THE cream of British elite cycle racing will be heading for West Yorkshire later this month.

On Friday, July 23, the second round of British Cycling’s HSBC UK National Circuit Series will be coming to the streets of Ilkley.

The annual Ilkley Cycle Races have this year been awarded a round of the national series that will see the UK’s best road cyclists competing on the tough town centre circuit, starting and finishing on The Grove and including the short but steep climb up Riddings Road.

The inaugural event was part of the “celebration of cycling” in the summer of 2014 when the Tour de France came through the town, and is run and organised by volunteer members of Ilkley cycling club. Thanks to sustained backing from local businesses, the event has grown each year and for the first time, live coverage will be provided via YouTube by specialists Velo29.

Race night has become firmly established on the local social calendar with the now customary Lishman’s barbecue and Ilkley Brewery tents next to the bandstand, along with stalls around the course. Event organiser, Mike Firth, said: “It’s a great opportunity to meet friends and neighbours socially again whilst enjoying an atmospheric and free outdoor community event.”

The riders have a superb opportunity to race on closed roads in front of large appreciative crowds. These have previously included Otley’s Lizzie Deignan and Tom Pidcock from Leeds who both went on to become World Champions. Tom still holds the lap record of one minute 59 seconds for the 1.5 km circuit and has progressed from wins at Ilkley to now winning at World Tour level with Ineos Grenadiers.

Firth added: “It’s hugely important for youngsters to have a chance to participate and to feel the buzz of racing in a high-profile event.”

The Under 16s race, sponsored by MAS Design, is at 5:45 pm, followed by the supporting races for men at 6:25 pm. Ilkley Cinema is sponsoring the elite women’s race at 7:20 pm with the Lister Horsfall Grand Prix at 8:20 pm for elite men.

Matt Gibson, who was victorious at the first round in Otley, will be riding, along with British circuit race champion Joey Walker, son of Chris Walker, a star of televised town centre racing from the 80s and 90s.

Until quite recently, the women’s racing scene struggled to break-out of the shadow of the men’s, but with news that a women’s Tour de France is being launch next year and an upsurge in coverage and quality of events, arguably the future has never looked more positive for women’s competitive cycling.

The women’s elite race will see 85 top athletes from across the UK competing, with riders such as Jo Tindley, British Circuit race champion Rebecca Durrell, Megan Barker, Samantha Stuart, Frankie Hall and Otley winner Eluned King.

Ilkley Cycling Club will again provide the hundred or so volunteers needed to ensure the smooth and safe running of the event, avoiding the prohibitive cost of employing an events company. Their spokesperson said: “The club is grateful for the wider support of businesses and residents in the town, especially in relation to road closures around the circuit.”

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