Matt Barbet opens the Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show
1 Aug 2013, 4:02 p.m.
TV presenter Matt Barbet cut a thin white ribbon to officially open the Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show at ExCeL in east London this morning, signalling the start of the capital’s first weekend festival of cycling.
“It was a real pleasure and privilege to open the first ever Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show,” said Barbet, an experienced cyclist who presents ITV’s morning show, Daybreak. “I think this event will have as much impact on cycling as the London Marathon has had on running. I can see it going on for years.”
Barbet stepped in to replace the injured tennis legend Boris Becker, sidelined by an urgent appointment with his physiotherapist ahead of Sunday’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, set to be the largest sportive ever held in the UK and one of four events that make up the Prudential RideLondon festival.
“Like an any inspiring domestique, it is always great when the captain goes down ill and you have to ride for yourself,” joked Barbet, who will join Becker on Sunday morning as one of around 20,000 cyclists tackling the mass-participation 100-mile ride along the roads of London and Surrey.
Barbet has ridden a number of sportives, most notably the Etape du Tour in France, which included the daunting Alpe d’Huez, the alpine climb made famous by the Tour de France. But he admitted being “a little nervous” ahead of Sunday’s challenge.
“I’m always a bit nervous before any sort of ride, and I’ve done a few now,” he said. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a bit nervous.
“But I’m mainly excited. An event like this in the city where I live and work, on closed roads, with all these other people, is very, very exciting.
“Riding on closed roads is unparalleled for amateur cyclists like me. I’ve done a few before on the continent but to do one in London will be very special.
“Just being able to enjoy the cycle freely with everyone else and without stopping is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Barbet, a BMX and mountain biker in his north-Wales youth, rediscovered cycling four years ago after finishing the London Marathon not quite as fast as he’d hoped to.
“I decided I’m better built for low-impact, so I got on my bike again,” he said. “I immediately thought, ‘Why haven’t I been doing this more?’ I loved it; doing the sportive on Sunday will go some way to scratching that Marathon itch.
“And the fact that the pros do it after us, in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, makes it a bit like the Marathon. I’m sure this will go on for many years and grow to be just as important in the cycling world.”
Barbet was one of the first visitors to have his picture taken on Sir Bradley Wiggins’s golden throne as hundreds of eager cyclists poured into the show. Visitors will also be able to admire the 2012 Tour de France champion’s Olympic time-trial bike, and visit a replica of the famous Box Hill café where generations of Surrey cyclists have been stopping for refreshment.
Many of the major cycling brands also have stands at the show, selling everything from water bottles to the latest GPS devices. There are plenty of charities too, while one of the biggest stands is devoted to Prudential RideLondon merchandise, including this year’s range of official souvenir and technical clothing from Wiggle.
The Prudential Stage was already keeping visitors entertained with celebrity appearances while the next two days will feature live interviews with cycling stars such as double Olympic gold medalist Laura Trott, British Paralympian Jody Cundy, handcycling gold medalists Heinz Frei and Rachel Morris, and 2013 Tour de France sprint champion Peter Sagan.
Visitors will also be treated to two-hourly demonstrations of trick cycling from Andrei Burton and his stunt team, plus spectacular shows of control and balance from world champion trials rider Martyn Ashton and his Animal WD40 Action Sports Tour crew.
Budding cyclists can test their pedal-power and cycling efficiency on a Wattbike, the event’s official indoor bike, receiving expert analysis and tips on how to improve, while experienced riders will be tempted to test their cycling skills in a virtual peloton with the prize of a free entry to next year’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 sportive, plus a chance to win a Gran Fondo Canada trip to Niagara or Whistler.
The show is expected to attract and inspire some 45,000 cyclists and would-be riders of all ages and abilities before it closes at 17:00 on Saturday.
The Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show at ExCeL is open from 10:00 to 17:00 on Thursday and Friday, and from 09:00 to 17:00 on Saturday.