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UCI Cycling World Championships: Glasgow ‘super worlds’ hopes to attract 1 million spectators

Organizer wants event to get 'more people riding bikes more often.'

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Next year will see the first edition of the UCI’s “mega” multi-discipline world championships and the local organizers of the event are hoping to attract 1 million spectators across the 11-day event.

Last year’s road worlds in Flanders drew an estimated 1.4 million fans to the roadside across the week of action, but crowds like that are not usually the norm and it left a mark on many of the riders that competed in the event.

With 13 disciplines on show between August 3-13 next year, the organizer is hoping to bring crowds similar to those seen during the Flanders roads worlds to Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland.

“We would love to have if we can around a million spectators across the course of the championship. We think we can do that,” CEO of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships Trudy Lindblade told VeloNews.

“We’ve got fabulous venues and across the 13 world championships, we’ve got kilometers and kilometers of roads where the local communities can come out and support the best riders and the best athletes in the world. How often do you get to do that? One of the really great things about cycling is that you can easily see the best athletes for free.”

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While the vast majority of the events will be centered around the host city of Glasgow, not all of it will be there. The iconic Nevis Range in Fort William will play host to the downhill mountain bike competition.

Meanwhile, the marathon and cross-country competitions will be held in the Glentress Forest in the Tweed Valley with a course that was designed by Scottish XC champion Rab Wardell, who died in August following a cardiac arrest.

The road time trials will take place in Stirling, to the northeast of Glasgow, while the road races will also start outside of the city. The women and the U23 men will set off from Loch Lomond and the men will begin in Edinburgh, a move that was made to try and show off as much of Scotland as possible during the 10 days.

“Whilst it would have been very practical for us to have everybody starting in the same location, what we wanted to do was actually showcase the east and the west. So that’s why we’ve got the two different start locations,” Lindeblade said.

The exact profiles are yet to be announced for the road races and time trials, but they are expected to include plenty of rolling roads. While this year saw the elite men’s and women’s time trials run over the same distance, Lindblade confirmed that this was not going to be the case for 2023.

The finals of the road races will be run over a twisting course around the center of Glasgow. Though the amount of climbing will be just shy of what was on offer in Wollongong last month, Lindblade hopes that it’s enough to deliver some different racing.

“The courses technically will be really good for each of those categories. Both arrive in Glasgow on a 14.4-kilometer circuit that will be very technical here and quite punchy, and I think will create a really great race,” she said. “It’d be probably slightly different to [Australia], which is exciting. Because it’s nice to see different styles of racing across different world championships.

“We wanted to make it a little bit different. So to keep the variety there, it’s been a really good and interesting process to design it and to deliver what we think will be really, really interesting and beautiful parcours.”

A challenging environment

The UCI’s biggest world championships will be taking place amidst a difficult financial backdrop as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the challenges around Britain’s exit from the European Union.

It is not an easy environment to fund and set up a major sporting event, but Lindblade believes that the event can have a positive impact on Glasgow and the other areas it reaches.

The recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was a good litmus test for this kind of event.

“We were watching what was happening in Birmingham,” Lindblade said. “The Birmingham organizing committee has been really great in sharing some of the things that worked for them and those things that didn’t so. We’ve sort of connected with them throughout the journey.

“There’s that economic impact that major events can bring. We want to be bringing, in particular off the back of the pandemic, people coming into Scotland to experience that tourism aspect. The economic benefits are people going out for lunch, hotels, restaurants, going to the zoo, all of those sorts of things. Putting money back into the local community is one of the major benefits of hosting major events.”

A recent study by the University of Birmingham estimated that there was an increase of spending by spectators around the event of about £346-£518 million, though some £778 million was given in public funding to support the event.

In addition to, hopefully, having a positive financial outcome for Glasgow, Lindblade would also like the legacy of the event to get more people riding bikes, whether it be for recreation or transportation.

“What we’d like people to do is think about getting more people riding bikes more often,” Lindblade said. “We talk about the power of the bike. It’s a line for us that really means something because the power of the bike is not just about winning gold medals.

“The power of the bike is also about what it means for you. It will mean different things to different people. It might mean riding to work every day to clear your head, exercise, or for mental health. It might mean going out with the kids on the weekend, which is what I do. That, for me, is my great sort of power of the bike. It means different things to people to different people.”