Cycling club struggles to cope with surge in interest

Kirsty McSeveney, second left. Picture: Habibur Rahman (171049-37)

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A club has been so swamped by the Wiggins Effect, youngsters have had to wait for their opportunity to get involved in cycling.

Portsmouth School of Cycle Racing has now got 80 regulars turning up to their jam-packed sessions and another 50 waiting to join in – further evidence of the ongoing surge in interest in the sport after the Olympics and Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 heroics.

Youngsters aged as young as six up to 16 are keen to get in the saddle and also follow in the tyre tracks of ex-Portsmouth School of Cycle Racing rider Dani King, who struck a spectacular gold in the velodrome last year.

And head coach Guy Watson is keen to train up more coaches as quickly as possible to cope with the cycling boom in the region.

He explained: ‘There has been a big upturn in interest off the back of the Olympics.

‘We were geared up for it but it has still taken us by surprise.

‘We have to limit the numbers so we can give them proper coaching.

‘At the moment, we run two sessions and we have 40 riders per session in two-hour slots.

‘But I get e-mails and messages every day asking for places.

‘You get some who don’t turn up every week, so we’ve told them if they don’t turn up for two weeks in a row without a good reason, someone off the waiting list comes in.

‘But now we’re hoping to have more coaches and then we can offer more sessions.

‘We’re all volunteers and it’s just finding a way to share the load, to get more coaches trained up and get more and more youngsters involved.

‘We’re a bit stretched but we’re having a lot of fun and we are having a bit of success.’

King triumphed in the team pursuit in London, alongside Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell, and was back at her old club to show off her medal within a month of her success.

Watson believes that will act as more inspiration to the crop of talented youngsters who are already at the club.

He said: ‘Dani started with us in 2005.

‘She raced with us until 2007 and it was great she came down to see us the month after she won her gold medal.

‘I’m sure she inspired a few of the riders.’

Watson, who is himself a former south of England 20km champion, believes there is some more raw talent coming through the club.

But he wants to see the same dedication to the sport that took King to honours.

He said: ‘It doesn’t matter what bikes people turn up on – you can spot their talent and then you can work with them.

‘There are clubs out there that are for recreation and the social side of it but we concentrate on the actual sport.

‘We train in all weathers and not everyone likes the rain stinging their faces.

‘Some people want to try the sport out and I always think youngsters should try out as many sports as possible.

‘But you need that commitment from them to stick at it to do well.’

For more information on the club or sessions, visit psocr.com.