part of the Road Cycling race for the Olympics took part in Surrey where
crowds lined the roads to cheer the teams on.
As a long term Chiang Mai resident and cycling enthusiast, this year has
been outstanding for us British cyclists. Bradley Wiggins will go down in
history as the champion road cyclist who changed British cycling for ever. A
new era for British cycling has begun and with the achievements of the
British Team Sky at this year’s Tour De France never has there been more
cycling fever and excitement in the sport as there is now. Britain has, of
course, had its share of high achievers in the cycling world with brilliant
time trail and track champions such as Chris Boadman, Chris Hoy, David
Millar, Bradley Wiggins and of course the infamous Manx Missile, Mark
Cavendish. Cavendish rose to the top of his profession as World champion in
2011 and has the reputation of being one of the fastest sprinters in
history. He also now holds the record of 23 Stage wins in the Tour de
France, a record by any sprinter in tour history. But its Bradley Wiggins
who has written his name into British sporting legends, who will forever be
remembered as the first ever British winner of the Tour de France –
something that just a couple of years ago seemed out of reach of any British
got into the spirit of the Games.
To see the Yellow jersey (Wiggins) leading out the world champion
(Cavendish) sporting the rainbow Jersey of the world champion which he has
worn with so much pride during the tour, on the sprint for the final stage
on the Champs Elysee was an awe-inspiring sight. I am sure I can speak for a
whole nation of tour followers – holding my breath and covered in goose
bumps I felt as if internal combustion was about to happen as I watched
history in the making! Cavendish has won the final stage on the Champs
Elysee four years running. Team Sky had the overall Tour winner Bradley
Wiggins, and second place, Chris Froome, on the podium. Team sky also won 6
stages of this year’s tour; 7 of the 21 stages were won by British cyclists.
Records just keep being broken!
How big is this for British cycling?” said one Tour de France commentator to
another, “ BIG” was the reply “it will change the course of British cycling
forever” Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish
and the whole of the Sky road cycling team who did themselves and the whole
British nation proud in this year’s Tour de France.
And then, just a week after celebrations on Le Champs Elysee the nation’s
excitement for the Olympic 250km road cycling race and Mark Cavendish’s
dream to take the Gold! I joined thousands of spectators on the 15.5 km Box
Hill loop in Surrey where the majority of the 250km Olympic race was
focused. With true British fair play in mind the Olympic organisers did not
come up with a route that would favour our British Sprinter, the fastest man
in the world. If he was to achieve one of his most significant ambitions he
would have to climb a hill 9 times. The climb is not the longest or steepest
of ascents but 9 times around this circuit is the equivalent of cycling a
serious alpine pass, with 140kms of the race held through some of the South
of England’s loveliest countryside.
The crowds started arriving at 6 a.m. juggling for the best view. Some had
even camped out the night before. It is estimated that over 1 million lined
the route hoping to see Team GB win a Gold medal – unprecedented support
that even amazed the athletes; “I’ve never seen so many people at a bike
race.” Explained Michael Rogers, one of Team Sky riders who was spectating.
The atmosphere was electric as we watched Team GB, Wiggins, Cavendish,
Froome, Millar and Stannard attempt to control the entire race, riding in
formation in the front, leading the other Olympic teams for the majority of
the race. Union Jacks lined the streets and adorned many of the spectators –
even many dogs were patriotic enough to show off the Union Jack!
But on the day the energy sapping route and the other Olympic teams’
reluctance to help bring back the breakaway group left Team GB unable to
deliver Mark Cavendish for his sprint to Gold medal victory. They were
beaten in the last 50kms by a cleverly timed attack whose advantage they
were unable to erode, despite the efforts of Wiggins in particular, as the
race left the Surrey hills and headed back to London.
Despite the tangible disappointment among all of the Team GB supporters it
will remain not only a fantastic experience for the spectators, but for the
Team themselves. Cavendish described the experience of competing in front of
such a large and vocal support at a home Games;
‘All our ears are ringing,’ he said. ‘Obviously we don’t pick up on
individuals, you just hear noise. It was tremendous the whole way round.
‘It’s something I’ll remember forever.
‘I haven’t got a medal but I can be completely proud of my team and
completely proud of my country for their support.’
There is no doubt that cycling has a new status as one of Britain’s major
sports. We will be seeing more of these talented athletes, maybe in the next
few cycling events at this year’s Olympics and definitely on the world
cycling stage over the months and years to come.
MicaŽla Hobbs cycles with Crouching Tiger Cycling Tours that offers road
cycling tours around Chiang Mai and the North.