Impact of Tour de France is boosting cycling clubs across Yorkshire

Members of Ilkley Cycling Club pass the Cow and Calf. Picture by Tony Johnson
Members of Ilkley Cycling Club pass the Cow and Calf. Picture by Tony Johnson
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Cycling is riding the crest of a wave in Yorkshire.

With the Tour de France start line in sight, residents, schools and businesses have been taking to two wheels in their droves in a bid to boost health, the environment and simply have fun.

The upcoming arrival of Le Tour has also had a huge impact on local cycling clubs, with memberships going through the roof and interest in the sport soaring like never before.

Ilkley Cycling Club is a prime example. Having been set up by a group of enthusiasts three years ago, the club has snowballed to become the largest and fastest growing in the country.

A total of 1,260 riders count themselves as members, of which 40 per cent are women, and in the last six months alone the club has swelled by a quarter.

Stephanie Millward, chair of the Ilkley club, said: “Cycling as an adult awakens that inner child when you’re whizzing along.

“It puts all your problems in perspective and you’re surrounded by such beautiful countryside in places like Wharfedale.

“The fact that the Tour is coming through Ilkley is having a really positive impact on the attitude to cycling. It’s amazing the number of people that have become pro cycling.”

The club’s growth has meant training for young riders, funding to offer loan bikes, the revival of the 1,000-rider White Rose Classic sportive and the inaugural Ilkley town centre bike ride later this year.

Neighbouring Otley Cycle Club is also flourishing. Historically a family-oriented outfit, the club’s membership has doubled to 360 riders in two years.

Club president Peter Middlebrooke said: “It’s amazing. I started cycling 25 years ago and then it was seen as a bit odd.

“Now, there is a realisation that it’s not just a sport to keep you healthy but it’s a means of transport. The Tour is helping that.”

Elsewhere in the region, the Cyclesense Cycling Club based in Tadcaster has grown to a membership of 60 in just two years, and has recently expanded to include a group for beginners.

Organiser and founder John Rowland said: “A lot of clubs are benefiting from that increased enthusiasm.

“It’s all about encouraging people to get out and enjoy it, whatever their goals might be.”

Nationally British Cycling has seen numbers of affiliated cycling clubs steadily rise from around 1,570 in 2011 to nearly 1,800 at present.

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