Sunday, 23 March 2014

fun on the Sport Relief bike ride

It's the first time I've been back to the Queen Elizabeth Park since the Olympics were held there. It's about to be re-opened as a proper park and with several sporting zones included.

I was there for the Sport Relief bike ride, which turned out to be rather good fun. My early challenge was whether I'd be able to get my bike out of my car, because of the different opening times of the nearby car parks. Fortunately, I'd moved to the car park under the 24-hour Casino, which meant that, as long as I didn't mind negotiating a few flights of stairs, then I'd be okay.

This trip from Stratford into the Essex countryside was an occasion for proper lycra and a very bright orange top. Unlike some, I decided to go with long legs rather than shorts. My gloves were fingerless, but at 06:00 in the morning it was probably the wrong decision, with the thermometer reading 6 degrees.

A group of us took the perimeter road around the large shopping centre to get to the Lee Park Velodrome, and even at this time there were quite a few people around, ready to see us on our way. I was in the 6:30 wave for starting, and through faffing with safety pins on the number, was one of the last of the first group to go.

Early sunshine, yet still cold, it would be another 45 minutes before there'd be any real warmth, rather than just the sun's low glow, which we were riding towards.

Stratford, Wanstead, Redbridge, Ilford and then out into the hillier Essex countryside. Empty roads at this time on a Sunday and a route that had picked its way through side streets, around an urban farmyard(?) and even a short stretch on a gravelled track. Good organisation, friendly folk waving, cheering and pointing out the route. A well-run event.

I wasn't in a hurry, and a couple of the hills, a dash of sleet and a playful cross-wind also played their part in ensuring I'd not make any fancy time. But hey, this was for charity in any case.

The last part of the return journey was over the same route as the way out. There were many others still on the outward section when I was heading back to base. They'd probably been sensible and selected a more sane start time. By now there were buses and a few trucks around, but the biggest obstacle was somehow the sheer number of cyclists still heading outwards.

When the Orbit tower suddenly loomed into view, I realised I was almost back. Unlike some landmarks, the approach back to the Olympic Park was pretty quick and I was soon on the finishing ramp with people clapping as I collected my little medal and a fresh glug of water.

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