We had our first session back last week and for a coach it was a reminder of why we do what we do — giving back to the next generation and watching them thrive in a fun, group environment.
The kids loved it and you could see just how excited they were to be back outdoors on a beautiful sunny day. They have been like coiled springs, waiting to get going again.
We launched the Academy in January last year, teaching children from 18 months to 16 years old.
Ed Clancy, former Olympic champion, has delighted in reopening his cycling academy
Getting back out to exercise in the sunshine has been hugely beneficial for mental health
In many ways we couldn’t have started at a worse time because all of our in-person classes had to stop after only two months.
The last year has been a challenge for us, like it has for a lot of businesses around the UK. But lockdown forced us to think differently and build up our online platform and I think we are all the better for it.
We took as many classes online as we could last spring, teaching things like how to change a chain, what to eat and how to pack a kit bag.
Even the skill sessions worked really well online and there was a really good uptake on Zoom, particularly from the older kids.
With the younger ones, we tried to do activities like stretching and star jumps. Parents were grateful that we were able to interact with the kids and get them to do a bit of exercise.
A number of skill exercises were the order of the day during a session in Doncaster
Cycling in general has done really well in the last 12 months. Every bike shop I speak to has sold out of kit.
A lot of the youngsters were able to get out on their bikes with their parents and every time a restriction was eased, like last summer, we brought the classes back as best we could.
But since January all our classes had been virtual so everyone was mad keen to go back to the Cycle Track at Doncaster Dome last week.
On the first Monday back, we started with a skills-based session, introducing the kids to all the essential techniques and equipping them with the tools that good racers at every level of the sport require, including cornering, braking and bunch-riding skills.
This was followed by a series of races for the kids to put the skills they learned in the morning to the test.
Children have been like coiled springs ready to get out and burn off some energy
It was a brilliant reopening for the Academy and our in-person classes are selling out fast, which shows just how much everyone has missed sport.
The last year has been tough for everyone but I genuinely think grassroots sport is now going to be more popular than ever. The pandemic has opened everybody’s eyes to the need for physical fitness and how that affects people’s mental health and wellbeing.
I think people now realise just how good it is to get out and ride your bike in the sunshine.
Maybe I am biased but I just believe in cycling. When I was a kid, it was the thing that got me out of the house more than anything. It kept me physically fit and it kept me socialising with my mates.
The benefits of cycling are clear to see and grassroots sport is going to be so popular
I want to make it as easy as possible for people to get out on their bikes. I would love to see Clancy Briggs at every major city across the UK. There are football academies for youngsters at every town across the UK but it hasn’t been done before in cycling on a big scale.
Our Academy is about trying to spread the love of cycling. If one of our riders goes on to be an Olympic champion or Grand Tour winner, then brilliant. But really, we just want children to have fun on bikes.
Ed Clancy was talking to David Coverdale