Updated article by Gordon Wiseman on a round of the World Cup Cyclo-Cross coming to Milton Keynes in 2014
by Gordon Wiseman
After rumours started circulating when a round of the cyclo-cross National Trophy Series was held in the city in December last year, representatives from the UCI, cyclingâ€™s world body, visited Milton Keynes last week to cast an eye over a potential venue at Campbell Park for a round of World Cup later this year.
A World Cup would certainly inspire many youngsters from getting involved in a fast growing sport.
If successful â€“ and Simon Burney who has been working with the MK Council in putting the bid together rates the cityâ€™s chances as nearly 99% certain â€“ it will be a major coup for the Council and the many thousands who compete regularly in cyclingâ€™s premier winter discipline.
As cycle sport continues to grow in its popularity in the UK, so does the number of major bike races that are visiting our shores. With the Giro dâ€™Italia starting in Belfast in May and the Tour de France hosting its Grand DÃ©part in Yorkshire in July, a round of the cyclo-cross World Cup will give British spectators another opportunity to see the worldâ€™s best riders on their doorstep.
Milton Keynes has a thriving bike racing background with racing for all age groups taking place weekly at the National Bowl in the summer and in the 80s and 90s hosted rounds of the prestigious Milk Race, then the countryâ€™s top road race.
Burney has spent most of his life involved in bike racing as both a rider and manager at the very top of the sport â€“ he managed the Great Britain mountain bike teams at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and is a UCI technical delegate – and knows exactly what it takes to organise a top event and attract the best riders in the world.
Local Roy Chamberlain competing at the National Trophy in Milton Keynes
He explained how the MK Council bid came about: â€œThere was an article on one of the cycling websites around August/September last year about there being a slot on the calendar for a round of this seasonâ€™s World Cup and Richard Duffill who Iâ€™ve known for years â€“ Richard is the Councilâ€™s Cycling Development Officer â€“ â€œgave me a call and things pretty much went from there.”
â€œCampbell Park will make an ideal venue for a major cyclo-cross event. Itâ€™s naturally a hilly area and only a hundred yards or so from the city centre so is easily accessible for hotels, restaurants and shops. Most World Cup races take place away from a city centre so to have an event in the middle of a city as big as Milton Keynes will be something really different.”
Organiser and high flyer in the off road world, Simon Burney.
â€œAnd with easy access to Milton Keynes via the motorway network and major airports this will make it easy to get to for the teams, riders and spectators. And Campbell Park also will make a great backdrop for TV coverageâ€.
Richard Duffill gave some further background behind the decision to bid for a round of the cyclo cross World Cup in the context of Milton Keynes overall blueprint for increasing cycling in the city: â€œAs part of our aspirations for all cycle sport in Milton Keynes, we aim to give new cyclists of all ages that image of the top professionals in their sport and thereâ€™s very few sports we actually do that in.”
“The cyclo cross World Cup would give junior riders the opportunity to see really elite cyclists.”
â€œFor Milton Keynes it means that we then have to put together a programme of events and training events that the juniors in the city, no matter what their level of ability, will be able to come and have a go. Weâ€™ll roll that out in conjunction with British Cyclingâ€.
The crowd lining the barriers says it all when it comes to the popularity of top level cross. Here, a regular on the European Circuit in World Cups, Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) wins the British championship and if the World Cup comes to Milton Keynes, he’ll be there in the British Champions colours.
And what is the attraction of this predominantly winter based sport? â€œCyclo cross is a great sport to watch because it always happens within a very small circuit and thereâ€™s mud, thereâ€™s climbing, thereâ€™s riding and thereâ€™s the technical skill of the riders which is always incredibly high. And it all happens within easy view of everybodyâ€.
The UCI delegation included Beat Wabel, the Swiss rider who was both a Junior and Senior World champion at cyclo-cross. Burney said Wabel was very positive about the suggested course which will be between 2.5 and 2.7kms in length. â€œBeat said the course has great potential. He suggested that we move the pits areaâ€ â€“ with mud being a major feature in cyclo-cross races, top riders regularly swap bikes during a race â€“ â€œand made some other suggestions as well which weâ€™ll take on boardâ€.
Britain hosted the World Championships in 1992 and in 2012 the European championships took place in Ipswich. Currently, Britainâ€™s women are the number 1 team in the World rankings with Helen Wyman having won the European championships for the last two years.
European Champion Helen Wyman winning the Briutish title recently to add to the European one… hmmm, Â decisions, decisions; which jersey to wear!
â€œOur getting a round of the World Cup coming to Britain ten or so years ago would have been out of the question but now cycling is such a huge sport and our women are doing so well, holding the World Cup here would be massive and will hopefully encourage more and more youngsters take up the sportâ€.
In northern Europeâ€™s heartlands of the sport itâ€™s not only the skill of the riders that the many thousands of spectators flock to watch but also the provision of more basic needs that have to be satisfied. And Duffill confirmed that this is receiving their closest attention: â€œProviding enough frites and mayonnaise is at the top of our list of priorities. That and making sure thereâ€™s a big enough beer tent as well!â€
The proposed date for the race is Saturday 29 November with a round of the National Trophy Series possibly taking place on the next day making it a double-header racing weekend. A decision about the Milton Keynes bid will be made by the sportâ€™s World Council next week in the Netherlands just before the 2014 World Championships.
A high flyer in the Women’s World Cup, Nikki Harris will be just one of many stars competing in Milton Keynes next November.
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