We don’t know about you, but for us, July seems to be packed with loads of really excellent sporting events! We’re loving Wimbledon (and not only because of this delicious Pimms Float – our new favourite drink). Over the weekend the Tour de France kicked off AND the US Women’s football team won the World Cup, beating Japan 5-2. Tomorrow England take on Australia in the first Ashes test! Phew! Just listing all these massive events makes us tired, but if you’re made of hardier stuff, why not take on Cycle London’s epic 40 mile tour of Sporting London!
With so much open space needed, sports stadia tend to be built out in the suburbs, so expect to clock up the miles on this tour of London’s greatest sports venues. And, when you start to tire toward the end of your 65-km (40-mile) epic, spare a thought for the sportsmen who sweat it out every day of the week at the places you’re visiting. They do 64 kilometers in their sleep.
DISTANCE: 64.4km (40 miles)
LONDON E20 2ST
It makes sense to start your London sports tour at the vast venue that hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in Stratford, includes the Copper Box Arena, the Aquatics Centre, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, and, most importantly for you, Lee Valley VeloPark with its 8km (5 miles) of mountain bike trails and 1.6km (1 mile) of road track. Here, you can follow in the tire tracks of some of the world’s greatest cyclists. (Unfortunately, the main Olympic Stadium isn’t open until 2016.)
Now head up to Victoria Park, follow the cycle route west across the park, and join the Regent’s Canal as far as Hoxton. Take New North Road, which eventually reaches the home of Arsenal Football Club.
EMIRATES STADIUM, DRAYTON PARK, N5 1BU
Step into the Emirates Stadium, as part of your Arsenal Museum and Stadium Tour, and it’s difficult not to be awestruck by the huge sweep of shiny red seating and the beautifully curved sides of the bowl structure. Tours include the home changing room (you won’t believe the size of the team bath), the players’ tunnel, the directors’ box, the press lounge, and dugout beside the pitch. On the Legends Tour, you’ll be guided by former Arsenal greats such as Charlie George, Kenny Sansom, or Lee Dixon.
Now head southwest along Camden Road, through Camden Town, and skirt along the top of Regent’s Park, before briefly joining the Regent’s Canal.
JOHN’S WOOD RD, NW8 8QN
It was all the way back in 1788 that the Marylebone Cricket Club (now based at Lord’s Cricket Ground) first devised the endlessly unfathomable rules of cricket, that quirkiest of English sports. Now a major international cricket venue, Lord’s is also home to the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum. An official Lord’s Tour will include the tiny Ashes urn (surely sport’s most bizarre trophy), the Long Room (with lots of cricket-themed art), and even the sparrow that was done for with a particularly vicious ball from Indian bowler Jahangir Khan in 1936. Said sparrow is now stuffed and preserved all eternity.
Drop down the Edgware Road, cross Hyde Park, exiting at Queen’s Gate, and head south as far as the Fulham Road. Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, is down this street, a mile on the right.
STAMFORD BRIDGE, SW6 1HS
Much like Arsenal, Chelsea’s stadium tour includes dressing rooms, players’ tunnel, pitchside dugouts, and the press room. Marvel as you imagine the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry soaking in a post-match bath. Where the tour really scores is with the museum’s interactive exhibits and audiovisual gadgetry.
Cross the Thames via Wandsworth Bridge and wiggle through Wandsworth Town until you reach the top of King George’s Park. Follow the cycle route to the southern tip of this park and cut across to Wimbledon Park, exiting on Wimbledon Park Road, close to the gates to the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
AELTC, CHURCH ROAD, SW19 5AE
Officially known as the All England Lawn Tennis Club, this is the venue for Wimbledon, tennis’s most famous tournament. Highlights of the museum and tour include clothing and shoes worn by former champions, the chance to view the famous Centre Court close-up, and a holographic ghost of tennis bad boy John McEnroe “in the very changing room he once used.”
Now head west, crossing Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park, and the Thames (at Teddington Lock), before turning north to Twickenham.
WHITTON ROAD, TW2 7BA
Home to English rugby union (for the uninitiated, that’s the more famous 15-a-side version with scrums), Twickers, as it’s commonly known, has both a museum and a stadium tour. Nose around the England dressing room, the medical room (where those gruesome rugby injuries are treated), the players’ tunnel, the 10,000 objects on display in the museum, and a great view of the stadium from the top of the stand. You’ll be flabbergasted by the size of the place—with a capacity of 82,000, it’s the biggest rugby venue in the world.
Now cross back over the Thames at Twickenham Bridge and follow the Thames Path as far as Kew Bridge, before heading due north as far as Wembley Stadium.
WEMBLEY HA9 0WS
Thanks to its mammoth arch (over 427ft/130m high), you’ll spot this sporting landmark—the home of English football—from miles away. The stadium tour allows you all the usual changing room, dugout, and player tunnel stuff, but an extra highlight is the chance to climb the 107 trophy winners’ steps and brandish the FA Cup, like some of England’s finest footballers before you. (Sorry, it’s only a replica.)
Phew! Think you've earned a pint! Enjoy the sport this summer, and happy cycling!
Cycle London by Dominic Bliss is available here.