Friday, 23 December 2011

The impact of Elite Cycling in the UK

Tonight is a great night for British cycling, which in my eyes is therefore good for international cycling.  Mark Cavendish winning a publicly voted national award with almost 50% of the votes means cycling is in a great place.  The cycling community has backed its own in a massive way but so has the general public.

The question I have,  is “what impact the Elite squad really has on the community at large?”.  They earn huge sums of money, ride bikes that are prices way out of the average man’s/woman’s price bracket and like most elite and professional sports stars live a life far removed from the average Joe. 

I personally believe unlike a huge number of sports though the average, amateur or semi pro rider can relate directly to the pro rider.  We feel the same pain (in many cases even more?!!), we ride the same machine (whilst vastly different in price the general mechanics are the same); we can if we desire ride the same routes (if you are man enough to tackle the Tourmalet you can).  Most importantly to all the beginnings of most all professionals careers start on the track which is an amateur sport. Granted there is huge funding behind it with UK sport and Sky but fundamentally it remains an amateur sport.

The levels of competition available to everyone is huge.  From the average Sportif to a Cat 4 or even 3 race for general entry to those good enough they can compete at higher levels up to Cat 1 before you reach the senior Leagues like the Halfords Tour Series.  Competitive cycling has strong routes

What has the rise in British Cycling done for the sport?

Not only has the likes of Chris Boardman, Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton to name just 3 done a huge amount to raise the profile of the sport they have also brought with it a sense of National pride.  That we are good at cycling and it’s a sport worthy of being a part of.  With any successful sport comes sponsor and enter Sky who now not only sponsor the elite squad but a large number of Sky rides that take place around the country to aid the progress of increasing participation in the sport.  Sky being part of one of the biggest news corporations in the world also brought coverage. 

You see with success brings greater exposure, the more people want to watch us win the more people will pay for advertising and the more television will cover the events. It’s like snowball rolling down an ever steeper hill.

The number of locally organised Sportiffs increases every year, thus increasing the number of potential future British Cyclists.  At a similar time to the ever increasing success of the National team the labour Government announced the cycle to work scheme allowing millions to have access to tax free bikes.  If you live in the UK n don't know about this scheme click on the link below and get your employer to sign up. I praise the former labour government very little these days but for that little nugget I am eternally grateful as it set me on the road to where I am now.

Mark Cavendish’s victory is a great achievement for on individual as well as an elite cycling set up in the UK that deserves massive congratulations.  I am now excited for next year’s tour and ten the Olympics.  Their biggest victory however is not the Sports personality award, green jerseys, Olympic and world gold’s but the impact they have on Children, ad more importantly 30 something blokes like me.  I never thought I could take up a new sport at my age (not old I know, but never the less stuck in my traditional thoughts and values). British Cycling success encouraged me along with other reasons to try it.  Where am I now?

Like many others -  commuting every day (except this week as the wife is off work so I stole the car), entering 1 sportif this year but looking at least 3 next year along with a triathlon. It is still a massively growing sport in the UK and still relatively cheap.  The more the sort grows and the more money there is to make the cheaper pats will become. 

7 million people own bikes in the UK, that is no fluke, in a society that is now inherently lazy like many other Western countries its and mazing achievement made possible in art by a few who believed we could be the best! Success Breeds Success.  There are still huge facets of the industry still left undiscovered and I am excited for the future of the sport as a whole in the UK.

British Cycling is the best in world, Team sky and the Olympic team will prove that in 2012.  Watch how many take up cycling next year - the figure will be astonishing and bikes sales will rocket!

Let’s just hope the Rest of the world joins us with the same vigour - After the Olympics though hey!!


Cycle to work with Halfords
Department of Transport - Uk Government
Sky Ride Information

British Cycling

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