Hartlepool Cycling Club would like the Mark Cavendish effect

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish

IT’S an image iconic with British sport now.

Mark Cavendish raising his arms above his head, fists clenched and mouth wide open in euphoria. The golden boy of cycling had just became the fastest man on two wheels in the world after becoming the world road race champion, and with it winning the coveted rainbow jersey.

And you would be forgiven for thinking that the Manx’s extraordinary achievements had increased membership and the popularity of the sport across the grass root levels of the sport.

Sadly, Hartlepool cycling club’s secretary, Dave Herbert, says that although he does “see more cyclists on the road now”, local cycling clubs aren’t reaping the benefit of Cavendish’s and his fellow riders’ successes.

“Mark Cavendish has done well for years and Bradley Wiggins was close to doing very well at the Tour de France last year (until he retired mid-race due a broken collar bone). Yet their achievements are insignificant at grass roots cycling,” Dave told SportMail.

“We have 52 members and the youngest one is 35.” So why no youngsters? “I have no idea. We had one 17-year-old last year but we don’t have any youngsters any more.

“For whatever reason there is no young people riding at all.

“It doesn’t upset me any more because of the way the sport has gone over the last 20 years. It’s no longer safe to ride on the roads because cars pull out at junctions and don’t pay respect to cyclists.

“The best thing for young cyclists to do is to get out of town because riding in the town is no longer safe.

“I’m fortunate because I live at the south end of the town so I can get straight out onto the A689 and into Wolviston’s back roads.

“I’ve just came back from Majorca where I was riding 80 to 90 miles a day. I much prefer to ride abroad - the weather helps as well!”

Speaking fresh from a 45-mile back ride, Dave believes that even if Team GB’s cycling team perform well at the up and coming London Olympics, it won’t have a direct effect on clubs.

“It will raise the profile of cycling but most people don’t realise how hard cycling is,” he added.

“Success at the Olympics won’t change anything for grass roots cycling.”

If anything, cycling clubs are currently facing more barriers to competing than ever before: “You’re allowed a race but you need police and that costs a lot,” he went on.

“We promote a 9-mile circuit race that’s held in April at Stokesley and Seamer. We have people standing at corners with red flags to hold the traffic up when riders are coming round the bend.

“But the police said we need the highway agency to man the corners and that costs £500.

“Therefore we had to put the entrance fee up and reduce the prize fund. To add salt to the wound this year they’re charging £1000 - we are being forced out of cycling.

“We encourage road races but we get no support from the council and the police are against cycling on the open roads.

“The Hurworth Burn road race used to be promoted by ourselves but police stopped us doing that as well. They still allow time trials but not road races.

“We aren’t allowed road races on the Dalton back roads because it isn’t feasible and that would be the town’s best option for a road race.”

When they can ride, however, the club continues to put up good races against others teams from around the region, including Ferryhill, Stockton and Cleveland Wheelers, and they have some enticing fixtures lined up.

“I won an over-60s race a fortnight ago and we won the team veteran’s handicap last Saturday which was a 10-mile time trial,” said retired Dave who rides five times a week.

“It’s a usual year, this one. Last year was more exciting because we promoted a 10-mile race which Bradley Wiggins won but at the moment we are performing as one would hope a cycling club would.

“We have the carnival road race on the Oaksway Trading Estate on Friday, August 3 at 7.15pm. It’s the 50th year of the annual race but we can’t sustain the costs so it’s our last year.

“It’s 29 miles, 50 laps of the estate, and riders must be members of a club.

“The Arthur Metcalfe 10-mile race is on August 18, which is from the A689 to Wynyard.

“There a number of people who race for us but don’t come from Hartlepool. That’s maybe because they have moved out of town or that our team is better than their previous club.

“We are open to new members from anyone. Everyone’s welcome - just give me a call.

“We will go slower for them the first couple of weeks to get them involved and welcomed and then we will push on from there.”

Anyone interested in joining the cycling club can do so by contacting Dave on 01429 871763. They meet at Sappers corner, next to the traffic lights at the entrance to Greatham, on Sundays at 9.30am.