We are experts when we are organising your conferences and events, but how would we get on with our staff away day? Find out here…
Every January the staff members in the commercial arm of the University of Leeds get together to celebrate the successes of the previous year, give out the Spotlight Awards for outstanding contributions to the services, and most importantly play some games!
Obviously, it is the responsibility of the experts at MEETinLEEDS to organise the event; from booking the guest speaker and marketing the event to arranging the delicious lunch prepared by our talented team of chefs.
Over to Emma, Conference Sales Executive at MEETinLEEDS, with a breakdown of the morning activities:
“This year’s team away day took place on site at the University. Two venues were used over the day – The Refectory and the Rupert Beckett Lecture theatre, which is the main lecture theatre in Michael Sadler Building. These are two of our most popular and well used venues as part of any conference, so we knew the tried and tested venues would serve us proud.
“Excellent energy and enthusiasm from all staff, loved Alex Mcphail’s motivational speech and a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other departments.”
The day started in the Refectory with bacon sandwiches, pastries, fresh coffee and a good selection of fruit for those who hadn’t given up on their diet 2 days after the Christmas break! We then made our way over to the Rupert Beckett lecture theatre and took our seats for the morning. As we work in the conference sales office it is not usual that we get to spend the day in a lecture theatre and we were surprised at how comfy the seating was – everyone also had a great view of the screen and the presenters due to the tiered seating. Between listening to motivational speaker Alex McPhail (highly recommended), updates from management, awards and hearing about the great work we have done for our staff chosen charities, there was time to stretch our legs, grab a drink in the foyer and network with colleagues from other departments.”
Mike, Sales and Marketing Assistant for our partners Great Food at Leeds, said:
“We were spoilt for choice when it came to the catering for the away day with our team of award winning chefs drawing on their years’ of experience as we enjoyed a fantastic selection of dishes.
Preparing three meal options for over 160 people could seem quite daunting but not for our catering team who do this and much more every day! On the day we were treated to three of the new dishes that are going to be appearing on the Refectory menus this term.
The food was definitely one of the highlights to a fantastic event and plenty of us even helped ourselves to a second helping!
Here is the menu for the day, which you could also experience if you book an event with MEETinLEEDS!”
- Cajun dusted Salmon, Pan fried with Sour Cream, Tomato Chilli Salsa & Guacamole
- Chicken wild mushroom & Spinach Stroganoff with Creamy Paprika Sauce
- Griddled Halloumi, Sweet Potato Bhaji, Coriander Dahl & baby Naan Bread
Sides & Salads
- Braised Rice/New Potatoes
- Selection of Green Vegetables
- Plum Tomato & Roast Pepper Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts
- Mixed leaves with Lemon Olive Oil dressing
- Liquorice Crème Brulee with Sugar Shortbread
- Warm Plum, Apple & Blackberry Crumble & Custard
- Fresh Fruit Platter
Find out more about the variety of dishes available on a daily basis in the Refectory on the Great Food at Leeds website.
After lunch the Refectory was transformed into a quiz arena (it is the chameleon of our venue portfolio), where Lisa, also a Conference Sales Executive at MEETinLEEDS, will talk you through her favourite part:
“For the afternoon we were in the hands of the team at Chillisauce, who are also experts at creating fun and engaging team activities, and split us into 20 groups and hosted a version of the Generation Game, which tested our knowledge on just about everything, including how many plums you can fit into a welly!
The afternoon was great fun and it was brilliant to experience an event one of our own venue, as I am normally booking events rather than attending them! It was great to be on the stage that has been graced by some amazing artists over the years. The Who famously recorded “Live at Leeds” here, but to name a few others: Elton John, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Jam, U2, Kaiser Chiefs, Manic Street Preachers, Kasabian and many more.”
The overall consensus from the attendees was that the event was a great success, with comments such as:
“Excellent energy and enthusiasm from all staff, loved Alex Mcphail’s motivational speech and a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other departments.”
“Really nice to see everyone and network. The food throughout the day was awesome!”
“Being a relatively new member of staff was good getting together out of work with others. Lovely food too!”
“I found the day to be a good balance and a great opportunity for staff to feel valued with the Spotlight Awards.”
“The programme was highly motivational and a great avenue for staff interaction. The whole day showed how highly staff are valued.”
“Brilliant for motivation team spirit. A brilliant day at work!”
We can’t wait for next year’s event – roll on 2017!
ARE YOU ORGANISING A TEAM AWAY DAY?
Call us on 0113 343 6100 or send us an email to organise a fun and informative event for you and your colleagues.
MEETinLEEDS are hooked on the Great British Bake Off, so we thought that we would join in the fun and hold our own Showstopper Challenge!
What Is the Showstopper Challenge?
As most of you will know, the Showstopper Bake is the final challenge where you are able to showcase your baking skills. The only rules we applied are that everything had to be home-made (no shop bought pastry!) by the entrants – no professional help allowed!
The bakers were be anonymously judged by our very own experts, Mary Bevvy (Bev Kenny – Head of Conference and Catering) and Simon HollyWood (Simon Wood – Head Chef at the Refectory).
The judges were looking for the most impressive and elaborate creations – flavour, aesthetics, originality and ambition being the 4 categories scored out of 10, with a maximum of 40 points available. The Star Baker winning the highly coveted MEETinLEEDS apron!
However, the taking part is what mattered most, as all of the money raised went to the University of Leeds nominated charities.
We had 8 entrants to the bake off, each of which had obviously had a lot of time and effort invested in them. Just take a look for yourself!
The competition was very tight, with the judges deliberating for half an hour over the merits of the entries, which were as follows:
Parkinson Building Cake – Vibha Firth’s extremely detailed cake was modelled on the iconic Parkinson Building, and was a gluten-free chocolate cake with icing.
Out of the Allotment – Harriet Boatwright’s take on goodies from the potting shed was carrot and cream cheese muffins.
Slime Cake – Emma Broadhurst’s disgustingly good entry was a white chocolate cake with white chocolate slime.Piggin’ Brill – Lisa Wood’s cake was chocolate with a chocolate ganache, with a decoration of pigs that looked very happy.Rubik’s Cake – Matt Hamnett’s esoteric entry was a chocolate and butter cream take on the classic puzzle from the 70’s.Scone Henge – Ryan Johnson’s scone-less bake was flapjack with a mint-chocolate mousse, modelled on Spinal Tap’s famous on-stage set.The Temptation of St Patrick – Mitchell Perry’s cake of the good stuff was a Guinness and chocolate cake, featuring the ubiquitous clover on top.It’s a Peach – Aneta Rus’s light and fluffy entry was a peach and cream cake with a mint leaf topping.
The judges both scored Harriet’s “Out of the Allotment” and Vibah’s “Parkinson Building Cake” exactly the same number of points, with “Mary Bevvy” scoring both 37/40 and “Simon HollyWood” giving both 30/40 (“I am a bit more unforgiving”). Here are their comments on the cakes:
Parkinson Building Cake
Simon – Lovely flavour and icing. The sponge was good, if a little dry. However, the amount of skill, originality and execution of the idea meant it was a deserved joint winner.
Mary – While the sponge was a touch dry, the complexity of the frilly icing, not to mention the representation of the University of Leeds signature building, made this a worthy winner. It should be the new university logo!
Out of the Allotment
Simon – The bake was perfect – lovely and moist muffins with great flavour and very good icing. The use of plant pots for the presentation was very original and appropriate for the carrot theme.
Mary – The best carrot sponge I have ever eaten! The presentation was unusual and the use of the crate, plant pots and sunflowers brought the whole idea together.
Do It Yourself!
Congratulations to Vibha and Harriet and thank you to everyone involved in the Great Big MEETinLEEDS Bake Off – see you next year!
If you recall Susan’s blog entry from June, you will remember that members of our MEETinLEEDS catering team were participating in this year’s Leeds Total Warrior obstacle race on June 28th 2015. Our talented team of chefs and catering gurus traded their ‘whites’ for dirty overalls when taking part in this year’s Total Warrior challenge to raise money for charity.
Over 6,000 people took part in what has been described as “the pinnacle of obstacle racing” by ex-military personnel. The 30 obstacles consisting of swimming through 4ft of ice cold water, climbing 15ft walls, crawling under barbed wire through mud and leaping over flaming logs! Take a look at the video, below, to see exactly what happens in one of the toughest challenges in the country.
“It means we got to see each other in a different light, outside of the workplace environment and that’s a great way to get to know each other better”
Taking on the challenge were a team of 8 MEETinLEEDS members. “The exciting thing is the change in team dynamics” says Head Chef Marc Mottershead, “In the kitchen, I’m the boss, but for this course, Phil was in charge of the team.” The team, which they called “Hell’s Kitchen”, trained for three months before the main event by running 5 kilometres, three times every week. “It means we got to see each other in a different light, outside of the workplace environment and that’s a great way to get to know each other better” added Phil.
Hell’s Kitchen completed the gruelling course in 2 hours 53. The team’s initial goal was to raise £500, but amazingly they have more than doubled their target, raising over £1300 for Martin House Children’s Hospice!
Congratulations to our iron chefs and team for proving they are Total Warriors and helping to raise money for a worthy cause at the same time.
Fundraising, healthy team building through friendly competition and some role reversal: all in a day’s work for the team at MEETinLEEDS!
To find out more about the work our department does for charities please visit the Commercial and Campus Support Services website.
Find out more about Total Warrior here.
Running up muddy slopes, leaping over flaming beams and wading through 10 tonnes of ice and water isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fine dining chefs.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that eight members of our MEETinLEEDS catering team were participating in this year’s Leeds Total Warrior obstacle race on June 28th. I myself have participated in 15k runs and a little cross country before, but 30 obstacles crammed into 12k sounds like a far greater challenge.
Local Charity Events
So too thinks Marc Mottershead, head chef of MEETinLEEDS. The team has taken part in similar obstacle courses before, such as X-runner and Tough Mudder, and they keep their eye out for new courses to run full on for charity.
“We try to keep it local, though, so everyone can have a chance to take part.”
“The exciting thing is the change in team dynamics … In the kitchen, I’m the boss, but for this course, Phil is in charge of the team”
70% of Total Warrior’s entry fees go toward a number of charities, and organisers welcome participants fundraising for a charity of their own choosing. Whilst Phill Tostevin, Second Chef, has run for charities including Cancer Research in the past, this time the team are donating all their proceeds to Martin House Children’s Hospice.
Whilst running for charity is part of the motivation behind the grueling obstacle course, there are other objectives behind catering’s participation. When asked what they were looking forward to both Marc and Phil grinned and the lines “watching people suffer and getting really muddy” might have been said.
“The exciting thing is the change in team dynamics” explains Marc. “In the kitchen, I’m the boss, but for this course, Phil is in charge of the team.”
“It means we get to see each other in a different light, outside of the workplace environment and that’s a great way to get to know each other better.” Phil adds.
Preparation and Diet Changes
With only one more month to go, for now the participants are preparing for Total Warrior by running through Hyde Park on their breaks, changing their diet accordingly and generally keeping fit.
Will the team achieve their fundraising target of £500? Will they live to tell the tale? And will Phill be destined to scrub dishes for the rest of his life after putting the team through its paces? In any case, we’ll be rooting for them and sponsoring them on their arduous trek.
Fundraising, healthy team building through friendly competition and some role reversal, there seems to be so much to gain for your pain. One day maybe I should also trade in my athletics jersey for a ragged T-shirt (or costume!) and give it a shot, too!
The title may be a little misleading. Sadly, not all of the MEETinLEEDS team got the opportunity to go to the beautiful coastal city of Cape Town. Only Ryan, famous for a gruelling Personal Training session at The Edge, was lucky enough to escape the winter climes of Leeds for the sun bathed beaches of South Africa. Here he shares a few tips about the place that tops the New York Times list of 52 Places to Go in 2014.
“Just like the MEETinLEEDs team are worth shouting about, the Capetonians are an incredibly friendly set of folk and deserving of vocal praise”
First of all I never really wanted to go. Well, I am lying. Once I found out there was an opportunity to stay in such a beautiful place for 3 months, I jumped at the chance. But I never entertained the thought of going to South Africa before this point: there were probably 182 places (approximately) on my “bucket-list” of exotic destinations above the place that is frequently portrayed, shall we say, negatively. However, once I started bragging to people that I was off to live the life of Riley for 3 months, I found out that everybody had been to Cape Town. Everybody. Even my dad, who never mentioned his escapade previously. Why the big secret? After just 1 week (and further confirmed in the following 11) I found out why… They wanted all of this to themselves:
Being from Yorkshire, I am careful with money: if I drop a pound, it hits me on the back of the head. Which is why the fiscal features of any destination are at the top of my list. Cape Town does not disappoint: everything is as good value and quality as a Slice of Summer menu from Great Food at Leeds. There are about 17 rand to the pound, and a main course at a high end restaurant will set you back an average of 150 rands. That’s 8 quid. And I am talking fillet mignon, not needing to fill up on Mcdonald’s after.
Like most conference delegates anticipating the Gala Dinner, eating is in my top 5 pastimes. I have sampled steak in Les Halles, New York. I have mange’d moules and frites in Bastille, Paris. I have carved cuy in Cusco, Peru. But never have I eaten so well as here. From the local Springbok (think venison) and Yellowtail to internationally-recognised staples such as dim-sum and pizza, the best of them I have eaten has been in Cape Town, full stop. If you are in town I implore you to book a table at Bistrot Bizerca, then try and resist the temptation to go back the next night to eat that other thing you were going to order. They also take part in the Street Smart initiative, an excellent cause where you can donate to charities helping children on the streets of South Africa (of which there are many). Guilt free gourmandery at it’s very best.
Wonderful Wine (and Gin)
I have always enjoyed wine, but for me it always fell into the two categories espoused by Julius Caesar: thumbs up or thumbs down. After 3 wine tours I now have the palate of Michel Roux Jr. Okay, more Greg Wallace. The climate of the Cape Winelands, as suggested by the name, is ideal for growing all of the wines you know from the famous regions of France, Argentina, Australia or those available from University House. The Sauvignon Blanc is so crisp I expect Gary Linekar to pop up on every sip. They do renditions of sparkling wines that are made in the same method as in the Champagne region, but for a fraction of the cost. I have to doff a cap to the quaffs available at Annandale Vineyard. The proprietor, former South African International Rugby player Hempies Du Toit, has a delicious array of red wine, each of which is aged for around 8 years in French oak barrels. Try finding one of those in your local supermarket.
“You can fly to Cape Town from the Leeds Bradford Airport, via either Amsterdam or London. If you go from Leeds and need to stay overnight, why not book a night at Storm Jameson Court, just a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport”
If you are more of a gin lover, you will not be disappointed. Cape Town has a growing number of local distilleries offering a range of tipples. The unnamed gin bar, reached by walking through a chocolate shop, is one such retreat. To find out more about this mysterious place, enter your email here. It is well worth the treasure hunt, as Ollie and Angie mix some unusual but uniformly excellent cocktails, designed to cure the ills of modern life. The relaxed, speak-easy nature of the bar and adjoining courtyard make it the perfect place for drinks before dinner or to while away a warm summer evening.
Outdoors and Activities Aplenty
For those of you that enjoy the great outdoors or exercising at The Edge (remember, all MEETinLEEDS delegates get free entry to the state-of-the-art sports facilities!), Cape Town is the place for you. Take a relaxing walk around the tranquil Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, or take the hike up Table Mountain and catch your breath at the top with the breathtaking views. For wildlife lovers a safari is a must, as you can get within touching distance of the Big 5 Game Animals.
For the more athletic among you, Cape Town annually host’s one of the World Triathlon Series events, which was won this year by University of Leeds alumnus and Olympic Gold Medal winner Alistair Brownlee. If you are not a professional athlete (like me), the Cape Town Cycle Tour offers the largest timed cylcing event in the world over 109km. Get competitive and vie for a podium position, or just enjoy the day and the spectacular scenery as you pedal.
Friendly, Funloving People
Just like the MEETinLEEDs team are worth shouting about, the Capetonians are an incredibly friendly set of folk and deserving of vocal praise. I have been invited to Braai’s (the Afrikaans name for a barbecue), free tours of the neighbourhoods, personalised wine tours, best sandwich tours, and even to join the Iron Man (which I politely declined on account of not wanting to drag the team down). The city and people are coming to terms with the still-fresh repercussions of apartheid, with an overriding sense of community and excitement for the future exuded by the majority of locals, which is the exact message extolled by the country’s favourite son, Nelson Mandela. There is a diverse mix of people living in the City Bowl, and millions more on the Cape Flats that extend to the south-east of the city.
They take their leisure time very seriously, too. Take a stroll down Long Street on an evening and try not to stay out all night partying. Go down Bree Street on First Thursday and catch some local art along with excellent street food. Chill out with people in the know on the beaches at Clifton, rather than the windy tourist trap at Camps Bay.
You can fly to Cape Town from the Leeds Bradford Airport, via either Amsterdam or London. If you go from Leeds and need to stay overnight, why not book a night at Storm Jameson Court, just a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport.
Whatever you do, add Cape Town to your must go places: you will not be disappointed.
Shortly after I joined the conference sales team here at the University of Leeds; Lisa and I attended a course for two days of sales and marketing training. The training was very useful for my new role and I even got to bond with my new colleague over a glass of wine or two in the evening.
Back at the office we sat down with our manager and filled her in on our new found knowledge and expertise. After talking branding, target markets and question funneling our unanimous conclusion was: the most important thing at MEETinLEEDS is the added value we can offer our customers.
“In the sales and marketing office we work together with our enthusiastic event managers, award winning chefs and outstanding catering delivery team to make your event a success”
On campus we have so many excellent facilities available that can be booked and used by delegates – certainly adding extra value to any event! These include:
• A state of the art gym, swimming pool, squash courts and even a climbing wall!
• An outdoor sports park with over 100 acres of facilities.
• Two free permanent exhibitions on site (The Marks & Spencer’s Company Archive and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery)
• Furthermore our campus offers: year round accommodation, hairdressers, nail bar, supermarket, nightclub, bars, bookshop, bank and numerous coffees bars.
The MEETinLEEDS team are a friendly and welcoming bunch; which was great for me being a new member. In the sales and marketing office we work together with our enthusiastic event managers, award winning chefs and outstanding catering delivery team to make your event a success. One of our core values at the University is to go the extra mile for our customers.
Leeds is an exciting city and we have plenty of places to explore on our door step. From museums, ballet, opera and art to concerts at the First Direct Arena and a new shopping centre; there is always plenty to do in Leeds. We also have excellent transport connections including Leeds/Bradford Airport and a number of major events in the city. We’ve just had the Tour de Yorkshire and Live at Leeds Festival which has been voted the best urban festival in the UK! If you do decide to come and visit, make sure you ‘Live Leeds like a Local!’
It began as a mistake…
My heart is keeping a hummingbird’s wing tempo, lungs twist like wrung out sponges, sweat streams in Amazonian proportions and I have skin you could fry an early morning breakfast on. I look at the clock: 12 minutes? Only 12 minutes gone? That leaves – my endorphin riddled brain attempts calculation – 48 minutes still to go!
Make an excuse and leave. You have a meeting. A family emergency. Fake a faint. From the glance you caught in the wall mirror a horizontal embrace with the floor is in the post anyway. Anything to stop hopping backwards and forwards. In fact what you are really doing is using your bodyweight to scuff your feet the short distance over the line and back again line, to call it a hop insults the locomotive feats of the kangaroo…
Wait, this seems confusing, let’s rewind to a few weeks earlier for context:
During a social outing between team MEETinLEEDS and our fellow employees at The Edge, our Health & Fitness Centre (the largest fitness suite of any UK University), I blurt out that a good idea for a blog would be for me to have a Personal Training session and document the experience for your reading pleasure. Cue laughter from The Edge team, accompanied by glances at – what can loosely be described as – my unremarkable physique: rounded shoulders socketing two arm-like branches to a midriff that has been said to resemble a snake that has swallowed an egg. This is balanced on the scaffolding of two flamingo legs and stabilised by feet so flat they resemble gammon steaks. In fact the only thing remarkable is that propulsion is possible from the ensemble.
I let the laughter die down. I had been thinking of a way to make an entertaining piece about the excellent facilities on offer at The Edge (which are free to use for every MEETinLEEDS delegate!) even though I am one of the last people you would see on the rowing machine grunting “99…100”. I have yet to decline a recline. I am not completely lazy, I have been known to snowboard, swim and even wave a badminton racket in anger, but a regular exercise regime has never appealed to my relaxed disposition.
Another reason for the laughter is that the previous foray into Personal Training from a member of MEETinLEEDS was successful if a little fraught, for reasons best left to the imagination: we may be experts in the realm of conferences and events, but we still have a thing or two to learn when it comes to physical fitness.
I get the feeling my verbal flatulence has been written off as a joke until Matt Fairhurst, Senior Fitness Instructor at The Edge Fitness Centre and fellow South Yorkshireman, stops laughing long enough to take me up on my offer.
Some of you will recognise Matt from Channel 4’s Jockey School, which focused on Northern Racing College, where he is a Jockey Fitness Instructor under the guise of ‘Rudy’. I know I did. And I remember Stacey from the show whimpering “He’s evil!” after being made to run around the horse paddock. ‘Rudy’ was less than impressed. “The racing trade’s exhausting… They want to grow up and toughen up.” This is what Matt says to teenage kids, not 30 year olds who should know better.
Matt began his career in the Armed Forces as a Rifleman, touring in Afghanistan. Upon his return he became a Physical Training Instructor in his native Doncaster, training new recruits operational fitness skills to hone their core strength and aerobic endurance.
His current role at The Edge involves a mixture of Personal Training sessions, Group Classes (such as Boxercise, Circuits and NTC) and assisting regular users on the gym floor, along with the administrative duties that come with a senior position.
He says that the experience of working in a variation of environments, including actual sports training, has informed both his training methods and his interpersonal skills, which are essential for Personal Training:
“We aim to deliver a personal service with a tailored programme, adapted to your personal needs and circumstances. For example, if you want to build your core strength, we will create a programme focussing on weight training rather that aerobic to accomplish that. If you have an injury, we will tailor your regimen around that to aid recovery while still keeping you in shape and on target for your goals.
We also respond to your personality: I will have a 30 minute interview before we decide a programme to find out your needs and expectations from the sessions. From this I will determine what kind of motivational techniques you need to achieve your goals.
For example, I have one client that I encourage in a fun, pleasant, yet still strict manner to gain a beneficial reaction. This is a tact I often take at the Racing College. Then I have another client straight after that responds positively from a more aggressive and robust approach, which is more or less the method I used when training soldiers in the Army.”
I cannot overstate the fact that Matt’s comments come from experience and knowledge of the racing trade. He is not Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, he knows the hard work that is needed to reach the top of the trade. This is also true for Personal Training, as people of different levels will have different requirements from the service; from professionals looking to perfect their technique to beginners considering their first training steps. The Trainers know how to pace and structure a program to make it demanding yet fun and always beneficial to your physical wellbeing.
Regular readers of the MEETinLEEDS blog will remember that long ago (a week is a long time in the Digital Age) we pledged to show our support for Le Tour Yorkshire by cycling the entire Leeds to Harrogate stage of the Tour de France 2014, using spinning bicycles at the Edge Sports Centre.
For those of you that missed the story, here is a quick recap:
Along with our colleagues at the Edge, (all conference delegates and MEETinLEEDS residents at Storm Jameson Court get free access to the facilities at the Edge, remember!) and Great Food at Leeds, who provide catering for our conferences and events, the 20 riders each completed 9.5km to take us the 190km distance to the finish line. We calculated the total time it took us and then we will compare this to how the professionals fare on the 5th July!
“Team Leeds” ranged from novices to spin class teachers, travelling in pairs to instigate a bit of healthy competition. A full gallery of the photos from the day can be found on our dedicated Tour de France page.
So without further ado, here is a rundown of the day (you can click on the images to make them larger)…
Residential Services took on The Edge in the opening pair, with Tony Hall posting a credible 24:43 for his 9.5km (bearing in mind Tony cycles into work, and at an hour that even the tweety birds are still napping. He hastens to add that he had the resistance on the bike set to high, and so did the equivalent of the Ilkley to Chelker Reservoir section of Stage 1) and his Sports counterpart Rob Wadsworth averaging 18:45 per 9.5km. We say averaging because Rob thought he may as well do 21.1km while he was on the bike. This was just after taking an hour long Spinning Class. We think he is going to enter the Tour de France team next year to join Froome, Wiggins and Boardman on Team Sky.
Next up was MEETinLEEDS’ own Lisa Wood, who took on Tilly Hall of Great Food at Leeds. Tilly had also taken the same Spinning Class as Rob, forgetting she would be back on the bike within an hour, but posted an excellent time of 20:59, and was there to cheer Lisa over the line in 24:08. This was despite Lisa’s protestations that she could not do it (but still pedalling at the same time as pleading).
It was an all MEETinLEEDS affair in the next round, as Alan Gallagher squared up against Natalie Ruecroft. Alan steamed over the line in 20’06” with Natalie shortly behind in 21:54. It was Natalie’s first time on a bike since her school days at Castleford High School, so she treated herself to a nice Mocha from the Edge Café to celebrate.
MEETinLEEDS’ Digital Guru Matt Hamnett took on Helen Moulding of The Edge next. Helen crossed the line in 19:48, without even breaking sweat, while Matt’s effort to make 19:15 was manifested on his brow. “Fit people sweat more” was his mantra, in which case he could give Mo Farah a run for his money. Admittedly, your reporter did try to quiz him on the finer points of Digital Marketing throughout his 9.5km stint, which he answered with aplomb, if a little breathlessly.
It was MEETinLEEDS vs The Edge as we passed lunchtime to hit the halfway stage, Harriet Boatwright facing off with Luke Wilson from The Edge. The crowd anticipated Luke to be a strong contender and were proven right as he raced to the top of the leader board with a terrific 17:26. However, just 5 seconds later Harriet zoomed over the line and into second overall. This turned out to be the best time of the non-cyclists. Harriet put her amazing effort down to the pacing of Luke (“I just made sure my legs were spinning as quickly as his”) and pure grit.
We then had a Financial Face-off as Kevin Stephenson and Mike Ferraby from the University of Leeds Finance Department. The partner-pacing effect came into play once more, Kevin hitting the 18 minute mark exactly and Mike not far behind at 18:35. Brilliant effort from the boys more accustomed to spreadsheets, budgets and other elements in the dark-arts of Accountancy.
As news of the event spread Paddy Craig of The Edge fame decided to try his hand (or legs) at the 9.5km mini-stage. As he didn’t have a cycling partner, I hopped on to help Paddy keep the pace. Unfortunately, he left me in his slip-stream and took the lead with a time of 15:56. After obviously taking a wrong turn somewhere I wheezed over the line in 19:52. I wrote this off as rustiness as the full extent of my training was walking to the chippy the night before.
As the competition heated up 2 pros stepped up to the plate, as Gary Butterfield from The Edge and Ricky Thompson of Great Food at Leeds straddled their stationary steeds in full cycling garb. They finished with times of 15:53 and 17:25 respectively. Gary is training for an Iron Man event in Australia, and took the lead with just 3 seconds between him and his closest rival. A special commendation goes to Ricky who not only posted a top time, but carried on for a full hour, completing a total of 30.9km!
Another member of the Finance Department, Nick Holdsworth, took to the saddle along with Jo Bayley, the PA to the Big Boss of MEETinLEEDS. After some good natured banter and ruddy faced exertion Nick crossed the line first in 18:53, taking time for a quick lay down as Jo breezed in with 21:33.
It was time for me to make my practice run count, as I attempted to tackle Tom Exeter from The Edge. Now, Tom is a spinning instructor, and I am brilliant at spinning on my chair, so all I could do is try and do MEETinLEEDS proud and sabotage Tom by chewing his ear off. However, Tom had a plan: headphones. My plans scuppered, I endeavoured to beat my earlier showing. I looked over to my right after around 13 minutes, as there was some very audible exertion coming from Tom. After 14:04 Tom had crossed the finish line, reporters were scrabbling and pushing microphones in his face, asking how he felt after beating the 9.5km record by nearly 2 minutes. At least in my exhausted mind they were. 5 minutes later in a time of 19:23, I crossed the line, attributing my lack of a sprint finish to cramp (honestly).
The final 19km was a clash of the titans, as Stewart Ross, Head of MEETinLEEDS, took on Ian Robertson, Head of Residences. There was an obvious healthy rivalry (and excellent colour coordination with our background banners) as they took to the saddle and a look of determination on Stewarts face as he chased Tom’s record. After 9 and a half minutes Ian declared himself finished, much to the astonishment of the crowd. After an official adjudication, it was discovered that Ian had mistaken his time for the distance covered. Ian recovered and regained momentum to finish with a superb 17:40, while Stewart had already streaked over the line in 15:08, taking silver and a place on the podium.
It was time to tot up the totals and see how long it took us to cover the 190km of the Tour de France Stage 1. Drumroll please…
6 hours 18 minutes and 10 seconds was the total time of the top 20 of our 21 riders (sorry Tony, you missed the cut). This was at an average speed of 30.1 km/h.
Our clear winner, Tom Exeter, had an average speed of 40.5km/h. If this was extended over the total 190km of the Leeds to Harrogate route it would give a total time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 28 seconds, which would give the peloton a run for its money. However, being privy to the colossal effort it took to keep up that speed for just 1/20th of the total distance makes you appreciate the dedication and preparation it must take to compete at the very top level.
A massive thank you to everyone involved in the event and roll on the 5th of July!
Do you think we have what it takes to beat Froome, Wiggins, Boardman and co over the finish line? Tune into the Tour de France and cheer on Team SKY. Better still come on down to Leeds and join in the fun!
For more information about the Tour de France and for some awe-inspiring images of our Homage Event you can visit our dedicated webpage here.
MEETinLEEDS is the brand name of the conference, meeting, training, and events facilities of the University of Leeds.
The University offers a wide range of conference facilities: from a simple day meeting to a fully-managed residential conference, and all close to the heart of Leeds. Contact us on 0113 343 6100.
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