As Londoners we hear the term legacy most often in the context of the 2012 Olympic Games, but a trip this weekend to Bournemouth Track – the newest in the country – has had me reflecting on legacies on all levels, both domestic and Olympic. The new track has been a project my dad (Alan McRae) has been driving forwards for years, and this weekend I caught up with him and a few faces from my youth.
In my early teens I raced in the series organised at the time by the ‘Dorset Cycling Development Group’, where we often gathered around Winton Track to compete at the weekend. Now in a state of disrepair and in a public park, Winton is a track in the loosest sense, and has only one slightly banked ‘corner’ just after the finish line, which made for some interesting endings to U16’s racing. It was not really suitable for racing track bikes there, though we did train on the track on Friday nights. The nearest track league was run at Poole Park, an even less track-like venue where ducks, geese, old ladies and small children sometimes wandered across the path not realising that a bunch of 20 riders without brakes was heading straight for them.
The new outdoor concrete track in Bournemouth really is a huge step forward, offering an enclosed 250m (Olympic distance) ‘proper’ banked track, providing a stepping stone to up and coming riders as well as a fantastic opportunity to the extended Bournemouth community and those directly in the local area. For a fantastic aerial view of the track go to http://www.bournemouthcyclingcentre.org
One other young rider who used to take part in those DCDG meetings in the 1990’s, was Barney Storey MBE, now full-time cyclist and Paralympic tandem pilot, winner of Olympic Golds in Beijing and heading for our own Olympics in 2012. Barney is proof of what you can achieve with persistence and patience, and now together with his wife, paralympian Sarah Storey, is a true inspiration. Here is Barneys’ magnificent tandem, which to be honest looks a bit like a gate compared to most racing bikes, but reassuringly is built to withstand 2000w of power.
I was one of several people lucky enough to get to sit behind the big man this weekend on the new track. To give you a gage of how fast we were moving, we were riding a 98 inch gear, lightweight compared to the 108 inches + Barney races on. Obviously I am the stoker and putting down the power, but in all his professionalism Barney managed to hold it down round those bends…
Another lucky passenger was a young lad of about 13 who was hanging out at the park with his mates, one of whom caused a bit of a stir by cruising onto the track with her street BMX and then throwing herself and bike back over the fence when she was chased off. In a clever pincer movement within ten minutes the Storeys had turned the hostilities around. Sarah had engaged these kids in easy conversation, showing them her bike and talking to them about track racing, and before he knew too much about it, the boy was strapped on the back of the tandem and taken for a spin by Barney, grinning from ear to ear and exclaiming ‘Its effortless!’ Delinquents? I don’t think so. Future Olympians? Maybe. Moments like these show why Barney and Sarah are such great ambassadors for our sport.
Barney and Sarah were not the only Storeys in attendance at the weekend and Andy (Barney’s older brother) had brought his wife and young children with him, proof that Olympic legacies are not the only ones that count. Many parents would consider their children their biggest achievement and as Pans’ recent blog explained, we are often shaped by our parents’ values.
Both my parents have clearly influenced my career and life path. My dad has shared his love of the sport of cycling, and no doubt the Bournemouth Track is something he would have liked to have seen there for me when I was growing up. Happily now, it is part of his legacy, and something that will be there for future generations.
My mum has a legacy of her own too, in her swim school. She shared with me her love of the water, and through her swim school she has taught thousands of people to be happy and safe in the water, a simple but valuable mission statement for any swimming teacher. Now, she is working on some the second generation swimmers, as school friends of mine bring their own children to her classes.
With my mum a swimming teacher and my dad a cycling coach, I have become a corrective and holistic exercise specialist (as it turns out working quite a bit with cyclists!). I try to fill in the gaps that I feel were missing when I was developing my sporting potential, and also spread the word that a happy, healthy body is the most important asset you can have.
Amongst the Look Mum team, I like to think our individual histories are coming together in a strange alchemy to produce something special! Sam and his childhood bike buddies have created the cultural phenomenon that is the Look Mum Cafe. Pan, with her considerable brain power (and not inconsiderable brawn) is looking to make a difference to world poverty. Having stamped the record books with her Olympic Legacy already, Elise is now working on her domestic one. So to name just a few, I suppose we all want to make the world a better place one way or another.