Medway Council in Kent is looking to use its hosting of last weekend's (21 July) National Circuit Championships as a springboard to winning UK City of Culture status.
The Championships took place in Rochester, one of Medway's five towns, amid a festival of closed-road events and other family-orientated cycling activities in the grounds of Rochester Castle. The council kindly invited Velocity to attend.
"We have just launched our bid to be the 2025 UK City of Culture with a mega-weekend of sporting activity in Medway," said the council's deputy chief executive, Richard Hicks. "Hosting this great event is part of the build-up to submitting our bid in 2021. It's a fantastic event that's drawn thousands into Rochester to enjoy top-class cycling and have a go at some of the course themselves. It was great to see so many people exploring the streets of our historic town, being active and having fun. This is absolutely what bidding for UK City of Culture 2025 is all about and we want to do much more of this in future."
Local businesses confirmed that the event had boosted trade, bringing thousands of visitors to the picturesque, cobbled streets of the town centre. "We had a huge turn out for the public ride, when around 500 people had the chance to try some of the race circuit," said head of communications and marketing (and keen cyclist) Celia Glynn-Williams. "It was amazing to see so many people – young and old, with bikes, old and new, taking part. And there were lots of people around the town, and a food market on too."
"This is a great place for an event like this," said Pat Hayes, directeur sportif at women's team Liv AWOL. "The town and the historic streetscape make a beautiful backdrop for the races and it's a very technical course. For a team like us, based in the southeast, it's a Godsend when so much of British racing takes place in the north - we're constantly driving up and down the length of the country to events."
Hayes, also chief executive of developer BeFirst, is interviewed in the next issue of Velocity. Liv AWOL was set up to nurture young cycling talent, helping riders who are not part of British Cycling programmes to make the transition from youth to adult cycling. "Our riders did well today: two finished, placing 15th and 16th."
Fourteen of the 33 women riders (42%) did not finish - highlighting the severity of British circuit racing. Rebecca Durrell beat Anna Henderson to first place, while the men's race was won by Joey Walker, after Isaac Mundy accidentally unclipped in a dramatic sprint finish.
Medway built 13.6km of new cycling routes last year, as part of its Local Growth Fund investment programme. New cycle counters showed that, across 10 existing sites, the average number of cycle movements per site rose by 500 as a result. "Cycling is really important to us," the council said.