Cycling fever returned to Harrogate last weekend when the inaugural Harrogate Big Bike Bash rolled into town.
The extraordinary weekend of 19-21 June, which was delivered by Harrogate Borough Council in association with Pennine Events, saw thousands of people turn out to celebrate the anniversary of the Tour de France and enjoy a weekend of cycle related and family activities.
On Friday night over 500 people watched the movie Paddington on the big screen in the lively event village, located on the Stray next to the finish line of the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Designed to appeal to both cyclists and non-cyclists, the event village provided visitors with a variety of entertainment across the weekend including a circus skills workshop, street performers, a BMX bike stunt display and live music from talented performers from the local music scene.
However, the real excitement took place on Saturday 20 June, with elite cyclists from around the UK, including professional cyclists Adam Blythe and Sam Bewley from the ORICA-GreenEDGE professional road race cycling team, competing in a number of challenging criterium and time trial races on a one mile closed road circuit in the town centre.
Talented youngster, Thomas Pidcock from the Speedflex Race Team, showed he was a name to remember for the future when he raced to victory in the Support Race. The 15-year-old took the win ahead of Lee Brown from Holmfirth Cycling Club to the delight of the crowds.
Chris Opie from One Pro Cycling clinched victory in the Elite Race, ahead of team mate Joshua Hunt, on a route which finished with the same uphill sprint along Parliament Street that provided spectators with all the drama, thrills and spills of last year’s Tour de France.
In the time trial event Olympic bronze medallist Sam Bewley proved quickest. His time of 2 minutes 0 seconds saw him beat the next placed rider, Rob Senior, who was 14 seconds adrift.
Over 1,300 amateur cyclists of all ages and abilities were also given the opportunity to step into the cycling shoes of the professionals and ride the race course through the traffic free town centre like never before.
In the event village, local cyclist Kevin Smith, who suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a HGV while cycling home from work and died twice on the way to hospital, took to the saddle on a stationary bike to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. His efforts were recognised when pro cyclists Sam Bewley & Adam Blythe surprised him by presenting him with a new cycling jersey.
Alannah Saphir (aged 8) also had cause to celebrate after winning a competition to design a poster to promote cycling and the associated health benefits. The young student from Pannal Primary School rode away on her prize of a new bike, which had been kindly donated by Chevin Cycles, and presented by Councillor Nigel Simms, the Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate.
The fun and excitement continued on Sunday 21 June with over 300 cyclists taking part in one of three guided rides around the district. The 53, 30 and 12 mile rides underlined the public’s thirst for participation in cycling events that are designed for all abilities.
Commenting on the success of the event, Harrogate Borough Council Leader, Councillor Richard Cooper said:
The Harrogate Big Bike Bash certainly exceeded our expectations.
I would like to thank all of the competitors and the spectators for helping make this such a wonderful occasion.
The Harrogate Big Bike Bash really engaged with people of all ages, whether they were interested in cycling or not.
The criterium races provided us with some thrilling action, while the Ride the Route event really illustrated just how popular cycling is in our district.
The arrival of the Tour de France to Yorkshire last year really inspired people to cycle more, and we are doing all we can to build on the legacy of the world’s greatest cycling race.
This event has shown that cycling is as popular as ever in our district, and we will continue to do all we can to encourage more and more people to take up cycling in the future and improve on our cycling infrastructure.
Michael Newby, Director of Visit Harrogate said:
The Harrogate Big Bike Bash was a fantastic family weekend and it was great to see so many people taking part in the Ride the Route events.
There are so many opportunities for cyclists in this district, be it those who just want a leisurely ride out or those who want to challenge themselves with more testing routes.
I am looking forward to future cycling events taking place not only in Harrogate town but in the rest of the District and that we will be welcoming more cycling visitors in years to come.