500 Not Out for 'inspirational Yorkshire volunteer Val

Sarah Hodgetts

Barmby Moor cyclist Val French has been described as ‘inspirational’, ‘passionate’ and ‘exceptional’ after leading her 500th HSBC UK Breeze ride for women in East Riding, as the number of free cycling opportunities for women in the region continues to grow. 

Val was trained as a ride leader – a Breeze Champion – by British Cycling in 2011, with the aim of encouraging local women of all ages and ability to take up cycling for fun and fitness. Since then, over 3,700 women have built up their confidence in the saddle thanks to Val’s rides, with her 500th taking place this week. She’s also cycled overseas, as far away as Vietnam and Cambodia, raising money for several children’s charities.

Her milestone comes after the national governing body’s ‘One in a Million’ campaign earlier this year, which was launched to support its women’s strategy target to inspire one million more women on bikes by 2020.

National road champion Jessica Roberts, said:

“The incredible work of HSBC UK Breeze wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work of inspirational Breeze Champions like Val, who organise rides all year round.

“To lead 500 rides shows amazing dedication, and I hope that she will continue to support and inspire more women to discover the benefits of cycling on their own terms and ride for many years to come.”

Fellow Breeze Champion and Barmby Moor Pink Ladies rider, Hilary Farrow, added:

“Val is an inspiration and has changed many women’s lives through Breeze. It took six months and a lot of her persuasive powers to get me to join my first Breeze ride.

“I’m now five stones lighter, a Breeze Champion and love the friends I’ve made along the way. And I’m full of Pink Ladies’ memories of sportives, weekend trips and cycling holidays. Here’s to the next 500! I’m proud to be part of her journey.”

Luke Harper, HSBC UK’s head of the British Cycling partnership, continued:

“The impact of getting women back onto bikes shouldn’t be under-estimated and HSBC UK Breeze has been a breath of fresh air to cycling; a free guided ride, led by women for women. Val’s achievement is tremendous. She has made a real difference to very many people.”

British Cycling’s Women’s Cycling Project Manager, Faye Downey, said:

“Women’s recreational cycling in Britain has enjoyed a real boom over the years, thanks to the dedication and support of amazing volunteer Breeze Champions like Val. There have never been as many opportunities for women in Yorkshire to discover the simple pleasure of riding a bike, and we’re really excited to watch cycling continue to flourish here, and indeed across the country in the future.

“With the UCI Road World Championships now just months away, we know that hundreds more women will seek inspiration from the event, Val and the Barmby Moor Pink Ladies to begin cycling for fun and fitness themselves.”

British Cycling and HSBC UK are urging women across the UK to join the ‘One in a Million’ campaign to help address the gender gap in cycling.

For more information and practical tips about how to get in the saddle, visit www.britishcycling.org.uk/womenscycling