spot to ride for Great Ormond Street Hospital from their reserve list. GOSH helped cared for my first son Dylan in the last few days of his very short life so the chance to raise funds for them and do the event in their name made me very happy. I had taped a picture of him to my Garmin as I left my house in South East London earlier and knew I would be thinking of him throughout the day.