Arriving in Glasgow, Scotland was an absolute delight. From the time we set foot on the runway we were immediately greeted by smiles and welcomes from the Scottish Commonwealth Games Volunteers. The City of Smiles is absolutely the correct designation for Glasgow.
The athletic village was buzzing with activity when we arrived, with athletes being checked in, luggage arriving, coaches running around gathering details and athletes both arriving and returning from training sessions. After a very long night of travel, all I wanted was a quick bite and a nap, so I first headed for the cafeteria. The aromas of many different delicious smelling dishes greeted me at the door. I knew right away that this would be an amazing trip.
After my nap I went in search of the information center to start gathering information on training schedules and events. While I was doing this, a couple of folks were also in search of me, as doping control chaperons had just shown up at my room. Eventually, I managed to bump into our manager and the chaperons and we went off to doping control. Apparently it was doping control day for cyclists. I fortunately gave my sample quickly and was off. Later that afternoon I received some amazing news when I was told by my manager that I had been selected to be the flag bearer for my country at the Opening Ceremony. I was ecstatic!
Receiving my country’s flag at the entrance of the stadium was by far one the proudest moments of my life! As I was walked into the stadium bearing the “Golden Arrow Head”, I could do nothing but look up and stare as it blew perfectly in the wind.
After the introductions of the all the countries and the loudest cheer for the host country Scotland entering the stadium, Rod Stewart took to the stage to perform. Following that, Sir Chris Hoy collected the torch and ran the last leg of the baton relay up the stairs and handed it off to Her Majesty Queen of England herself, who then made her opening speech declaring the 2014 Commonwealth Games officially open.
So much to do in the athletic village…it was a great place to spend two weeks with everything you could possibly want. There was a clinic, gym, recovery center (ice baths, massages), recreational areas, cafes and even a river running just along the village. Training was also great, with only a short 15 minute ride to get out of the city. Once you passed through the last traffic light, you could literally ride all day through a picturesque landscape full of rolling hills. It was really great exploring a brand new country, going out to ride not knowing where you are exactly. Whenever we stopped the locals would come out to greet us to make sure we were fine and to ask if we needed directions. They treated us like super stars (SSHHH…don’t tell them we weren't!). Stopping in the city’s bike shops was the best. We got mobbed by the locals for pictures and autographs. We were loving every moment of it!
The weather in Glasgow was quite interesting. It was my first time in the UK and I had heard of the weather being rather gloomy, but even the weather seemed to welcome us as the first week was really nice with not a single drop of rain. It was warm out and even almost felt like home. The Scottish folks, though, were not enjoying it at all; they were contently commenting that it was too warm. As all good things must come to an end, so did the good weather. The rain and cold swept in and all of a sudden it no longer felt like summer.
I was praying that it would hold off for the road race, but of course we were not that lucky.
The road race took place on Sunday, August 3rd it was raining cats and dogs. The course was quite technical and included some cobbled sections. When you combine this with heavy rain, it was pretty obvious that this would not be pretty. To make matters worse, the organizers started all of the top countries at the front and left the smaller countries to fend for themselves at the back. I was definitely nervous but also ready for the challenge.
The gun went off and we headed to the first corner in the pouring rain, which also happened to be a hairpin. As I dodged a few crashes and some riders that were moving too slowly, the field slowly started to stretch out into a single file line that seemed like 500 meters long. I tried to do what I could to move up, but I was freezing and the blistering pace from the gun caused gaps to keep opening up. I certainly wasn’t used to races starting this way, but this was the Commonwealth Games after all, so I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised. Despite giving it my all, I simply could not close all the gaps and I ended up with a group of about 20 riders, most of whom had also started at the back with me. We chased to try to get back to the field, but it was just not meant to be. The crowds, however, were simply amazing and despite the miserable conditions made the course a real delight to be on. Every time we would ride by they would seemingly cheer louder and louder, even to the point where I had to ask myself if we were actually off the back or perhaps we were in the winning break!
Racing with many of the World Tour riders that had just competed the Tour de France was also something else that made this such a great experience. Unfortunately, for this particular race that would not be very long lived. There was a time limit for every lap and my group got pulled 5 laps into the race. Disappointed, but not broken, I bowed out along with the others in my group. Entering the pits I was shocked to see how many riders were already out of the race. Alex Dowset of MovieStar, winner of the Time Trial a couple days before, was being interviewed, multiple riders from New Zealand, England, Australia were already there and a constant stream of new riders kept pouring in. Crazy what the weather could do.
In the end, Geraint Thomas pull off the well-deserved win after showing great patience, perseverance and determination over a brutal day in the saddle. Only twelve cyclist finished the road race that day. Sadly, the road race also happened to be the last event of the Commonwealth Games, which meant that my amazing trip was coming to a quick end. However, I had the Closing Ceremony to look forward to later that evening.
Like every other aspect the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Closing Ceremony was amazing! There were performances by Lulu, Jessica Mauboy and Kylie Minogue from Australia, who was especially great. It was no coincidence that she was Australian since the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in Melbourne, Australia, the Gold Coast. For my entire time here, I had been waiting to see and hear the bag pipes and to my delight the 2014 Commonwealth Games were brought to close by a lone piper standing on the roof of Hampden Park.
This has truly been a once in a lifetime experience for me.