UCI World Road Championships - brollies up but all smiles for cycling in Harrogate

The brollies were up, but the faces below them were all smiles as Yorkshire cycling fans’ hunger for sports action was undimmed by downpours at the UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate.

Dutch fans with a Yorkshire flag, from left: Marianne U.Schie, Hermann Pruisken and Martine De Wit. Picture b y Gerard Binks.

Spectators lined The Stray as the region was today the first ever to host a Team Time Trial Mixed Relay with national teams consisting of three men and three women taking part in two laps of the North Yorkshire town.

Balloons and bunting were put up throughout the town centre, which yesterday hosted the finish line of the Para-cycling International races in fine weather.

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While empty spaces could be seen among much for the spectator spots and Fan Zone as action got under way again today – with some taking shelter from the rain under the canopy of Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms - those who did turn out remained enthusiastic.

Great Britain's Harry Tanfield, John Archibald and Dan Bigham set off on their way to third place. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Harrogate man Paul Halliday, 47, was by the race barriers in a poncho with son Macauley, six, and brother Mark and his wife, Nicole.

The chartered surveyor, whose group had a stuffed sheep mascot held up high with them, said: “It’s amazing - for the town and Yorkshire.

“The world is coming here. You can’t beat this publicity.”

“You have to hope the weather holds, but it’s not diminished the crowds. The whole thing’s awesome.”

Mr Halliday said that he was “really proud” to have the races come to town.

“It’s just getting the passion going, getting the crowd going.

“Once you have got a taste of it, you want it to come back again.”

Fellow Harrogate resident Edwina Barwick was somewhat disappointed by the turnout in the early afternoon today, and was in support of the event.

The retired former Harrogate College apprenticeships co-ordinator, 69, said “it’s been huge at the other events we’ve had,” acknowledging the weather’s role.

“I think it’s brilliant but there’s an awful lot of negativity with the residents, I’m afraid, because of the road closures.”

Her friends from Wellington, New Zealand, Graeme Orchard and Esther Scammell, who came to Harrogate on a trip to Europe, were impressed with the event.

Mr Orchard said: “For us, it’s a really nice town centre and a really beautiful place to have it.”

The championships also proved popular among regional cycling groups, who rode out in spandex to get close to the sport.

Martin Clough, 54, from Woodlesford in Leeds, is a member of the Seacroft Wheelers and has been riding for around 20 years.

“With the Tour de France, people got the knack of that but I don’t think they quite get the gist of how big this is,” he said.

“I know some of the residents are up against it a lot but to appreciate what’s going on, it’s amazing.”

Again, the wet conditions were no barrier to his enjoyment.

“You can’t be a fair weather cyclist in Yorkshire,” he said.

Chris and Annette Jones made the trip from Birmingham and are due to stay for the full week.

The couple rode to Harrogate town centre yesterday on a tandem from their caravan site at Esholt.

Mr Jones, who along with his wife wore the attire of the Birmingham Midland Cycling club, said: “We’re here for the week, for everything.

“This is an area we’ve never been to, we’ve never been to Harrogate.”

They have made trips to the region for the Tour de France in 2014 and for the subsequent Tour de Yorkshire competition around the county and made reference to the terrain, joking that

they would need an electric tandem to tackle the inclines in the area.

“Coming from Birmingham as we do, we don’t really know about hills,” he said.