After a good rest in familiar surroundings at Grandma and Grandad’s house it was a quick trip back to Dave Mellor Cycles (sadly closed at such an early hour). Our friends were ready to ride with us but had to be a little patient as there was also a photographer from The Shropshire Star.
Mark spoke to a journalist on the phone whilst Boo pretended to be patient and practised her balance on the street furniture.
Finally the little group were off and I just had to battle the Shrewsbury early morning traffic, refuel the car, and then try to catch up with the cyclists.
They made such good time as a group that it was two hours before I caught them By the time I arrived Dave had said his farewells but Lawrence was staying with Double Trouble all the way to Manchester. Meanwhile Grandma and Grandad had discovered that Boo had left a pair of her shorts behind, plus they wanted to watch the cyclists at work so they were also driving north through Shropshire. As Mark had intended stopping in the Sandbach area for lunch I found a suitable layby on the route into Holmes Chapel and insisted that they stop and eat and drink whilst waiting for Boo’s grandparents to catch up.
Break over they waved goodbye to Boo’s grandparents and I mapped out the geocaches that I thought would make good stopping points; they were in a bit of a rush as they were concerned about cycling through Manchester too near rush hour plus Lawrence had to meet family and return home! Boo and I had a quick hunt for one cache but couldn’t see it and didn’t have time for a full search so we headed off to Jodrell Bank. Mark didn’t slow down for Boo to photograph the observatory at what she felt was the optimum viewing point so they tried to find a suitable spot. Sadly Boo had become a little like Goldilocks in that she wanted her view to be ‘just right’. To make up for this we tracked down a layby geocache and then they set off once more with a rough, very rough, plan of how to reach the National Cycle Centre. My paper map wasn’t much help; and I took a couple of wrong turns when intuition and satnav argued, so I didn’t actually see them again until they arrived at the NCC!
I called Robbie, our NCC contact, and took our arrival photographs and then we met Robbie. He gave Boo & Mark goodie bags and she instantly swapped her helmet for the SkyCycling cycle cap (which she nearly kept on into bed) and then, once the bikes and helmets were secured, we began our track tour.
Wow! We were all inspired, awed, stunned, overwhelmed. and even silenced. We went to the velodrome in London for the Paralympics but seeing the track from inside the training area was completely different. There were cyclists from the Road to the Olympics programme training on the track seeming to fly past us, especially when following the derney.
As if witnessing this training session wasn’t enough, when we sat in the seats around the velodrome, we heard that Sir Bradley Wiggins would be next in training on the track!
Well there was no moving us (or Robbie) as observing Wiggo was a rare and wonderful opportunity. We were all completely absorbed and awed. I even became somewhat tongue-tied when one of my childhood heroes (Shane Sutton) came over to explain about the planned training session.
Boo was disappointed that her camera was too slow to capture anything other than a blur as Wiggo flew past us but she will remember the sight for ever, as will Lawrence and I.
Eventually it was time to continue our tour, looking at photos of cycling heroes amongst whom Boo was chuffed to spot Barney Storey and Neil Fachie on their tandem. All the time we could hear, and watch, the activities on the track below. It is only when you are so close to the track that you realise just how steep the banking is.
Robbie offered us all the chance to test ourselves on the Watt Bikes. Despite the miles in our legs there was no way we could resist this opportunity. Even if our cleats didn’t fit, six seconds all out effort with toe clips was worth a shot. Unsurprisingly, even all three of us together fell far short of Sir Chris Hoy’s 3Kw of power!
We were all so thrilled by our velodrome experience that Sarah said we looked like children during Christmas, and we lost track of time, so Lawrence had to leave us and dash to his family. Meanwhile we were taken into the BMX track. Seeing it close up and trying to imagine riding it was jaw-dropping. Boo enjoys riding the lumps and bumps at Castle Farm in Kenilworth but I think she is now planning a family relocation to make this track her ‘local’.
Finally the exhaustion of the last few days started to kick in over the excitement and ‘fanboy’ feelings inspired by our location so it was time to leave Double Trouble at the velodrome and say goodbye for now to Robbie.
One of the wonderful things about being in the velodrome was seeing so many people from the world of cycling in their workplace. We even got a hello as we stood in the foyer from a passing Rod Ellingworth! How do people get work done surrounded by their heroes?