Cycling was once a working class sport
The equipment was at hand for any youngster with a sense of competition and adventure. Cars were an aspiration but every house had a bicycle. There was no specialist ‘pitch’, no entry fee to spectate, if you wanted to watch a bike race chances are one passed by your door several times a year.
When the barriers to entry are as low as this you tap the widest possible gene pool.
Great sporting champions sprang up from the most inauspicious circumstances. Coppi, Kelly and Hinault all came from poor farming backgrounds. They picked cycling up off the ground because it was there to be picked up.
However, over the past 20 years the sport of cycling has become increasingly dynastic sport. Mathieu van der Poel, Nicholas Roche, Axel Merckx, Dan Martin, Andy Schlek – the list goes on. Cyclists with ‘pedegree’.
The link working class, lower income communities had with the bicycle has been severed. The bicycle is seen as an embarrassment by the working class – a signifier of low status.
The opportunities to cycle to and from school have been eroded. Cycling as an activity at school has disappeared and access to the sport increasingly remote and expensive.
Consequently, the most talented cyclists in the country are currently sitting out their childhoods on the subs bench at their local football club.
They’ll never know.