First ride of August

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I haven't been cycling much this past week or so — I've been too busy watching the coverage of the road and velodrome cycling at the Olympics and revelling in the achievements of the Brits and the Aussies.

I have taken this week off, thinking I'd go cycling every day, but I've been spending my mornings reading and the rest of the day/evening with bum parked firmly on the sofa. But now that the Olympic track cycling is over, I actually found time to go for a trundle today.

And where did I go? Richmond Park, of course.

It was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny. And the park was gloriously lush and filled with majestic-looking stags (see photograph above).

There were also a lot of cyclists around — and not just the lycra lads that fly around the circuit at lightning pace. Today there were cyclists of all sizes, shapes, ages and abilities — on an equally diverse range of bikes — trundling along the road. I suspect this may have been a combination of great weather, school holidays and Team GB's Olympic cycling success encouraging more people to get out on their bikes.

Whatever it is, long may it continue.

As for my cycle, it was a lot of fun. I felt very fit, thanks mainly to a month's solid cycling (which I've neglected to report here) and strong, thanks to a lot of carbs in my system (from beer, noodles and crisp consumption over the past week or so!). I also got to try out my new cycling mitts — a birthday present from T — after my 7-year-old ones began to look a little worse for wear!

Total distance: 17miles (27.4km) | Ride time: 1hr 33min | Average speed: 10.9mph | Top speed: 23.6mph

Watching the Olympic women’s road cyclists fly past

I walked to Fulham this morning to watch the cyclists competing in the Olympic women's road cycling race fly along Fulham Broadway en route to Surrey.

After standing by the side of the road for almost an hour, braving the rain showers and talking to the people next to me, the excitement began to mount. The support vehicles came through, followed by the motorcycle cops and then, at about five minutes past midday, the pelaton swept into view…

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And then it was all over… in about 30 seconds!

I went home and watched what turned out to be a hugely exciting race on the TV.

Congratulations to Marianne Vos of the Netherlands (gold), Britain's Lizzie Armistead (silver) and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya (bronze).

How I accidentally ended up in the Olympic Torch Relay

With just a day to go until London 2012 begins, is it any wonder the capital has gone a bit Olympic mad today?

And somehow I accidentally got caught up in it all on my commute home this evening.

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I should have known that when I hit Parliament Square and saw the entire road gridlocked with cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians that something unusual was going on.

Turns out I was about 10 minutes behind the Olympic Torch relay heading towards Hyde Park via Birdcage Walk and Buckingham Palace.

When I stopped at traffic lights I spoke to a policeman who said: "I've never seen anything like this."

"Either have I," I replied. "What's going on?"

"It's called organised chaos," he laughed.

Personally, I couldn't think of a better description, because when I turned down Great George Street either side of the road was lined with flag-waving crowds which extended the entire length of Birdcage Walk, which is about half-a-mile.

The entire width of the road was taken up with cyclists — there were literally hundreds of us in all sizes, shapes and descriptions — like one giant very slow-moving pelaton.

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We cycled behind a line of police officers on foot and an ambulance which were effectively separating us from the torch bearers much further down the road. There was lots of stop-starting and standing around waiting for the police to let us move another 100 yards or so.

Any other time and I would have been pissed off. This was going to take me three times as long to get home. But there was a jovial atmosphere and it was hard not to see the funny side with the crowds cheering and clapping us along.

"We're just trying to get home," quipped one cyclist to the crowd. "We're not part of the procession!"

Someone from the crowd asked if Bradley Wiggins was in there somewhere. "It's like watching the Tour de France pelaton," he joked. "Except you guys aren't going anywhere!"

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Eventually, when we got closer to Buckingham Palace the police forced us all into one lane so that a convoy of official vehicles could be ushered through. Unfortunately the fun element stopped then, because the police wouldn't let us make a right hand turn — which meant I couldn't follow my normal route home.

I ended up having to wing it — I followed Buckingham Palace Road all the way to Chelsea Embankment and then made my way back home via the busy but fast-moving (and dare I say it, dangerous) A320.

I got in the door almost two hours after I had set off — it would normally take 40 minutes maximum — but I'm not complaining: it gave me material for a blog post, if nothing else!

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Total distance: 13.43miles (21.6km) | Ride time: 1hr 23min and 20sec | Average speed: 9.6mph | Top speed: 19.9mph