Britain all set for cycling boom after Bradley Wiggins Tour de France win

PUBLISHED: 11:03 24 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Britain all set for cycling boom after Bradley Wiggins Tour de France win

Britain all set for cycling boom after Bradley Wiggins Tour de France win

Roger Tames gets on his bike to experience Britain's cycling boom

As one of four thousand riders, and with 53 miles in the saddle already behind me, the lung-bursting, leg-wrecking climb into the Northumberland village of Ryal gives an agonising insight into how brutally tough it must be to compete as a top cyclist.

Of course, the proper bike boys on show in the following days elite race would ride the wrong way up this ski-slope of a road three times in all. Once was more than enough for most of us enjoying Britains biggest festival of cycling.

The Northern Cyclone event is in its sixth year and has quadrupled in size as the sport of cycling enjoys a massive boom. The Cyclone embraces cycling from Friday night sprints, to a mass participation Saturday challenge through to the top class road race that is the culmination of this astonishingly successful weekend on wheels.

Cycling used to be a sport enjoyed by a few fanatics in very tight kit. Now British success on the track in the Olympics and a real presence at the front of the Tour de France, has filtered through to the grass roots. This summers Cyclone, now sponsored by Virgin Money, clearly benefitted from the exploits of Sir Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Yet the event is the brainchild of a man whos been steeped in the sport for more than 50 years.

I was always optimistic that the Cyclone would be a success but I never expected it to grow to this level so quickly, admits race organiser Peter Harrison, a member of Gosforth Road Club.

This year the Cyclone should have extended to four days, but torrential rain wiped out the Thursday evening Tyne Six Bridges Ride. Fridays criterium races around Leazes Park gave competition to a wide range of ages.

Its the Saturday Challenge that has really brought new people into cycling with three separate rides into the Northumberland countryside on offer. Theres a 33 mile course suitable for families, a more daunting 63 mile excursion into the countys hills (quite enough for some of us) with regular club riders tackling a tough 104 mile circuit.

And the North East public have risen to that challenge. Peter has never been in doubt as to the appeal of the sport that has dominated his life. Its simply about getting out on the bike, said the former racer whose many roles in the sport have included bike shop owner and technical consultant to the British team.

You can ride in a group. You can go on your own. You can ride with different levels of intensity. You can get out into the countryside, clear your head and, of course, its a great way of keeping fit.

Cycling is becoming the new golf, Peter added. People like to buy all the kit and keep changing it whether youre riding at a fairly leisurely level or ultra competitive. Everyone likes the nice toys.

With a major brand like Virgin Money taking over the title sponsorship from Northern Rock, Peters two-wheeled baby can look forward to a bright future. Sunday of the festival features the long-established Beaumont Trophy elite racing which organisers hope will again double as the National Championships like last year. The festival could also extend to a fifth day.

Hopefully, Ill be back on the start line for a fourth time next year, though if anyone wants to build a by-pass round that horrendous climb into Ryal, please dont post any planning objections.

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2012 issue of North East Life

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