Cycling for BritainThe Guardian reported on the challenges facing the organisers of the London Olympics. Lord Coe and his 2012 team are most concerned about persuading more people to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking part in sport.


As there no evidence that staging a major sporting event increases participation rates, Britain must work hard, and imaginatively. Research in Australia shows that in 2001, the year after the highly successful Sydney Games, there were increases in seven Olympic sports, but decreases in nine. The ‘couch potato’ effect was blamed – people spent too much time watching sport rather than doing it themselves..


If one sport is leading the way in increasing participation, doing a ‘reverse couch potato’, it is cycling. One reason is a shift away from traditional team sports towards something more flexible, more individual; another is that at the highest level, in all forms of cycling, British riders excel in it.


There is a high chance that in the next six months, British cycling could exceed even the highs of 2008 and 2009, marked, respectively, by the best ever Olympics and the best ever Tour de France for home racers.


The middle weeks of March are the tipping point of the cycling year. Yesterday, the 21st of March was the Milan-San Remo, first of the great one-day Classics. There are more to follow in April, then it is Tour de France build-up time, focusing on Mark Cavendish, and Bradley Wiggins at Sky, the first British road racing team at the highest level. On Wednesday the 23rd of March, the world track championships will open in Copenhagen, giving Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and others a chance to bring back gold medals.


Participation is at an all-time high (1.88 million cycling at least once a week, not including commuters). On BBC1 last week in prime time,  Fearne Cotton, Davina McCall and David Walliams rode from Lands End to John O'Groats for Sport Relief. Also, Lawrence Dallaglio's journey from Rome to Edinburgh in the same cause has been an integral part of the station's Six Nations coverage.

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