A major retailer’s withdrawal from Cumbria will not damage the county’s reputation as a cycling mecca, according to a leading figure in the sport.

Describing the decision to close Kendal’s Evans Cycles store as a blow, Rory Black, communications secretary at Kendal Cycling Club, said he believed a thriving cluster of independent shops would safeguard the region’s standing as a thriving cycling hub.

The new owners of Evans Cycles, Sports Direct, included the town’s store in the first wave of store closures since taking over the troubled retail chain in October last year. 

The shop, in Stricklandgate, will close its doors on Friday, January 18.

Mr Black said he did not understand the decision.

“I find it odd,” he said.

“I know staff who work there and a lot of people who use it and it is sad to see it go.

“I think the people who have made the decision don’t know a lot about cycling. They’ve probably just looked at the numbers, such as the population, compared that with stores where they’ll get more footfall and reacted on that.

“Down south they (Evans Cycles) are pooh-poohed for not having the same level of knowledge as independents, but that certainly wasn’t the case with the Kendal store.

“They seem to have a fair few stores in London, and considering their rates are probably through the roof, you would have thought they would have looked there first.

“But in terms of reputation, I don’t think it is damaging. We have quite a lot of quality independents in the area.”

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley revealed shortly after acquiring Evans Cycles that it would look to close as many as half of its 62 stores.

The Kendal store is among the first six to go, after Sports Direct acquired the company in a pre-pack deal shortly after it entered administration.

It emerged that Evans Cycles had hit financial difficulties in September after it held talks with lenders to seek an urgent capital injection. 

Bicycles-to-car parts retailer Halfords and JD Sports Fashion were also believed to have been interested in taking on the retailer as its owners, private equity firm ECI Partners, pedalled furiously to find a buyer.

Evans Cycles chief executive Steve Trowbridge said he hoped landlords would be “reasonable and support our turnaround plan” when he revealed that staff at the Kendal store were under consultation.

South Lakeland District Council’s economy and assets portfolio holder, councillor Graham Vincent, has also expressed his disappointment at the decision to withdraw from Cumbria, making the Evans Cycles store in Preston the closest.

He stressed that the council remained committed to encouraging cycling for both pleasure and travelling to work, due to the health and environmental benefits.

Kendal – and Cumbria – is a popular destination for cycling enthusiasts and has become a firm favourite for the organisers of the Tour of Britain, which attracts world-famous cyclists and professional cycling teams for the week-long race.

Last year, thousands lined the roads to see two stages of the race pass through Cumbria – which included a team time trial from Cockermouth to Whinlatter followed by a 169km stage from Barrow to Whinlatter – and was the first time two stages have been held in a single county.

Hopes are high that the race will return in 2019, when it takes place between September 8 and 15.