British Cycling (formerly the British Cycling Federation) is the blue eyed boy of British sport. Instead of aiming to cream off and train only the top athletes, it gained oodles of funding from Sport England (formerly the Sports Council) because it wanted to widen the appeal of cycle sport in general.
British Cycling has got a ring-fenced fighting fund of £1.4m a year to run its World Class Programme for the next four years. This is finding and supporting the Olympic champions of the future, but British Cyclong is also aiming to penetrate schools and get cycling put on the national curriculum so it becomes a school sport like swimming, rugby or football.
With an aim of making the UK the top cycle sport nation by 2012 (the UK was 13th before lottery funding kicked in and the World Class Programme came up trumps at the Sydney Olympics, and is now 4th), British Cycling has a number of campaigns aimed at getting more bums on saddles and making the legs beneath go faster.
The Talent Team programme aims to make cycling into an attractive, exciting sport for 12-17 year olds. School playing fields are marked out with short-course circuits and children race each other in sprints and endurance events. To mark their progress British Cycling is soon to launch a very attractive website which has been a year in development (see the static screen shots above and below - the real website is highly animated).
Kids on the Talent Team scheme input their results on the website and see where they are in school and national league tables. When targets are surpassed, kids can print out certificates and other digital pats on the back. The website also contains a wealth of cycling information and is being launched in the next five to six weeks.
Visitors to Wednesday’s AGM of the Bicycle Association were treated to a run through of the website. But British Cycling isn’t relying on the virtual world to get its message across. Lottery funding is enabling ‘on the ground’ support too. Ian Drake (see top pic below) is British Cycling’s full-time National Talent co-ordinator. He is supported by five regional talent manager, all full-timers. It’s their job to set up 80 ‘cycling academies’ where children can be trained by skilled coaches. And when talented individuals are found they will be cossetted. 80 bikes a year will be bought by British Cycling. There’s a pot of £70 000 to spend on equipment for the most promising youngsters. A deal has been cut with Paligap which will supply Kona Kona NuNu mountain bikes, Kona Jake the Snake cyclo-cross bikes and Kona Main BMX bikes over the next three years.
Dave Brailsford, the deputy CEO of British Cycling and programme director of the World Class Programme (see lower pic below), said the supported youngsters would be pushed in the direction of IBDs in order for their bikes to be maintained.
The British Cycling Talent Team Tests involves four stages:
Stage 1 - Opportunities for All
Delivered by trained Talent Team Testers through a network of accredited
secondary schools and Cycling Academies throughout England. Open to all
youngsters of secondary school age using their own bikes or bikes
supplied by their school.
Stage 2 - Identification of Talent
The best riders from Stage 1 are invited to take part in Stage 2, which
is delivered by a British Cycling Regional Talent Coach who will visit
the school or Cycling Academy during the summer. The tests are the same
as Stage 1 but are performed on a standard mountain bike that is
supplied by the Talent Team.
Stage 3 - Confirmation of Talent
Invited riders will visit a local Cycling Academy to repeat the Talent
Team Tests, only this time it will be indoors on special bikes equipped
with power measuring devices. This will enable the Talent Team to record
an accurate measurement of the rider's abilities.
Stage 4 - Confirmation of Commitment
Riders who performed exceptionally well at Stage 3 will be invited to
attend the final stage. Stage 4 is a two-day event where the riders and
their parents/guardians learn what support will be offered on the Talent
Team's Tracking and Talent programmes. Riders will also learn about the
GB Cycling Team, meet a member of the team and get to experience
different disciplines of cycling.