Why last year's UCI cycling hosts were worried but ended up loving it

With two weeks to go until one of the world’s most spectacular international sporting tournaments arrives in Harrogate, the message to residents is “there’s nothing to fear.”

Monday, 9th September 2019, 9:37 am

While grumbles remain over road closures during the nine days of the UCI Road World Championships, powerful voices involved in the event in recent years have told the Harrogate Advertiser the town is about to have an amazing time.

The head of communications for last year’s hosts Innsbruck, Esther Wilhlem said people’s worries were natural but the UCIs had attracted hundreds of thosuands of visitors to the Austrian city and brought 40 million Euros into the local economy.

She said: “It was the same situation here as in Harrogate. It was not welcomed in advance.

“But once the competition started it was a complete turnaround.

“I was surprised how the city became the biggest cycling fans in the world.”

Harrogate blogger 'risked hypothermia ' to swim WindermereHer views were echoed by one of Britain’s greatest-ever cyclists, local hero Lizzie Deignan, pictured, who will be taking part in the UCIs herself.

Speaking exclusively to the Harrogate Advertiser, Lizzie, who was the women’s 2015 UCI Road World Champion, said she was excited the event was coming to her home area.

The 2012 London Olympics silver medallist said: “There are going to be a lot of surprised people. Everyone will be surprised by how exciting the UCIs are and what fun it is.”

Final preparations are still being put in place for the launch of the UCIs which will start on Saturday, September 21 with a para-cycling race for the very first time.

In a sign of the scale of the event, organisers have now erected signs on all major routes in Harrogate set to be effected by the UCIs.

The new signage gives a clear picture to drivers of the exact nature and times of road closures in their area when the town centre circuit plays host to the greatest racing cyclists on the planet.

That kind of disruption is a situation familar to Esther Wilhlem, who is now head of marketing and product management at Innsbruck Tourism.

She said: “People don’t like it when they have restrictions like road closures and have to adapt to a new situation.

“We had barriers everywhere. But everyone had an amazing time. It is still talked about here a year later in positive terms. I’m sure it will be very good in Harrogate.”