One of the world’s leading cyclists has given our two-wheeled push the silver stamp of approval.
Olympic silver medallist, professional road racer and Yorkshire golden girl Lizzie Armitstead is joining the Yorkshire Evening Post in calling on people across the county to get back in the saddle as part of our Let’s Get Cycling campaign.
We are calling on families, schools, communities and businesses across the region to get involved in our landmark initiative which aims to encourage a Tour de France cycling legacy that will see scores more people take to two wheels.
We want everyone from seasoned cyclists to students who cycle to school or college and business people who ride to work to share their cycling stories and pictures with us, so we can encourage others to get back in the saddle.
Armitstead, who won the hearts of the nation with a gutsy display in the women’s road race at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was plucked from obscurity by British Cycling talent spotters at the age of 16, having only ridden for fun before that.
And now the 25-year-old, from Otley near Leeds, is hoping Yorkshire gets behind our bid to give the region a cycling boost.
She said: “Let’s Get Cycling is a great initiative to get more people on their bikes.
“It would be great to see more people participating in cycling and hopefully one day some youngsters watching the Grand Depart could cycle in the Tour in the future – anything is possible.
“As a county we’ve produced some of the best cyclists in the world and we’re very proud of our cycling history, so hopefully the initiative and the Tour will encourage this even more.”
Through a series of how-to guides, special reports, giveaways and competitions published both online and in print, we’re determined to help the cycling legacy of Le Tour flourish in our region.
Backed by everyone from health organisations and local authorities to cycling superstars and Grand Depart organisers, Let’s Get Cycling aims to help change the fact that at present only 13 per cent of people in Yorkshire cycle at least monthly.
Armitstead added: “For me, Yorkshire’s the best cycling destination in the world; the scenery’s beautiful and the terrain is tough, relentless even, but it’s training in these conditions that makes Yorkshire’s cyclists such strong competitors.
“It’s important we take this chance for the world to see that and to get as many people involved in cycling in the future – whether it be competitively or just for fun.”
Lizzie, who will be in her home county as Le Tour rolls by on July 5 and 6, still remembers the first children’s bike.
The whirlwind journey which took her to the 2012 London Olympics began when she was given her first bicycle at the age of three: “It was a purple bike with balloons on and a white basket at the front, I took my stabilisers off in the back garden when I was around three and started racing around the garden.
“I rode a bike as a child but only for fun.”
British Cycling scouts spotted her raw talent at the age of 16, when they chose her in their search for potential athletes for the London Games. Having left school aged 18, she went professional full time and became the first GB star to get a medal at the 2012 showpiece.
Now training hard to reach her next goal of gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year, Armitstead is backing other Yorkshire families to embrace the cycling legacy of the Grand Depart by starting their own two-wheeled adventure. She said: “I really enjoy cycling because it is such a sociable sport, and although it may hurt I love the feeling of completing a long stage race with my teammates around me.”
TELL US YOUR STORY
As the excitement builds ahead of the Tour de France’s Yorkshire debut, we want you to tell us your cycling stories.
We would love to hear from you, whether it be you sending in pictures of how you’re embracing Let’s Get Cycling by setting out on your first ride in years, tweeting us your childhood cycling stories or emailing us about how important cycling is to you.
You can tweet your pictures and comments to our @LeedsNews Twitter handle using the hashtag #tdfyorks or post them on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/yep.newspaper as the countdown continues.
The Yorkshire Evening Post now features a dedicated Tour de France tab, which will keep readers up to date with all the latest news and sports coverage.
Readers can comment on our stories online before stage one or two of the Grand Depart get underway on July 5 and 6.
Visit www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/tdf for details.
- For all your Tour de France stories and events, why not get in touch with our Tour de France news reporter Jonathan Brown. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @jonnybrownyep or call 0113 2388134.
LOOK WHO ELSE IS BACKING OUR INITIATIVE
Coun Roger Harrington, Leeds City Council’s cycling champion: “What we don’t want is just a couple of hundred absurdly fit people speeding through the county and nothing happening because of it. We hope people will be inspired to take up cycling themselves.”
A British Cycling spokesman: “The fact that Yorkshire has secured two stages of the 2014 Tour de France just goes to show how much cycling potential there is in the region. We’re working across Yorkshire to help provide opportunities to get into cycling for anyone inspired by the world’s biggest bike race, so we fully support the Let’s Get Cycling campaign to encourage more people to get on their bikes. The health benefits of regular riding are well established, so we hope the region gets behind the country’s top athletes for the Tour itself while embracing the Yorkshire Evening Post’s cycling campaign by turning to two wheels.”
Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber spokeswoman: “Health Education Yorkshire and the Humber is delighted that the Grand Depart of Le Tour de France 2014 is coming to our region. The benefits of cycling have long been recognised as helping people to lose weight, reduce stress and improve fitness and general wellbeing. As a healthcare education organisation we are committed to promoting healthy lifestyles for our regional population and are confident that the legacy of the Grand Depart will support a change in attitudes to fitness.”
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire: “It’s great to see people getting behind the campaign to get Yorkshire cycling. This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight and Cycle Yorkshire is a 10 year campaign; the more we all work together the more successful this will be.”