BORDERS cycling has to build on the sport’s most successful summer.
That is the view of Scottish Cycling’s east regional development officer Richard Lord after the region welcomed the Tour of Britain on Tuesday.
Some of the world’s greatest road racers, including Tour de France 2012 winner and four-time Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, lined up on a beautiful early autumn morning as gold jersey holder Boy van Poppel led the pack from Jedburgh Abbey for stage three of the week-long endurance test.
And 100 miles later, after passing via Denholm, Hawick, Roberton and Cappercleuch in variable conditions, it was Isle of Man cycling hero Mark Cavendish who sprinted to a stage victory in Dumfries.
The Borders certainly took the event to its heart, with crowds flocking on to Jedburgh’s streets and hundreds of schoolchildren sporting Wiggins sideburns.
And Lord said the Borders’ staging of the tour was the culmination of a tremendous year.
He told TheSouthern: “The summer we have had with the Tour de France, the Olympics and now the Tour of Britain has been phenomenal.
“The way Bradley and Mark have performed this summer, it is almost like they are doing a lap of honour around Britain.
“Cycling has never been a mainstream sport before and now you are getting so many people out on the roads every weekend.
“We have to think how we get those people involved in the sport and racing.
“It is fantastic that the Tour of Britain has come to Jedburgh and the Borders – we now have to think how we build on that.
“I have been riding a bike for more than 25 years and started racing over 20 years ago and I never did I think I would see a British winner of the Tour de France in my entire lifetime.”
A host of events surrounded the tour’s visit to the region, including a preview evening in Jedburgh Town Hall on Monday night, where four talented young Borders riders spoke to pupils from primary schools in Jedburgh, Denholm and Hawick, who had all completed Tour of Britain-inspired projects.
Among the quartet was 16-year-old Lucy Grant of Peebles, a national youth mountain bike champion who the next morning got to lead off the tour riders with other Borders cycle club members and primary seven pupils from Jedburgh.
She told us: “It was great leading off the tour and I enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I want to keep doing well and get into the Olympic development team, win the British Championships in the next couple of years and keep getting better.”
Eighteen-year-old Katy Winton of Peebles, who finished second in this year’s Scottish Road Race Championships despite predominantly being a mountain biker, said: “It is great to see the tour in the Borders.
“I was British Champion when it started off in Peebles [last year], it was awesome to be a part of it then.
“To have Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish here is fantastic.
“I have so much respect for all the riders who do the tours and ride for three weeks, for five hours each day. That is incredible.”
Another promising Peeblean mountain biker, Calum Magowan, 15, added: “After the Olympics, cycling is doing so well, especially on the track. I think there is a buzz about the sport as a whole.”
And 17-year-old Connor Telfer, who spent the summer racing in Spain, explained: “It is a great occasion, and fantastic to see my heroes such as [former Olympic champion] Samuel Sanchez, who inspired me to ride my bike.
“I hope to get some better British results first and then hopefully go across to Belgium and get a few wins over there. Hopefully, I can become a professional in the future.”