British cycling enjoyed another golden fortnight as Team GB topped the cycling medal table at the Rio Olympics with 12 medals, six of them gold. The Brits have now exerted a period of sustained dominance, coming out on top in London 2012, and also four years earlier in Beijing. How does this high profile success at the elite level impact on cycling as a whole?
Path to success
The success of British Cycling over the past decade is the result, first and foremost, of the hard work and dedication of a small number of elite athletes. It has been made possible by considerable investment as UK Sport poured money into those events with good medal prospects. A third key factor has been the ruthless pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, a concept popularised by Sir Dave Brailsford, formerly performance director of British Cycling and now general manager of Team Sky.
The idea that making multiple tiny improvements in diverse processes can add up to a large gain is now applied in all sorts of different spheres (including the classroom), and has been re-hashed by shelf-fulls of self-help authors. It’s not all that easy, however, to see its application to the everyday cyclist.
The number of people cycling in the UK has grown rapidly over the period of Olympic success, but proving a link between the two is not straightforward.
British Cycling and its principal supporter, Sky, are keen to demonstrate a link between elite performance and participation. This report, published post London 2012, shows strong evidence for increased participation by existing cyclists, significant uptake by newly inspired cyclists, increased consumer spending, and support for better cycling facilities across the country. This last point is an important one, as public support for better cycling infrastructure will be key to sustained growth.
The ambition to benefit recreational cyclists, as well as those who race competitively, can be seen in British Cycling’s campaigning work. The recently launched #ChooseCycling Charter calls upon local authorities to sign up to a three-point pledge “which will help transform Britain into a true cycling nation”.
There are some who see this widening of their remit by British Cycling as treading on the toes of other organisations who have long been campaigning on similar issues. It is to be hoped that all those who share the goal of increased participation in cycling of all types can work together to good effect.
If you’ve been inspired by Froome, Wiggins, Clancy and Trott then check out some of our other blogs for help and advice on all sorts of topics, including buying a second hand bike, group and social rides, and whether cycle training is for you.