Bath's new road racing circuit to open on Saturday
Local MP Don Foster to lead the first official ride on the new tarmac... but there's already a leaderboard on Strava
Bath's brand new road circuit is due to open on Saturday, with local MP Don Foster cutting the ribbon. The first official ride will include representatives from the three local clubs – Bath CC, Velo Club Walcot and Somer Valley – and pupils from Farmborough, St Philip’s and St Martin’s Garden Primary Schools. They will also be joined by 9-year-old Josh Lake and his sister Ellie, 12, from Threeways School who were nominated by the Wheels for All Project, an inclusive cycling scheme, managed by Bath & North East Somerset Council who have responsibility for running the facility.
After the official first ride at 11am the track will be open for two hours to the public, so that everyone can have a go on the new billiard-smooth tarmac. The track has been made possible thanks to a £600,000 grant from British Cycling and the circuit is the first part of a wider regeneration of the Odd Down playing fields, with an astroturf pitch, new changing facilities and improved football, rugby and cricket pitches all in the pipeline. Saturday's session is in advance of the full opening on Saturday 13 July, when a whole series of events are planned for the circuit.
Councillor David Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The new site will be for everybody, from children and families to the more competitive cyclist, and we hope it will become a centre of excellence for disability cycling. Anyone is welcome – whether from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s communities or the wider South West region. We’re extremely grateful to British Cycling for their generous support and we’re pleased to be working with local people so they can get actively involved in the delivery of improvements in their community.”
So will Don's ride be the very first? Well, no. The lure of the closed circuit has certainly been strong, and it's not really a surprise that there's already a Strava segment and a leaderboard for the new track, so there's been a bit of fence-hopping ahead of the gates opening. From its conception to its completion the Council and British Cycling were fairly clear that it would be a bookings-only facility, with the track costs set at £40/hr (£200 a day) to local clubs and £10/hr (£50 a day) for schools. Event and corporate hires will pay more. That certainly makes it an attractive facility for the local schools to use for cycle training, and means that everyone will just need to chip in a couple of quid (as has worked well at Castle Combe motor circuit) for a training session; the three local clubs have already block booked and a BC coaching course is already booked in for the end of June to train up more local coaches.
The message about the booking-only nature of the track hasn't necessarily filtered down to the local community, however, with some locals expressing surprise on social networks that they won't be able to use it when it isn't booked. The council explains why sessions have to be booked on its website:
“The circuit is a top quality sports training facility and whilst we want to encourage all abilities to use the facility, it has to be done in a safe and controlled way. There is a concern that an open access facility may result in cyclists wishing to race around the circuit, alongside young children on balance-ability bikes with their parents learning to cycle, and subsequently accidents could occur.”
That concern is warranted, though it's worth noting that the circuit sits directly alongside the Tumps BMX track, also managed by BANES, which is open access and, it could be argued, potentially just as dangerous. The circuit is a new facility and as one of less than 20 such dedicated tracks in the UK – and the only one in the Southern British Cycling Region – demand is sure to be high. The first year of the track is being used by the council, and British Cycling, to gauge demand from the various groups with an interest in using it; after that, booking and access will be reviewed.