Goodbye Wollongong Worlds, hello Glasgow mega-champions

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The 2023 UCI Road World Championships will be very different from anything we have seen before. Yes it will be back in Europe after an Australian foray, but this time it will be nestled amongst 12 other cycling disciplines and a bit of a ‘leap of faith’ for Glasgow as it hosts the first of the mega-events to be held every four years. .

It’s a plan that began to unfold over a breakfast meeting in Bangkok, between then-recently elected UCI president David Lappartient – who took over in 2017 – and VisitScotland’s events director. , Paul Bush, on the sidelines of SportAccord. Mountain peak.

“David said ‘I have an idea,'” Bush said on the sidelines of the races at the World Championships in Wollongong. “And part of his vision was to aggregate the world championships.

“When he said ‘What do you think?’ my response was that it would be amazing because obviously Scotland has hosted the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the European Championships – in terms of evolution, it was the natural thing for us to do.”

The 11-day event, which Bush said had a budget of £54million, will be centered in Glasgow but will expand to other locations across Scotland, with Glentress Forest and Fort William hosting the mountain bike events and road events are also diversifying. .

In total, from August 3 to 13, 2023, more than 200 world titles will be awarded over the 13 UCI World Championships – BMX Freestyle Flatland, BMX Freestyle Park, BMX Racing, Gran Fondo, Indoor Cycling, MTB cross-country, MTB Downhill, MTB Marathon, Para-cycling Road, Para-cycling Track, Road, Track and Trial.

“There’s no manual, it’s never been done…but I think part of the excitement, and part of the fear, is that it hasn’t been done “, Bush said. Cycling newsadding that he is, between the combined vision and expertise of the host nation and the UCI, nevertheless confident.

“It won’t be easy, we all know that, but not everything in life worth doing is easy.”

Divide the profits

One thing, however, that will make things easier is that the host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games not only has a history of delivering great events, but already has much of the infrastructure in place.

“That was another plus,” Bush said. “We already have a velodrome built for the games in 2014, a BMX track that was built for the European Championships in 2018 and the World Cup downhill mountain bike in Fort William is long established.”

Bush added that they had to carry out work on the cross-country and marathon mountain bike course at Glentress, but with the roads hosting most of the other events, the main infrastructure task remaining was resurfacing work and modification of road furniture.

The spread of championships beyond a central location not only means that access to existing infrastructure is increased, but the burden and benefits are also shared.

“It’s not just one location, so we can bring it into rural areas, to spread the benefits economically, but also in terms of international profile and experience,” Bush said. “I mean, one of the great things about cycling is that most events are free.

Getting this broad community involvement is crucial. Bush said a key driver of these combined world cycling championships was also to use them as a catalyst to change people’s psyches and behaviors, with a move towards more sustainable transportation as a legacy.

“There is a balance because there still has to be economic arguments,” Bush said. “But the trajectory of events, where we are now, is much more along a trajectory of equality, diversity and inclusion of the social community than it is purely on the economy and the international profile.

“You can demonstrate that events can do something for society and communities and not just the economic engine. And if that means, you know, we’re inspiring more families, more young people, more disadvantaged community groups to get involved, I think that’s an extra layer of positivity.

The first step, however, is to prepare the community for an event when there is no predecessor in place to give them perspective on the magnitude of what is about to unfold.

A “top notch” at the Commonwealth Games

“Come on Sunday night, it’s getting really real,” Bush said in the final throes of the World Road Championships in Wollongong, as the baton handover in Glasgow grew ever more imminent. The routes for road events in Scotland have also been announced. last week, with the 277.6km men’s elite course starting in Edinburgh before heading to Glasgow, while the 157.4km women’s elite race – which closes the event – starts from Loch Lomond before heading to Glasgow city tours.

“I mean, it’s already real, but it’s getting absolutely real from now on and I think we still have a huge amount of education work to do within our own teams, in the wider communities, but also not just within the cycling fraternity, but the sporting fraternity.For them to say it’s big.

“A multi-world championship event of 8,000 athletes… if you [are] benchmarking in the world, there aren’t many that are bigger.

The Olympics and the Asian Games are two events that Bush says are more important, but when it comes to the Commonwealth Games, he describes the 2023 Road World Championships as a “notch”. There were 5,500 competitors in Glasgow in 2014 to represent 71 countries, while in 2023 at the combined World Championships there will be 8,000 athletes expected, representing 120 countries.

The event that Bush described as a ‘showcase for the sport of cycling’ is now locked into a regular four-year schedule, with the French department of Haute-Savoie announced as the next host of the combined World Cycling Championships in 2027 and taking the concept even further with its expansion to 19 events.

“It’s pretty groundbreaking and historic as a proposition,” Bush said of the combined championships. “Many sports will probably look at it with envy.”

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