Last week we launched online entry for this year's London Bikeathon - the jewel in the crown in our sporting calendar and our largest annual fundraising event. Last year's event was our biggest yet with more than 6,000 cyclists joining us to ride in definace of blood cancer. It truly was a wonderful day and we're indebted to everyone that took part and helped us raise a record £825,000 to make a difference to the lives of blood cancer patients.
This year we want the event to be an even better experience for riders and have worked hard to ensure that this is the case. Central to our efforts was responding to comments and feedback from last year's participants on what they liked and disliked and how they thought we could improve the Bikeathon.
The feedback process was incredibly useful and has resulted in a number of changes for this year's ride:
1. New Routes
This year we're introducing brand new routes for all three Bikeathon distances (26, 52 and 100 miles). The 100 mile route will start at Ham House and will head out straight into the Surrey Hills, avoiding central London, giving riders the opportunity to do more of what they enjoy (gruelling hill climbs and rapid descents) and less of what they disliked (busy roads).
The 26 mile route has also been adapted to incorporate more of London's most famous landmarks including St Paul's, Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge all of which were missed by riders who took part last year.
We've also made significant changes to the 52 mile route to include more green space and less busy roads on the request of many riders from last year's route. Gone is the congested section through Putney High Street and in is a glorious stretch through the heart of cycle friendly Richmond Park and a lap of Ham House.
2. Two new start points
Last year all riders set off and finished in the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Whilst this brought everybody together, it did lead to a lot of congestion especially at the start of the day and getting to and from the venue was difficult for some riders.
We've taken this feedback on board and this year have decided on two new start points - Coram's Fields for the 26 and 52 mile riders and Ham House for the 100 mile adventure junkies.
Coram's Fields is a more central location, easier for people to get to and from, whilst separating out the 100 milers and staggering the start for riders should ease the congestion which many who provided feedback also mentioned as an area we could improve.
3. Less busy roads
We want the ride to be a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants. In parts, last year's ride was hindered by congestion on the roads - especially on the 52 mile route.
Whilst much of this was beyond our control - sadly we can't stop traffic or people driving on a Sunday - we wanted to limit the possibility of this happening again as much as possible. With this in mind, all three of this year's routes have been designed to avoid traffic hot spots and the more congested roads.
In an ideal world, we would love to be able to offer the London Bikeathon as an event on closed roads. However, such are the cost implications of getting permission from the respective councils that this is just not possible.
4. Marshals, sign posting, maps & water stations
On the whole, the marshalling was really well received last year. However, there was confusion at one of the points on the 52 mile route which we will look to avoid happening again at all costs by briefing marshals to an even greater degree in advance of the event.
With less overlap between the routes this year, the sign-posting will also be far clearer. Detailed maps will also be sent out once again to all riders in advance of the event to give them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the route. Stewards and volunteers will also be on hand at water and food stations on all three routes to help assist riders.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone that provided feedback on last year's ride which has helped us shape this year's event. We're really proud of the end product and are all super excited about London Bikeathon 2014.
Join us at the London Bikeathon on 31 August and be part of something very special as we ride to beat blood cancer.