Inside the Olympics with Tony Gibb

We’re proud to have access to former world silver and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist – and now Eurosport commentator – Tony Gibb, who will be providing us with a daily insider’s view of life in and around the Olympic velodrome. Here’s his first blog.

A bed, a bed, my kingdom for a bed (or at least a towel)

So, the track cycling competition has not even started yet and I have some great stories. Eurosport, my kind and generous employers for this particular gig, have booked me in to the Bloomsbury Hotel!

Now without meaning to bore you with logistics I live 1½ hour’s ride from central London. I want my bike with me so I can train, but I also have my warfare bike to get up there so I can ride to and from the track, and ten days’ worth of luggage and kit. So I decided to drive up at 1am on Tuesday night, having Googled the hotel, checked I could leave my luggage and lock my warfare bike up outside the hotel. I would then drive home, sleep and ride in the next day.

The gentleman on the front desk said that he could not find my reservation but “we have lots of reservations with no name as the Olympics are on at the moment.” Oh, I’m glad you told me, I would never have known!

Anyway, after leaving my bags with him I drove around for a while not too sure that I was sorted. Turns out I wasn’t, bags at wrong hotel. Sounds a doddle to sort, right? Well, try driving around London with most of the junctions routed towards Stratford! Anyway, went home, rode in the next day to a very plush hotel, and expected weird looks at the sweaty mess clip-clopping through the marble reception. Nope, the woman behind reception asked me if I would like a damp towel. Ah I see, Brad has just won the time trial. Cue cycling in the UK hitting the big time.

Now I know Bradley Wiggins. I’ve spent time with him socially, not so much recently but in the past. I’ve raced with him and I have interviewed him at length for Eurosport, a piece called ‘the skies the limit’, though you wouldn’t know as my brilliant work was, ahem … replaced! Anyway all I know is that he is a top bloke. If you know him and know how to take his sense of humour, he is very clever, funny, engaging and passionate. A month ago he was a British cycling great, he is now a truly global legend and he deserves all he gets, a ‘Sir’ is a certainty, and if he is not 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, I will personally ‘Jarvis Cocker’ the stage!

A walk in the (Olympic) park

So after catching up with the time trial I headed over to the Olympic park. Up until now this was just another gig, one that I felt privileged and honoured to be doing but that was about it. That all changed soon enough!

My ride to the track was trouble-free. However, having finally found my way in, I locked up my bike and then started walking, 45 minutes later I finally found the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), a building so vast that I am sure you could build an Airbus A380 in it, and in a few months’ time it will be torn down. How this place in temporary is beyond me! Anyway I found it via the OBC and then the BBC BC – it’s confusing around here! Anyway, I managed to find the Eurosport office, then was shown to the accreditation validation centre – another 20-minute walk. After all of this I decided to head off, somewhat exhausted.

The atmosphere, however, is great. Everyone’s happy and cheery and sociable, no one’s rushing around to get anywhere and there’s very little traffic apart from about two miles around the park. The Games lanes seem to be working very well, so well in fact that I am going to use the buses rather than ride – a decision influenced by the army stealing my deodorant! Yes, they thought it was as silly as me, but then don’t ask me to tell you the story about the police dog Mercedes vans and not being able to buy a simple plate of chips anywhere on the Olympic park. Well, only in one retailer anyway. Oh, and if you want to pay for said ‘fries’ it’s cash or Visa only, sir. MasterCard, er no. Amex, er no.

Off to bed, can’t wait for tomorrow!

Meyer Brothers winning team pursuit gold (image courtesy of Cameron Meyer)

Cycling families: The Meyer brothers

Meyer Brothers winning team pursuit gold (image courtesy of Cameron Meyer)

Meyer Brothers winning team pursuit gold (image courtesy of Cameron Meyer)

Cameron and Travis Meyer hail from Perth, Australia. They started riding at a young age and, with only a year between them, have ridden and trained almost constantly together, amassing a staggering number of titles at junior and senior level, largely on the track, but now increasingly on the road too.

Of course, given his track pedigree – world champion in the points race (2009, 2010, and 2012), Madison (2010, 2011) and team pursuit (2010) – you might reasonably expect Cameron, at 24 the elder of the two brothers, to be competing at the London Olympics. But no, he’s riding this week with his brother Travis for Orica-GreenEDGE in the Vuelta a Burgos.

But increasingly, since joining first Garmin and now GreenEDGE, the brothers have turned towards a career on the road. In 2010, when Cameron was Australian national time trial champion, Travis was the holder of the national road race title. Those victories on the road and track saw Cameron voted both best Australian cyclist of the year and, once again, best track cyclist.

Cameron Meyer next to Aussie champ Simon Gerrans at GreenEDGE Launch (image courtesy of Cameron Meyer)

Cameron Meyer next to Aussie champ Simon Gerrans at GreenEDGE Launch (image courtesy of Cameron Meyer)

In 2011, Cameron repeated his success in the national time trial championship and went on to win the overall and stage four in the Tour Down Under, becoming the first leader of the UCI’s WorldTour. This year he was second in the national time trial but won the team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico where he placed tenth overall.

Understandably the boys were, along with Jack Bobridge, the first to be signed to the new Australian WorldTour squad of Orica-GreenEDGE. Team manager Shayne Bannen explained:

During my time at the Australian Institute of Sport I worked with many of the young Australians now making an impact on cycling’s world stage so I’m pleased to be able to continue that with three of our most talented young riders.

Cameron and Jack are going to play a big role in Australia’s success on the track at the Olympics and have already proven their quality on the road. Not many guys can finish the final time trial of a three-week tour in the top ten at such a young age like Cameron has for the past two editions of the Giro d’Italia.

And Travis was making big gains over the past 12 months before injury got the better of him. We know his recovery is in good hands and a minor setback doesn’t change how talented he is. Travis won five junior world titles on the track and as soon as he stepped up to the elite ranks he won the Australian road title at his first attempt.

As an Australian team aiming to be around for a long time it was important for us to make these three guys founding members of the team because they’re going to be around at the top level for a long time.

Travis’ 2011 season came to an impromptu end in late May after Bayern-Rundfahrt as he needed surgery on his left external iliac artery. He explained:

I have been out of action and my season is basically over, so it is great that Shayne and GreenEDGE have shown faith in me by offering a place on their roster for 2012. It’s been a little frustrating sitting on the sidelines for a good portion of the year but that only adds to my motivation.

Initially, Cameron said that one of the reasons for joining the team was having support for his continuing ambitions on the track.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Garmin-Cervelo but joining GreenEDGE gives me the best support possible to chase my dreams and of becoming one of the leading road riders in the world along with the possibility of riding at the Olympic Games in 2012.

Despite that declaration, a couple of months ago Cameron decided to leave behind the boards for good to focus completely on the road and withdrew from consideration for selection for the team pursuit squad at London 2012. He reasoned that while it was a very hard decision to make, he wanted to see what he could achieve by focussing solely on the road, citing Bradley Wiggins as his inspiration.

Chris Boardman, who won Olympic gold on the track in 1992 and broke the world hour record three times in his career, has singled out Cameron as the pick of the very talented bunch of young Australian cyclists:

He can hardly be called ‘new’ now, but Cameron Meyer is a fascinating prospect. The only thing to understand now is what direction he is going to go and how that is going to manifest itself. Is he going to become a major tour rider? Or is he going to be someone who can grab stages? I will be interested to see how he develops. He is the most interesting prospect to come out of Australia.

However Cameron’s career develops, you can be sure than one of his keenest supporters will be his younger brother Travis who, now he’s fully recovered, may also become a force to be reckoned with on the road. VeloVoices will be keeping a close eye on their continued development starting with the Vuelta a Burgos.