Isolation diary: Remembering London 2012 – cycling around

A few seconds after I took this photo of Bradley Wiggins, from a vantage point in the Rose Theatre, a thousand people surged into the building to watch the rest of the race on a giant screen. Huge cheers erupted as Wiggins turned into Kingston’s Ancient Market, crossed the bridge to Hampton Wick and then on to the finish line outside Hampton Court Palace. It won him a gold medal in the 2012 Olympic time trials.

He endeared himself to local residents for ever when he said this about the roaring from the spectators:

But the point where I was most aware of it was coming around the roundabout in Kingston – the noise was incredible.

I’m never, ever going to experience anything like that again in my sporting career. That’s it. That experience topped everything off right there. It was phenomenal.

The Olympic road races had also passed through Kingston a few days before. There was a massive amount of organisation – and disruption – around all the road cycling events. In fact, a year before, there had been a trial event for the road races, which required rolling road closures from central London and out into the Surrey Hills. Box Hill featured prominently and if you have ever driven up the Zig Zag Road you will know how challenging that is for cyclists. Although we don’t live directly on the route, we were quite limited in where we could go throughout the whole day when there was a road race on.

The annual RideLondon festival was born out of those exciting times. Every year in August some 30,000 riders do a 100 mile ride on roughly the same route as the one used in the Olympics. It is the cycling equivalent of the London Marathon, with a mixture of club and fun riders, the latter often collecting sponsorship for a charity. Alongside this there is a longer run for elite riders which usually takes them up and down Box Hill several times.

Most years the route takes cyclists through the centre of Kingston, both going out and returning, so the town takes on a festive atmosphere for the day.

There are other events within RideLondon – including shorter rides designed for new riders and younger people, and a family bike ride through traffic free central London. Sadly none of this is happening this year.

To be honest I hadn’t really appreciated sports cycling before all this happened. The road races seemed quite boring, and it was some time before I understood the tactics involved as team members slip-streamed and paced each other. Track cycling was quite weird, especially that strange event where the cyclists balance, completely stationary, before suddenly racing off. I couldn’t imagine how there could possibly be so many ways of cycling round and round in circles.

My husband knew better and I was hooked after we attended another pre-Olympic trial session at the newly built Velodrome in the Olympic Park. The building is visually stunning, inside and out, covered everywhere with warm wood planking. Commentators explained the rules of each event, including the delightful Keirin where the cyclists start by following a pace setter on a moped for a few circuits. We’ve been back a couple of times since to watch Six Day London.

Although I am not a cyclist myself, I can see how important cycling has become during the pandemic, both as a form of exercise and as a means of transport. New temporary cycle paths have been constructed, and it would be good if many of those became permanent. They will help us all to tackle the other crisis looming over us, which has not gone away whilst our attention was elsewhere – climate change.

 

 


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.

 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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