Harrogate Hosts the Worlds!

This post is a bit late as the announcement was made weeks ago but I feel it deserves a post; even if it is overdue!

Harrogate, my adopted home town, has been announced as the host town of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

This announcement came at the 2018 Worlds in Tirol, Austria.

When the announcement came it wasn’t a complete surprise due to the fact that that the Grand Depart in 2014 and the Tour de Yorkshire drew, and continue to draw, massive crowds and support from the locals in Yorkshire.

From a tourism point of view, coupled with the Tour de Yorkshire, the Worlds are a great opportunity to raise the profile of Harrogate, and Yorkshire as whole, within Europe and the world due to the televised coverage and sheer amount of varied nations competing. Harrogate has a population of around 70,000 and as the centre town of the World Champs it is expected that the number of tourists could be circa 500,000. Coupled with that the stats from the Bergen world champs in 2017 show that there was a boost of around €25,000,000 from tourists and €4,000,000 from teams and media to the local economy. If Harrogate can get close to that boost then that will prove to be a successful week of events. (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/richard-spencer-how-harrogate-is-gearing-up-to-welcome-cycling-s-world-elite-1-9366582)

Further to that, the television coverage of road cycling through the likes of Eurosport, ITV and the European Networks, present the region and history as well as the race. This proves to be an excellent postcard for the region as a whole;  so there is a possibility that this will entice further tourism in the subsequent years.

View from Greenhow

The Routes

As Yorkshire has hosted the Grand Depart in 2014 and annually hosts the Tour De Yorkshire there are a plethora of roads, lanes, bergs and climbs that could be used for a world championship course. The organisers could quite honestly say that they were spoiled for choice!

Mens Elite:

The Mens Elite road race starts in Leeds and ends with a 7 lap circuit around the streets of Harrogate and the distance is 285km.

The route looks as though it takes (a lot of) inspiration from the first stage of the Grand Depart of 2014 as it starts in Leeds and heads out via Otley, Ilkey and Skipton after which it heads out towards the Yorkshire Dales. At this point, the climbing begins with Cray, Buttertubs and then Grinton Moor. At this point it swings round and races through the flat-lands back towards Harrogate and the 7 circuits of the centre of town.

This route, compared to Tirol, will probably favour a one day classics type of rider such as Sagan or Van Avaermaet, maybe even Cavendish or Degenkolb if they can hold on over the climbs or bridge back after them, rather than an out and out climber as the route is relatively flat after Grinton. It could also prove to be a day for a break away if they can get away over the climbs. I’m thinking of something along the lines of Stephane Rossetto’s 115km solo breakaway win at the TdY in 2018 on the final Queen stage.

One disappointment for this route would be that it is a carbon copy of the Grand Depart stage – minus the 7 laps of Harrogate. I feel that they could have devised an original route that would have been as much, or more, of a challenge than this. However, the organisers know that the route was popular and you would suspect that they are wanting to recreate the crowds on the route.

Full details of the men’s Elite can be found here: https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/men-elite-road-race/

Women’s Elite Race

The Women’s Elite Race takes place on the 28th of September and begins in Bradford. The route takes in Lofthouse climb and the long rolling descent into Masham. (https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/women-elite-road-race/)

This stage is quite undulating and will encourage splits I would think. The first real test of the day is Norwood Edge, which is just outside of Otley. This will stretch the legs early on as the bottom of the climb is 16% before it reduces to around 10% near the summit. I think this will cause a few splits. It is conceivable that if a small group, say around 4 or 5 riders, is allowed to get away then it is possible that they could stay away for the rest of the day.

The first real climb of the day could decide the World Champs jersey.

Following this, the race will then take in Nidderdale; heading over to Summerbridge and along on to Pateley Bridge. They will then run along the reservoirs towards Lofthouse to take on Lofthouse climb.

Dacre, Nidderdale

Lofthouse climb is the big one of the day. If, as I’ve previously mentioned, there is a small group that are already away and they are working well together then they would perhaps try and work together over this as there are no other real tests after the Lofthouse.

In terms of the possible winner of the World Champs; I don’t think there is enough climbing for the winner to be a pure climber. The route has been ran before and the last winner was Lizzie Armistead. This was in 2017.

The 2017 route started in Tadcaster and did not take in Norwood Edge so there is that extra element to take into account. However, as the vast majority of the route is the same as the 2017 edition, and there is the added incentive of winning on home roads, I think I would still back Armistead to win.

Cow and Calf, Ilkley

The final thing I want to touch upon (as I’m not going to preview the U23/Juniors or Team Time Trial/Individual Team Time Trial) is the Mixed Team Time Trial Relay. (https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/team-time-trial-mixed-relay/)

This a brand new concept and the Worlds in Harrogate will be the first time that it is used at World Championship level. Having looked at some of the cycling press when it was announced; it seems fair to say that this relay has received mixed feelings. I think though, that this event is a positive, rather than a gimmick as some feel. It will be a fascinating event that may require an extra dimension of strategy; such as which team member takes on which leg of the relay. As I am not a massive fan of Time Trials, in terms of spectating them, I feel this will pique the interest in the event.

I do however hope that the relay event can be held at events earlier in the calendar where the Men and Women race at the same event as it will probably need tweaking and refining prior to the use at the Worlds.

Not wanting to wish the cycling year away but I am already counting down to the Worlds in Harrogate so lets hope it can deliver the same successes as the TdY and the Tour de France.