Growing up, sport was all around me. I played netball and hockey in the winter. In summer there was swimming, tennis, even athletics. As a spectator and fan, I had first-class cricket to watch in the Parks in the summer; in the winter: lacrosse, hockey and rugby. Sport was on my doorstep. We got free tickets for rugby matches at Twickenham and the Blues hockey match at Lords.
No wonder I thought sport was important. I played and swam for my county I trained alongside future Olympic sportsmen and women and could do nothing but admire their dedication and skill.
Ultimately I was not in their league, and in my late teens I abandoned sports for the fun of boys and parties. There were good times, but I felt a failure in those years because I had not come up to scratch in the sporting league.
Time passes and you understand that you don't have to represent your county or country to have fun with sports. I took up city time-trialling cycling. An evil and totally unregulated sport, but wow, what fun we had. We used to set out on a 3 mile route in central London which started at the south side of Lambeth Bridge. We rode the Embankment, over Waterloo Bridge, up Aldwych and round Soho, back into the Strand and along to Trafalgar Square. The only way you could break the time record was to ride like a fiend down Whitehall and take a complete flyer round the Westminster Bridge Roundabout. Ignore traffic, ignore any lights, just take that downhill acceleration and ride for your life across one of the busiest traffic crossings in London. We used to do it at about 6am when there was minimal traffic. All the same, each and every time you raced towards that line, you knew you risked death.
Why did we do it? Well, we'd all failed at other competitive sports and this was one we knew how to do and enjoyed. Every morning when you knocked a tenth of a second off your circuit, you went to your job feeling confident. After all, you'd just broken either your own or someone else's record. It makes it much harder for the office bully to intimidate when you're riding high on success.
I'd always followed professional road cycling. When I was out there on the streets of London, I was Cipollini, Pantani or Richard Virenque. I imagined the polka dots or the Maillot Jaune on my shoulders.
Then, to my disgust, cycling became the devil of all sports. First the Festina affair, then the drip, drip, drip of more scandal. Finally last year Operation Puerto threatened to, and did, overwhelm Le Tour. Big names were withdrawn, it all looked shadey, and shamefully it ended with the Landis fiasco.
But that was then. Trust the new bosses.Cycle and love it. It's starting to be clean now.