More pedal power on the road as thrills of the Tour de France inspire our everyday cyclists to get out and about. Tara Murray reports.
IN the early hours of July 24 last year, millions of Australians sat around television screens cheering on one person as he rode his bike around France.
Cadel Evans had one simple equation: beat rival Andy Schlek by more than 57 seconds and the Tour de France would be his for the taking.
Not only did Evans win the race, he also changed the face of Australian cycling.
Bicycle Victoria’s Garry Brennan calls it the Cadel Effect. ‘‘We’ve seen spectacular growth since Cadel won. It was increasing before the Tour.
‘‘The Tour got youth excited about cycling again and we’ve seen a big spike of interest from young people.
‘‘We know that 1.1 million Victorians ride a bike every week. Overall, cycling is increasing everywhere ... the inner suburbs have a growth of up to 30 per cent and the outer suburbs by 10 per cent.’’
As a cycling coach and president of the Sunbury Cycling Club, Chris Steffanoni has had a first-hand look at the Cadel Effect.
‘‘In the last year it definitely struck me, with the coaching,’’ he says.
‘‘Normally, it’s a bit seasonal. In June last year it was fairly quiet, but then the Tour de France started and business went up a lot and stayed consistent for the next few months. It went from so quiet to the phone not stopping ringing.’’
It also attracted more girls to the sport.
‘‘I’ve had a couple of weeks when most of my clients are women. You start to see a lot more girls out there riding recreational and on the women’s racing scene.’’
Having raced in the United States, Steffanoni knows the cycling scene better than most.
‘‘In 2008, I got a a contract to ride for an under-25 team in the United States and decided to take that up. ‘‘I had some good results at national championship level and state championship level in America and we got opportunities to do the biggest race in the world for under-25 riders.’’
Despite finishing in the top 10 in a number of races, Steffanoni didn’t take up the option of a second year in America, following some health problems.
‘‘It was pretty disappointing – from racing overseas and finishing top 10 races to not being able to finish a club race in Melbourne. I couldn’t have raced over there successfully.’’
Kyneton’s Lauretta Hanson and Nick Turner are part of the next generation of Australia’s cyclists. Both their families have had long associations with the Kyneton Cycling Club.
‘‘My mum’s family used to always ride, but when my grandfather (local cycling legend Roly Kelson) died, we stopped,’’ Hanson says.
‘‘My cousin started riding again and I came along and started riding.
‘‘I really enjoy it. You meet a lot of people. I’m in year 12 and use it as an outlet for school.’’
Turner, who is in year 10, says it was his older sister wanted to start riding.
“I came along one night and they asked me to join in, so I did. It’s fairly social, just a bit of fun.’’
For Turner, cycling is purely for the sheer joy of it. ‘‘I’ve met friends at other events, state titles. I don’t really want to achieve anything else. I just want to continue riding.’’
Hanson, has bigger goals, and has spent time in camps with Australia’s best riders.
‘‘The goal is to race overseas and we’ll see where it takes me. Lately I’ve been getting pretty good results and hopefully some selectors have been looking.
‘‘I’ve been asked to put in CVs for a couple of teams.’’ She is already part of a team in Coburg. ‘‘I was the first girl in my team. It’s kind of tough and hard not having a team to support me in races.
‘‘But it’s good outside of races. It pushes me to get the results to show them they are putting to a good cause.’’
Hanson has seen an increase of women competing. ‘‘I used to race with about 10-15 women and lately at the races there are about 50 competing.
It isn’t just the youngsters getting involved. There are also the MAMILs ‘middle-aged men in lycra’.
Werribee’s Don Fraser believes cycling is the new golf. ‘‘About 10 years ago it wasn’t that big. People have stopped playing golf and buying Harley Davidson’s and are now going riding.’’
The Werribee doctor is a member of the Footscray Cycling Club and the Northern Veterans and is involved with charity rides such as ROCAN.
‘‘Cycling is a fantastic exercise. You can do heaps of cycling without having to recover from it.
‘‘It makes sense for an obese society. Rather than doing the average five-kilometre trip in a car, people should be riding a bike.
‘‘It makes sense to get fitter, healthier doing that and not having to bother with the cost and environmental impacts of the cars.’’
Bacchus Marsh’s John Faulkner, another cycling veteran, helped start a riding group in Bacchus Marsh and is part of the Ballarat Veterans cycling club.
‘‘I’ve been riding for 35 years. It’s good for the fitness and social side of things.
‘‘It’s increased a hell of a lot since we started the organisation and started cycling in 1994 in Bacchus Marsh.’’
Faulkner says cycling is becoming a more popular way to raise money for charity. ‘‘You can raise money and get fit. Fund-raising is how it has evolved.
‘‘We’ve always raised money with our cycling and many other groups do the same thing.’’
He says the riding group has changed a lot since it began. ‘‘We started off all at the same age. Now the group has different ages— younger ones are in there mid 20s and one guy is 75.’’
Despite the rise in popularity, Fraser and Faulkner believe not enough is being done to encourage more people to ride.
‘‘It’s harder to ride now than it was 10 years ago,’’ says Fraser. ‘‘There’s ‘car dooring’, not enough bike paths and an unfriendly attitude towards cyclists.
‘‘You don’t see it in Europe and America.
‘‘And it’s so hard to organise races, which is part of the reason there is only one racing club in Melbourne’s western suburbs [Footscray.]’’
Faulkner agrees. ‘‘I don’t think there is enough done for cycling.
‘‘There should be greater education and advertisements for motorists as they don’t
realise we can ride two abreast and aren’t aware of other rules.’’
It’s for this reason that Samantha Sutton decided to establish a women’s riding group. The group started in May and is aimed at capitalising on the popularity of cycling and making it easier for women to ride.
‘‘I want chicks to feel more comfortable. If they can be more knowledgeable of using the bike, they will want to join in,’’ she says. ‘‘I think that the biggest fear for women is they don’t know how to use the bike properly and they won’t ride.
‘‘It’s just to give them the skills and do the basic things on a road bike, like how to change a tyre and be able to give a heads up on setting the bike up.’’
Sutton, a member of the Melton Cycling Club, plans to expand the group to include other women. ‘‘I’m looking at doing sessions in Bacchus Marsh and Caroline springs. There’s some nice bike paths and quiet roads around the area, which is somewhere good to start.
‘‘This is something that can help a lot of women get cycling.’’