Otley Cycle Club president highlights 'ability to change' as reason for success as Cycling Weekly Club of the Year

Yorkshire cycling club claimed the prize for Club of the Year in association with Santini at the inaugural Cycling Weekly Awards

Jill Birch (l) and Liz Hills (r) of Otley Cycle Club collected the award

The president of Otley Cycle Club says it is the 111-year-old group's 'ability to change' which sets it apart from others, after the club was recognised with the award for Club of the Year in association with Santini.

The Yorkshire collective picked up the accolade at the inaugural Cycling Weekly Awards in association with Garmin on Wednesday evening.

The cycling club, whose patron is Lizzie Deignan, boasts traditional racing genes as well as a 35 per cent female membership and a large youth contingent.

It also promotes 'OCC Race Team', an independently registered outfit run by club members and funded with sponsorship from several outside companies, including Chevin Cycles bike shop and Mint Cycling coaching company.

Rides are split into A, B, intermediate and social groups to ensure there's a suitable club run for every member or perspective member to join.

>>> 11 reasons to join a cycling club 

President Liz Hills commented on receiving the award: "We've had a cycle club in some form since the 1890s, and it has changed guise over the years. The longevity of it, the tradition, the history, that means that we've got old school cycling, but we've got evolved cycling too.

"It's the ability to change - that's what sets us apart," she added.

The pair collecting the award with comedian Patrick Monahan (left), Fergus Niland of Santini (centre-right) and Cycling Weekly Awards presenter Matt Barbet (right)

Press and communications officer Jill Birch added: "We still keep our traditional racing, but we've now introduced all sorts of other things. We do cyclocross, we do mountain biking, we've got lots of kids involved, we've got a 35 per cent female membership. It's just evolved out of all recognition. It's brilliant."

Hills joined the club based on a tweet, which advertised social rides that were 'fun', and accessible for people who 'haven't cycled before'. She said "I think there's a myth about cycling clubs [that they're not accessible] and it isn't necessarily true."

The club hosts a series of social rides, the motto for which is 'nobody gets left behind'.

"It's not about how far you can ride or how fast you can ride, it's just about enjoying riding with other people, ending up having a cake and a coffee. We always cycle at the pace of the slowest person in the group, and we support them," Birch explained.

The club has Deignan as an honorary member and patron, with updates via the website's 'Lizzie Blog'.

"[Deignan] has been a huge influence on our younger female riders, the kids just think she's absolutely fantastic. We all do, but she really has been very influential to them," Birch said.

The screams of excitement coming from the Otley CC table at the awards night made plain their elation, and the pair will return to the club committee meeting to present their award on Monday.

"We're over the moon, it means so much, not just for us but for the volunteers and all the members of the club,"  Hills said.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.