We’re all familiar with the helicopter parent on the side of the football pitch, screaming on the 11 year old to smash his classmates - and taking the sport altogether too seriously.
That’s a culture that’s now creeping into cycling too, according to coaches and race organisers in North Devon.
“When the alpha-mum chauffeurs from the daily school-run grand prix team up with the weekend warrior cycling dads in the car park, they can provide an entertaining early warning of the potential culprits,” Primal Europe manager James Smith, who organises races, told the North Devon Journal.
Darren Armstrong, head of learner services at Petroc, also complained that “Some kids look worn out even before lining up at the start.”
He says he has seen a mother screaming at an eight year old for not putting up enough of a fight at a circuit race in the pouring rain, and said some parents carry on internet feuds with the organisers after the events. He added that at one casual Go Ride event a mother complained into the microphone at an awards ceremony.
“I can see the comedy in hindsight but they’re not funny at the time,” he said.
“I empathise with the innocent children who I’m sure just want to have fun out there.
“Maybe cycling’s materialism is to blame for these thin but volatile veins of stress?
“Kids are now riding the most expensive bikes, some as young as only seven seen warming up on turbo trainers.
“It should be rock up, have a bash about and go home. If these kids are under pressure to perform now, I dread to imagine the pressure when they are 16.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of ambitious performance bonus clauses written into some children’s pocket-money contracts,” he added.
“If jumpers used to be good enough for football goalposts, the equivalent would now be the finest cashmere to match some family’s ambitions for their cycling.
“The prizes are great and every single one donated by a sponsor is much appreciated, but I wish some parents would step back after the starter’s flag drops and let the children determine their own race outcomes.”
North Devon Wheelers-Southfork coach Pete Morrish said: “British Cycling provides insightful guidance to club coaches about identifying how and when to encourage any serious racing potential through the juvenile and junior ranks towards adulthood.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.