Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas says he is on track to help get 5000 children on their bikes by 2028.
He has this week revealed that The Geraint Thomas Charitable Trust, which was launched after the Welsh cyclist won the Tour de France in 2018, has stepped in with grant aid support for five projects over the last 12 months which are in London, Caerphilly, Cardiff and Swansea.
The five projects deliver cycling programmes to disabled children and young carers as well as those who live in deprived areas.
Speaking at the Charitable Trust’s latest fundraising lunch at Eversheds in London earlier this week, the Ineos Grenadiers rider and double Olympic gold medallist, said:
“This is exactly why we set up the Trust in the first place. I was always so lucky that I had a bike and also that I had a track just around the corner from my house. But not everyone is that fortunate. That’s why I’m really pleased that we’re able to give a helping hand to these brilliant projects which get children and young people on bikes,” said Geraint.
“We have deliberately targeted projects for children and young people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to enjoy cycling,” he added.
To date, the Geraint Thomas Charitable Trust has supported:
· Community Outdoor Group (COG) – which received £3250 to buy a fleet of new bikes and equipment to deliver cycling sessions to children and young people in East London
· Gower Riders – which was handed £2696 to deliver cycling sessions for young carers in Swansea
· Pantside School – which was awarded £2900 to buy 20 bikes and helmets to improve cycling skills in Caerphilly
· Wheels for Wellbeing – which received £2816 to buy two specialist, adaptive trikes for disabled children in South London
· Willows High School – which was granted £2,230 for waterproof clothing so that pupils at the Cardiff school could continue sessions in the winter months
The Trust was set up to support children across Wales and England, setting itself a target of helping 5000 children enjoy the spirit of cycling over the next 10 years.
Adrian Coles, who chairs the Trust, said:
“We know that there are huge benefits for those who cycle but we also know there are still barriers. Not everyone can afford a bike or has the skills to repair one. Not everyone has somewhere to store a bike or know how to ride safely. And there are those who require adaptive bikes which tend to be more expensive. We are thrilled to be supporting these projects which tackle inequalities.”
Community Outdoor Group (COG), East London
Receiving a grant of £3250, the London-based Community Outdoor Group (COG) has been able to kickstart a new project in Newham. Newham is one of the most diverse, but deprived London boroughs.
COG not only runs sessions to teach children how to ride a bike, but also teaches bike maintenance skills and offers BMX and mountain biking sessions.
The money has been ploughed into a fleet of bikes and helmets for learn to ride and cycling skill sessions across East London. The project lead, says:
“Without the funding from the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust, we would not have been able to deliver these sessions. Access to a bike can be a massive barrier in getting young people cycling. Thanks to the funding, children can borrow a bike to take part in our pedal bike and cycling skills sessions. The money from the Geraint Thomas Charitable Trust has helped us remove any financial barriers.”
As young people grow in confidence, they are signposted to the COG’s BMX and Mountain Biking sessions. COG also offers bike maintenance sessions so that broken bikes can be fixed up by young people and put back into community use.
Geraint Thomas said: “To hear that this project wouldn’t have gone ahead without the funding from the Charitable Trust just makes it all worthwhile. Finance should never be a barrier to a kid getting on a bike and it’s why I’m just so pleased we’ve been able to support COG. And the great thing is that these bikes will keep serving kids in the Newham long into the future.”
Gower Riders and Swansea Young Carers, Swansea
Young carers in Swansea have been given a break from their responsibilities thanks to local cycling club, Gower Riders. With a grant of £2696 from the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust, the club has delivered cycling sessions to YMCA Young Carers.
With demanding caring roles, Gower Riders was keen to offer some respite and worked with a number of children young and people, some as young as eight.
Egija Cinovska is the Young Carers Project Coordinator. She says:
“YMCA Swansea Young Carers have greatly benefited from taking part in the cycling sessions provided by Gower Riders. It has provided them with an opportunity to have a break from their caring roles while taking part in a fun and educational activity. Activities such as cycling are essential to promote positive mental and physical wellbeing for young carers.”
As well as learning how to race, the young carers were also taught bike handling skills such as braking, gearing and cornering as well as how to carry out safety checks.
The group, who are set to become members of Gower Riders, now regularly attend club rides. And Gareth Govier, Head Coach, says:
“Our junior members have been able to interact with the young carers. This has given them an insight into the caring responsibilities that young carers face on a daily basis. Their involvement in sessions has given the club a huge boost, generating a fantastic feelgood factor.”
Geraint Thomas said: “The YMCA Young Carers are really incredible people – to take on such demanding responsibilities at a young age must be really challenging. I’d like to say well done to Gower Riders for providing some respite, the opportunity to develop cycling skills and the chance to make new friends and have some fun. We’ve been really proud to support this project through the Charitable Trust.”
Pantside School, Caerphilly
Pantside School in Newbridge is the first school to be supported by the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust.
The primary school received £2900 to start a cycling project, giving schoolchildren the opportunity to learn to cycle safely. Pantside is an area with high levels of social and economic deprivation and a high percentage of pupils entitled to receive free school meals. But teaching staff are determined to make sure that those families who cannot afford a bike are not left behind when it comes to learning how to ride safely.
Thanks to the grant from the Geraint Thomas Charitable Trust, the school has been able to buy a fleet of 10 bikes and 10 helmets and have been able to offer bike proficiency as well as an after-school cycling club. The school – with help from a local cycling club – also teaches children in basic bike maintenance and safety skills.
Beverley Daniels, teacher and Health and Wellbeing lead at Pantside, says:
“We wouldn’t have been able to purchase the bikes and run the club without the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust. It’s vital that our children learn how to control a bike and learn to ride safely when they are in the community. Some of our pupils who were unable to ride a bike are now cycling and, just as importantly, our pupils who could ride have learnt safety skills and are better able to control their bikes.”
Geraint Thomas said: “I was always really lucky growing up that I was given a bike and I had a brilliant cycle track just around the corner. But not everyone’s in that position. It’s why we set up the Charitable Trust in the first place so I’m just really pleased to hear that the kids in Pantside now have access to bikes and a safe place to cycle.”
Wheels for Wellbeing, South London
Set up in 2007, Wheels for Wellbeing works with disabled people, ensuring that anyone can have access to cycling running weekly drop-in, inclusive sessions, led rides and outreach work across Croydon, Lewisham and Southwark.
With a grant of £2816 from the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust, Wheels for Wellbeing has been able to buy two adapted trikes. The inclusive cycling sessions reach around 250 children and young people each year.
Wheels for Wellbeing Director Isabelle Clement explains:
“This grant from the Geraint Thomas Charitable Trust means that we can offer more disabled children the opportunity to try out cycling and regularly attend sessions at our inclusive cycling hubs. They’ll have a lasting impact, serving children for years to come, providing them with all the physical and mental wellbeing benefits that cycling brings,” says Isabelle.
The sessions welcome children and young people facing any barrier to cycling including physical and learning disabilities, autistic spectrum conditions and sensory impairments.
“Disabled children often miss out on cycling to school with friends and other opportunities such as bikeability sessions during school. That’s why it’s so important that we help them learn to ride in the safety of our off-road environment where they can try different cycles and specialist equipment.
“These trikes will help expand our work which removes barriers to cycling for disabled children and young people across south London. We see children growing in confidence, physical fitness and mobility, and it has a positive impact on other areas of their lives such as education and family relationships,” adds Mark Browne, the charity’s Operations Manager.
Geraint Thomas said: “It’s fantastic news that we’ve been able to help this charity which does so much good work. I know that cycling doesn’t just have physical benefits, it has mental health benefits too. I know the trikes have recently arrived at Wheels for Wellbeing and I look forward to hearing how everyone gets on.”
Willows High School, Tremorfa, Cardiff
The staff at Willows High School in Tremorfa, Cardiff are on a mission to encourage its pupils to reach their full potential. Every other Wednesday at 2:10pm, the bell goes and students head off to take part in one of 55 activities. It could be climbing, playing the ukelele, looking after animals – or cycling.
With more than 60% pupils receiving free school meals, compared to the national average of 19%, finance is a huge barrier. Couple that with the high number of refugees who attend Willows – some who live in hotel accommodation – there is often little or no access to bikes.
Willows has already addressed this, purchasing a fleet of bikes and helmets and providing cycling lessons on a safe yard under the watchful eye of qualified coaches.
But the Welsh winters posed a problem and staff knew it needed waterproof gear and gloves so that the activity could continue over the wetter, colder months.
This is where Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust stepped in, and the school received a grant of £2,230.
Jane Crawshaw is Leader of Enrichment at Willows High School. She said:
“We have helped pupils – who have never been on a bike before – learn how to pedal. And we have pupils who could barely balance on a bike who are now confidently pedalling, braking and changing gears. We’d like to say a huge thank you to the Geraint Thomas Cycling Trust and we look forward to encouraging more pupils on their bikes over the coming years.”
Geraint Thomas said: “I am all too familiar with the Welsh weather so I’m really pleased that we can do our bit to get more kids on bikes. Willows High School is doing a fantastic job and this type of project is exactly the reason we set up the Charitable Trust.”