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Following an absence of over three decades, the International Cycling Union’s (UCI’s) Road World Championships will return to the UK this weekend, with Yorkshire seeking to build on its growing reputation as a hub for the sport.
Goodwood was the setting for the UK’s last staging of the Championships in 1982, and the world’s leading cyclists will descend on the town of Harrogate from September 21-29.
Racing will commence on Saturday with what is being billed as a ground-breaking para-cycling event running alongside the Championships which will act as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Road World Championships themselves will embrace the whole of Yorkshire, with races starting in different towns and cities across the county before finishing in Harrogate. The Championships come after the much-heralded staging of the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France and the formation of annual legacy race the Tour de Yorkshire which has continued to grow each year.
Local organisers are seeking to stage the most inclusive, innovative and inspiring Road World Championships in the history of the event, and as such fan experience is very much a factor in their planning.
The ‘heart’ of the Championships
With free entry throughout the Championships, the Harrogate Fan Zone will be the focal point of these activities and will also feature every medal presentation on its main stage. “We wanted the Harrogate Fan Zone to be at the ‘heart’ of the Championships in Harrogate,” Mark Sadler, communications manager for Yorkshire 2019, told us.
“To that end we will building the mixed team time trial start ramp in the middle of the Fan Zone, so fans can get up close to the action as it unfolds on the first day of the Championships. The Fan Zone is a place where both cycling enthusiasts and local families can come. There is something for everyone. Great food and drink, pop-up cycling outlet stores, community activations, partner activations, live music, and all the racing on a big screen.
“So far we have confirmed ‘The British Army’ – promoting active lifestyles; British Cycling – with cycling focused activities for 4-10 year olds; an HSBC tent – featuring a school’s programme and competitions; an action sports arena; kids zone; a big screen; the BBC North Yorkshire Bus, Harrogate Borough Council; Harrogate Baths and North Yorkshire County Council. Casino Royale will be bringing large inflatables to the Fan Zone, there’ll be a ‘stretch tent’ if it rains, a whole variety of food and drink outlets, and a bar.”
A variety of activities
With the Fan Zone staying open late into the evening on both weekends of the Championships, live music will also be at the centre of activities. Jarvis Cocker, The Pigeon Detectives and The Feeling will headline the musical acts that will be performing during the event.
However, variety is the buzz word for the Fan Zone, with an array of offerings tailored to visitors whose cycling knowledge may run across a wide spectrum. Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity will be promoted, with local fitness instructor Lee Murphy overseeing a competition to see who can cycle the furthest against the clock on a fitness bike.
Cambrian Tyres will be running ‘Tyre Clinics’ and a team from Resurrection Bikes will run a collection of ‘fun bikes’ as a free activity. Apparel brand Rapha and bike manufacturer Canyon will operate two event spaces, offering fans the chance to meet the pros, ride the race routes, and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the World Championships.
Virtual training platform Zwift has teamed up with Harrogate’s Cold Bath Brewing Company for the Zwift Draft House – a hub designed for pros, riders, and fans to meet up and wind down. As an official supplier of the Championships, retail company Sigma Sports will run a series of rides throughout Worlds week.
Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire will also be present as the county further builds on its cycling portfolio, providing an action zone for bush crafts and other arts and crafts for kids.
After years away, Yorkshire has grand plans for its Road World Championships and with the event due to return to the UK when Glasgow hosts the UCI’s inaugural Cycling World Championships in 2023, it will hope to set a new benchmark for the Scottish city to meet.