YORKSHIRE’S year as the guardians of world cycling’s biggest event began last night when the 2018 championships in Innsbruck closed and thoughts turned to 12 months hence.
Moments after Alejandro Valverde of Spain was presented with the rainbow jersey for winning the men’s road race, the UCI Road World Championship torch was passed from this picturesque Alpine region to the White Rose county.
Andy Hindley was the man to collect the baton, the Yorkshire 2019 chief executive saying a few words to acknowledge the grandeur of Innsbruck 2018 before setting the scene on the first world championships in Britain for 37 years.
The nine days of racing from September 21-29 next year may seem a long way away, but planning is moving towards the final stage, with the fact-finding mission the Yorkshire 2019 team have been on this past week in Austria proving enormously fruitful.
“We’ve learned plenty of things this week, some positive and some negative,” said Mr Hindley, a former round-the-world yachtsman turned events director, who took on the role of CEO 18 months ago.
“There’s plenty we’ve looked at and thought that’s great, we want to do that, but also stuff we’ve seen where we think we can do that better.
“Not that anything has been terrible, far from it because I think this has been a really well run event.
“It’s got the beautiful surroundings, same as Yorkshire, and it’s been blessed by beautiful weather – and that’s the only thing we can’t control.
“Our Innsbruck counterparts have been fantastic here in giving us full access to all their operations.
“We’ve had a big team out here, and a few people from the local authorities which will host start and finishes etc, have been out to see how a world championships work.
The para events could be revolutionary and game-changing. If we do it well, it will set the standard. It would be a perfect legacy, not just for Yorkshire, but for para-cycling in general.Yorkshire CEO Andy Hindley
“They’ve seen the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire but they’ve all said how different this is because it’s nine days and it all finishes in one place.”
The exact routes for the nine-day extravaganza were revealed at a ceremony midway through Innsbruck’s staging of the championships.
Harrogate is the hub for the conclusion of all races, with the blue riband men’s and women’s road races starting in Leeds and Bradford respectively, and Doncaster, Richmond and Northallerton among the other start towns.
But it is the first weekend of racing that will light the blue-touch paper on this festival of sport, with an innovative new para-cycling race on Saturday, September 21, and the new mixed team time-trial on the Sunday.
“And we’ve got a sportiff on that weekend as well,” pointed out Hindley.
“So you’ve got para, men and women pros and amateurs all over two days. It’s the most inclusive weekend.”
The origins of the inaugural world championship para-cycling race began with Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive and the architect of the region’s cycling renaissance in recent years, Sir Gary Verity, and has blossomed into a huge event to kick-off the championships.
Because it is new to the Yorkshire 2019 organising committee, and to the UCI governing body, it is proving to be one of the more demanding of races to set up.
“Para-cycling is three starts in one day, Beverley, Tadcaster and Harrogate because of the different classifications,” added Hindley.
“It’s 13 different types of race for men and women. So logistically it’s very challenging.
“It’s never been run before, neither had the mixed team time-trial, so that’s a slight concern because it’s new ground for all of us.
“But the para events could be revolutionary and game-changing for para-cycling. If we do it well, it will set the standard.
“It would be a perfect legacy, not just for Yorkshire, but for para-cycling in general.”
As well as attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators to line the roadsides, live TV coverage broadcast in 150 countries is expected to reach an audience of more than 225 million people every day.
Yesterday’s winner Valverde, 38, had previously finished on the podium a record six times.