THE UCI Road World Championships will attract millions of roadside spectators and hundreds of millions of television viewers across the globe, all ready to enjoy world class sport set against the stunning backdrop of God’s Own County.
This journey began in 2014 when Yorkshire was chosen to host the Tour de France Grand Départ. Such were the spectacular scenes on those two days, it seemed obvious that the county should be at the heart of a bid to host the World Championships in the UK for the first time since 1982. That successful bid was won in October 2016 and the planning for this enormously complex event has been non-stop since then.
From September 21-29, the very best cyclists in the world will be competing on the roads of Yorkshire. Starting in 10 towns across the four corners of the county, around 1,400 riders from 90 nations will fight it out for the iconic rainbow jersey and every day a world champion will be crowned in the centre of Harrogate.
It will be an event of sporting firsts and deliver on our pledge to be inclusive, inspiring and innovative. Never before has an international para-cycling event, which you will see today, preceded the able-bodied UCI Road World Championships which will get underway tomorrow with a mixed relay, marking the first time men and women have competed together in the same event vying to be crowned champions of the world. This race will start in the middle of the Fan Zone in Harrogate, meaning spectators will be at the heart of action like never before.
The 2019 UCI Road World Championships is also a significant central Government investment into Yorkshire – £12m from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the National Lottery (via UK Sport) and British Cycling has facilitated the event through Yorkshire 2019.
Staging the UCI Road World Championships will also be transformational for cycling across the country. The Government has not only committed their funding to the event delivery, but a further £15m has been allocated to develop entry-level cycling facilities across England through British Cycling and Sport England. This commitment means that for the first time ever, a UCI Road World Championships is delivering a legacy that will transform the sporting fabric of a host nation.
British Cycling research shows that a lack of suitable, multi-discipline cycling facilities throughout Britain is one of the largest barriers to participating in cycling.
The Government investment will improve existing facilities through a small grants programme and a large-scale funding programme, which will seek to position new multi-use facilities around the country, to engage people at grassroots level.
In order to increase satisfaction and grow participation, there is a need to keep developing a network of traffic free cycling facilities, with appropriate ancillary facilities, to improve the quality of the cycle sport experience for all participants.
Put simply, the huge numbers of people we want the 2019 UCI Road World Championships to inspire must have somewhere to go on their bikes. This network of national, regional and community traffic-free facilities is fundamental to our ambition to transform Britain into a great cycling nation.
These new venues will form a key part of British Cycling’s strategy to recruit more than five million new participants into cycling. The very first of these projects to be completed is in Doncaster, where a new one kilometre closed road circuit will host the start of two World Championships races on September 27. Already open to the public, it is a safe environment for cyclists of all abilities, with recreational and competitive opportunities. The venue also includes a learn to ride area for children and young people, as well as the world’s first purpose-built cobbled climb.
Since 2008, British Cycling has been working to increase the number of dedicated cycling facilities in the UK. The facilities funded through this Yorkshire 2019 legacy programme will broaden that offering and ensure that thousands more people from communities across the country have accessible spaces in which to embrace our great sport.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Yorkshire for their patience and their support. Working with our local authority partners, the emergency services and other key service providers, the team at Yorkshire 2019 have planned an unforgettable celebration of sport which I am sure will bring visitors to the county not just for this event, but for many years to come.
I’d urge you all to grasp this once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the great spectacle about to unfold on your doorstep – all of which you can watch free of charge on the road side or at the Finish Line Fan Zone in Harrogate, where there will be nine days of fun for the whole family.
I have no doubt that the people of Yorkshire will give a fantastic welcome to the thousands of visitors to the county and it is the perfect setting to showcase the very best of our great nation to the world.
Andy Hindley is chief executive of Yorkshire 2019.