Tour de France memories: The Cycling Club

Members of Ilkley Cycling Club pass the Cow and Calf.
Members of Ilkley Cycling Club pass the Cow and Calf.
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Paul O’Looney: Founder and secretary of Ilkley Cycling Club.

The Tour de France had a massive impact on our club. We are already the fastest growing club in the country, with 1,000 members from a community that has a population of 20,000.

But the events of July 5 have just seen that grow even further.

We were founded in March 2011, but the club actually existed in the 1950s so it was almost like a resurrection.

I kicked the club off with a post on Facebook and set up a meeting in a local pub. I expected 10 or 20 to turn up. When 87 people arrived I knew we were on to something special.

Interest has grown 10-fold in just under four years, but accelerated in the last six months.

For our club rides on a Thursday evening, for instance, we got five or six at the start during the winter. Twelve months ago before the Tour it was 30. Now we’re getting 60, even in bad weather.

The Tour had a huge impact on not only our membership but also the amount of people joining new clubs in the area like at Skipton and the Albarosa clubs, which have mirrored our inclusive policy.

We are very proud of our ratio of female cyclists, which at 40 
per cent is the highest in the country.

Women like Lizzie Armitstead and Beryl Burton are great role models for us.

We’re a club that respects its heritage as well as looking towards the future.

Since the Tour, we are finding that motor-vehicle users on the roads of Yorkshire are more accepting of cyclists now.

We are seeing a greater level of tolerance as we all try to co-exist together.

As a club we are working with Bradford City Council to provide a safe facility that offers cycling for children and adults, so we are growing all the time.

Looking back now, for the Tour de France to come through our town was a very special honour for Ilkley. A lot of people, not just cyclists, have said it was the greatest day of their lives.

As a club we did the best we could to make it a success.

We knew accommodation would be an issue so we organised a campsite in town which attracted 1,000 people, the majority of which came from other clubs up and down the country which helped us create bonds with these clubs. We organised daily rides with guides and leaders in the days leading up to July 5 and we had 5,000 local maps printed. It was a memorable period.