Growing up, cycling was a means of transport from A-B (often with a pannier full of shopping as my mother learned to drive at the same time as I did). Then I worked towards my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and opted to cycle for my Silver Expedition; which meant helping to transport a tent in my panniers. I enjoyed cycling but it was mainly a functional activity (made harder by growing up in a very hilly town) and I was not overly aware of cycle races.
Then I met Mark.
He grew up involved in a range of sports and cycling for him was a sheer joy. He rode on roads, off-road and mountain biking. He raced, rode in time trials and he followed the sport of cycling. In the days before mobile phones and GPS he would shove a chunk of fruitcake in his pocket and head out for half a day or more cycling in the Shropshire countryside with friends or on his own.
Initially Mark introduced me to the Tour de France and soon I was shocked by the crashes, amused by the commentary (on Channel Four in those days), and cheering on individuals and teams. Sadly this era has since proved to be one marred by drugs but Mark had converted me to a cycling fan. I’m not going to be a racer, and I’ve seen his scars which have not inspired me to take up mountain biking, but I am happy to be an armchair enthusiast and was thrilled as more and more British cyclists started to appear on Tour de France teams.
So it is not a big surprise that Boo’s cycling involvement would involve watching races. As we’ve previously mentioned, Boo is a bit of a Daddy’s Girl so watching the coverage of the Tour de France soon became a background to her summer. Copies of ‘Cycling Weekly’ found their way into her book pile and she would sit on Mark’s lap whilst he read race reports. In 2007 the Tour de France Prologue began in London with a time trial and we headed to Hyde Park to try to find a good viewing point.
As the time trial involves every cyclist riding the same route starting a few minutes apart, we knew we would have time to observe many riders so we gave Boo the best position high up on Mark’s shoulders and loved experiencing the Tour circus. Before the cyclists come past there is a parade of sponsor vehicles throwing promotional goodies into the crowd. Boo was more interested in the vehicle with a hosepipe, as it was a hot day and she was hoping for a shower, than any of the goodies.
The summer of 2008 was dominated for our budding cycling fan by the Beijing Olympics. We waved flags at the television, cheered the British team on, and were thrilled by the dominance of our team. Boo took the cyclists to her heart and started to learn the names Pendleton, Cooke, Romero and Reade. As a girl she was fascinated and excited by the female medal winners. But the cyclist that had the biggest impact on her was Chris Hoy (now Sir Chris Hoy). His tally of three gold medals and his appearance at the closing ceremony sealed the deal and Boo turned round and told us that when she grows up she want to be Chris Hoy and win at least as many medals as him.
It is good to have ambition, and at least there is now parity on events for men and women at the Olympics, but we have a few years (and many cycling miles) to go before we have to wonder how realistic her three year old dream is.
We read in the cycling press that there was going to be a presentation of Olympic Heroes, including Chris Hoy, at the Salford Nocturne. We were heading west for a Welsh holiday so took a detour and joined the 5,000 strong crowd to celebrate the success of the cycling team. Even now she can remember cheering Chris Hoy on as he rode in the Rollapaluza sprint challenge.
Once more Boo had the best view atop Mark’s shoulders. She purchased the postcard she is clinging with her pocket money, and I popped back to the stall to acquire a second one because I was worried about how long hers would survive.
Boo slept with her Chris Hoy postcard on, or under, her pillow for a few months before finally allowing us to put it up on her wall. Disney heroes have not stood a chance for her affections since, although her cycling heroes now also include Wiggo, Cav, Big G, and Sarah Storey.