James Daley: The "Summer of Cycling" initiative

Cyclotherapy: Mark Cavendish is down to ride in the Tour of Britain. We should give him the hero’s welcome he deserves
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The Independent Online

Last Monday morning, London's new mayor Boris Johnson – or Bojo, as he is affectionately known – summoned the nation's press to the foot of the London Eye for the unveiling of a major new cycling initiative. I was, alas, washing my hair (or something equally important) at the time, but it turns out, as I suspected, I didn't miss much.

The "Summer of Cycling" initiative – as it was somewhat disingenuously entitled – was merely a relaunch of two events that are already on the calendar – the London Freewheel and the Tour of Britain. I say disingenuously entitled, as neither of these events will actually take place in the summer. Both are in September, which in meteorological terms is autumn.

Cynicism aside, it's great news that Bojo has agreed to carry on holding the Freewheel – which last year encouraged about 50,000 people to reclaim the streets of central London for a day. This year, Bojo promises to make it bigger and better, and if you didn't make it last time round, you should try not to miss out. The event takes place on 21 September (for more information, visit www.londonfreewheel.com).

The other major cycling event in September is the Tour of Britain, an occasion which I'm not nearly as enthused about after last year's embarrassment. While Bojo's press release says that the Tour will be coming to London for the first time since 2006, this isn't actually true.

Last year, the race kicked off in Crystal Palace Park (yes Boris, south London does count as London) and was poorly attended and poorly organised. There were no TV screens, no timer on the track and no way of knowing what was going on. Even the usually reliable Phil Liggett, the veteran cycling commentator, seemed to be struggling to keep on top of things.

As the race moved up into the north of England, things went from bad to worse. During one of the stages, it turned out there'd been a planning mix up, and that part of the race route had not been closed off to traffic. As a result, the cyclists were forced to stop racing for a 24-mile stretch of the route.

This year, the Tour is back in central London, with the time-trial taking place along the Thames Embankment on 7 September. The capital showed it knows how to stage a good race when it played host to the prologue of the Tour de France last year and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it puts the same level of effort into the first stage of the 2008 Tour of Britain.

Mark Cavendish – who won four stages in this year's Tour de France, and is about to head to Beijing in search of an Olympic medal – is provisionally down to take part. Let's hope we can give him the hero's welcome he deserves.

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