An evening of town centre cycle racing first took place in Ilkley in 2014 as part of a festival of cycling prior to the Tour de France cycle race passing through the town. The evening was a such a huge success it was decided to make it an annual event in the town.
There are children’s and adult races throughout the evening ending with elite men’s and women’s events. Competitors race along a challenging 1.5 km circuit with a steep incline and a sharp downhill section which has a very fast right hand turn before returning to the finishing line along Ilkley’s tree lined main thoroughfare , The Grove, where many spectators view from, the races averaging 15 laps.
Cycling has become very popular in the town after Ilkley Cycling Club was re-established in 2011. The club now has over 1250 members and is the largest cycling club in the country. Membership is only £15 for individuals and £20 for families and a variety of organised rides to suit all abilities are included in the weekly programme. In 2013 the club was awarded the accolade of Sports Recreation Club of the Year having achieved phenomenal success for such a small town.
Fortunately, the weather was perfect for this year’s race and it attracted many spectators along the circuit as well as those enjoying the evening sunshine from the outside terraces of cafes and bars along The Grove. Near the starting line a small race village offered craft beers from the local micro brewery and a lengthy queue had also formed for some delicious sausages from a local high class butcher.
We arrived in the town early as the roads through the centre are closed to traffic and the event attracts many visitors. Walking around the complete circuit we paused along the way as the riders sped past and it was interesting to notice haystacks had been positioned at the bottom of the steep incline to soften the impact in case a cyclist misjudged the corner (see photo below).
The racing was of a high standard and provided a fun filled evening’s entertainment for everyone. Imitation cowbells were handed out to children and they enjoyed ringing their bells whenever they saw the riders approaching. Prize giving took place by the finishing line at 9.30 pm after which the roads were re-opened to traffic. If you are interested in watching or participating in street cycling events this race meeting takes place in late June each year, details can be found here.