The Return of the school mini hill climb proves cycling events are very popular in Ottery

Youngsters taking part in the hill climb

Youngsters taking part in the hill climb - Credit: Ottery Primary School

Friends of Phyllis Baxter writes for the Herald in collaboration with John Campion and Josefina Gori.

Phyllis Baxter dressed in red sat at her desk with a pen, book and other office equipment

Phyllis Baxter had a dream to write a book and launch a website about Ottery - Credit: Phyllis Baxter

At the Action Group we very often we ask ourselves why they are so popular? After looking through various information we seemed to have found the answer in two government publications.

It certainly opened our eyes to an area of suggestions that we thought could make any other event as popular, as other events currently taking place.

The first document was an article written by Josefina Gori in 2016 when she was a councillor under the title 'finding the formula to success in Ottery' and the second one was written by Adrian Lane, Devon County Council senior media and public relations officer, 'The Tour of Britain lasting legacy in Devon'.

According to Mrs Gori when the town council was thinking of how to overcome the financial constraints imposed at that time on councils by government cuts, it seemed to have found a series of formulas to keep local residents motivated, supporting local businesses without having to search into their coffers and by backing initiatives from individual councillors.

These formulas where very simple: one, sell your town to an organisation that can put it on the UK and possibly world map.

Two, build on your own success and three, try as many combinations as you can using the resources your town has and create activities that would keep residents busy and stimulated especially in the winter months.

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John Campion, who is among the organisers of the cycling events in Ottery, explained how those formulas worked locally:

He said: “The Tour of Britain had come through Ottery twice and in 2016 triggered our thought that we should have some sort of event for cyclists in the town.

"Because we weren’t affiliated with British Cycling we joined forces with Chard Wheelers, who helped us put on the first event at Chineway Hill in 2017.

"We also had sponsorship through local businesses and shops who were very good in coming forward. While in Devon, cyclists will often ride Haytor and Widecombe, additionally we wanted them to come to Ottery and cycle Chineway Hill.

“As well as a hill climb in 2018, the cycling celebration grew to try and increase the involvement of children, with a demonstration by the Exeter Cycle Speedway team at the Land of Canaan car park in the town, and mini-races for over-10s.

"It was such a success that we were asked to put on a cycling event at the Primary School and that has continued every year since, except during the Covid pandemic, with around 80 or 90 pupils taking part.

"David Goldthorpe, a promoter of the event since its beginnings, has informed us the school has set June 7 this year as the date when the event will return.

"It’s important to help youngsters to get out and do something. It’s another event for those who might not be involved in playing football or other activities, it gets them involved with others and they’re getting exercise."

Josefina Gori, also an organiser of the cycling events in Ottery added: “Zsolt Schuller a personal friend and managing director of the Devon Stage of the Tour of Britain when it came to Ottery in 2016 and right away believed that the then town council was capable of 'selling' the town to the organisers of the event.

“The legacy of the Tour gave birth to many cycling events in Ottery including being part of 2019 Three Hills Championship where riders had to conquer three different stages starting with Chineway Hill in Ottery, followed by the climbs at Haytor and Widecombe all in one day.

"The cycling events were combined with a breakfast so it gave an opportunity for the town the businesses to participate –a good application of formula 3 - especially as it brought people in from far away.

"With the proliferation of so many wonderful cafes in Ottery the opportunity is there to attract these cyclists, whose staple diet is cake and coffee, not only for the event but to keep coming back. All you need is a cyclist friendly sign on your door.”

Happy cycling.