Army sport is getting its cycling shoes on to go up against the ranks of pro teams on the road for the first time - as seven disciplines compete on the national stage.
The British Army’s cycling teams are aiming for success as the 2019 teams are unveiled to compete in all cycling disciplines from road racing to time trial and BMX to Cross-country mountain biking and Enduro.
BFBS Reporter Chris Sturgess met some of those involved in British Army Cycling as the teams were revealed at a season’s launch ceremony at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
Colonel Stuart Williams, Chairman of British Army Cycling, is hoping this year’s teams will be an inspiration to soldiers to get involved in the sport and is already excited about the season ahead. He said:
“The most exciting thing is that our road teams will be competing against the professional teams for the very first time.”
Sponsorship from Helix, Fenwick's and ABF - The Soldiers Charity has helped to give the team a more professional approach and be able to compete with more established teams.
The sport is now on the national stage and about to compete with the best of the best.
The road team will be rising against some of the world's elite riders taking part in city centre televised events. Colonel Williams added:
"The Soldiers Charity realise we're on a national stage and why not, as Army Cycling, have our charity emblazoned across the front of our jerseys?"
The teams will not only be taking on the best from road racing to time trial and BMX to Cross-country mountain biking but also hoping to do well against the other services during the upcoming season.
Lance Corporal Connor Towers, Royal Tank Regiment, of the Men's Army Road team, said:
“This is my first season with the men’s army road team, so I’m definitely excited, definitely looking forward to seeing what I can do.
“The primary goal is to win the inter-services, so I’m looking to win that and looking to do well and cement my foundations as a road rider and seeing what I can achieve.”
Sgt James Bevan, 1 Royal Welsh, said: “This is my sixth year of racing bikes.
"I want to push myself this year and race some bigger races against some bigger boys, so see how it goes.”
Lieutenant Colonel Christina Murray, Intelligence Corps, who rides time trials, said: “I’ve two major goals really. The primary one this year is the 24-hour time trial.
“I had a go last year but only got as far as 18 hours and did 332 miles so I am to hopefully achieve over 450 this year.
“My second aim is to feature as high as I can in the Best British All-rounder competition and that is a combination of the fastest 25, 50 and a 100-mile time trial that you can do and then you are placed in a national rankings.”
Colonel Williams added: “Why wouldn’t you invest in your soldiers and allow them to go and do a sport which keeps them fit?
“I’ve just been in Cyprus with the Army Women and Men’s road team and just seeing what they were doing on a structured training camp is incredible.
“It’s set them up for the season. But that was possible because commanding officers said ‘yeah, off you go for two weeks.”
Finally, he had a message to all the riders and all those involved in Army cycling for the season to come:
“It’s pretty simple: Inspire soldiers to cycle.”