ANOTHER big year for cycling is coming up for the women riders of Cheshire.
The Breeze Network, launched nationally by British Cycling to encourage more women to take to two wheels, started actively working in Cheshire in April and has seen an enormous amount of interest.
Natalie Justice, Breeze women’s network manager, said: “The aim was to get some champions trained and get some rides going in and around Cheshire and see how it goes.
“From our point of view 2013 has been massive for us, it’s been really successful.
“A few things have come together at the right time – there’s been a lot of interest from women that want to ride and from champions that want to get going.”
The Breeze programme relies on a network of volunteer champions who are trained by British Cycling to lead groups of women on relaxed, social bike rides.
Since the Cheshire champions were trained in April there has been 145 Breeze rides in the county with 580 riders taking part.
Nationally the network boomed in 2013 with 50 per cent of its total rides taking place last summer.
Between its launch date in June 2011 to March 2013, Breeze had clocked up 4,000 rides.
But from March to September 2013 another 4,000 took place, doubling the total within six months.
Natalie said: “The growth rate has been phenomenal.
“Rides have been continuing through the winter as well, which has been amazing.
“In November and December there were still 70 to 80 rides a week taking place in the country.”
Natalie praised the champion network in Northwich and said that the fact the network was volunteer-led was one of the ingredients of its success.
“In some ways that pays dividends because it creates a real community feel to it and people feel a sense of ownership,” she said.
“It’s very flexible for the champions as they run rides as and when they can, it’s very friendly.
“Somewhere like Northwich where we’ve got a few champions in a little network, in areas where we’re able to do that it’s brilliant and we have the most success.
“That flexibility and community feel is the way women engage.
“They don’t necessarily want to go out and be the fastest or the strongest but want to enjoy the social side while getting some exercise and being healthy.”
Sara Braidwood was appointed as Breeze area co-ordinator in April and has worked closely with champions to give them the support and confidence they need to lead successful rides.
“The success of Breeze in Cheshire is wonderful,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for the enthusiasm and commitment of the Breeze champions it wouldn’t be the success it is.
“I think a lot of it is seeing other people doing it too.
“Women are seeing groups out on rides and thinking ‘that looks like fun’.
“If there are regular rides people are able to make new friends and they look forward to it.”
But despite its success, the Breeze network is not resting on its laurels.
Natalie said: “There’s still a lot to do and we still want to build on what we’re doing.
“But it’s also about keeping on doing what we’re doing and it will keep growing.”
For more information about the Breeze network visit breezebikerides.com.