These are uncharted roads for British cycling. Mark Cavendish, a British rider, is wearing the rainbow rings of the World Road Champions jersey. Over 3 gruelling weeks of the Tour de France, 4 different British riders claimed 7 stage victories, the final one being taken by Cav on the Champs-Élysées. Among his lead out train, shining brighter than the golden Joan of Arc on the Rue de Rivoli (well at least to British eyes), was Bradley Wiggins, wearing the Maillot Jeune, the race leaders jersey.
Every July my cycling club gets a membership boost off the back of the Tour. I wrote about this Tour de France effect last year and this July has been no different. Since the start of July we have had 8 new and returning members.
On Sunday morning, before the final stage to Paris, 24 riders including 3 first timers, turned out for the weekly club run. This is despite missing several regulars! Not bad for a club that came close to folding a few years ago.
Only this year the impact of the Tour, on paper at least, should be greater than ever. Last Year Mark Cavendish won the Green Jersey, but this year Bradley Wiggins claimed the Yellow, a colour which demands attention from the Media. And in the closing stages of this years Tour the media started to pay attention to the race. ITV1 went do far as to knock Murder She Wrote off the afternoon schedules, screening the final two stages and going head to head with the golf on BBC1. Seeing the viewing figures for that competition may prove revealing of the British viewers appetite for sport. Day 1 of the Wiggins/Team Sky legacy saw cycling dominate the newspapers. From the Red tops to the Broadsheets, even the Daily Dianas put away their standard editorial hate; one and all they ran with a positive cycling news story. Astonishing. As I write this Wiggo is on the Channel 4 news.
As cycling explodes across the mainstream media I’m hopeful the usual Tour trickle down will stretch beyond the grassroots cycling clubs and inspire more people onto their bikes.
Time will inevitably prove whether or not we are living on the cusp of a cycling revolution. To be lasting legacy we need both a shift in attitude and infrastructure attractive to cycling. The Wiggins legacy needs a grand tour winners legs to succeed. Still 1 day on it is off to a promising start (yes I can be an optimist). Chatting to my office mate today she told me her partner rode his bike over the weekend. I gathered this was an unusual occurrence, but he had been inspired. Arriving home at the station this evening, the cycle racks were overflowing. I estimated close to 200 bikes were parked at St Neots station today, probably more. Riding home I counted 20 people on their bikes. In small groups or alone; in lycra, shorts, working clothes or suits; old and young. Not necessarily cyclists, but all people just riding their bikes. On a good day I would normally see 3 or 4.
The Olympics will carry the momentum forward for a few more weeks. Then it is La Vuelta a España. The final grand tour of the year. We can expect to see Chris Froome battle head to head across Spain against Alberto Contador. Could a British rider defeat Spain’s controversial champion on their home soil? What a victory that would be. I hope ITV4 are planning it into their schedules.
So chapeau Wiggo, Froomedog, Cav, Millar and Mr Brailsford and all of Team Sky. Together you have done everyone who sees the beauty and the utility of the humble bicycle proud.