If you’ve read my last two blog posts (and thank you for the interest, if you have) then you’ll know that last weekend saw me back in my home city of Manchester, in the North West of England, taking part in the second annual Great Manchester Cycle.
The event is a closed-road sportive with the start, finish line and lapping point (for those doing more than one lap) at the Etihad campus that accommodates the Manchester Velodrome and the City of Manchester Stadium, home to Manchester City football club (MCFC).
The velodrome, home to the UK’s National Cycling Centre and British Cycling, the national governing body for the sport here in the UK, was opened in 1994 and hosted the track cycling events at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
I was living in the South of England at the time but I still remember how proud I felt of my home city as I watched the coverage of the games on TV. They were judged to have been very successful and were a fantastic showcase for a city that had been necessarily rejuvenated following the 1996 city-centre bombing that caused so much damage.
At the far end of the course, the 13 mile loop passes Old Trafford, home to MCFCs great rivals Manchester United and, indeed, one of the entertaining cameos of the sportive came as the group I was in passed the stadium. The rider alongside me, a Manchester City supporter, was so busy gesticulating (jokingly, I hasten to add) at the home of their rivals that he nearly fell off his bike!
With three distances on offer – 52 miles, 26 miles and 13 miles – the Great Manchester Cycle is designed to encourage people of all abilities and cycling interests to take part and with some major road closures to accommodate it the tagline for the sportive was “Rule the Roads”, albeit only for a few hours on one day, which we duly did.
After all, it’s a rare opportunity indeed to drive along a segment of motorway – the Mancunian Way – and blow every red light on the route without getting arrested or worse!
My ever-patient support crew, looking after my bike at a deserted Etihad Campus
As we were visiting my folks, who live in Manchester, I’d opted for the 26 mile event to avoid interfering too much with our socialising plans for the remainder of the weekend.
My start time was 11:45 but I wanted to have a good nosey round at what was going on so we arrived, frankly, ridiculously early on the morning of the event. The 52-mile cyclists had already set off and, in fairness, at that time of the morning the place was pretty deserted!
As my start time approached, though, the site began to fill up and we began to get the familiar feeling of excitement that comes with the buzzing atmosphere of a big city event.
I was very glad of my privileged position at the start – courtesy of my British Cycling membership – as we had a reserved section at the head of a huge field in which the final cyclist passed the start line some 15 minutes after Joanna Rowsell – British National Time Trial Champion and Olympic gold medalist – had sounded the horn to start the event. As you can see from the picture at the top of this article, I was only a few rows behind the start line and crossed over it after only 4 seconds.
I completed two laps to cover my 26 mile distance, both in 00:39:04, so my total ride time was 01:18:08, 90th overall and 20th in my age group, which is an achievement I think I can be justly proud of.
More than that, though, I had a superb day out – a friend has commented that on each of the pictures of me mid-ride there’s a enormous smile across my face and, looking back at them, that’s pretty much the case. It was a fantastic event, one I’d recommend to anyone and one I’ve already signed up for next year.
- Great Manchester Cycle – http://www.greatcycle.org/
- UK National Cycling Centre – http://www.nationalcyclingcentre.com
- British Cycling – http://www.britishcycling.org.uk
- Joana Rowsell – http://www.joannarowsell.com
- Manchester – http://www.visitmanchester.com
- Sportcity – http://www.sportcity-manchester.com
- Manchester City FC – http://www.mcfc.co.uk
- Manchester United FC – http://www.manutd.com/Splash-Page.aspx
- Manchester Bombing – http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/15/newsid_2527000/2527009.stm