On a pleasant evening this week, cyclists and visitors alike gathered in the center of Ilkley for several road racing events. The 1.5 Km course was closed from late afternoon until 10:30 pm and five events took place between 6 and 10pm (yes it was still light enough for racing!).
Cycling and all types of road and off-road events are very popular throughout England and were made even more popular as a result of the Tour de France spending its first three days in England in 2014. Particularly in this part of England, cycle clubs are very well supported and this town of Ilkley (population about 15,000) has a Club membership in excess of 1000.
With such a short (but grueling) course, the spectator sees the riders every few minutes as they complete each lap so there is not much standing around – and a lot of excitement. I watched the last two events – the Ladies and Mens races of 40 and 50 minutes respectively. The Ladies was pretty much a solo event with the winner enjoying a 20 second or more lead for much of the race but the Mens’ winner waited until the final 4-5 laps to pull away and he also eventually won quite handily.
This event draws world-class cyclists and is only slightly less prestigious than its near neighbor, the Otley Criterium. This latter has been a classic for many years and has been won by Olympic, Tour de France and other similar level participants. This year’s Otley race will take place on July 1, just one week after the Ilkley event. I may make the 10 mile pilgrimage!
Here are a few photos of the race this week.