How winning on two wheels inspired a nation into the saddle

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CYCLING’S continuing popularity is confirmed by Sport England’s latest data which reveals that nearly two million people ride a bicycle once a week.

This figure, up 200,000 on the previous year, does not include the growing number of commuters who cycle to and from work.

No other sport can match this rise in participation, with experts attributing this to the phenomenal success of Team GB’s track cyclists in successive Olympic games and the trailblazing success of Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and others in the iconic Tour de France.

It is a trend that is likely to continue ahead of the Tour’s Grand Départ in Yorkshire 2014 and the Commonwealth Games that will be staged in Glasgow in the same summer.

British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said: “Our vision to inspire participation in cycling through achieving worldwide success is clearly working as our athletes establish themselves as sporting role models.

“Equally important to getting more people on their bikes has been the Skyride initiative, which attracted over 100,000 people to mass participation cycling events.

“With fantastic public and private sector partners on board, I am confident we will further widen the appeal of cycling and make our sport a grassroots success story.”

The Yorkshire bid boasted support from former world champion Mark Cavendish, two-time Olympic champion Ed Clancy, Team Sky’s Ben Swift from South Yorkshire plus Brian Robinson – the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France in 1958.

Barry Hoban, winner of eight stages of the Tour, and Malcolm Elliott, the first British rider to win a points jersey in a Grand Tour, were among more than 170,000 supporters who pledged to back the bid.

British Cycling’s president Brian Cookson said: “Like every other cycling fan, I am thrilled the world’s biggest bike race is coming back to this country.

“The huge numbers who turned out to support the 2007 Grand Départ and the London 2012 road races show the passion we have for cycling. I’m sure Yorkshire will give the 2014 Tour de France a welcome which will stand out in the race’s rich history.”

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: “Bradley Wiggins’ historic victory last July, the immense enthusiasm in the streets of London during the cycling events at the Olympic Games and the excellent relations we enjoy with our contacts in London are all determining factors that encouraged us to return. There is no doubt that it will once again be a major event.”