A few weeks ago, I took part in the Pedal Norfolk cycling festival at Holkham Hall. What a fabulous event. More than 3,000 people took part in races and fun events that ranged from seven-mile family rides through to 100-mile road races and a gruelling three-hour mountain bike race around the grounds of the hall.
The road races were mapped out so that the routes used quiet country lanes, with only very short sections on any of the county’s major routes. For the cyclists, this was a lovely chance to see Norfolk at its best as the routes swept along the coast line, through the villages and up into the hills – yes, really, the hills.
The three-day event was brilliantly organised, with loads of extra activities; this was a sports event at its best. As each finisher crossed the line, he or she was handed a bottle of Adnams beer; the food stalls were all local Norfolk companies and Fat Birds, the cycle specialists from Hunstanton were on hand to provide any maintenance support that was needed.
Everything to do with the event itself was top-notch. And then the clanger was dropped!
As 75 elite athletes prepared for the showpiece event – a 99 mile time trial around the perimeter of Holkham Hall, the crowds gathered to cheer the riders on. Driving up to take its place behind the riders and proudly sporting the UK Cycling logo was the support car.
Drugs and bullying accusations aside, UK Cycling is one of the national governing bodies in the UK which gets a lot of praise for the way it has grown cycling in the past 20 years. We have gone from a nation of car drivers to a nation of lycra-clad cycle geeks. At Holkham this was fully evident. Kids as young as five swept around the course in Team Sky or MoviStar colours, the wiry, muscled legs of grey-haired octogenarians cycled the 100-mile course with ease and women easily competed alongside men on the toughest climbs and steepest descents. UK Sport has a lot to be proud of – except its support car.
Alongside the logos of the event sponsors, the car was sporting a lovely family montage. Three family members on bicycles. In the lead, head down and pedalling furiously on his state of the art racing bike was Dad, wearing a helmet obviously. In second place, learning to ride but still going well, was the young son of the family. Bringing up the rear on her ‘sit up and beg’ bicycle, with no helmet and clearly no sporting instinct whatsoever was Mum, hair looking perfect, no helmet and some lovely 1950s style clothes. You could almost hear her singing “Daisy, Daisy’.
So full marks to Pedal Norfolk for making this a cycling event for everyone, and bottom marks for British Cycling for failing to spot its own ‘casual sexism’.