The Hilton Manchester Deansgate played host to British Cycling?s International Gala Dinner on Saturday evening.
The biennial event is an opportunity for British Cycling to celebrate the GB team successes in all disciplines over the last two years and to thank all the people in the background that make it possible for GB athletes to achieve their ultimate goals as witnessed in the Beijing Olympics this summer.
Hugh Porter MBE was on hand to MC the evening which had local dignitaries, representatives from the various sports bodies associated with British Cycling and there was Robert Tansey from BC?s new backers Sky TV.
Brian Cookson – BC?s president – was invited to make a brief appearance to the microphone to welcome everyone to the evenings proceedings before the meal got underway.
British Cycling president Brian Cookson
EVENING OF TWO HALVES
The second half of the evening was a review of a successful two years for Team GB with special emphasis on the events of Beijing.
Firstly, Hugh Porter brought up Dave Brailsford to summarise the recent performances and give an indication of what the future holds. The message was to build and sustain on the current rich vein of success and not to be complaisant. Also mentioned was the prospect of a pro road team being high on the agenda with the ultimate goal of a team starting the 2010 Tour de France.
Mountain biking was under the spotlight next with the likes of Steve Peat and the Atherton family coming up on stage. Peat was asked whether he was thinking of retirement and said no as he was still looking for that elusive World Downhill title. The Atherton family have had a superb year with brother and sister, Gee and Rachel taking the World Downhill titles this year which was witnessed on the two big projection screens that hung above the central stage.
Downhill ace Steve Peat
BMX was next with the gathered guests reliving the moment World Champion Shanaze Reade crashed out of the Olympic BMX final. Shanaze was not able to be present and it was ex-BMXer Jamie Staff that was asked to offer a summary of Shanaze’s Olympic moment. Things have changed a lot since Staff was on the BMX circuit and described how he would not enjoy the prospect of starting off in modern BMX event with the likes of the twenty foot high Olympic start ramp seen in Beijing.
Hugh Porter asks Jamie Staff to do his Harry Hill impression
Mark Cavendish was honoured with a video clip on the big screens devoted to his four Tour de France stage wins along with his World Madison win with Bradley Wiggins at the World Track Championships in Manchester at the beginning of the year.
Cavendish was not there on the night but National Road Champion Rob Hayles and Ben Swift came up on stage to represent the road scene. Hayles talked about his national title success and was looking forward to the World Cup event in Manchester next weekend. Swift talked about his signing with the new Russian backed Katyusha Team for 2009-10.
“I met up with the team in Italy after Lombardy. With the names we have got in the team we should get in to some of the big races. Hopefully we will get in the ProTour. It’s going to be good,” Swift told us.
Rob Hayles and Ben Swift
Golden girl Nicole Cooke and GB team mates Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley were next to be put under the spotlight. Nicole having done the Olympic and World’s double was naturally buoyant and looking forward to her new team Vision1 Racing Team for 2009. Olympic silver in the TT and other road success were duly highlighted for Pooley and Sharon Laws’ the National TT Champion explained the recent removal of the plates that were put in her left lower leg after her accident in the build up to her Olympic selection.
Sharon Laws, Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley
The evening then moved on to the track successes with, of course, Beijing getting top billing. Chris Hoy, the triple gold medallist, was not able to be in Manchester. He was up in Scotland fulfilling his role as patron of the Braveheart Cycling Fund. Hoy, however, had done a pre-recorded video message that was put up on screen. The stage was left to Victoria Pendleton and Jamie Staff to represent the sprinters. Pendleton will be riding in the World Cup next week and said, “I’m praying the form fairies will be kind to me,” indicating her thoughts on her current fitness.
Victoria Pendleton praying to the form fairies
Finally the stage was left for the world record breaking, Olympic and World gold medal winning pursuit team to end the evenings formal events. Three of the team Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins were joined by Chris Newton, bronze medallist in the Olympic points race and Steven Burke the bronze medallist in the Olympic individual pursuit.
Bradley Wiggins and Steven Burke
How many gold medals was that, Bradley?