The Olympic Women’s Cycling Road Race held Sunday gave communities outside of London the opportunity to get involved in the Games. The Race ran through multiple cities and towns, giving spectators a chance to see an Olympic event in their home towns.
DORKING, SURREY — All of Britain’s recent cycling success has made the sport the country’s new national pastime, organizers and spectators at the women’s cycling road race said Sunday.
“I think because of our success in GB, but also it’s very dramatic, even though you only see them briefly, the speed they come by you, you realize how fast they are going.” Robert Collis, a Games Advisor from Luton, Bedfordshire, said “And it brings all the people together, masses come out because you are seeing your champions in your streets.”
The men failed to deliver on Saturday, and it was with nervous hearts and dampened clothes that the spectators returned to line the Surrey Hill roads that made up the 140 km race on Sunday. British rider Lizzie Armistead didn’t disappoint, capturing the silver medal in a furious sprint at the end. Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the gold, while Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia took the bronze.
Justin Bush, Dorking, Surrey said he was not going to let the stormy weather and the disappointing results from the men stop him from watching the women’s race in his hometown.
“It’s so exciting to have something this big come through our hometown.” Bush said. “Overall, we make quite a bit (of an) effort to get out of here for this sport (cycling).”
Zabelinskaya forced some of the group to breakaway from the peloton when she made her move at Headley, approximately 40 miles away from the Mall. As they came down the final stretch in London, Zabelinskya faded back into third, while Vos and Armitstead sprinted for gold.
Tony Frede of Dorking, Surrey, who was wearing spandex biking gear, a helmet and biking gloves, summed up cycling in the U.K.
“You think I’m a cyclist?” he asked. “I only have two bikes; most have six.”
The women’s cycling road race brought Surrey residents into the rain Sunday afternoon, but they were happy with the race and the result. Britain’s Lizzie Armistead won the silver.
Tyler Wilkins hopped off the train at Dorking Station and headed down to the street where 67 women cyclists from 36 nations would soon race by. Great Britain’s flag in hand, his first thought was to find the best spot along London Road to get the best view of his team and experience the Olympics.
“We got here early so we could be right on the street, but I realized really quickly that there was no need,” Wilkins said. “The street was not crowded at all, and it was pretty calm.”
After a large crowd surrounded the road at yesterday’s Men’s Cycling Road Race, Wilkins and others expected to see the same sort of atmosphere on Sunday.
The Women’s Cycling Road Race started Sunday at 12 p.m. and came through Dorking around two hours into the race. Rain clouds continued to come and go as spectators waited. Dorking is 19 miles from downtown and one of the furthest points on the course from the start and finish.
“Rain would certainly be a reason not to come, and as you look around, I can see a lot of people might agree,” Wilkins said.
Mary Elrich from Dorking waved her Great Britain flag with one hand and held her umbrella with the other.
“The weather is a bit rubbish, but you can’t not come in my opinion,” she said. “We’re getting to attend an Olympic game in our backyard.”
Even though Elrich is proud to be hosting the Olympics, she does not see herself attending a lot of other events because of the price.
“Being from England, you want to be able to say you were at the Olympics and this weekend was a free way to do so,” Elrich said.
The weather, however, was not the only reason for the small crowds in Dorking, said Joshua Thiele of Reigate, England.
“There was a ton of excitement about the Great Britain men’s cycling team,” Thiele said. “Everyone knew it would be intense, and we wanted to grab the first Gold.”
Bradley Wiggins, the recent winner of the Tour de France, and Mark Cavendish, a world champion, were the faces behind the anticipation and expectation of all of Great Britain.
“The crowd was electric. Yesterday, I had to stand way back behind the crowd,” Elrich said. “The street was just filled with people cheering loudly.”
With expectations high, Team GB failed to claim the first gold medal of the 2012 Olympic games. A Kazakhstan did that. Instead, Wiggins and Cavendish finished placing 103 and 29.
“It was a bit of a disappointment,” Thiele said.
That disappointment did not last long for Great Britain fans, however, as Lizzie Armistead brought home the country’s first medal, silver, in today’s women’s race.
Despite fewer fans around the Dorking area of the course, the women’s event proved to be just as thrilling as the men’s.
“Let’s just say whoever decided to stay home certainly missed out,” Elrich said.
DORKING, ENGLAND— The smiling faces of the Surrey Ambassadors, provided a sharp contrast to the scowling security guards from Trojan Security that slowly walked up and down the sides of the street at the women’s cycling road race Sunday.
This contrast, however, is symbolic of how each group was asked to serve.
Volunteers from the Surrey area and England as a whole were ready to get involved, said Amanda Gilhooley of Newcastle, a team leader for the volunteers.
“We’ve known that we were going to be volunteering here for at least 9 months, maybe even a year,” she said.
Alan Beaver, one of the 400 Surrey residents that applied to be an ambassador, has taken an optimistic outlook on the G4S situation.
“They probably overstretched themselves and made promises they couldn’t keep, but I think they always planned that the army would be there as a reserve anyways,” he said. “While the G4S situation is unfortunate, we were always meant to be the smiling happy faces of Surrey.”
G4S was hired to provide full Olympic security, but outside security companies such as Trojan and the British Army were called in last minute to assist G4S.
“A lot of people are not happy with G4S,” said Robert Morris of Portsmouth and Trojan employee. “They’re the big one that let the Olympics down which is why we had to be brought in.”
Those called in to back up security question how the misunderstanding with G4S could have happened.
“They’re quite a well known company. I’ve got friends that work for them, and they’ve had how many months, years, to plan this? We’ve all had to give our weekends and come in because G4S couldn’t do their job,” said Morris.