BACK in 2008 Wales' Nicole Cooke won Olympic gold in the women’s road racing becoming the first ever cyclist to be crowned the road race World Champion and Olympic gold medallist in the same year.

Yet, long before Mrs Cooke’s heroics, one road race cycling club in Gwent revelled in taking on the elements and enjoying the unique benefits of cycling in numbers: Pontypool Road Cycling Club.

It's not known when exactly the club was founded but in around 1940, the two factions of Pontypool & District Cycle and Athletic Club split and Pontypool Road Cycling Club was formed.

Some 75 years later, the club is still thriving and boasts 70 members as the longest established cycling club in Torfaen.

Central to the club’s success has been the variety of events on offer with three weekend road rides throughout the year, including a women's only ride, plus a mountain bike ride every Friday evening.

A typical club ride can last three or four hours, covering 60 miles, and picturesque routes on offer include from Pontypool down the Wye Valley to Monmouth and from Pontypool to Cwmbran through Chepstow and Caerleon.

Race wise, there is also regular road racing events, time trials, and sportives throughout the year and the Welsh 10-mile time-trial championship is organised by the club every August.

During the summer, the club holds popular evening time trials every Tuesday which members of other local clubs also take part in.

The club’s chairman, Dax Jenkins, 41, has been a member of Pontypool Road Cycling Club since 1990, when he joined as a junior at the age of 17.

Mr Jenkins, who has been the club’s chairman for seven years, said that the club’s philosophy is purely about enjoyment and all abilities are welcome as a result.

He said: “I always enjoyed cycling and became interested in cycling as a sport from watching the Tour de France and seeing Robert Miller winning the polka dot jersey as the best climber.

“My uncle used to be a member of the club so he encouraged me to join and I loved it.

“I competed in road races and time trials at junior and senior level until about five years ago - now I just ride for fun and fitness and organise events and races for the club.”

He added: “We cater for cyclists of all levels - from leisure cyclists to those who want to compete.

“The biggest benefit is having other cyclists to ride with and being able to learn from more experienced riders.

“It’s brilliant exercise, enjoyable and varied, and by joining a club like Pontypool Road Cycling Club you meet like-minded people making it a fun, sociable activity.”

Road racing is an exciting and physically demanding sport, which burns approximately 844 calories per hour. The strain of keeping the bike in motion over long distances increases the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves endurance.

As road racing is a team-based pursuit, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.

The benefits of cycling as a whole are well-known and regular cycling can help you lose weight, reduce stress, and improve your fitness. Indeed, riding for at least 150 minutes every week can dramatically boost cardiovascular fitness.

It's a low-impact type of exercise, so it's easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities.

Thom Hadfield, 35, who is originally from Lincolnshire, joined Pontypool Road Racing Club two-and-a-half years ago – having not ridden with a club for nearly 20 years.

Mr Hadfield said that it did not take him long to get back in the saddle and that the mental benefits of riding with the club have been particularly beneficial for him personally.

He said: “Everyone’s so friendly. It’s an old, welcoming club and we enjoy seeing what’s out there, with a cafe stop along the way.

“When you’re off road, you always have an eye out for branches and the like but on the road, together, the drivers are as good as gold and it’s quite safe.

“I love cutting across the Wye Valley or along Raglan into the countryside. It’s just so meditative.

“It blows the cobwebs off and lets off steam.”

With experienced riders, novices, and beginners riding with Pontypool Road Cycling Club, that sense of camaraderie has been crucial to the club’s longevity.

Wayne Thomas, from Crumlin, who has been a member for more than four years, said: “The club is special to me because of its members, from the older generation who have been cycling forever to the newer members just starting out.

“We've got a great club full of great people who all get along well,

“The benefits of road cycling are obviously the health benefits, socialising with other like-minded people, and the weight loss.

“Mentally there are benefits, too, and it's a great stress relief with the social aspect and meeting friends within the club for a good laugh.”

With members aged between 14 and 80, the club has a good mix of junior and senior riders and is always on the lookout for new members.

Roger Wood, 60, from Newport, has been a club member for 10 years and said that because cycling is a low impact form of exercise, age has proved no barrier for him.

He said: “The club gives you the opportunity to ride with others of a similar ability and that makes it really special.

“It’s great to get out in the fresh air, increase your fitness, and clear away life’s worries.

“Age is no barrier, as it’s a low impact exercise on joints, and you even have the opportunity to compete, too.

“It is a club that’s all about the members.”