I’ve never wanted to get out and ride a bike more than I have over the last two months.
I used to have a mountain bike, for some reason, and I completely neglected it when I was younger. Preferring to lock myself in my bedroom with heavy music and video games, it soon got pretty obvious that I was neglecting my fitness and – basically – got really fat. Things improved towards sixth form; despite now only having one sports lesson a week, which diminished to nothing a couple of years later, I adored the team sports of football, basketball – even ten-pin bowling down at the arcades! Obviously, nothing beats the home-made hobby of plaszyball (if you don’t know… maybe later, but it’s a cross between football and volleyball on a tennis court) but the biggest fitness thrill was starting to get out on that bike and exploring my home town.
Nobody could ever consider me to be a ‘cyclist’; I couldn’t exactly get up to much speed and was scared to even ride up onto a kerb, but the freedom of speeding down roadsides and whizzing past plodding pedestrians was second to none. The furthest I ever left town on my bike was probably about four miles – hardly a Tour de Yorkshire. Still, had I kept up with this, taking it with me to uni, I could have gone further and further. Further than Messrs Wiggins and Froome? Probably not.
July had the Tour de France. August has the Olympic Games. In the space of two short months, I’ve been given a crash course (no pun intended, promise) in the complex, tactical sport of cycling and there’s still the disciplines of cross-country mountain biking and the BMX to go. The terms ‘peloton’, ‘yellow jersey’ and ‘groupe maillot jaune’ have been thrown at me and have started to actually make sense but, at the end of the day, it’s just 200 cyclists having a race. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, and I’m captivated, but it’s fantastic that people can jump on a bike and emulate their heroes. Sadly, I don’t have a bike anymore so I can’t go out and sprint down the high street like Mark Cavendish, so I’ll just have to sit in front of the telly and spur him on.
It isn’t quite the same same in the velodrome. Nobody can just get on their bike and speed to their local arena, drifting around those iconic corners. It’s hard to take away their achievements and events like the men’s team pursuit are hugely enthralling, but 4000m hardly compares to a 250km road race. The training is largely identical and they all put their body through torture – I just feel I can relate to the road racers more. I’d love to get out into the countryside and race with my friends, wind on my helmet. Moreover, I’d love for the rest of our cyclists to go all out and win more golds to inspire a future generation.
Although it seems like false praise for the track cyclists, all my congratulations go out to Victoria Pendleton and the pursuit team for grabbing golds, tonight. It goes to show how far British cycling has come when I’m complacent about winning way before the halfway walk. Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy and the team were so far ahead by 2000m that the result was never in doubt and I decided to get on what more risky activities – like eating my girlfriend’s baking. Pendleton’s victory in the Keirin was a lot closer and she would probably have lost it with another 20m, but she deserves that win so much after severe disappointment last night. Add that to medals from Wiggins, Froome, Armitstead, Hoy, Kenny and Hindes and we are top of the world.
The rest of the world can get on their bike.
Let’s not forget the great win achieved by Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in the women’s double sculls final this morning. A lot of coverage has been set aside for Grainger finally getting the gold, but Watkins deserves it just as much and both are fitting winners. That’s not to mention the second judo medal in two days from Karina Bryant, more rowing prizes from Alan Campbell, George Nash and Will Satch and the second bronze of the Olympics for Rebecca Adlington. It was a such a shame that she couldn’t repeat her exploits at Beijing but she was heavily beaten by an amazing teenager and she shouldn’t lost heart. I’d kill for an Olympic medal, not to mention four of them.