With 50 days to go until the UCI Road World Championships arrive in Yorkshire, the first tangible boost to cycling facilities across the country has been unveiled with the launch of a brand-new cycling track in Doncaster.
And while any new cycling track is welcome, this one has a surprising feature that will be particularly appreciated by Spring Classics fans...
The Doncaster Cycle Track is a 1km-long, 6m-wide traffic-free circuit for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Located at Doncaster Dome, the venue will host the start of the Women's Junior Road Race and Men's U23 Road Race on Friday 27 September beore opening to the public.
The ribbon was cut by Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones along with British Cycling President Bob Howden OBE, Yorkshire 2019 CEO Andy Hindley, UK Sport Head of Major Events Esther Britten and Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council Jim Clark.
Joining the dignitaries were three-time Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy and fellow professional cyclist Graham Briggs. 50 schoolchildren and members of the local community then became the first to cycle the track which will be used by local cycling groups ahead of the Championships.
At 1km in length, the new track is shorter than the one-mile (1.6km) road track at London's Lee Valley VeloPark. But it does boast one feature that London can't: amidst the pristine tarmac, the designers have incorporated a freshly laid cobbled climb.
Described as the "world's only purpose-built, man-made cobbled climb" - a claim that may be disputed by the Flemish farmer who hand-laid the cobbles on the Paterberg - it's an enticing prospect nonetheless.
We've no details yet on the length or gradient of the climb, but it's sure to be popular with local sportive fans keen to hone their skills ahead of the Tour of Flanders Cyclo or Paris Roubaix.
And, with the track set to host regional racing, it could well hone the skills of a future Classics champion.
The track is expected to attract over 40,000 visitors in its first year alone, rewarding what has been a significant financial investment.
Built at a cost of £1.5 million, the project was funded by Doncaster Council and the Places to Ride programme, delivered in partnership with the Department of Culture Media and Sport, Sport England and British Cycling. The programme supports the development of new and improved cycling facilities across England.
This £15 million nationwide commitment from Government formed part of the successful bid to bring the Championships to Yorkshire, and is set to be delivered over the next three years. The cycle track is also part of the new #OwnTheRide campaign, which is a nationwide drive led by British Cycling to engage people across the country with cycling.
Speaking at the track launch, Ed Clancy, three-time Olympic Gold Medallist from Barnsley, said: "Facilities like this one in Doncaster are absolutely critical in ensuring that people from communities of all ages and abilities can embrace cycling in a fun and safe environment.
"The Places to Ride funding programme will ensure that the Championships leave a genuine legacy, not just in Yorkshire but across the whole country. So, whether you're in the park with your children, doing the commute to work or making use of a local facility, we want people to feel inspired by this once in a generation opportunity and #OwnTheRide this summer."
The Doncaster Cycling Track is set to be completed by late September, ahead of the UCI Road World Championships.
RIDE THE WORLDS
Yorkshire Velo Tours - 10 August 2019
If you're free this weekend, Yorkshire Velo Tours are leading a ride that takes in key sections of the Worlds route including the climbs of Kidstones, Buttertubs Pass and Grinton Moor. The route cuts out some urban sections and the centre of Harrogate (not so much fun when mixing it with regular traffic).
The 109-mile ride takes place from Ilkley this Saturday 10 August. Sign up at www.eventbrite.co.uk.
Official UCI Road World Championships Sportive - 22 September 2019
If you'd like to experience this year's Road World Championships course for yourself, there are a few options on offer - including the official sportive on 22 September.
Entries to the long route are sold out, but you can still ride the short and medium courses. For more details and to enter, see: worlds.yorkshire.com/sportive.
All Things Ride World Championships packages - 26-29 September 2019
For an all-round experience that includes the chance to watch the world's elite compete for the rainbow jersey, as well as explore the surrounding countryside by bike for yourself, Harrogate-based tour operators All Things Ride are ideally placed.
Choose from 3- or 4-night packages that include guided rides with local knowledge to advise on spectating the World Champs - and hotel accommodation right on the finish line in Harrogate.
Check out the full packages at: www.allthingsride.com.