Women's Olympic mountain bike race
It was an early start as me and my friend Rob. I got up at 5.25am having missed my alarm for 5am. I arrived at Rob’s house in Bexhill for 6.10am and we drove to Orpington railway station.
We used our Games TravelCard and got the first train to London Bridge. From London Bridge we got the tube along the Jubilee Line to West Ham. Whilst waiting for our train to Leigh-on-Sea I noticed you could see some of the Olympic Park. Not surprising, as West Ham is one of the main stations for the Olympic Park.
We arrived at Leigh-on-Sea with plenty of time before the race started. There were buses waiting outside to take us to the venue but Rob insisted we walk as it was good for us. I agreed but under protest!
The walk was nice at under 40 mins but it was well signposted, off-road and with great views including Hadleigh Castle. The Salvation Army (owners of Hadleigh Farm) were handing out water along the way and there were along toilets on the route.
There were plenty of friendly, smiling staff along the way and at the entrance to the venue. Their enthusiasm didn’t falter all day. Very impressed as they were all volunteers.
The queues were short to get in and the army were there to search our bags and pat us down. Luckily we weren’t carrying any banned items, so they let us in.
A short walk later and were could see the circuit. You enter right by the start/finish line. Although there are lots of possible places to stand to see the race, we decided to stand alongside the start finish loop once I’d worked out the best place to use my 800mm camera lens. There was also a big screen TV behind us so we could watch the race when the racers were out of sight.
The men were out training on the course at the same time the women were warming up for the race. I started practicing with the lens to work out how to get the best pictures from it.
As the race start got nearer, the crowds started to build. 20,000 tickets had been sold in total. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze and the grass was dry. Rob and I decided to try and have a nap for half an hour before the race started.
Once the race was underway there was lots of cheering as Great Britain's Annie Last as she was leading after the first corner. As the riders all came past there was a lot of dust being kicked up. For the first couple of laps or so, Annie was in the lead but I wonder if she pushed too hard early on to please the home crowd as she slowly started to lose time to the leaders after this.
|Annie Last - Team GB|
Each time the riders came round we cheered them on and took photos, and for the rest of the lap we watched them on the big screen.
By the final lap, most of the riders were fairly spread out and we cheered them home as the rode the final loop. The biggest cheer was for Candice Neethling of South Africa as she came in 28th and last.
The medal ceremony followed within 5 minutes of the finish and being next to the start/finish line we could see them, even if we were behind them. Julie Bresset of France got gold, Sabine Spitz of Germany got silver and Georgia Gould of USA got bronze.
Following the medals the RAF Falcons parachute display team put on a show for us and landed at the venue.
We decided to stay at the venue for around an hour before leaving so it wouldn’t be so busy. We had a quick look around and then had a kip on the grass.
We started to make our way out of the venue and the staff were still friendly and smiling. Even the armed police were high-fiving people as they were walking past. As we go to the gates, I suggested we take the bus this time back to the station. Again, Rob insisted we walk. The walk back to the station was pleasant, even if it did take 35 mins.
Upon arrival at the station, were were greeted by a number of police horses, many of which were being stoked by members of the public. We walked into the station and straight onto the platform. 30 secs later our train arrived. At each stage, back into London the public transport was quick and not too busy.
We stayed in London for a few hours visiting an Evans Cycles. It’d be rude not too. We also saw Tower Bridge with its Olympic rings.
A very long but enjoyable and memorable day. I’m glad I got to go to the Olympics.
Next up, I’m off to the Paralympic Games on 8th September.
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