Phil and I were on television last week. Yep our little faces featured on actual real TV! Ok, it was only for two seconds… and we were at the very edge of the screen… and I had another person’s hand in front of my face. But nonetheless, we still got very excited when we spotted ourselves afterwards! And yes I’ll admit, we What-sapped a photo of our ‘big moment’ to everyone! 😉 I suspect it’s the closest we’ll ever get to being cycling stars! 😛I’m a big big cycling fan. Not the kind that wears Lycra and pedals for miles before breakfast (ahem Phil 😉 ), no the kind that sits for hours in front of the box watching other people wear Lycra and pedal for miles. In my life before Pulmonary Hypertension, I didn’t know a lot about the biking world. I thought that a cycle race was just lots of people battling against each other to get over the line first. It kind of is. But it turns out there is soooo much more to it than that. There are teams and individual roles and strategies. There are rivalries and different types of finishes and secret plans. There are lots of french technical words that I now understand ( 😛 ). And mind-blowingly, not everyone is battling to get their leader to the finish line first! It’s fantastic to follow. I probably shouldn’t admit the hours and hours and hours I’ve spent watching others puff and pant up hills. And I probably shouldn’t tell my cardiologist about the amount of screaming and jumping and shouting I do each time. But I will admit that I adore it. Absolutely love it. My all-time favourite sport. Ever. Cycling has made me happy on many a poorly day.
The best professional races take place in foreign climes; with big steep mountains or wobbly cobbled roads or finishes at oxygen-starved high altitude. But in recent years, our own homegrown race -The Tour of Britain- has gained in popularity and prestige, and now attracts the big teams and the big crowds. Turns out we’re a nation of cycling fans. When our own tour comes through the English countryside, there are thousands of supporters cheering them on from the road side. Last year, Phil and I watched G and Froomey (my favourite! 🙂 ) cycle up a steep hill in our local country park. So when we heard that the Tour of Britain was not only returning to Burton Dassett, but having the finish line there… we shrieked and penciled it into our diaries. That was many months ago.Then, 72 hours before race day, the organizers announced that as they were expecting big crowds, cars would be banned from the country park. Instead a park-and-ride system would operate. Hmmm. I have a scooter, I have multiple oxygen canisters, I need a place to rest… a bus wasn’t going to work for me. So I moaned and sulked for about ten minutes… and then sent the organizers a message on Facebook explaining the predicament. And despite the fact that it was 10pm at night and there had been a race that day and another due the next… they replied to me within the hour. They’d arranged for me to park onsite… and when we arrived, we found that they’d put up a disabled platform for my use NEXT TO THE FINISH LINE! Yep, we had the best spot in the house! A fantastic view! Amazing!
It was a super fun afternoon. Glorious blue skies and late summer sun. Whilst waiting for the race to reach our area, we watched it on the big screen and drank free wine (my ramp was in the VIP area 😛 ). And when they eventually pedaled up our hill, we all made a colossal amount of noise, and cheered them past. Not once, twice… but three times (it was a loop). Unfortunately the breakaway didn’t win, but there was a great battle to get over the finish line at the end. As the rest of the competitors slowly passed by us, puffing and panting in exhaustion, we played spot the famous cyclist. Very exciting. And Phil even got a high-five from a fellow Manx superstar- Mark Cavendish. (He went to hi-five me too… and I took a photo of him instead! Noooo, I left him hanging!). It was a brilliant afternoon. 😀
I’ve been lucky enough to attend some great concerts and matches and shows and meals and events in the last few years. Despite having additional needs, I’ve been able to enjoy everything alongside my fellow able-bodied fans… thanks to a few little adjustments and changes. By providing Blue Badge parking or making a step-free route or seating me away from irritants or giving me a supportive chair or having disabled toilets… I can be there too. They’re little changes but they have a big affect on my world. They’re the difference between whether I can be there or not, whether I can get out and about or not, whether I can feel normal still or not. The Equality Act is a life-changer for those of us with disabilities. But normally when people provide help, I’ve paid to be at the event. The Tour of Britain was free. Absolutely zilch. Anyone and everyone can turn up to cheer on their heroes. And that makes the wonderful customer service I received from them feel even more special. A parking space nearby, a ramped platform so I could see over the barriers, and even a disabled porta-loo! (The first I’ve ever seen 😛 ). And although I was the only disabled person using them, they were available for anyone with needs. Strangely they just hadn’t advertised this on their website. Thank goodness I stopped sulking and sent them a message. People are inherently kind.
And in case you want to play “Where’s Wally?”… here’s our ‘two seconds of fame!’.