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Legacy of Le Tour in Doncaster

Doncaster Cycle Festival.  Elite riders.  L/r Dean Downing, Graham Briggs, Martin Maltby (organiser), John Tanner and Ed Clancy.  Picture: Malcolm Billingham

Doncaster Cycle Festival. Elite riders. L/r Dean Downing, Graham Briggs, Martin Maltby (organiser), John Tanner and Ed Clancy. Picture: Malcolm Billingham

The route of the Tour de France in Yorkshire may have bypassed Doncaster but it has still left a legacy.

Veteran cyclists from across the borough are agreed - there are a lot more people riding bicycles than there used to be.

The renaissance started when Sir Bradley Wiggins won Le Tour in 2012 but has snowballed since the world’s best riders came to Yorkshire in early July for the start of the world’s biggest bike race. On that Saturday and Sunday millions thronged the roadsides of Yorkshire to see the great spectacle.

The second stage only got as far as Sheffield but that did not deter thousands of sports fans from Doncaster travelling to other parts of the county to soak up some of the atmosphere.

And it would seem many of them were inspired to go home and dust off their old bikes or head to a cycle dealer to buy a new one to hit the road.

Cyclists taking a spin round the quiet country lanes of Doncaster this summer will almost certainly encounter an almost constant stream of other riders coming from the opposite direction, much more than a few years ago.

Some may be seasoned ‘roadies’ on a 100-mile club run but many are individuals on shiny new bikes just getting a feel for the sport.

And Doncaster’s oldest cycling club, the Doncaster Wheelers, is now running regular coaching sessions to encourage these novice riders and boost their confidence on the open road.

Martin Maltby, the Wheelers’ president, who also runs Don Valley Cycles in Chequer Road, says: “There has been, without a doubt, an increase in road cycling.

“Membership of the Wheelers has grown quicker this year than in recent years and I think we have had 30-40 new members this year, and the average age is coming down as well.”

The Wheelers have now got three British Cycling-trained coaches and two more are being trained up ready to hone new members’ techniques. Fortnightly group rides for novices are so popular that as many as 30-40 have to be split into smaller groups for road safety reasons.

On the back of this Martin’s shop has seen more customers through the door. “We’ve noticed an upturn in the sale of road bikes, more so than mountain bikes.

“Some of the buyers are certainly saying they’ve been influenced to take up cycling by having the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and some of them are coming back to cycling after a few years off.

“I think leisure cycling has also increased on the back of the Doncaster Cycling Festival in June and we’ll be doing our best to keep its popularity going.”

Martin has also noticed motorists showing more consideration to cyclists, especially younger ones, but says that women cyclists are still very much in a minority in Doncaster.

Keen Bessacarr cyclist Roger Harvey, 57, says he has seen ‘massive changes’ in the 40 years he has ridden but ‘never more so than in the last three or four years’.

“The whole country went mad for the Tour this year but the ball was rolling before then with Wiggins, Hoy et al and the combined impact of the 2012 Tour and the London Olympics,” he says.

“Cycling was a Cinderella sport for years, and now is virtually mainstream - look at the coverage on BBC last week for the RideLondon and the associated races.”

Roger admits he has gone from being the office ‘oddball’ as a cyclist to becoming ‘almost trendy’ with colleagues now asking for his cycling advice.

Roger also believes some motorists are starting to be a little more understanding and careful, particularly lorry drivers, but finds a small minority that are ‘just scary’.

But Roger is keen not to deter prospective new riders and points out: “The latest high-spec bike is very nice, however there is nothing wrong with a well maintained bike worth £50 and I would hate to see people put off giving it a go because they don’t have the best kit.”

Richard Stoodley, the organiser of this weekend’s Tickhill Grand Prix cycle event, has also noticed an upturn in biking.

“I think before the Tour coming to Yorkshire there was a definite build-up and excitement grew. I think a lot of people who already had bikes started going out again. Yorkshire put on a great show for the Tour and it captured the imagination of people who are not even cyclists. On the road since I have definitely noticed more cyclists, including a lot more on hybrid and mountain bikes.

“There has been a big increase in people on racing-type bikes. It’s got to be double the amount of people you used to see.”

The club of which he is a member, Tickhill Velo, has also had a membership boost. “But we don’t mind if people join other clubs or none at all - just as long they get out on the bike and ride.”

 

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