August Club of the Month!
It is difficult to merely spectate at Mossley CRT in Ashton-under-Lyne. The club’s prerequisite for new members is ‘if you stay upright, you’re in’.
Someone who has fully embraced the club’s welcoming ethos is six-time Special Olympic gold medallist Kiera Byland, who credits cycling with turning her life around.
Having a learning disability with traits of autism and dyspraxia made Kiera’s school days difficult but since joining Mossley, her confidence has blossomed and she now delivers speeches to schools and universities, as well as continuing her success on the bike.
Her exploits have seen her recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list, as she received a British Empire Medal for inspiring children in schools and her services to sport.
“I was shocked when I received the award (BEM), but I wouldn’t have got that recognition without Mossley,” Kiera said.
“The club and the British Cycling disability hub have given me the opportunity to coach, and have the friendships with others.
“The thing with Mossley is, it doesn’t matter what disability you may have. We have para-riders, children and adults with learning disabilities, but then we also have the history of top mainstream riders, like Ben Swift, our club president.
“It doesn’t matter what your cycling level is. We are here to enjoy each other’s company, push each other and learn from each other.
“The lockdown was really difficult, particularly for our members’ mental and emotional health, not just the physical side.
“But when things get hard, like in lockdown, we come together as a team.”
Kiera’s story has also inspired others to get involved with the club, such as Liz Birkbeck - who has gone from ‘itching on the sidelines’ to immersing herself in the sport along with her daughter.
“I have been with the club since 2019, when we saw an interview with Kiera and were led to Mossley and the disability sessions,” she said.
“Last year, when lockdown hit, I was cycling a bit but not much. But then the club lent me and my daughter bikes to stay involved.
“They could see I was itching on the sidelines, when we were actually at the track, to have a go as well.
“It’s not just about who is the best cyclist, our spirit is about equality.”
As with sporting clubs up and down the country, Mossley had to adapt when Covid-19 hit to ensure they could still keep their members involved.
This was particularly important for some of the members on the para-cycling side, with parent Colin Steen full of praise for how Mossley kept spirits high in difficult times.
“During the lockdown, Mossley were brilliantly inventive,” he said.
“The club started to do Zoom training sessions and we managed to get some turbos - we would all be sat on them.
“Kiera would coach, along with some of the other coaches, and the sessions were superb. They kept us all fit, but also brought that social interaction that was missing during the Covid period.
“They were also a great leveller, because we could all do it together. If you had a learning disability, physical disability or were a high-end athlete, it didn’t matter - we were all in it together.
“All you needed to join in was a device where you could move your legs.
“Now it has settled down a bit, we are able to go out on the track again, but we are going to keep those Zoom sessions going, particularly in the winter months when we can’t get out as much.
“Those sessions became the highlight of the week in lockdown.”
Kiera added: “That social aspect is so important. We have a laugh and a joke, but also the music which helps people work hard.
“It is just a really sociable area to enjoy. Some of our riders for the Special Olympics with learning disabilities might not have seen any other people that week during lockdown.
“It was important for them to see someone other than family. If they were feeling down a certain day on Zoom, we could build them back up and make them feel a little bit more positive.”
The enthusiasm to bring people into cycling is visible from everyone at Mossley CRT. More than that, it is infectious, making them a richly deserving winner of the Parasport Club of the Month award.
“We are super proud to have the Club of the Month accolade,” Liz said.
“It is just an amazing achievement. We’re just showing what the future can look like, that inclusivity does exist and it can continue to exist in society, but also in sport as well.”