Bradley Wiggins and Olympic Games spark cycling boost in Norfolk and north Suffolk

Cycling fever has swept the nation since Bradley Wiggins's historic Tour de France win and Team GB's success at the Olympic Games. KATE SCOTTER finds out how more people across Norfolk and north Suffolk are getting into the saddle.

When Bradley Wiggins cycled into Paris, he not only became the first Brit to win the Tour de France, he also helped spark a cycling frenzy which has seen more people on their bikes up and down the country.

The dust had barely settled on his victory when Great Britain was treated to a showcase of pedal-powered cycling endeavour during the Olympic Games - cementing the nation's new-found enthusiasm for the sport.

And while the interest in cycling has been on the increase over the last few years, with more people than ever taking part in mass-participation cycling events known as sportives and new cycling clubs sprouting up across the county, the sport is truly enjoying a golden age.

This weekend will give people across Norfolk and north Suffolk another chance to indulge their appetite for cycling when the Tour of Britain rattles through the two counties.

Starting in Ipswich on Sunday, the East Anglia stage of the biggest professional cycling race in the country will snake its way through Suffolk towns and villages before arriving into Norfolk at Great Yarmouth.

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Riders will then race onto Caister, Filby, Potter Heigham, Hoveton, Coltishall, Reepham, Swanton Morley, Dereham, Mattishall, East Tuddenham, Colton and Easton before finishing at the Norfolk Showground at Costessey.

It is expected that this weekend's cycling spectacle will create another influx of members to already boosted cycling clubs.

Aaron Frisby, membership secretary for Iceni Velo, a Norwich-based cycling club which was launched last year, said membership has increased by 20 per cent since the Tour de France and that the club now has 246 members.

Mr Frisby said: 'We've seen a massive increase and it's been all ages and all abilities. People just want to get out on their bikes which is great.'

Last weekend, the club hosted a family ride which saw 45 people, including parents and children on tandems, tag-alongside bikes and trailers.

It has also seen the number of people on its weekly Sunday club rides triple over the last year.

Over in the west of the county, a new cycling group, Sandringham and West Norfolk Cyclists (SWNC), has been formed.

Started through a chance meeting of local cycling enthusiasts, the group has grown beyond all expectations since the launch of its Facebook presence in June 2012.

Cyclists range from novices to seasoned club riders and the group, through social media, provides a facility that enables anyone who wants to join a ride to find out what is planned by members living in north west Norfolk.

'It is testimony to the success of Team GB in cycling that our group has become so popular. People are beginning to look for groups to join and ours is one of those. We are not in competition with cycling clubs just providing a facility that lets cyclists ride together,' said Andy Lane, one of the founder members.

'We just want to enjoy riding as a group and encouraging others to join us whenever they can. If we can't do it now, on the back of Olympic and Tour de France success, then something must be wrong.'

Velo Club Norwich has also seen a boost in numbers with 10 new faces turning up each week and a bumper club ride of about 70 cyclists on Sunday.

Norwich Amateur Bicycle Club (ABC) and Great Yarmouth Cycling Club are also reaping the benefits of the heightened interest in cycling.

And while Patrick Harbord, from Velo Club Baracchi, said the Lowestoft-based club has not seen a huge increase in members, he said there has been a 'marked increase' in the number of people out on their bikes in the Waveney area.

And it is not just cycling clubs which are riding on the crest of the wave of Great Britain's cycling success, bike shops are benefiting too.

Tim Guy, from Streetlife Cycles, which has stores in both Norwich and Lowestoft, said they have seen an increase in the number of road bikes being wheeled out of the shop door.

'It has been steadily increasing since Beijing and we had a such a good year last year that manufacturers are bringing in more bikes - but they are still running out.'

The county has also seen a flurry of organisations helping people get onto bikes spring up. Activating Community Interest Company (CIC), which was set up a year ago, has been going into schools and teaching cycling skills to youngsters. Next week it will also launch Norfolk Cycling Academy, offering free coaching to novice riders.

A small professional enterprise called Smart Cycle Training has been delivering cycle tuition to individuals and groups, aimed at novice or nervous cyclists wanting to ride mainly for utility transport purposes.

And there are more cycling events in Norfolk than ever. The team behind the Lotus Cars Cycle Race League and the Gas Hill Gasp this year launched the Boudicca Ride Sportive which saw hundreds of cyclists tackle a 30, 70 or 100 mile route around country lanes from Snetterton.

The inaugural Hethersett 30/60 ride was also held this year and nearly 900 riders are set to take part in tomorrow's East Anglia Tour Ride.

Sara Flatt, British Cycling's regional events officer, said: 'It's really exciting that the success of elite cyclists has inspired people to get out in their bikes.

'British Cycling and the local cycling clubs have a whole range of initiatives and plans to encourage cyclists to get the most from the sport, from the recreational cyclist to youngsters who have been inspired to be the next Laura Trott or Bradley Wiggins.'