South West Bike Academy to encourage children to take up cycling

With the Tour of Britain coming to various towns and cities in the UK from next week, thousands of spectators are expected to line the streets to see some of the best pro cyclists from around the globe, including Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins.

But councillors in Devon hope it will lead to more youngsters turning to cycling to improve their health as well as the environment, and create the next generation of cyclists.

Over the next fortnight, pupils at a series of schools in the county will have the opportunity to welcome some of the region’s rising cycling stars. The Tour of Britain is scheduled to race through Devon on September 17 and 18, and the South West Bike Academy will visit numerous schools in the county to promote cycling as a sport to children.

Some of the Academy riders and team manager David Walters will be going to schools close to the route of the South West stages, in order to promote all forms of the sport, plus health, fitness and sustainable travel.

This coming Friday, the Academy will be visiting Bratton Fleming Primary, Newport Primary, Pathfield School and Our Lady’s Catholic Primary, all in Barnstaple. And next Wednesday, the athletes will visit Pilton Community College, also in Barnstaple, and St Mary’s and East-the-Water, both in Bideford.

Meanwhile, NHS Devon is calling on the public to consider the health benefits of cycling as the Tour of Britain race pedals through the county.

Lower cholesterol levels and weight loss can also be achieved. Department of Health research shows that 20-30 minutes of moderate cycling three times a week can result in an increased strength of leg muscles, improvements in chronic conditions and a reduction in blood pressure.

Both Devon and Somerset County Councils  are playing host to this year’s South West stages of The Tour of Britain. Stage Six will begin in Frome and take the cyclists across Exmoor and into Devon, before finishing at Bideford. The next day is the penultimate day of the competition, with Stage Seven beginning from Hatherleigh and finishing in Yeovil.

The Tour of Britain starts in Scunthorpe this Saturday and finishes in London on Saturday, September 19.

Mick Bennett, Technical Director for The Tour of Britain, has said that the field will be “the best and strongest set of teams ever to take part in the Tour of Britain”

The Tour of Britain is an elite international cycle race and has been given 2.1 status by cycling’s world governing body, the UCI. As such it has been able to attract World and Olympic champions and Tour de France stage winners and yellow jersey wearers. The race is Britain's biggest free-to-attend sporting event, with over a million people watching its progress every year