I meant to pay tribute during the Tour de France to the cycling coach Brian Wright, who died suddenly in April. He would have been thrilled that Bradley Wiggins had realised his potential and won the Tour de France, since he knew him as a youngster, but that’s not the reason for writing about him here.
Simply put, not many coaches can have played leading roles in setting up three cycling clubs that survive them, or facilities that enable participation or spread word of the sport so effectively. The Hillingdon Slipstreamers, and their track and clubhouse in Minet Country Park, a children’s cycling club where my son is a member, the Minet Ladies Cycling Club, which he founded, and a primary school club and track at Field End school are all legacies of Brian’s years as a coach, together with Prime Coaching, which he also helped to found. He thought that cycling built health and confidence, and he cherished the successes of all of his cyclists, not just the stars. It’s not surprising that he became Participation Coach of the Year (not just for cycling) in 2010.
I know the Slipstreamers best, and the origins of the club – which has close to 300 six-to-sixteen year old members, and up to 150 attending on any Saturday morning – say quite a lot about the man. As I understand the history, it started when a section of the Hayes Bypass was uncompleted and detached from the road network, and Brian was one of a group who started to run coaching sessions for kids on the tarmacked section. By the time they gor round to finishing the road, upwards of a hundred kids were turning up, and the council was persuaded to lay a cycling circuit in Minet Country Park, also created by the new road. The circuit is used constantly now.
Brian died during a cycling training camp in Malaga, another of his many coaching activities. When so many people die uncomfortably a quick death when you’re doing something you love (as with the cyclist Beryl Burton) is also something to be envied.
He was due to have carried the Olympic torch a fortnight before the Games started, an honour he would have cherished. His grandaughter, who is a member of the Slipstreamers, took his place, which seemed an appropriate legacy.
Brian’s voice is in my head as I write this, reminding me (through my son) of one of my bad uncoached habits, of riding on the tops not the hoods as I pull away from lights, which is bad for both balance and control. But his memory is much more tangible: at Minet Country Park, at Field End primary school, as with Christopher Wren, “if you seek his monument, look around you”.
The picture of Brian Wright at the Hillingdon Circuit is from the Minet Ladies Cycling Club, and it is used with thanks.