Could the next Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pendleton come from Kirklees?
PUBLISHED: 00:05 09 May 2014
Kirklees Cycling Academy was launched four years focussing exclusively on young riders
World-beating cyclist Mark Cavendish started racing when he was 12. Sir Chris Hoy was so inspired by the cycling scenes in the film ET when he was six years old that he took to the competitive BMX circuit the following year. And Sir Bradley Wiggins was just 12 when he told his art teacher he was going to be an Olympic champion and wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
Each of these future champions seemed to instinctively know that the best way to get ahead in their chosen sport was to literally get on their bike and start pursuing their dream.
This is an ethos shared by Kirklees Cycling Academy (KCA), which was launched four years ago to plug a gap in the cycling market for a competitive club focussing exclusively on young riders.
‘The DNA at the heart of our club is to encourage children to train for competitive cycling,’ said Darren Stringer, club secretary and coach. ‘It’s good to encourage children to be competitive – it has a positive knock-on effect in their everyday life. Parents have said they’ve never seen their kids so organised. They sort their own kit out and their own training schedule, and they even start getting their homework done on time.’
The KCA team support the development of riders from eight to 18, working closely with British Cycling to deliver quality coaching and education via the official Go-Ride programme.
Their aim, quite simply, is to develop champions – even if some of their future Wiggos don’t even have their own set of wheels.
‘We’ve bought in bikes that kids can borrow, so parents can bring them in even if they don’t have their own bike,’ Darren explained. ‘They can take them home – some of them for up to a year – so they can train in their spare time.’
Financial support from local community-minded businesses, the Police Community Fund and Sport England has also allowed KCA to invest in 30 sets of rollers, two Watt bikes (as used by the British and Australian Olympic teams) and some competition class bikes for members to ride in both road and cyclo-cross events.
Not all members will become champions, of course, but the club believes that, with the right training, advice and encouragement, all children can reap the rewards of cycling
‘It teaches children about discipline and commitment, and it shows them that they’re capable of great things – more than they could probably ever imagine,’ said Darren.
‘It can also have a profound effect on their all-round health. We talk to them about nutrition and, again, parents have said their children are now influencing what they buy at the supermarket. They actively want to eat energy-giving and muscle-building food.’
Kirklees Cycling Academy has built quite a reputation for itself in a relatively short time, attracting both newbies and children with previous club cycling experience with its competitive yet supportive training regime.
It doesn’t matter where they come from though, whether from another club with the full top-spec kit (and caboodle) or from just round the corner with not so much as a bicycle clip to their name; if they’ve got championship potential, the KCA trainers will help them to shine
‘You can spot the ones who have a special glint in their eye,’ said Darren. ‘They turn up to training on time and are always keen to learn. It’s the best feeling in the world to see young riders develop.’
Tour de Huddersfield
The first Huddersfield One Community Criterium will take place on the evening of July 4th – the eve of Yorkshire’s Grand Départ.
This high-speed, closed-circuit series of bike races will take professional and amateur riders of all ages along a kilometre circuit through Huddersfield’s pedestrian precincts, with crowds lining the route behind protective barriers.
‘It’s been many years since we had elite racing in the area and I thought the time was right to organise another event – one which would give aspiring amateurs and young people the opportunity to race safely,’ said Kirklees Mayor Martyn Bolt, who’s worked with local bike shop owner Dave Sowerby and British Cycling to arrange the event. ‘We want to bring the thrills of cycling to the people and a race like this certainly does that.’
Cyclists will complete a set number of laps in each of three races, amounting to about 45 minutes per race. Among the youngest competitors will be a team from Kirklees Cycling Academy.
‘This is a great showcase for local talent and something we hope will become an annual event,’ said club secretary Darren Stringer.
‘There should be quite a carnival atmosphere in the town centre on the day, with loads of people taking part and even more coming along to cheer them on.’