What a nation? The national teams, both Great Britain and England, rolled out in the Olympic test event with all intentions of dominating and winning and yet the broadcast media ignored it. The capital city had roads closed off for the potential Olympians and crowds watched the inevitable. Team GB/Team England/Team Sky (call it what you will but they are all mates) led out Mark Cavendish to win on the Mall, hopefully in a rehearsal for the World Championships in Denmark next month. We trawled the news channels and eventually found South Today trying to create a story out of the road closers. They reported how a news agent had sold one less pack of Smarties and the only people that they could find to interview were two lots of Eastern Europeans on their way to work. Sad.
Watching the race was great. Instead of riding, which would have been fun but would mean that we couldn’t get to the climb, we got the train. It was jammed to capacity, standing room only. We arrived at Dorking before 9am and had to queue to get off Deepdene station. The A24 was closed off so walkers and cyclist could walk or ride up both carriage ways. The silence was deafening – no cars or motor bikes! We headed for the start of the climb knowing that no one could actually get onto the Zig-Zag road. By the skin of our teeth we got to there just as they closed off the road to spectators as it was at capacity: less than 300 people. We saw the race come through then there was complete pandemonium as they tried to change the road closer and spectator barriers as the riders would be coming from the opposite direction through Mickleham for their second lap. Eventually, it was sorted, the angry shouts from officials subsided and the riders came through again with the UK boys surrounding Cav at the front.
I was on the look out for two racers: Mark Cavendish and, local hero, Chris McNamara. Fortunately for me but unfortunately for Chris he got stuck behind a crash so was just off the back of the main bunch as they came by so I could have the pleasure off shouting on I rider that I knew. I can’t wait to ask if it helped at the next race that I meet him at. As we were lucky and early enough to get to this special spot we couldn’t see how many others spectators were around the rest of the Dorking area. Hopefully someone will tell me or there’ll be some official confirmation.
If this was a normal race with one lap the route would still create problems with crowds wanting to get to the main climb. However, many would be happy somewhere less busy. As this climb will be ridden nine times it makes it a MUST for every cycling and Olympic fan to want to go to. The problem will be is that access is banned for all but a chosen few. The spot that we got to was as good as it gets but space behind the barriers was only capable of taking crowds of one or two deep. I don’t understand why in the Surrey Hills they could not have chosen a more accessible route.
Other than the issue of access it was a fantastic race. What was really of note was that the whole event was done “properly”. The road closers and barriers were what the IOC demand and it was a joy to see in England. Well done to the organisers, the thousands of marshalls, the Police (there must have been at least one Police motor bike for each racer), the officials, the racers, the children with the cake stall and most importantly the spectators. There was too much going on for me to write it all up here.
Thank you to Vanda and Janet for company and pictures.