Ilkeston CC: What makes a great cycling club?

2020 Club of the Year: Ilkeston CC

Congratulations to Ilkeston CC – our 2020 Club of the Year in association with Santini. Here is a message from the club.

Young Derbyshire club Ilkeston CC has faced down the considerable challenges offered up to every cycling club in 2020, and in fact could even be said to have thrived. Its enthusiastic and engaged membership have left few socially-distanced stones unturned this year, from roller sessions on Zoom for its youth academy, to Everesting and actually growing its active member base when rules were relaxed in the summer. 

One of its newest ventures is working with local MPs and police to promote awareness of the close-pass policy which has recently been launched in the county.

It’s a progressive and forward thinking club by nature — and from its inauguration in 2017, progress certainly has been the name of the game.

>> For the full story get a copy of this week’s magazine, on sale 17/12/2020 <<

“We started out with just a weekly ride on a Sunday,” says ICC’s events manager Emma Pilgrim. “And it became pretty clear quite quickly that the members wanted more. So before lockdown, we pretty much had something happening every day of the week.”

One of Ilkeston’s biggest initiatives this year has been with its women riders who are never allowed to feel neglected by the club for a minute. ICC has its own Breeze ride members who were active pre-lockdown, but since March a number of the club’s women have gone from cyber cycling novices to ruling the roost in the local Zwift leagues.

“We set ourselves a bit of a target to get more women confident with using Zwift-type platforms,” says Pilgrim. “We ran a couple of introductions to Zwift… and they have now got a team that enters the East Midlands League every week.

“ICC has topped that league pretty much all the way through lockdown — it’s a mixed league, but we tend to have more female riders than male riders,” she added. “It’s great to have seen the confidence build in the female side of things, from at the start of lockdown never using a platform like that, to now competing and getting points for the club.”

Away from Zwift, the youth academy and lockdown challenges, the club has its own fair share of competitive members, who ride everything from road race, time trials, track and cyclo-cross. In fact in covid-free times it promotes two rounds of the Notts & Derbys CX League, where members all get involved in cake baking. The proceeds of this go towards Ben’s Den — a charity set up by two club members in memory of their son Ben, which provides paid-for holidays for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Another event — which sadly won’t be happening in 2020 — is the club’s Boxing Day hill-climb. It’s a closed road event through the centre of Ilkeston which has been well-attended and enjoyed support from local businesses on previous occasions.

As you’d expect, a club like ICC is not one to rest on its laurels and, covid willing, has big plans for 2021.

“Our biggest plan — which was in motion before lockdown this year — is to get ourselves a club house,” says Pilgrim, who explains that the club will have use of a local golf pavilion. “We won’t own the building, but we can use it as a club meeting point, and people can go in for a tea or coffee, and really start to embed the club in the community.”

For all its events and plans, the club’s trump card is surely its membership. Standing at a hale and hearty 426, Pilgrim says everyone is keen to muck in.

Honourable mentions

 Other clubs who have been doing fine work in a difficult year

Banbury Star CC

Like Cycling Weekly, Banbury Star is celebrating its 130th birthday in 2021. But this historic club is as forward thinking as any. During lockdown it set up an initiative delivering prescriptions to those in the community who were shielding, as well as running Dr Bike sessions for key workers. It also runs several competitive events and has its own Rising Stars youth section.

Newbury Velo

Like Banbury Star, Newbury got involved with prescription delivery for those shielding during lockdown. This brand new club also featured in Cycling Weekly when it ran the first ‘test event’ time trials post-lockdown, with a close eye on social distancing and working closely with CTT. It also put together the National 10-mile Championship promotion in just five weeks, to considerable acclaim.

Cheltenham Town Wheelers

This youth cycling club was set up in 2015 with a community focus and has been true to its aims, playing a key role in the Cheltenham Community Cycling Festival in 2019 and working closely with the local authority on new cycling infrastructure. This year has seen the club support three new coaches to BC level one, and it also nurtures close relationships with other local clubs to help its young members transition as they grow older.

Bynea CC

Established in 1937, Bynea is a very active club with a host of competitive promotions and even more regular rides for members of all ages and abilities. This year it engaged with the community to enable non-club members to get involved in its events where rules allowed, while Bynea CC member Mandy Lane undertook an Everest ride in aid of Welsh Air Ambulance, raising £1,561 — a challenge well supported by club and community.

Wyre Forest CC

This Worcestershire club pivoted quickly in lockdown, negotiating with British Cycling and the local sports council to open up a traffic-free circuit where members could ride in socially distanced safety. Post-lockdown it re-established coaching for youths and women as well as small group rides, while women’s coach Kara Tranter featured this year as one of Cycling UK’s 100 Women In Cycling.

For the full story get a copy of this week’s magazine, on sale 17/12/2020