Pedal Power: Why Manchester Is The Hub Of Britain's Cycling Success

This month sees the Tour of Britain reach its climax in Manchester.
09:05, 07 Sep 2019

The Tour of Britain, ‘the UK’s most prestigious cycle race’, is taking place this September. 

Starting off in Glasgow, it will finish in Manchester for the first time in 25 years.

The last stage takes cyclists from Altrincham (8-and-a-half miles south of the city centre) on a 166km route circling Manchester; moving past Stockport, travelling east of Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Oldham and eventually round past Bolton, Wigan, and Leigh for a final sprint in a Salford stretch.

The likes of Mathieu van der Poel, Ben Swift, Dylan Groenewegen, Mikel Landa, and Alex Dowsett will participate. 2011 World Champion Mark Cavendish will also be competing, for Team Dimension Data. Additionally, Wirral-born Steve Cummings features.

The day after the eight-day Tour concludes, Manchester once again comes to a standstill on Sunday 15 September, roads are closed to traffic, with the annual cycle festival ‘Let’s Ride’ kicking off from the famous Velodrome. 

This Manchester Sky ride - now known as the HSBC UK Ride - is held every year. Other cycling events taking place annually in Manchester include Great Manchester Cycle, World Naked Bike Ride, DIY Cycling Festival, and North West Velofest. 

There is also a Critical Mass event that takes place on the last Friday of the month, a bike ride uniting cities from all over the world.

The multiple events certify Manchester’s claim as the premier cycling hub in the UK, and a fundamental reason for Britain’s success in the sport.

British Cycling was formed in 1959 and has been based at the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre in Manchester since the 1990s. 

The Cycling Centre was Britain’s first indoor Olympic cycling track, with the original Velodrome hosting the 2002 Commonwealth Games. 

The Centre is situated two miles from Manchester Piccadilly Train Station - a 15minute leisurely bicycle ride - past the Etihad Campus and forming part of East Manchester’s reputation into a legitimate, respectable hub of sport.

Manchester Wheelers Club is one of the biggest cycling clubs in Manchester. The club was founded in 1883 (as Manchester Athletic Bicycle Club). Five members have since gone on to win Gold Medals in the Commonwealth Games: Cyril Cartwright, Bob Downs, Paul Curran, Deno Davie, and Alan Gornall.

Team Ineos - known as Team Sky until this year - officially launched in 2009 with the aim of producing the first British winner of the Tour de France within five years, inspire people to take up cycling and support competitive cycling in the UK. Their home base has been, of course, the Manchester Velodrome.  

Businessman James Murdoch is the key figure ‘critical to sustaining the media group's £10m-a-year sponsorship commitment’ as stated in a Guardian profile piece in 2012, the summer of the London Olympics, when Great Britain took home a record haul of 12 medals across the sport, including eight golds.

In 2008, Sky had signed a £1m-a-year deal to support British cycling, which was soon followed by a €15m a year support package intending to have a British rider to win the Tour de France (since 2012 there has been six occasions a British rider has won the competition, with Chris Froome winning four). Murdoch - youngest son of Rupert - visited the National Cycling Centre when attending the Labour party conference, at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, in late September 2008. 

The Guardian for their part has described the businessman’s interest favourable; “Corporate goals aside, friends and allies of James Murdoch say his personal contribution has been crucial.” 

James Murdoch, however, one of a handful of recognisable faces who have made Manchester the Cycling pedal-to-the-metal Mecca.

Jason Kenny is from Farnworth, towards Bolton, in the Greater Manchester area. Kenny is the third most decorated Olympian since the turn of the millennium, and Great Britain’s most successful ever athlete. The man he shares that accolade with? His former teammate, six-time Gold-medal winner Sir Chris Hoy, who made Manchester Velodrome his training base.

The resonance of cycling in Manchester is palpable; the modern development intrinsic to the city’s identity, and enhancing the historic links to the sport.

Whether directly or indirectly, the effect has been visible to the public in the Greater Manchester area, with cycle routes across the city; for example, it's now possible to cycle from Manchester Library, close to Oxford Road, all the way down to East Didsbury on a traffic-free way. Even more plans are reportedly underway to make the city ‘more bike friendly’, with £140m funds being utilised on the project. Chris Boardman, who is from nearby Cheshire, is the Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, the first appointee to the position.

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