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.the olympic effect

It's been a remarkable summer for cycling. Wiggins winning the Tour, with Froome coming second, was only really the start, and Wiggins especially seemed to capture the general public's imagination. Amazingly the daily feedback from the Tour was making the headline news on the sports pages of places like the BBC; and towards the end even became the top news story. And then he only went and backed that up with the time trial win at the Olympics, to be equalled in the adulation stakes later by Chris Hoy's track achievements. Add in the likes of Jason Kenny and Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell and Victoria Pendleton. Then there's a liberal dash of Sarah Storey in the Paralympics, and Cundy's tantrum, while not exactly a triumph, was important enough, cycling's profile was important enough, that once again news was being made.

Britain loves cyclists.

Or does it? Do celebratory sporting successes necessarily lead to more respect on the roads? I can only go on my own evidence which suggests - not bloody likely. In my experience sporting success breeds sport, as something quite distinct from a consideration of anything underneath that sport. So Andy Murray at Wimbledon definitely gets more people onto the tennis courts in the summer; the football season sarts and balls are retrieved from garages for a kickabout in the street; cyclists do well in the Tour and the Olympics and... Well it might get a few more people out onto their bikes, but the hardened anti-cyclist is hardly going to think "well that Laura Trott was a chirpy and exuberant character who I really took a shine to during the Games, I think I'll wait for a safer moment to pass this cyclist and give them plenty of room and not actually try to run them off the road."

There was much talk about the 'Olympic Effect' while the Games were progressing, and every time I read or heard any mention of it my inner cynic simply wailed in despair at the understandable, but ultimately naive, belief that on its own some sporting success would bring about a change in attitudes on the road. Perhaps if you actually looked like Wiggins or Hoy or Rowsell. Chuck on some GB lycra and either fast down to a skinny rake or bulk up to a powerhouse and see if the response is different. Maybe it will be, because it was the sporting athletes that were gaining the respect of the watching public; but wee Frankie going down the shops on his full-sus Halfords mountain bike in jeans and a hoodie is about as far removed form those sporting gods and goddesses as the average driver is likely going to be able to conceive.

Of course that doesn't stop people interviewing Wiggins ask him aout helmets; or press Chris Hoy for his views on road safety (in a way I've never heard Jenson Button asked about 20mph limits); but I guess these guys will train on the open roads and so have experienced what we've all experienced. Which is the final nail in the coffin for the Olympic Effect. These guys do experience the same things on the road, despite being the exact same people being venerated. What chance do the rest of us have to reap the rewards?

.the end

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