“Cycling is going to explode,” said Tim Hall. “Everyone’s getting excited about Bradley Wiggins. People at work who didn’t know anything about it before are saying: ‘I’m just off to watch the cyc-ling.’”
“And for some people cycling is the new golf,” added James Thompson. “You’re seeing more ‘Mamils’ – that’s Middle Aged Men in Lycra – millionaires who go out and spend five grand on a bike and take it for a two-hour ride with their mates on a Wednesday afternoon.”
Simon Keeton is president of the Rutland Cycling Club, and has been a racing cyclist since the age of nine.
“When people see cycle racing on the television it all looks so easy, so they buy a bike from Halfords and go straight out to race. But it’s better to join a club first so you can learn how to do it.”
The Rutland’s regular Saturday ride covers 40-50 miles between 9.15 and lunchtime, including a stop for tea and a teacake in Hathersage. The route covers ups and downs through several Peak District valleys and averages about 19mph.
“But that’s actually a hard ride for this area,” said Richard Teare. “You might be doing 25 mph on the flat and up to 45 mph or more on the descents.”
To maximise speed and minimise effort, riders slipstream each other to save 30% of the energy taken up by the rider at the front, said Richard, who warned against trying this approach without initial support from club colleagues.
“In a race you might be doing 30-35mph and my handlebars might be five millimetres away from the guy in front and you need to know how to direct that situation,” said James Thompson. “If you lose your concentration and make one mistake you can bring 30-40 riders down. On a ride like today you can learn all that.”
The Rutland’s ‘Teacake Run’ was launched a quarter-century ago by the ‘fastest postmen in the west,’ said Rob Townsend. Rob and fellow western Sheffield postmen Wayne Peacock and Matt Sedgwick would meet up on Ecclesall Road South after finishing their Saturday morning rounds and hurtle out into the Peak District on a fast training ride, ready for their races on Sunday.
Word soon spread until the run became a regular event for the city’s fast riders. Its popularity has also led to slightly slower ‘slowcake’ or ‘steady cake’ runs for slightly less competitive cyclists.
The Rutland Cycling Club is over 100 years old and took its name from its original meeting point at Rutland Hall, on Rutland Road near Neepsend. The club has a growing membership of over 100, said Simon Keeton, who added that the first-ever British Tour de France general classification victory and the many Olympic successes have caught the public imagination.
“I don’t think anyone really knows what the effect of it all will be,” said Dan Lowthorpe. “We’ve never had this level of success before. But it hasn’t happened overnight. There’s been a lot of investment and it’s gone up another level every year since Chris Boardman.”
Several Rutland riders have achieved national victories in the sport and have been in contact with Wiggo and other professionals in the past.
“There’s definitely a boom,” said Richard Teare. “I saw twice as many people out on the roads when the Tour de France was on, they’ve gone out and bought the bike and the gear and got themselves out there, and that’s great.”
Denise Bayliss said that more women are also getting into racing and she now has a Facebook group with over 100 members promoting women’s rides.
The Rutland cyclists agreed with Chris Boardman that the sporting success will translate into more cycling generally.
“Bradley Wiggins has a down-to-earth personality and people can connect with him,” said James Thompson. “The result of that is it’s getting cool to cycle now.”
Dan Lowthorpe believes that as more people cycle, drivers attitudes will change too. “Drivers will know people who cycle and as they pass a group, they’ll say ‘Oh that might be Uncle Tony or whoever.’
“And people are now realising what we’ve known for a long time: cycling really is the best way of just getting about.”
The racers from Rutland smiled as the Nonna’s cycle squad rode past. “We’re faster than them, that’s why they get off earlier,” said James Thompson. The Rutland team span their bikes round with their fingers and clicked into their pedals ready to head off for teacakes.
“It’s about freedom,” said Richard Teare. “If you’re going well and fast, and it’s not hurting as much as you expect it to, you feel like one of the guys on the telly. You can put yourself into the last kilometre of the Tour de France and imagine them all behind you.” And off they whoosh.
“This coverage should be fantastic for the sport, and for cycle commuting too,” said James Walker.
“I’ve seen an increase in people out riding and commuting over the last few years and what’s happened over the last month can only help that,” said his friend, Jamie Raven.
James and Jamie, both 20, have been racing and riding together since they were boys and are now both promoting cycling at university.
“Bradley Wiggins has helped to make cycling more acceptable and I think drivers’ attitudes are improving,” said James. “It’s made me feel more confident when I’m out on my bike.”
Jamie and James would like to see more support for grass roots cycling, as well as for elite racers. “That’s where people get into the sport,” said Jamie. “The government should definitely take advantage of the interest in all kinds of cycling.”
The 20-year-olds are also interested in the Wiggins brand fashion statements. “He’s like a cycling rock star but I’m not sure about the long black socks,” laughed Jamie.
“And I’m still waiting to be able to grow sideburns.”