Golden future for cycling in Britain?
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Golden future for cycling in Britain?

by Conal Andrews at 10:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Mark Cavendish has won ten Tour de France stages in two seasons, the GB track squad dominated last year’s Olympic Games, Bradley Wiggins had emerged as a genuine Tour de France contender and Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley are top riders on the women’s circuit. Britain’s riders have been on an upward curve for several years now, but it appears that the whole sport of cycling there is also following suit.

Next year the Sky ProTour team will begin competing, aiming to ride the Tour de France in 2010 and to win the race outright within five years. Growth in the sport is happening in many different areas, though, as evidenced by a highly encouraging range of statistics listed in yesterday’s Telegraph newspaper

Membership of British cycling is growing at a rate of 20 percent each year and has doubled in the past five years, with 150 new clubs contributing to an overall number of 1,450. That has brought with it a 56% rise in competitive participation.

The infrastructure to support that is in place, and continues to develop. There are now eleven velodromes in Britain, with this number to increase to sixteen before 2013, while there are 49 BMX and 34 cycle speedway facilities. Road riders have ten permanently closed circuits which they can use, avoiding any potential problems with traffic.

Apart from its backing of the ProTour team, Sky has big plans to continue developing the sport. Last month a staggering 150,000 riders turned up to take part in the Skyride event in London, joining triple Beijing gold medallist Chris Hoy, the celebrity Kelly Brook and the mayor Boris Johnson in the 15 kilometre ride.

Sky’s director of cycling was impressed. “It was a great day and huge wake-up moment," he stated. "It seemed like you were part of a movement as much as a sport.

"Cycling has a massive opportunity now and we see part of our role to knit together the elite level and participation at grass-roots level to engineer a fundamental behavioural shift."

The indicators are all hugely positive. Prior to Wiggin’s fourth place in the Tour, many were sceptical about the medium-term plans for a Briton to win the race. But whether or not the multiple Olympic gold medallist can stand atop the podium in Paris, the support now being offered from the grassroots level upwards is likely to produce widespread success in the years ahead.


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