Our Team of the Week feature shines a light on our domestic teams and cycling clubs – finding out how they’ve adapted to life without racing, how they’re keeping people engaged and what they’ve got planned for the months ahead. This week it’s the Wigan-based Astley and Tyldesley Cycling Club.
Astley and Tyldesley Cycling Club was founded in 1989 with a focus on cycle speedway (members built and largely funded their own race track in time for the 1991 season). The club rapidly increased membership numbers and improved its facilities to become the North's Regional Cycle Speedway Centre in 1997. 2014 saw the introduction of leisure, road and off-road sections to the club, as well as members participating in cyclo-cross, closed circuit and track events. Cycle speedway has remained the club's core activity and a new race track, funded by British Cycling's Facilities Fund, was built in 2016.
Club Secretary, Mike Hack, gave us an insight into their history and ethos, plus explained some of their goals:
"The club fields teams in all three divisions of the North and Scotland Cycle Speedway League, as well as entering various other local, regional, national and international events."
"We have been North and Scotland League Division 1 champions for the past three years, thereby qualifying for the Cycle Speedway Cup Final each time. The club has twice completed a unique treble of winning all three divisions of the North and Scotland Regional League – in 2017 and 2019. This is a far cry from our struggles to get established in our early days! The club has produced 26 British Individual Champions, 23 of whom were home grown riders, as well as a World Individual Champion."
"Our aims are to provide and promote community participation in cycle speedway racing for all interested parties, using the track located adjacent to the Astley and Tyldesley Miners' Welfare
Club. We organize and promote community participation in leisure cycling and enable club members to represent the club in race events in all cycling disciplines."
"We continue to develop and encourage riders to enable them to fulfil their potential, both in individual and team events. In addition, we continually strive to upgrade the Club's status and facilities for the broader benefit of the sport."
"We aim to be competitive, professional and to win our main competitions, but at the same time develop our younger homegrown riders. We strive to achieve a balance of fielding competitive teams, without stifling the progress of our youth."
Like so many cycling clubs in Britain, social distancing, lockdown and the coronavirus crisis has impacted the club’s plans for 2020.
Mike explains: "Riders have been training individually - some on the cycle speedway track, some on the road, some on off-road trails. A few riders have their own indoor training equipment at home, spinning bikes, rollers etc. There's been an acceptance that this is a situation beyond everyone's control, so it's been a case of adhering to the lockdown restrictions, doing what we can and waiting for when it's safe to resume activities and competitions."
"Many people have been furloughed, laid off or kept away from school. However, our Team Manager, Steve Harris – 19 times British Champion – says that he has never worked so hard in his life! He works as a salesman for a medical equipment company, which involves travelling all over the country."
"Club Recruitment Officer, Corrie Burgess, alerted me in my capacity as President of the Rotary Club of Astley, to the plight of children from low income families in our area who would be going without meals during the recent half-term holiday. As a consequence, donations from the Rotary club and other organisations were made to provide meals for children from her school for the week. Corrie was assisted by her daughter, World under-16 Girls Champion, Emily Burgess, in packing the food supplies ready to issue to families who were in need."
We asked Mike for his tips on staying motivated in the current circumstances:
"Accept that this is a one-off year and that everyone is affected by it. Take the opportunity to get out on your bike as much as possible and be imaginative in your training and leisure rides. Enjoy reduced levels of traffic on the roads and partake in other types of cycling, which don't involve the pressures of competition."