Cycling Club Hackney and Venerdi restaurant have worked in tandem to kit out local refugee riders with new, high-quality racing bikes.
The move is part of the club’s Aspiring Rider Development Programme (ARDP), which helps its young cyclists compete at the highest level.
The scheme includes a group of refugees who have been riding with the club for over a year, as well as other youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The club made the announcement as it launched its new bikes and kit outside Venerdi, a popular Italian restaurant on Chatsworth Road, earlier this month.
Cycling Club Hackney’s manager and lead coach Keir Apperley said: “We feel that we are at the cutting edge for positive change that leads towards increased BAME participation in cycling.
“ARDP is about setting up an environment that is attractive to sports cyclists from all backgrounds and circumstances.
“I believe that this project will create a sense of belief that we can make the difference and effect change for young riders who would otherwise think cycling as a sport is not for them.”
Apperley has worked in grassroots cycling for over 10 years, coaching the likes of Tao Geoghegan-Hart and Alex Peters, both Hackney riders who have gone on to ride for Team Sky.
Geoghegan-Hart, 24, yesterday celebrated his first professional victory in the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps in Austria, as part of a team that includes four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
Apperley added: “Our riders need to know that there are possibilities to go to the next levels and even all the way to the top, breaking through any false ceilings there may be along the way.
“ARDP staff and coaches are on hand to help them develop their confidence, language and communication skills.”
Haben Gebrehiwet, who came to the UK from Eritrea, says his new bike is transformative: “It means a lot to me. I want to say thank you to the sponsorship project, to Venerdi and to Keir as well, for all the hard work.
“With this new bike, I will try to race in long races, more than 100 kilometres. I wish one day to be a professional cyclist with their help.”
Fellow ARDP member Okubit Tereke, also from Eritrea, received a race bike too.
Both bikes have been rebranded with Venerdi logos, after the restaurant got involved to help finance the purchases and resprays.
Cycling Club Hackney is now hoping to start an ARDP refugee cycling team.
If you want to get involved in the club, Apperley runs outreach sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Kingsmead Housing Estate, as part of the Concorde Bike Club.
The club is also running a Spring series of races at Lee Valley Velopark – the next is on 27 April, followed by one on 8 June.
It is also preparing for its 12th annual ‘big ride out’ on Sunday 5 May.
For more information, head to cyclingclubhackney.co.uk