After days of country wide wet weather, Sunday dawned to blue skies. Could the inaugural Skyride actually be dry, in the spiritual home of UK cycling, and would anyone turn up to enjoy the Skyride?
Billed as ‘Cycling takes over the streets of Manchester’ and heavily billboarded and promoted in regional news and radio by the eponymous Sky, this was set to be an event to get families out on the road and on a ride up to the scene of so much recent cycling prowess, Manchester Velodrome. The urban route selected for the pedal was 4.2 miles from the Town Hall Square to the National Cycling centre at Eastlands, it was marshalled and closed along its length with barriers and plenty of signage and promotional barrier covers. Sky are really pushing the promotion and attacking grass roots and high level racing. A cynic might say that Sky are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ with their promotion and sponsorship, but I’d suggest that this is a really big thing for cycling in Britain and Sky are going whole heartedly into Cycling. With the September launch of the Road ‘Team Sky’ imminent, this will help kick off a new cycling chapter for British Cycling.
What then was the ride like? I borrowed a Moulton for the day and this was an ideal steed, simple and direct handling and geared to cope with the gentle hills and stop start nature of the course. This was the only bugbear of the course, over zealous marshals would stop riders at junctions (cars still seemed the priority at junctions on the course) and this frequently split up the group I was riding with. We were all adults and could look after ourselves, but for families, it would have been easy for a child to be left behind, then having to stop. Somehow the flow was lost and ‘taking over the streets’ seemed more like giving way to the cars at every junction.
Entry into the Velodrome itself showed what was possible, with a BMX park, Team MAD doing their trials displays and a host of Go Ride and British Cycling related activities. The car parks at the Velodrome had been transformed into a carnival atmosphere with a sea of fluro clad attendees. Sky representatives were handing out Skyride bibs to all participants, and there were plenty of them, though it did not seem overtly an advert for Sky. I even caught a quick moment with David Brailsford, the master tactician of recent BC success.
Who was taking part? This was a very eclectic mix of riders and bikes, from families with small children, serious race heads on ‘carbon everything’ bikes to tandems, folders, cruisers, unicycles and custom choppers. There were of course a smattering of stars in attendance and I had the pleasure of riding back from the Velodrome in the company of Gethin Jones, Ed Clancy and Jason Kenny who all seemed to enjoy the event. After a quick photocall, the stars set off at the head of a mass participation ride along the route, (thankfully) keeping the speed down. The 100 plus rider group soon split due to the aforementioned phasing issues with other road traffic, which could have been handled better.
Overall, this event was quite spectacular, to see so many people riding in central Manchester at once, on a variety of bikes and of really mixed ages and ability is amazing. I suspect attendance to be high, BC report above 15,000 cyclists, and I can believe it, the roads were crowded in the outward leg and on the return leg. I can report that Ed Clancy won his second event of the weekend, thought he competitive field was much bigger. I too finished safely in the peloton.
Watch out for the next few Skyrides:
Hounslow 9th August
Glasgow 23th August
Leicester 30th August
London 20th September
For further information and to sign up for a ride, surf to