Dynamic duo clock up their own ‘Tour De France’ ride

Pauline Evans (left) and Jan Brookes in High Hazels Parks:
Pauline Evans (left) and Jan Brookes in High Hazels Parks:

Like thousands of other cycling enthusiasts, Pauline Evans and Jan Brookes will be looking for a spot on Jawbone Hill in Oughtibridge to watch the greatest cycle race in the world as it sprints through Sheffield next July.

But in their case, perhaps they should have a reserved position after their achievement this year.

The two Ecclesfield pensioners clocked up over 2,272 miles of cycling between them for 2013: the total distance of the 2014 Tour de France.

Yet two years ago, they were taking a beginners cycling course in Hillsborough Park. Pauline had decided to take up cycling after a back operation, whereas for Jan it was the first time on a bike for over 50 years.

“I’d never learned to ride a bike as a girl as my dad didn’t allow me to have one,” said Jan. “I saw an advert for a Learn to Ride course, and I knew a lady older than me who’d done it, so I thought if she can learn, so can I. Now I wish I’d learned sooner.”

After taking several cycling courses to build up their confidence, Jan and Pauline progressed from parks to local roads, and this year took part in a Sheffield CycleBoost community loan scheme in Chapeltown.

CycleBoost is a council scheme funded by the Department of Transport which works with local companies and communities to encourage more commuter cycling.

It includes road skills, maintenance and confidence training, a free bike loan, and the chance to buy a well equipped hybrid bike for people who take part in road skills courses. Over 2013 nearly 400 people have taken part in the loan scheme.

After riding 28 miles through a hailstorm last Saturday, Jan, aged 65, has now cycled over 1,000 miles this year, whilst Pauline, 68, is close to 1,300.

The pair topped the CycleBoost leader board, ahead of several police officers under half their age, and a former professional mountain bike tour guide who worked on Chile’s famous death road.

“It’s amazing what they’re doing,” said Karlos Bingham, aged 21, from the Sheffield CycleBoost team. “They’re the same age as my nan.

“ To learn to ride a bike, or getting back on a bike after a few years or riding through city traffic can be scary for a lot of people, but I hope people younger than Jan and Pauline will look at them and say, if they can do it, so can I.”

Pauline and Jan - together with an increasing group of fellow born again bikers they’ve inspired over the last two years - have been exploring the roads and trails of South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire over the summer.

The pair have been helping with training courses for other new cyclists and are now doing voluntary work planning a series of ‘Park Ride’ routes for 2014.

“We asked Jan and Pauline to help us plan the Park Rides because they’ve done so much cycling around the city and know all the best routes,” said Sheffield CycleBoost officer Graeme Symington. “What they’ve done is amazing.”

Pauline said: “We never set out to ride as far as the Tour de France. We just found on every trail or ride we went on, we’d end up going a bit further, and as you go further it doesn’t actually feel like hard work. But to have reached that distance feels great.”

Jan’s advice to people thinking about cycling more as Le Tour gets closer is simple. “Just have a go. Build up your distance and skills gradually, and your confidence will come.

“If we meet Sir Bradley Wiggins I think I’d have to tweak his sideburns and say what an inspiration he and his team are to get us amateur cyclists to do more.” Karlos Bingham says: “Bradley Wiggins is a really good rider, but he’s got a full professional team behind him, fitness coaches, sponsors with thousands of pounds of bikes, compared to these guys who’ve bought their bikes for £100, had a few training sessions and then done it all themselves.

“Jan and Pauline rode the same distance as the Tour riders, but with panniers on the back too.”