18th May 2016 at 2:21pm
Summer’s on its way and so are the cyclists. The bikes are back after their winter hibernation and our cycle lanes once more ring to the sound of bicycle bells in full tilt.
Cycling for fun, competitively or part of a commute is almost a company-wide pastime here at Standard Life. We even have a very successful ex-Olympian in our business in the shape of Jenny Davis. And some of the bikes, staff choose to pound into work on, could even put the pros to shame.
Cycling was one of the nine original sports in the modern Olympic Games
The race is on
What if we put all that enthusiasm, passion and competitiveness together for a race and raise money for Scope, one of our charity partners?
We’ve pulled together a group of cycle enthusiasts from across the business for a one-off team race to compete in a professional UK cycle tour series right here in Edinburgh. They’ll compete in the Corporate Grand Prix as part of the Pearl Izumi Series Tour which comes to Edinburgh on Thursday 19 May starting from 6 pm.
The 5 strong team will be working together as a relay, along with their pro-rider from the tour to bring them home, around the streets of Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic opportunity to raise money, push themselves, gain valuable experience in their sport, get up close and personal with the pros and work in a very different way with colleagues from around the business.
Our seasoned team of Juli Rourke, Craig Sinclair, Susan Johnston, Stephen Birrell and Donald Budge will bring a combined cycling experience of 50 years to our fair city’s streets, and no end of cycling fanaticism. And all are currently busy readying themselves with training and brushing up on their race tactics in preparation for the event.
They’ll be up against other corporate teams and cycle enthusiasts pushing themselves in a truly enthralling event. The course is tough and starts with a fast, energy sapping climb of the picturesque, cobbled Victoria Street. And if that’s not enough to build up the lactic acid, the equally draining challenges that lie ahead surely will.
So where does this passion for cycling stem from?
Cycling was one of the nine original sports in the modern Olympic Games, having been on the program since the start (Athens 1896). However, the first recorded race was 28 years earlier and took place just outside Paris, at the Parc de Saint-Cloud. The 1,200 meter race was won by expatriate Englishman James Moore on a wooden bicycle with iron tires. The machine can still be found on display at the museum in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
After this bone shaking start things really began to pick up pace with the arrival of the Alexandra Palace ‘velodrome’ back in 1902. And just a year later the flag came down on the first Tour de France, the world’s most famous road race. This early manifestation counted only 6 stages and attracted 70 entrants, but was no less grueling on the competitors.
Riders would start at night and pedal through to the following afternoon. The race was won by a Frenchman, Maurice Garin, ‘the Little Chimney-Sweep’, by a margin of close to three hours with the last finisher coming in a staggering two days behind him.
Up until the 1960s riders regularly consumed alcohol as they rode for glory
Garin also won the second race in 1904, but he and the next three finishers were all disqualified for cheating. The early races were notorious for mayhem. Riders strewed broken glass and nails in the road to cause punctures behind them, competitors were given drinks that made them sick, many got surreptitious tows from cars or motorbikes, and some were even held up and delayed by hired thugs.
Things have settled since, but the great race is still no stranger to controversy, even today. The course is now 2,277 miles long, which is further than from London to Tel Aviv, and 2015 saw 22 teams with nine riders apiece, bringing the total start list to 198 participants.
And just like our riders on the 19 May, not much will hold back the participants. Greg LeMond won the Tour de France in 1989 with 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his body. The shot was thankfully not at the hands of a fellow competitor, but the result of a “hunting accident” 2 years before.
On yer bike!
Whether you’re riding for fun or racing for glory, there’s no questioning cycling’s benefits. Studies have shown that those who cycle regularly can enjoy the general health of someone up to 10 years younger!
It’s been shown that regular cyclists experience reduced stress, improved sleeping patterns and, generally, a better outlook on life. This is because exercise decreases stress hormones, e.g. cortisol, and increases feel good hormones, e.g. serotonin and dopamine, which leads to a feeling of euphoria and a state of well being.
Riders would start at night and pedal through to the following afternoon.
You can also cycle at three times walking speed for the same expenditure of energy and use one fiftieth of the oxygen of a car making the same journey.
So consider getting on your bike, there is no denying the health and environmental benefits.
And here’s a fun little footnote, especially in light of recent allegations of illegal performance enhancements in sport.
Up until the 1960s riders regularly consumed alcohol as they rode for glory. The reason given by these pickled peddlers? It would help numb the pain. It was eventually banned when the French passed a law forbidding the use of stimulants in sport.
While I can guarantee our riders will not be cracking open a bottle en route, I do hope they will be popping some bubbly at the end.
Good luck to all involved.
The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice and is based on our understanding in May 2016.