Dear Reader - Negatives of welcoming top events to Harrogate like UCI cycling must be addressed

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 11th October 2019, 11:38 am
The mud-rutted Stray on West Park in Harrogate as the clear up operation started after the UCI cycling championships. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Now that nine days of wheels and whinges are starting to turn into a memory, though not quite distant yet, we can say that, though Harrogate may have survived the UCI Road World Championships, elements of it remain tattered and torn by the experience.

Teeth have been gritted, more often among angry readers than rain-soaked riders battling through some of the toughest weather conditions this important international sporting event has seen in its 92-year history.

There was drama on the road, there was drama off it.

Riders sometimes lost their grip, as did local drivers stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong road closure.

Cycling fans watching events unfold on TV screens round the rest of Britain and the rest of the world may have loved the novel experience of seeing the big names tackling the rugged beauty and brutal toughness of Yorkshire mile after mile.

But at times local gripes over disruption threatened to overshadow the global excitement of the daily battles to be crowned world champion.

The circus has, however, now moved on.What’s left behind is as mixed as the opening Sunday’s historic time trial bringing men and women together for the first time ever in the same teams.

Some terrific racing.The sight of foreign cycling fans with those funny peaked caps. An absolute mess on the Stray where the Fan Zone was located and Jarvis Cocker appeared and the big wheel went round and round and round.

For nine whole days Harrogate wasn’t quite itself.There was scenery, crashes and controversy.

And one thing’s for sure. The tough-as-nails cyclists themselves aren’t going to forget the town of Harrogate and the town of Harrogate is unlikely to forget the UCIs.

What have we learned from the UCI cycling 'circus'

If the UCI Road World Championships were, in the view of some, just a big party with a lot of bicycles, how much you enjoyed it depended in part on where you were sitting.

The final day on Sunday saw me bizarrely being treated as a VIP in the swanky covered pavilion slap bang next to the finishing line in Harrogate for the event’s biggest single race - the Men’s Elite Road Race.

It felt good being inside, safe and dry, watered and fed, watching the action on giant screens.

But not everyone in Harrogate was so lucky. Outside fans were braving the dreadful weather along the length of the gruelling Harrogate town centre 14km circuit.

There were plenty of international visitors about town in the final weekend but not in the sort of numbers predicted in advance.

In fact, they seemed to be outnumbered by local residents braving the elements.

As a result, the weather is largely irrelevant to the story I’ve heard from so many traders in the last nine days - that business has been dreadful.

Their’s isn’t the only tale to tell in terms of the economic implications of being host town of such prestigious event.

Neither is the damage to the Stray the only thing that matters in the story of the UCIs.

Speaking purely for me, I think the event was brilliant. But I'm not a trader or a guardian of the Stray or a resident who lives near the route.

Whatever position you may hold on cycling events, one thing is clear.The negatives have to be addressed if this sort of thing is ever to be attempted in Harrogate again.Please note, this is a revised version of an article first published in the Harrogate Advertiser on October 3.