Youngsters queue up to emulate Olympic heroes at Portsmouth School of Cycle Racing
Wiggo effect plus the Olypics mean Friday night sessions at full capacity with dozens more hopefuls on waiting list
The Portsmouth School of Cycle Racing (PSoCR), where Olympic and world team pursuit champion Dani King got her start in the sport as a teenager, has had to introduce a waiting list after being overwhelmed by interest from youngsters inspired by Team GB’s success and the Tour de France exploits of the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.
Some 80 youngsters now participate in PSoCR’s Friday evening sessions, with another 50 on the waiting list, reports Portsmouth News. King herself dropped in after the Olympics to show off her gold medal.
She’s not the only world champion who turns up either– Rob Hayles, whose father is assistant coach there, is a regular attendee.
Originally founded in the 1970s, PSoCR was revived by i-team.cc founder Guy Watson in 2003 and is based at the Mountabatten Centre in Victoria Park, which has a 535-metre outdoor velodrome.
Watson, who heads up the coaching team at PSoCR, told Portsmouth News: “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.”
The huge demand means that Watson has had to be strict with youngsters to ensure they are committed.
“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,” he explained.
“But now we’re hoping to have more coaches and then we can offer more sessions,” he went on.
“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.”
Besides King, who first started attending sessions with PSoCR in 2005, two other graduates have gone on to the Olympic Development Programme – Kate Calvert and Jon Dibben.
The latter finished third in the Junior Paris-Roubaix race last April and was a silver medallist in the Omnium in the Junior Track World Championship in New Zealand in August.
“It doesn’t matter what bikes people turn up on – you can spot their talent and then you can work with them,” Watson went on.
“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,” he concluded.
You can find out more about PSoCR here.