Twenty-seven Scottish cyclists will receive funding of £37,000 from the Braveheart Cycling Fund in 2007. It is the largest number of athletes ever to be supported by the Fund, which is in its fourth year. Between them, they will also receive a higher level of support than the Fund has been able to provide in previous seasons.
The youngest funded rider is 12-year old Kyle Yates, with 29-year old Commonwealth bronze medallist Kate Cullen the most senior. Apart from Cullen, all other funded athletes are under 25. With a higher proportion of the funding directed at younger athletes, a new initiative for 2007 is the Braveheart Juniors. Five of the 'Braveheart Juniors' will be based in Belgium for much of the season, with the Fund contributing to their accommodation and living costs, as well as travel, coaching and an intensive racing programme.
In a new three-tier funding structure, nine riders are fully funded; seven are named in the 'Braveheart Juniors' squad; and eleven are in the Braveheart Academy. Included in the top tier are the promising Creber brothers, Ross and Hamish, whose family won a BBC search for 'Britain's toughest family' in 2004. The brothers, aged 18 and 16, are British mountain biking champions in their age categories.
The Fund was established in 2003 by former British champion and Tour of Italy rider Brian Smith. In a ten-year professional career Smith was a Motorola team mate of Lance Armstrong in 1994.
Announcing the twenty-seven riders to be supported by the Fund in 2007, Smith explained: "The Fund was set up to help young Scottish cyclists to fulfil their ambition, with an emphasis on assisting them to train and race abroad. It is our goal to support talented young cyclists who are aiming for a career with a professional continental road team; we also support track cyclists and mountain bikers who are aiming for the Olympics and world championships in their disciplines."
Smith added that the Fund's focus in 2007 is increasingly on youth riders. "The Fund was not established to give riders long-term financial assistance. Our role is to help them progress to the next level, and that means a professional career.
"As the Fund goes from strength to strength the committee has increasingly difficult decisions to make. This year, forty-four riders applied for support. It would be impossible for the Fund to support them all, but we continue to support those riders who we feel can pursue their ambitions within a fully professional set-up.
"For 2007 we are increasing our level of support for young Scottish riders, among whom are some very talented male and female prospects. If they can show the commitment and dedication that is needed then I feel that some of them could go on to professional careers, riding the Tour de France and Olympics.
"It is particularly encouraging to see a number of young female riders emerging. They have a fantastic British role model in Nicole Cooke [of Wales] who is ranked number one in the world."
In 2007 the Braveheart Fund has also managed to secure sponsorship for equipment to the value of £4,000 from Evans Cycles and £2,000 from Science in Sport (SIS).