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The "Vingegaard-effect" encourages Danish children to join cycling clubs.

DR-Inland in Denmark

Wednesday, July 10, 2024 • 6:10 AM UTC - in Denmark

The helmets are fastened, the chains are well-oiled, and the cycling gear is neatly arranged for the youth training session at Vejle Cycling Club.

Today, fifteen children and young people have gathered to get asphalt under their tires, and this is an impressive number when compared to the rides just a few years ago. Back then, there were only three members in total in the age group of 8-16.

Now, the local youth field has grown to thirty-eight riders, and among the many focused faces, one idol stands out as the reason for their newfound love for cycling sports.

- Last year, I began to see a lot of cycling races on television, and I was just inspired to start cycling myself. It was exciting to see Jonas Vingegaard win the world's biggest cycling race, and I also enjoy climbing hills, just like he does, says Gregers Dollerup, a ten-year-old.


Members flocking in


Karsten Ellerup is the trainer for the youth team at Vejle, and he can attest to the significance of the success of Jonas Vingegaard and other Danish riders at the top level.

- When things go well for Vingegaard and the other Danish riders, we can really feel it in the motivation of the children. They are extra eager to train, they want to give it their all, and if Mads Pedersen, for example, wins a sprint, they ask if there can be sprint training the next day, he says.

And it's not just in Vejle where the youngest members are multiplying rapidly.

At the Danish Cycling Union, the number of members between 8 and 16 years old has increased by around 25% over the past two years, and according to development consultant Kristoffer Nielsen, there are several reasons for this growth.

- Vingegaard and his victories create an idol status that brings a lot with it. At the same time, we have seen the world's biggest cycling race start in Denmark, which was a massive public event – and the cycling clubs have also done a lot to attract the young, he says.

For years, the Danish Cycling Union has been struggling with declining membership numbers, which reached a low point in 2021.

But two Grand Tour victories and a few Danish stage victories in the same race have certainly turned things around, and it's good for the future of Danish cycling, according to Kristoffer Nielsen.

- The great excitement surrounding the Tour de France and Danish riders gives cycling a significant boost at home. When children and young people see Vingegaard on television, it makes them curious about what they can achieve in their local cycling club, he says.

In just a few years, the youth team at Vejle has grown from three riders to thirty-eight.


'Paving the way for them, we'll see in TV in ten years'


At the Danish Cycling Union, the growing interest is seen as essential for Danish cycling to continue delivering results at the highest level, as 'more members pave the way for the riders we might see on television in ten years'.

And it's also important to create good frameworks for the new, young cycling enthusiasts in the cycling clubs, emphasizes Karsten Ellerup from Vejle Cycling Club.

- I think we've become really good at capturing their interest and at the same time creating a good camaraderie, so it's both fun and educational to come to training, he says.

After countless laps on the asphalt track, the children's pedals click out of their shoes at Vejle Cycling Club. And Sophia Ernst Jensen, 11, makes no mistakes, at least not in her determination.

- There are many good Danish cyclists who win a lot of big races, both men and women. It gives me something to look up to, where I can think 'maybe I can do that too, if I train really hard', she says.

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