Living next door to the biggest party on earth

In the summer of 2012 East London hosted what was billed to be the biggest sporting party on Earth – the Olympic and Paralympic Games. During the games, we walked along the Herford Union Canal in Hackney Wick (which adjoins the boundary of the Olympic Park) to have a look at what it must be like to have such an infamous neighbour…

Hertford Union Canal

We all hate the Olympics

Stadium roof

Imagine

No cycling

stadium

You can also read about my visit to the Paralympic cycling road racing or see all my London 2012 photos on Flickr.

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Fans Backed Womens Cycling

While part of professional cycling implodes, shall we turn our attention to something more (ahem) positive?

When I Grow Up I Want To Ride Like Marianne Vos

Back in July, after returning from the Tour, I stood in the pouring rain in the newly opened London Olympic Park watching The Greatest Cyclist In The World be pushed all the way to the line by a vegetarian from West Yorkshire. Enthralled, excited and motivated, I rushed to the Olympic Park Megastore to buy a Great Britain branded cycling shirt and vowed to buy a road bike. I wanted more. The Olympic Velodrome opened and Queen Victoria stepped off the throne to be succeeded by a young pretender from just up the M11. But I still wanted to see more. So I stood in the baking Kentish sunshine at Brands Hatch and unashamedly cried as Sarah Storey destroyed not only her own race field, but also that of the mens’ race that started 3 minutes in front of her. I sat in Look Mum No Hands with a lump in my throat watching the Road Race World Championships as The Greatest Cyclist In The World won the rainbow stripes, thinking how privileged I was to be watching her race. Thinking about how I would tell my children about watching her in the same way as my Dad told me about watching The Cannibal. Having lost my way with football, having got tired of the air of suspicion that hangs over men’s cycling, I realised I had found a sport that truly moved me. I wanted more. I needed more. Much more…

But the joy of this discovery was overshadowed. I found articles about Emma Pooley having to consider retirement because of the lack of support she was getting. I went to watch an event at the historic Herne Hill Velodrome where the lack of female cyclists entering was openly criticised. I read Sarah Storey imploring more women to get involved in cycle racing, so I nervously entered a sportive. And I trawled the internet looking for more women’s Pro Cycling events I could go and watch, but they just weren’t there. So I asked for help…

Tweet from Sarah Storey

Which is when I discovered #fansbackedwomensteam and #fansbackedwomenscycling, an intiative started in part by an article on Cyclismas by Stefan Wyman from Matrix Prendras about the role of fans in women’s cycling. This quote spoke particularly strongly to me:

“In many ways, women’s cycling lacks history; certainly compared to the men’s side of the sport. This era of raised interest in women’s cycling is a chance to make a new kind of history for the sport, in a new, interesting and socially inclusive way.”

The opportunity for a community based model for cycling really excites me, something inclusive and accountable to the fans but also a fantastic opportunity to give these talented sportswomen the platform and audiences they deserve. And to give us more of the fabulous, enthralling women’s cycling that I am so desperate to watch.

The Fans Backed Womens Cycling project is continually evolving, but I strongly suggest you follow Stefan Wyman and #fansbackedwomenscycling on Twitter for progress. This is a massive opportunity for cycling fans, to take back pro cycling from the dominance of dodgy Texans, dubious media magnates and questionable governing bodies and make it in to something that is true and exciting and ours. All of ours.
My magnificent Marianne Vos T shirt, pictured above, is by Freebird Velo

London 2012


Spent two amazing days in the sun at the paralympic road cycling at Brand Hatch this week. Sarah Storey! David Stone! Zanardi!

I could go on and use far too many exclamation marks. Here’s a little montage:

Top to bottom and Left to right: Crowds from all over the world gather on the straight; Very British spectators; Ello ello ello; The curve down to the final straight; A coach from the french team takes a ride; Sarah Storey wins gold.

As always you can see my whole London 2012 set on Flickr. I really don’t want the Paralympics to end, thank goodness the Tour of Britain is starting today to let us down gently…