THE Guardian’s Pedal Power campaign is all about inspiration.
We want our readers to feel the urge to jump on a bike and see what they can achieve, whether that be distance or speed, getting fit, enjoying time out with the family or just seeing the Cheshire countryside from a different perspective.
Throughout the weeks we also aim to offer top tips to get you started, or to maintain momentum, but inspiration has to come first.
This week Guardian chief reporter Gina Bebbington was invited to meet a whole host of inspiring cyclists at the Weaver Valley Cycling Club dinner and prize presentation evening.
Among these impressive riders was none other than Cheshire’s very own Paralympic gold medallist herself, Dame Sarah Storey, who was happy to share her thoughts about cycling as our guest Pedal Power Ambassador this week.
A ROAD race in Northwich set a Paralympic gold medallist on her way to national glory.
Dame Sarah Storey said winning the Cheshire Classic Women’s Road Race in April last year paved the way for a year of triumph.
The 35-year-old rode to phenominal success in London 2012, winning four gold medals for four events and setting a new world record in the C5 Women's 3000m Individual Pursuit.
She and her husband Barney Storey MBE, a fellow Paralympic gold medallist and world record holder, won so many Paralympic medals between them that the national press ranked Team Storey in the medal tables as if they were a country.
But Sarah said it all started with the Cheshire Classic, the first in a series of national road races.
“After six years of attempting to win the Cheshire Classic, to get up that hill first was absolutely brilliant,” she said.
“Barney and I had an incredible 2012 and I think it started in Weaverham because winning the Cheshire Classic really set me up for the rest of the season.”
Mum-to-be Sarah praised the work done by Weaver Valley Cycling Club, and clubs like it, in allowing the sport to flourish at all levels.
“Everything starts at home with the races you do in the local area.
“The Cheshire Classic is the only race I’m not looking forward to having to miss because it’s one of my favourite races in the whole calendar.
“I’m so proud that it’s in the local area.
“And we couldn’t do what we do on the world stage without clubs working at the grass roots and in the community.”
As an athlete Sarah excelled at Paralympic swimming, winning five gold medals, eight silver and three bronze, before a series of ear infections saw her turn to cycling and become hooked.
“I used cycling as training but by the time my ears got better I had been racing and had a decision to make whether I wanted to carry on swimming or move to cycling,” she said.
“Cycling is incredible, it’s a lifestyle.
“You only have to look around any cycling event to see youngsters from eight to 108, there are no limits.
“It’s very inclusive – anyone can race.”
This year’s Cheshire Classic Women’s Road Race takes place on Sunday, April 28.
Epic Cycles have signed up as sponsors of the team prize competition, a new addition to this year’s race, with Knutsford company Delamere Dairy sponsoring the sprint prize competition.
Andy Wood, race organiser, said: “This is a major signing for the Cheshire Classic, it’s great to have a company which is a key employer locally and one that has national exposure too.
“It’s also a good indication of how far women’s cycling has come, the Olympics has really inspired people and we hope this year’s race will add to that.”
He added: “To have Epic back on board is a great boost to the Cheshire Classic; they are great supporters of women’s cycling.
“After last year’s race we asked riders for their feedback and it was very clear that a team prize competition was at the top of the agenda and Epic has allowed us to do that.”
Breeze and Halfords are also supporting the race, which is organised by Weaver Valley Cycling Club.
Entries are now open with a large number of entries already submitted from around the UK.
Last year’s edition was won by Paralympic superstar Sarah Storey with previous winners including silver Olympic medallist Lizzie Armitstead, Nicole Cooke and two time Junior World Champion Lucy Garner.
For more information visit cheshireclassic.co.uk.