This was my first organised cycle event. I cycle mostly to commute and bought a road bike only this year. I had never ridden more than thirty miles in one go, and that was thirty years ago. But how could any Mancunian with a bike not want to join in the Great Manchester Cycle along the Mancunian Way? Manchester Cycle along the Mancunian Way?

I set myself a target of three hours for the 52 miles and managed that in training a few weeks ago. Then holiday and illness got in the way, so I was less prepared than planned. Having stayed with my in-laws overnight I cycled the mile to the Etihad. It was uplifting to join countless cyclists streaming into the ground. I stocked up at the Soreen stand and joined the queue to the start.

The early stages were nerve-wracking for someone who likes space around his bike! How do the professionals cope in the peloton? One difference between me and the club cyclists was that they seemed to slip into gaps where there were no gaps. It led to my leapfrogging some people throughout the ride: they would overtake as I went cautiously into the narrow sections, I would catch up on the open stretches.

I drive past Old Trafford and the Etihad when visiting my in-laws, so over recent weeks I had observed every inch of the Mancunian Way and imagined cycling it. The reality was even better, made by conversations with those I met along the way: club cyclists, new cyclists and people riding for charity (a special mention for the man in a green dress raising money in memory of his mother-in-law).

For a few hundred yards along Chester Road the route overlapped with my commute. What bliss! No cars!

On I went happily for three and a half laps until my energy level plummeted as I approached the Mancunian Way for the last time. The last few miles were hard and I was glad to see the finish. 2:41:49 - a bit below average for men in our early forties but well within my personal target.

After lunch and a change of bike I returned to the Etihad, daughter on tagalong, for the family ride. If anything this was an even better experience, mainly because my daughter loved it. She is already looking forward to using her own bike next year! There were many heart-warming sights, particularly the man from a children's hospice riding a special cycle carrying a child in a wheelchair. He was aiming to beat last year's 1:50; I hope he did.

Thanks to everyone at Great Manchester Cycle for a fantastic event  my best day on a bike ever. See you next year!