These are heady days for those of us who have been around the sport of cycling for a while now. Not since the late 80's and the Ever Ready, Banana/Falcon rivalry has the sport in Britain been on such as high. And there are a list of reasons why now could be the time to cash in and establish road cycling as on of the top sports in the nation.
Here are the opportunities as I see them.
- British pro teams on the rise. You look at Halfords/Bikehut, Canditv/Marshalls pasta and Rapha/Condor (who are attracting the right sort of brands now) as shining examples of what can be achieved despite the economic back drop. We have had some issues with Tony Gibb (my hero!) and his Madison.co.uk outfit, but when you look back at how things were even three years ago (Team DFL anyone?) things are rosy.
- Shop teams battling hard. And even against the backdrop of this new wave of top level British teams we have the shop teams like Corley and Sigma giving these lads a proper battle at every event. Long may that continue.
- Britain has a classic!!! Having ridden the sportive the day before, I can 100% authentically confirm that we have a 'proper' classic now. The Wincanton, Leeds, Brighton efforts have dimmed in the memory now, but without forced promotion and with a consistent classic worthy route, the Rutland CIcle classic has become a firm favourite on the domestic and now European calendar. The number of people in Owston was a sight to behold, great atmosphere brilliant unique race concept.
- We are focusing on what we do best. City centre cycling is our nations cycling past, present and hopefully future. The Tour Series is genius and I hope and pray that it continues to get bigger and better over the next few years. The amount of people here who have followed the Tour de France as a result of going into Peterborough to watch it has been amazing. Brian Smith and Anthony McCrosslan deserve huge praise for making it happen.
- British Cycling Track Team. Despite being a year ago now the Beijing haul is still fondly remembered as an Olympic highlight. Sweeping the boards at the BBC Sports Review of the Year really brought the sport to the nations attention.
- Victoria Pendelton. It shouldn't be about how pretty you are...but!
- Team Sky. After the issues that surrounded the demise of ANC/Halfords in the 80's and Linda McCartney/Jaguar/Jacobs Creek at the turn of this century it is going to be brilliant to have a UK pro team battling for this nation over on the mainland. Of course there are going to have to be a number of continental pros on the payroll. But these exotic sounding names and races are what got me interested in the Tour and classics. A successful team can futher enhance cyclings reputation int he mainstream.
- Bradley Wiggins. What more can be said about the great man and his brilliant ride in the Le Tour? I picked him as the man most likey in my blog during the race (Click here) .
- Mark Cavendish. Often controversial, more often a winner. This lad is holding a major part of the key to the door of cycling future. He may not challenge for the yellow jersey, but to the layman who watches the Tour his stage wins keep British Cycling at the forefront.
I 100% believe that if all of these elements are protected and enhanced we can make even more progress in the sport of cycling before the 2012 Olympics. If we get near to or match our haul in London we could really be onto something big.
Road cycling has been 'owned' by mainland Europe for over 100 years now with only fleeting moments in the limelight for our nation.
Can we make a sustained challenge to that Status Quo by maintaining our own domestic scene which develops riders who can excel on the world scene?