From Glasgow to Wimbledon by bike – the journey that helped Rutherglen build for the future

16/07/2021

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In the last 10 years Glasgow’s Rutherglen Lawn Tennis Club has undergone a transformation like no other thanks to the hard work and dedication of President Gareth Ellor and his incredible team.

Gareth has transformed the club from the brink of collapse to a thriving tennis community in Scotland, boasting nearly 500 members from all ages, backgrounds and abilities and has helped inspire people to pick up a racket and get involved in our sport.

We recently caught up with Gareth to talk about the club’s meteoric rise over the last decade and its recent #PeletonToWimbledon fundraising challenge, cycling over 700 km from Rutherglen to Wimbledon, to help revolutionise the club in the future.

Project 100

Next year the club will celebrate its centenary and to mark the occasion, Gareth and his team want to build a legacy that will live on for the next 100 years – also known as Project 100.

“There are two main strands to Project 100,” Gareth said. “Firstly, we want to develop a new clubhouse at our main home site, but the most ambitious part of Project 100 is the development of some covered tennis courts in a park around the corner from where we are at the moment.

“We want to make tennis an attractive sport for people in Glasgow to play all year around and creating an indoor space that people can access and use for free at certain times, is fundamental.”

#PelotonToWimbledon

With the help of the LTAs Quick Access Loan scheme, as part of the LTA’s overall ambition to develop more indoor facilities across Britain, and some unique fundraising efforts, Project 100 is looking more and more like it could become a reality.

As part of their efforts to grow the club in the past, Gareth and the team raised money to expand their site through their Expedition Mountennis Challenge – which saw them play tennis on the three highest peaks in the UK in just 24 hours.

“When we were set on Project 100 we thought we needed to do something bigger and better than that and get more people involved to help capture the imaginations of the community,” Gareth said.

“One of the coaches came up with the idea of cycling from the club all the way to Wimbledon. We had planned to do it last year but weren’t able to because of the pandemic.

“We spent a while planning our route and finding places where we could all stay, but on Sunday 20 June, 11 riders and two support crew all set off on the journey, with the aim to arrive at Wimbledon the following Monday (28 June).”

The journey of a lifetime

“Leaving Rutherglen we were keen to have some kind of send-off from the club and COVID restrictions had lifted to a point where we could have a bit of an event,” said Gareth.

“It was the first time we’d all got back together since the start of the pandemic. We had about 400-500 people lining the roads to see us off, it was really overwhelming.”

From the start the team wanted to try and play tennis at as many different locations as they could along the journey – getting local people involved in the process.

“The first time we played was on the stage from Penrith to Catterick Garrison, which took us over the Pennines and to the Tan Hill Inn – the highest pub in Britain,” Gareth said.

“We had an hour and a half climb up there, but at the top behind the pub, there was this nice rocky outcrop, so we set up the little mini court and we managed to get about 20-30 people in the pub out playing tennis, which was amazing.

“The next few nights we went to York, Lincoln and Peterborough and played outside their cathedrals, which was incredible.

“In York we must  have got around 100 people playing on a mini court set up by York Minster – the guys were just going around speaking to families and getting people involved.

“Lincoln Cathedral was really fun because we started to set up outside and then the vicar came out. We thought we were in trouble but she told us she used to coach in Newcastle and she actually wanted to come and play! It was a lovely moment where you realise tennis plays a big part in a lot of people’s lives.”

Arriving at Wimbledon

“We got into London on the Sunday night and then set off at 6:00am on the Monday morning to get to Wimbledon,” he said.

“With the help of the National Escort Group – a group of retired motorbike riders who support cycling events – we went right through the heart of the city, past Piccadilly Circus, through the Mall, by Buckingham Palace, past the London Eye, etc. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

“When we got there we arranged for Judy Murray to meet us outside and present some medals to the team. She’s always been a huge supporter of the club and what we’re doing and it was really special to have her there to meet us and cap off an amazing end to the trip.

“Luckily we managed to get tickets into the event for the whole team. Andy Murray was playing late night under the roof in the first round and as people left Centre Court we managed to get on and see him win the match, which was a fantastic moment.”

One step closer to Project 100

After such an unbelievable adventure travelling across Scotland and England to raise money for their club, it was time to work out how much of an impact their efforts would have.

“To get the juniors involved we asked them to cycle as far as they could and raise some money, with the promise that if they collectively went further than our 720 km journey we would throw them a big party. In the end they doubled our distance and raised an amazing £5,000.

“All together I think we have raised £25,000 which is a huge achievement, but we’re still looking to build on that and make Project 100 a huge success for the local community and tennis in the area.”

To find out more about #PelotonToWimbledon and how you can support Project 100 – visit here.

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