From Grassroots to Grand Tour
Cycling plays a big part in the community health initiative of HMT ST Hugh’s Hospital in Grimsby, but the hospital also provides practical help and support for racing cyclists at all levels, as these two examples show.
Words: Chris Sidwells
Photos: Dave Evans and Cycling Legends
NEL Lindsey Go Ride is a grassroots as you get. It’s the brainchild of David Evans, a lifelong cyclist, coach and member of the long-established Lindsay Roads Cycling Club, which is based in North-East Lincolnshire. In March 2014, Evans came up with an initiative he called ‘Five Saturdays in March’. Held at a local athletics stadium thye were cycling taster sessions designed to see if there was interest in creating a young riders’ cycling club in the area.
About 25 youngsters turned up with, Evans says, “Their Grown-Ups, which is our label for parents, grandparents, carers and supporters, who are very important to us.” It went well and after running ‘Five Saturdays in March’, with growing interest each week, Evans and a few others formed a Go Ride cycling club, Go Ride being a British Cycling template for how cycling clubs should cater for younger members. Financial help came initially from North-East Lincolnshire council, with lots of support from the East Midlands division of British Cycling. Then in June 2014, Evans had an important meeting.
“St Hugh’s Hospital put on one of their first ‘Ride with the Pros’ events, and several of our youngsters were sufficiently accomplished to do it, so I took them along. The pros were the Haribo-Beacon team, which included Steven Burke and the now St Hugh’s hospital director Ashley Brown. They were brilliant with the youngsters, and the youngsters absolutely loved it.
“I was thrilled and wanted to thank whoever organised it, so a lady pointed out a jolly-looking chap dressed in T-shirt and jeans happily fixing bikes round the back of a van. It was St Hugh’s chief executive, Tony Barratt. I thanked him for a brilliant day, told him what we were doing and how the kids I’d brought with me had loved the experience, and within five minutes he asked me if we could do with some support for the club.
“I said yes, and he said; “How about this much? And I’ll do it for two years. Then if that’s gone okay we’ll extend to four years.” Within days he had a proper agreement drawn up, and since then St Hugh’s has supported us financially, and practically by bringing nutritionists and pro riders to do talks for us.
“Sponsorship has meant we can pay for more coaches to get British Cycling qualifications, but the big thing overall is it gives us security to know there’s enough funding for the club to go forward for several years. So instead of looking for funding we’ve been able to focus on what we do, and do it professionally and properly. St Hugh’s has helped us bring professionalism to what we do, even at our sort of lowly level, and helped us in other ways
“For example HMT St Hugh’s let their PR agency, Shooting Star assist us in building a bigger profile in the local area than we otherwise would. That along with the work we’ve done, and measures we’ve introduced, means we’ve brought nearly 200 young people into cycling in the past two or three years. We’ve also been able to do training sessions at Derby Velodrome, and St Hugh’s has subsidised the club jerseys.”
But it’s not only local youngsters who have benefitted from HMT St Hugh’s involvement in cycling; Dave Evans again: “Tony Barrett told me he also wanted to do something for the local established club cycling scene, so HMT paid for the coaching business Trainsharp to bring their testing equipment, and they offered 14 members of the Lindsey Roads Cycling Club tests and gave them each a training plan based on the results.
“That was a wonderful experience for grassroots club riders, but one of the young lads, Joe Laverick put in some really impressive power outputs for a then 14 year old. Joe won the GHS ten-mile time trial title in 2014, was second the following year and is now a development rider with Madison Genesis.”
Laverick is still 18, and has lots of potential. He was 8th in the 2018 junior world time trial championships, and won the time trial stage of the Ronde des Vallées last year too. Before that he beat Remco Evenepoel in the prologue time trial of a Dutch stage race, and not many people have done that. But what makes Laverick extra special in this story is he was one of the young riders who attended Evans’s inaugural ‘Five Saturdays in March’ back in 2014.
Summing up Dave Evans says; “HMT St Hugh’s sponsorship has enabled us to create something good. We are well established, it has been fun and everybody involved is supportive and enthusiastic about it. More recently we started using some of the Ride with the Pros events, which have seen increasing numbers of riders each year, to run Go Ride coaching sessions, which the pros can’t help getting involved with. So much that they have a go at the skills sessions the youngsters do. Like Tom Stewart is doing in this photo."
Russell Downing has been a pro rider for a long time. After knocking at the door of the World Tour for years he got his chance in 2010 with a place in the newly formed Team Sky. Downing didn’t disappoint, he was the first British rider to win a race for the team, he won the Tour de Wallonie overall, as well as one stage, and in 2011 he achieved a lifetime ambition of finishing a Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, despite suffering the effects of a bad crash. He then did another four years with Endura, Nett App-Endura, NFTO and Cult Racing, still riding classics and many other of the world’s biggest races.
Downing has experienced both sides of St Hugh’s in cycling; its involvement in sport and pastime locally, and its expertise in treating injured bike riders. “I’ve been involved with St Hugh’s for a while a while, and when I was with JLT-Condor team St Hugh’s was a sponsor so I had blood tests and all sorts done there. I’ve supported what they do after that too, their work for community health, because it’s a good thing.
“It’s a great hospital but doesn’t seem like a hospital. The first big experience of needing their help was when I damaged my knee racing in Hamburg when I was with Cult Racing, a Danish team. What happened was the meniscus folded up in my knee and the surgeon at St Hugh’s tidied it up and got me back riding pain free.
“When I was with JLT-Condor I had regular blood tests at St Hugh’s, where they looked at different blood values. I never had anything wrong, no deficiencies, but it was interesting last year when I had shingles, I had a blood test at St Hugh’s and it showed everything, all my blood values, were at rock bottom.
“I’ve found St Hugh’s is so well connected, whoever you need to see, from maybe somebody about diet generally to an osteopath for specific problems, they’ve got access to them. But my biggest experience with the hospital was when I crashed and broke my collarbone in the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire.
“I crashed on Sunday and St Hugh’s got me straight in on the Monday to operate on. Then after the operation the surgeon, Ricardo Pacheo, was really pro-active. I could talk to him any time and he sent me messages at least once a week, asking how I was doing. By being so involved with it, Ricardo helped my recovery and I was back racing sooner than I thought I would be.”
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