An historic cycling event, which dates back almost 150 years has fallen victim to the aftermath of the wet winter weather and has been cancelled.
The annual Richmond Cyclists Meet takes place every Spring Bank Holiday weekend and is now considered the oldest cycling festival in the UK. It plays host each year to more than a thousand competitors across various different cycling disciplines in five events promoted by two of the town’s cycling clubs: Nutcracker Racing and Richmond Cycling Club.
The most historic and prestigious of the festival’s events is the Richmond Grass Track Meeting, which has been its main spectacle since 1869. In recent years the event has incorporated the British Cycling Grass Track National Championship and has seen the UK’s highest ranking competitors fighting it out for the coveted champion’s jersey.
Recent inspection of Richmond’s grass velodrome, which is located around the outside of the town’s cricket field immediately flagged concerns over several gulleys that have sunk into the track over the winter due to the drainage of the saturated ground.
Richmondshire Cricket Club chairman Andy Barlow commented “Like many cricket fields this winter, ours has spent much of the time under water. The outfield will be fine for cricket, but with grass track cyclists reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour it would have been potentially dangerous to race on. It’s a real shame, we were really looking forward to welcoming a huge and enthusiastic crowd to what is the sporting jewel in the Spring Bank Holiday crown."
One of the event’s organisers at local cycling club Nutcracker Racing, Adrian Dent, himself no stranger to track racing and ranking as a multiple World Masters Champion commented “It was a difficult decision for us to make but the formation of the gulleys that have formed were literally causing us to take off on the bikes when we were riding the track during our pre-event inspection. It’s too dangerous as it is, and I certainly wouldn’t want to race on it!”.
Dent added: "Unfortunately the ground is still too wet to get access for suitable plant to fill and rectify the issue and so there’s little chance that we’d be able to reinstate the track in time for the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. On the positive side it has focused us on the need to join forces with the cricket club to make sure we’re back on track in 2017."
Both Dent and Barlow went on to outline the plans for 2017. “Once the cricket season is over we’re planning to repair the damage caused by the winter storms, and will be working closely with Nutcracker Racing to improve the cycling track which forms a large part of our outfield.” commented Barlow.
Dent agreed: “The cancellation of this year’s event has only strengthened our determination to unite the cricketing and cycling fraternities and put on a bigger and better event next year, and for many years to come.
Organisers are keen to stress that the other events within the festival will go ahead as planned.
Nutcracker Racing promote the Altura XC mountain bike race event at Aske Saw Mill on Saturday 28th May, followed by the Richmond Road Race on Sunday 29th May in partnership with Caygill Cycles.
Meanwhile Richmond Cycling Club promote the Swaledale Time Trial on Saturday 21st May and the Richmond Cyclosportive ride on Saturday 28th May.
More information on the Richmond Cyclists Meet can be found on the Nutcracker Racing website: www.nutcracker.bike, or call James Hall on 07725 305988.