In the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, legacy has become a bit of a buzzword in sport. It certainly applies to the increasing profile of cycling in this country, not least with the arrival of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100mile (or 86-mile, to be more accurate, after organisers cut the route due to the torrential rain). Often described as 'the London marathon of the cycling world', this is an event which the nation has welcomed into the sporting calendar with open arms - even in the midst of yesterday's Hurricane Bertha remnants.
It's great to see cycling go from strength to strength having such big exposure recently through the Tour De Yorkshire, the Commonwealth Games and through a mass participation event like RideLondon. You can clearly see the feel-good factor from our successes on the road and track, trickling down to everyone from the sheer numbers of supporters and participants out there. Riders like Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome have become household names now; there wasn't anything near the level of interest when I was starting out. I certainly couldn't imagine so many amateur cyclists taking over London for the day!
The nation's enthusiasm for cycling post-Olympics has had a great impact on charities in this country, with more and more people signing up for events like RideLondon to raise much needed funds. I'm proud to be blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan's new Cycling Ambassador and I'm currently supporting our riders taking on challenges like this. It's a great honour to help these guys taking on huge tests for such a great cause. I took on the London Marathon for this special charity last year and although it was hard, it's an experience I won't forget.
Although it didn't go fully to plan, with the course having to be restricted for safety concerns, even the remnants of Hurricane Bertha couldn't dampen the spirits. No more so than this weekend could you see the enthusiasm for this sport with riders braving the adverse weather to finish and the spectators out there cheering them on. As an ex-athlete, believe me, these were very tough conditions and certainly no walk in the park.
For all those people who were inspired by RideLondon and want to get into endurance cycling here are my top tips to ramp up for race day:
1. Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint. Set off at a comfortable pace; don't get too excited by the occasion and concentrate on your own race. A good analogy is to think of yourself as a car, don't waste all your fuel by slamming hard on the accelerator in all that traffic.
Don't think of your distances as daunting mile counts, break the race down in your mind into little chunks. Have a look at the route and set yourself little targets to aim for. Have a natter with fellow riders and take your mind off things - it makes the day go much quicker.
2. Make sure you eat and drink regularly. One of the benefits of cycling is that it is relatively easy to refuel along the way. Keep hydrated as much possible, if you get to a point where you're already thirsty then you've waited too long - drink before your thirsty. Within the first 15 minutes, have a nibble on an energy or muesli bar, banana or flapjack and from then on eat at regular intervals. It's important to have something that you do like - my personal favourite is a cheese and jam sandwich - sounds horrible but tastes very good!
3. Slip stream; don't push on all the time. You will have seen during the Tour De France how riders cycle closely behind each other or as we call it 'sit on wheels'. Taking shelter behind other riders, helps them to limit their output and conserve energy. Again, with the car analogy, imagine yourself as a car streamlined behind a truck saving petrol.
4. Make sure all your gear is in order. Have some nice padded shorts at the ready, a cycling jersey with pocket for food, money and a mobile in case of emergencies. Another tip is to strap a spare inner tube and pump under the saddle. All the equipment is so small these days so they don't take up too much space but could really help.
5. Keep in my mind why you are doing it. If you are riding for a great cause like Anthony Nolan it's the best motivation to remember why you are doing it and it'll help get those tired legs over that finish line.
I hope everyone had a good ride and you are enjoying a hard earned rest, keep smiling and spread that cycling bug!
If you're inspired by this year's race you can sign up for a guaranteed spot in the 2015 RideLondon race by signing up with Anthony Nolan here.
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