Here in Britain cycling’s having a bit of a boom at the moment. Thanks mainly to the success of the GB Olympic track team, Cav making his mark and Wiggins being the first credible Tour contender since Tommy Simpson.
It’s great to see people finally being able to read about the sport more regularly in the newspapers, and the BBC and ITV putting cycling events on at a time when people are actually awake. Kids actually knowing who Cav or Hoy are. British sports stars appearing in adverts for brands that have nothing to do with cycling. It all adds up to cycling culture being a more integrated part of everyday life for every man, woman and child.
But once you hit the shores of Europe you realize Britain’s still a few steps behind.
So while on my travels around the proper part of europe I thought I’d take a look at cycling culture.
Last Saturday, while I was spending time in Feltre town centre with my feet up at a bar rehydrating myself for the following day’s sportive, I was amazed at the spectacle that was unfolding in front of me.
Sportful not only organize the GF Sportful, but the Saturday before they put on an event for kids aged between 6-12. A Mini Fondo as they call it. 20km from the centre of Feltre out around a lumpy course to the Sportful HQ where they refueled and then headed back. 450 kids turned up, all kitted out in the special edition jersey that Sportful had given them, and all looking like they were loving it. 450 kids is a lot to see racing down the street. Kids on BMX’s, mini road bikes and mountain bikes. All giving it their all.
I was in awe of how many kids had turned up, and apparently this was a low number as other years have seen higher numbers.
I’m sure there was a future Basso or Pozzato amongst the mini peloton. I could see why Italy churns out the professionals, with a solid base like this it’s no wonder. 6 year olds in a bunch of 450 other kids taking on 20k, it’s not a bad starting ground to learn how to stay upright in a peloton.
Clearly once the kids have reached the age of 13 and out grown the Mini Fondo they can go on to racing. Then from there, there is a clear path to the top of the sport, well structured and with multiple events every weekend.
The event was great, with lead cars, podium girls hanging out of badged up Fiat 500 waving at crowds, police escorts and irate italian blokes shouting at cars to get out the way as there was a stream of kids on bikes heading their way. The encouragement and excitement around the event was addictive, you can see why cycling is a passion in italy and not just a sport.
You can follow Dave’s ramblings while he’s on his travels at twitter.com/batboyslim