'Dangerous' conditions lead to Harrogate cycling championships changes

Heavy rain in Harrogate means more changes have been announced for the remainder of the UCI Road World Championships.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:14 am

But organisers are also thanking the crowds for their amazing support during the appalling weather.

There were several major crashes in yesterday as Mikkel Bjerg and Chloé Dygert Owen emerge triumphant in the Under-23 Men’s and Elite Women’s Individual Time Trials, in addition to the early closure of the Harrogate Fan Zone for the day.

Speaking to foreign news outlet Het Laatste Nieuws after taking prt in Tuesday's Under-23 men’s time trial, Belgium’s Ilan Van Wilder said: “The course is dangerous. I started with the idea of following the fastest lines.

"I now see in the images that certain boys decided to just take the outside line, which is completely against the principles of time trial.”

As a result of weather forecasts showing more rain later in the week, organisers now say:

Friday, September 27:

"Due to anticipated poor light conditions as a result of the inclement weather forecast, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in consultation with the Yorkshire 2019 organising committee of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships has decided to modify the Men Under 23 Road Race distance and start time schedule for Friday 27 September.

"The race route modification represents moving the start time 10 minutes earlier and removing one lap of the Harrogate circuit.

"This action has been guided by the concern to ensure the security of the athletes while preserving the sporting interest of the event."

Harrogate hotel rooms 'cost £895' in UCI cycling bonanzaTalking about Tuesday's rain-soaked races, Yorkshire 2019 chief executive Andy Hindley said it had been a brilliant effort in the circumstances by all concerned: “It’s been an epic day today. The weather was miserable but the organisational team pulled together really well to sort the course out and they’ve all been brilliant.

"We obviously didn’t want to delay the women’s race but safety is our paramount concern during these championships and we didn’t want to send riders out on an unsafe course. We were treated to some fantastic sport across both races and we’ve seen some amazing results.

“I have to mention the crowds as well. Despite the conditions there were lots of people out banging the boards, making lots of noise and giving the riders a really warm welcome.”

Welcome to Yorkshire commercial director Peter Dodd said: “I can’t thank the crowds and communities enough for still coming out in their droves to support the riders on the roadside.

"Today’s been a real challenge because of the weather but everyone pulled together including the emergency services, the councils, highways agencies, and of course, our Yorkshire Team volunteers who’ve all worked their socks off to keep the racing going.

“Ripon looked fantastic today, as did all the communities along the route. A huge thank you once again to everyone and, hopefully, we’ll have drier weather to come!”

Earlier in the week before the serious rainfall began, an international cyclist not taking part in this year's UCIs was quoted as claiming that Harrogate's town centre circuit during the UCI cycling championships was 'dangerous.'

Belgian rider Jan Bakelants, who returned to cycling last year after being seriously injured when he crashed into a ravine during a steep descent in the Tour of Lombardy in 2017, told cyclingnews.com he had tried one lap of the Harrogate course on Sunday.

Known for speaking out about safety standards in cycling, Bakelants said the 14km loop round Harrogate being used for time trials and the finish of all races was "not built for time trialling" and that it was "pretty dangerous" in the wet.

Bakelants, who was not selected by Belgium for the men’s road race, said the English rain had made the course, which goes as far out as Beckwithshaw and Pot Bank before finishing on Parliament Street and West Park, altogether much worse.

But an experienced cyclist the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to in person about the issue this week said, while a technically challenging as a whole, the course contained no individual parts that professional riders hadn't come across elsewhere in major races.