Go-Ride at Benton Park School

Go-Ride at Benton Park School

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Go-Ride at Benton Park School

Anna Blyth

Report and Images: Andrew Kennedy

Benton Park School in Rawdon Leeds is developing a name as a cycling hot bed. A few years ago British Cycling's Jonny Clay set up his Talent Team test circuit at the school. Young student Anna Blyth (pictured right in the 2009 Tour d'Aude time trial) stormed around the cones and told a very impressed former Olympian and now Cycle Sport Director Clay, saying that she was used to riding fast because that's what she did on her evening paper round!

Fast forward to 2009 - Anna Blyth has since ditched delivering the local Leeds rag and gone on to represent GB at World level as a track sprinter and is now racing with the women's endurance academy in Belgium. Andrew Kennedy visited the school which spawned Anna and found that cycling is still a top choice on the sporting menu.

A few last minute adjustments as the teams line up for the start of the relay race

The current crop of potential cycling stars at the school are now looked after by British Cycling's Yorkshire Go-Ride coach Chris Young. It helps of course to have cycling mad teachers on the inside and Mr Farnaby fills that role. During the school day Mr Farnaby is a Design and Technology teacher at Benton Park, but on an evening and weekend Jonny Farnaby is a mad keen road man with the Crosstrax team.

Cycling at school with British Cycling Go Ride coaches is great fun and totally different to the usual PE lessons

The last week of summer term is a time when teachers are given a bit of freedom to introduce new activities into the school day. Benton Park School is a specialist technology college and the final week was nominated as a STEM week, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. With a bit of creative thinking Farnaby chose an Olympic theme for the technology part and a cycling session was dropped into the programme.

Skills sessions were very popular at Benton Park School with girls lining up to compete for the prizes on offer

He told us,"The Olympic theme was an ideal opportunity to open up the cycling we've been doing all year with Go-Ride coach Chris Young. Today we've invited students from Spen Valley College in Heckmondwike to challenge our students to a cycling relay race. Chris Young has set up an off-road circuit around the sports fields and we are having a 30 minute team relay race. The students have paid an entry fee and we are handing out cash prizes. It's about having fun, developing bike handling skills and introducing competitive bike racing into school sports. Also today we have road rider Scott Thwaites running a skills session, that should be popular with the girls and the Crosstrax bike shop has set up a bike-trials demonstration".

The relay format saw some very competitive racing from the teams, with cash prizes in brown envelopes on offer it was just like a real race!

With a captive audience of 200 students the sports field at Benton was buzzing with excitement as the racing got under way. The Spen Valley College students looked as though they meant business as they warmed up, taking instructions from their PE teacher. The hospitality from Benton was very generous and the Food Technology department made sure the Spen Valley boys were filled up with flapjack and cakes just before the racing began. It was a mistake that would cost them the race, aching with cake and flapjack Spen Valley lacked the speed they needed to win, knobbled by the smiling domestic science teacher.

Keeping a close eye on the competition as the teams raced around the sports field

The whole day was a resounding success for Jonny Farnaby and the staff at Benton Park School, he told us afterwards, "It was brilliant, the kids enjoyed the afternoon of bike activities, lot's of them asked for details of how they can do more cycling and together with Chris Young I will be helping them towards that. This isn't a one-off we are working closely with British Cycling and Chris Young to get cycling into our curriculum. When we get back from the summer break in September hopefully we will have more cycling activities arranged".

British Cycling Go-Ride coach Chris Young provided bikes, equipment and technical knowledge to ensure the day went without a hitch

To find out more about Go-Ride and Schools go here