A collaboration between one of Britain’s most famous cycling stars and the owner of a shopping park is creating a unique performance centre. As the property industry goes cycling mad, we went to Evesham to find out more.
This story begins in 1981 when a 13-year old Chris Boardman turned up to a local 10-mile cycle time trial in cut-off jeans and riding a recycled bike. This was the first race in a remarkable riding career that took him to world records, Tour de France yellow jerseys and an Olympic gold medal.
Throughout his career he pushed his body to its limits through the relentless pursuit of perfection and cutting edge technology. So who better to launch a cycling performance centre?
The 18,000 sq ft Boardman Performance Centre will offer a unique and world-class customer experience for cyclists and triathletes of all levels, from Olympic, Paralympic and Tour De France Champions to weekend leisure riders. The facility is designed around Boardman’s own cycling-specific wind tunnel which is the first of its kind in the UK and will sit at the heart of the site.
Following his career as a rider, Boardman provided his knowledge, experience and philosophy to the new generation of Olympians through his role as R&D director at British Cycling. This position led to him overseeing the product used by the riders competing in the 2008 Olympics and the record-breaking 2012 games in London.
During roughly the same period, the idea was born to create a British bike brand with Boardman and his passion for performance at its heart. The first bikes were launched in 2007 and success followed quickly, not just in sales but also through the independent reviews and out on the road with Nicole Cooke winning Gold at the 2008 Olympics.
With this knowledge and witnessing the impact that aerodynamics had in taking Olympic athletes from fourth and third places to first, he could clearly see how this understanding and methodology would be hugely beneficial to everyday cyclists across many disciplines. It was this idea that ultimately has led to the performance centre, and the UK’s first cycling-specific wind tunnel which enables cyclists of all levels to explore their potential.
Boardman comments: “I knew that we had an idea that was going to be the most accurate tunnel in the world and we could do it at a price accessible to the everyday cyclist. I took this idea to the team at Boardman and they were all over it, they could see the value of this and just for themselves as enthusiasts could see that we wanted to be the first people to do this, and that’s exactly what we’re doing”.
The location for the centre is an established destination shopping centre on the A46 at Evesham in Worcestershire. Investor/developer, Eagle One, first acquired the 125-acre Evesham Country Park on the banks of the River Avon in the 1990s, initially developing a 40,000 sq ft garden centre, 20,000 sq ft of retail units and a successful miniature steam railway. Having since obtained consent for a further 100,000 sq ft of retail, catering and leisure space they were able to incorporate a building tailored to Boardman’s very specific requirements into their latest extension of the centre.
The centre now extends to 120,000 sq ft and is home to brands including Fat Face, Barbour, Mountain Warehouse, Pavers and ProCook.
Robin Langford, Eagle One’s Asset Manager at The Valley, comments: “We’re delighted that Boardman chose to locate their Performance Centre at The Valley and look forward to them opening in April.”
“We completely understand that shopping centres need to offer customer experiences that can’t be obtained online and we are pleased to have played our part in helping Boardman deliver their vision for truly experiential retailing.”
“Great accessibility and close proximity to Birmingham were important factors for them: more than 9m people live within 90 minutes’ drive of The Valley.
“In anticipation of increased footfall and retailer interest, we’ve just added 15,000 sq ft of new retail units in addition to Boardman’s Performance Centre and still have a further 40,000 sq ft consented that can be brought forward quickly in response to occupier demand”.
Alongside the wind tunnel, the Boardman centre will offer a range of Bike-Fit and Physiology suites to enable testing and refinement for both individual and team riders, as well as Boardman’s first UK brand store & cycling café.
In addition to attracting professional cyclists, the centre will also be both accessible and affordable to cyclist enthusiasts who will be able to measure their aerodynamic data alongside elite cyclists.
Ahead of the opening, Chris Boardman’s excitement is palpable: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this centre has the potential to be truly game-changing for cycling in the UK.
“Whether you’re a keen amateur or an Olympic hopeful, the facility we’re creating will allow you to improve your performance as well as having access
to our market-leading range of bikes and support from knowledgeable and committed staff.”
So it’s safe to assume that The Valley can expect a flood of new visitors - and it’s also pretty much guaranteed that quite a few of them will have day jobs in the property business.