If you’ve been walking in the far west of Pittville Park near the Prince of Wales Stadium on a Saturday afternoon, you may have come across the Cheltenham Town Wheelers. They run courses there for young cyclists who want to enjoy the thrills and spills of cyclo-cross and mountain biking. I went to find out more about it all from the chair of the Wheelers, Nicky Harverson.

The group has over a hundred young members from the age of six upwards, who gather to learn new skills while having fun out in the fresh air.  The whole site becomes a hive of activity, efficiently co-ordinated by Nicky, her eight qualified coaches and a number of young leaders and adult volunteers who look after the young cyclists and their parents (who spend a lot of time in the refreshments area that is set up for them).

‘We started as a small group in 2015 and were based in the car park at Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe.  However, we soon outgrew that space and after obtaining a “land use agreement” from Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) in 2017, we moved to this much more suitable space in the park.  It offers perfect terrain for the young cyclists to safely acquire skills in handling their bikes as well as to develop great fitness within a growing community of like-minded friends.

‘Our young members learn essential skills to tackle their discipline from our team of qualified coaches.  We hold four different groups every week; two are aimed at 6 – 11 year-olds with differing levels of ability and experience and the other two are more for those older than 11.  Our sessions are fully inclusive, regardless of gender or level of physical ability. We are a Child-First club, which means we put the young riders at the heart of the club and the sessions, ensuring that what we deliver is based on their needs – resources and environmental issues permitting.  Individuals can opt to simply gain bike-handling competence while having fun or, for those who wish to train to be competitive racers, more technical and tactical sessions are provided. From time to time, we also hold guided rides on Cleeve Hill with our mountain bike leaders.

‘We are proud to instil a love of cycling in hundreds of young riders, and some of them see cycling as more than just a pastime. Last year one of our young riders started attending Oaklands Academy, in St Albans, training full time alongside his studies with the ambition of becoming a professional cyclist. In the younger age groups, we have seen success nationally and internationally. One under-12 youth rider won the Tour of Essen in Belgium, and another female rider is currently ranked in the top 10 under-16 riders for mountain bike. We also have riders selected into the British Cycling Talent Pathway programme, which enables them to work with some of the best coaches in the country.

‘Another aim as a club is to work with the CBC park management team to ensure the site we use is safe to cycle in and at the same time suitable from an environmental perspective for other visitors to the park.  We have raised funds to enable us, jointly with CBC, to plan in the coming months to introduce some extra landscaping that will enhance the area both for casual visitors and to provide increased challenges for our young riders.  These exciting developments include a stepped area, some small berms (banked curves) and a “rock garden” terrain.  This will also appeal to members of Cheltenham & County Cycling Club for adults, who use the track two or three times a year for racing meets.’

If you want to know more about this vibrant group of dedicated cyclists, follow them on Instagram @ctw_Cheltenham or  visit their Facebook page:  facebook.com/CTWYCC – or go to their website: https://ctw.myclubhouse.co.uk.

John Holloway