Fantastic four find their feet and freedom on two wheels

Tilly Gurney.
Tilly Gurney.
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It is hard to imagine where Spalding Cycling Club would be without the national development programme for young cyclists called Go Ride.

Certainly Tilly (15) and Will Gurney (13), brother and sister cycling prospects from Deeping St Nicholas, Bryn Richards (11) and Molly Peel (11), both from Spalding, wouldn’t have found the freedom and achievements the sport can bring that the club has helped provide for them.

Bryn Richards.

Bryn Richards.

Will, a student at Spalding Grammar School, said: “I started cycling as a six-year-old with the Go Ride scheme and went on to do cyclo-cross and grass track races which is my main focus now.

“I also do time trialling because I’m better at racing on my own than in a large group.

“But I’m getting to the age where I have to get used to racing with very experienced people who go very fast which is why I find it more beneficial to do time trials.”

Go Ride has led to an explosion in members at Spalding Cycling Club from a handful of keen riders, mainly adults, in the 1990s to more than 100 members today.

Molly Peel.

Molly Peel.

Peel said: “I went on the Go Ride programme when I was five because I was mad about things on wheels, from cars to bikes.

“I remember getting this Pink Princess bike and ever since then, I’ve liked winning races and getting the glory.

“So far, I’ve won a lot of races in my under 12 age group, including Lincolnshire Cyclo-Cross League and a cyclo-cross event in Rossington, South Yorkshire.

“Every time I win a race and get a nice, shiny, golden trophy, I feel made up and I want even more.”

Will Gurney.

Will Gurney.

Peel’s dad and the club’s Go Ride co-ordinator, Chris Peel, said: “The club has literally been taken over by racing and family members, including a lot of girls, which is encouraging to see.

“Go Ride is all about building kids’ confidence in riding their bikes, learning about balance, technique and, slowly but surely, bringing competition into it.

“The kids also learn to deal with their own self-imposed pressures until the nerves disappear and there was a study done which showed that a lot of kids who enter competitive sport get through their 11-Plus exams because they can handle the nerves.”

Richards is an example of this theory with the 11-year-old making the move from Spalding Primary School to Spalding Grammar School in September.

“I first got into cycling when I entered the Spalding Criterium for under-eights on Flower Parade weekend a few years ago.

“My dad gave me a bike with stabilisers on but I said they were too boring, so I turned up, raced for the first time and won.

“I went on to win it three years in a row but I was a little bit of a bad sport when I joined Spalding Cycling Club.

“The coaches helped me learn to look out for other people on a bike and that there are manners I should follow as a cyclist.”

The club held its latest Go Ride event at Memorial Field, Spalding, the day before the football World Cup Final, when young riders had to negotiate a number of obstacles in order to score points.

One of the judges was Tilly Gurney, a member of the Eastern Regional School of Racing through her talent in road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross and pursuit.

Tilly said: “As part of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, I’ve been helping out as a British Cycling Young Volunteer during sessions at Manchester Velodrome as a pace rider with the coaches for various age groups.

“I really love helping people out and if I didn’t carry on with competitive riding, I would go into coaching.

“The atmosphere at the velodrome is amazing when you’re there because of all the stars who have used it.

“I was shaking and felt sick before I started riding but when I came off my bike, I felt elated for having ridden there.

“There’s a sign at the bottom of the stairs that says ‘This is Your Moment’ and I got such a buzz from being there.”

Peel, Richards and the Gurneys aren’t short of inspiration from the cycling world when it comes to their own ambitions in the sport.

Tour de France winners Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, London 2012 Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell, as well as 2013 world champions Elinor Barker, Becky James, Jason Kenny and Simon Yates.

Chris Peel said: “The environment we provide for the kids to train and work in gives them other life skills they can take away with them.

“There are fitness and health benefits but, for some of them, it opens up doors to other sports and teaches them how to win and lose.”