Next month, Great Britain plays host to the UCI Road Cycling World Championships for the fourth time ever, and the first since 1982 as the event heads to Yorkshire for what could be the biggest edition yet, with millions of spectators expected to line the roads to watch the world’s best in action.
Here’s our guide to nine days of what promises to be a memorable event in a region that has established itself as a true cycling heartland in the wake of hosting the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and the Tour de Yorkshire each year since then.
We’re not focusing just on the races, either – read on for hints and tips about travel and accommodation.
Meanwhile the route map videos below for the Harrogate Circuit and the various races starting from further afield contain tips from Yorkshire 2019 about the best places to view the racing to help you get the most out of your visit.
Harrogate is the hub
The North Yorkshire town of Harrogate, which hosted the finish of the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France, is the hub of the championships, hosting the finish of all the races from 22-29 September.
The focal point of the championships, featuring in a number of events, will be the Harrogate Circuit, which many riders got the chance to preview during the Tour de Yorkshire and ASDA Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race in May.
The general verdict is that it’s a tough one; 14 kilometres long, there’s barely a flat piece of road as the route takes in a succession of sharp climbs and descents plus some technical corners before the drag up to the finish on Parliament Street.
Starting locations across Yorkshire
The start of the races will be shared around towns and cities across the region, with Bradford, Doncaster, Leeds, Northallerton, Richmond, Ripon all set – alongside Harrogate – to see the world’s best set off in pursuit of the rainbow jersey in the various races.
Here’s the day-by-day listing of the races.
Saturday 21 September
C1 Paracycling road races
Beverley to Harrogate 93km
Tadcaster to Harrogate 70km route plus 3 circuits
Wetherby to Harrogate 56km route plus 2 circuits
Harrogate circuit 30km route plus 1 circuit.
The day before the start of the championships proper, Beverley, Tadcaster and Wetherby will also host the start of C1 para-cycling races, the first time they have been held alongside the event, and which will act as qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Entry to those races is open to athletes from all Paralympic classifications, and will comprise four groups of riders – blind and visually impaired, people with cerebral palsy, locomotor disabilities and handcyclists – with 13 classifications in total for men and women.
Depending on their classification, they will start racing at one of four points on what is a single, continuous route, finishing in Harrogate. Find out more information here.
Sunday 22 September
Harrogate – Harrogate
Team Time Trial Mixed Relay 28km (2 circuits)
The first event of the UCI Road World Cycling World Championships is a brand new one and will be contested by teams comprising three men and three women.
The men set off first on their lap of the Harrogate Circuit, with the women beginning to race when the second of their male team-mates crosses the finish line. The final team time will be taken when the second woman finishes, with the fastest team winning.
The format was raced for the first time at the UEC European Road Championships in Alkmaar in early August, with the Netherlands winning from Germany and Italy – a form guide of sorts, although only eight countries took part.
Monday 23 September
Harrogate - Harrogate
Women Junior Time Trial 14km (1 circuit)
Men Junior Time Trial 28km (2 circuits)
The remaining events of the championships will see battle joined for the right to wear the rainbow jersey for the next 12 months, starting with the junior time trials.
Both are held on the Harrogate Circuit, with the junior women completing one lap, and the men riding two laps of the circuit.
Tuesday 24 September
Ripon to Harrogate
Men's Under 23 Individual Time Trial 32.5km
Women's Elite Individual Time Trial 32.5km
Both of today’s events follow the same parcours, beginning in Ripon and relatively flat over the opening dozen kilometres until Ripley, but with the terrain becoming progressively more taxing after that.
As a result, it’s one where the riders will need to manage their efforts accordingly – go out too fast, and there’s a risk of having insufficient reserves of energy when it’s most needed later on.
Wednesday 25 September
Men's Elite Time Trial
Northallerton to Harrogate 54km
Heading southwest from Northallerton, a flat opening section could see the wind come into play, with the terrain becoming lumpier at the 15-kilometre mark with an uphill drag followed by a descent into Masham.
The climbs aren’t big in terms of altitude – 176 metres is the highest point today – but a number are short and sharp and will take a cumulative toll on the riders’ energy ahead of the final drag up to the finish line.
Thursday 26 September
Men’s Junior Road Race
Richmond to Harrogate 144.5km (including 3 circuits)
With the time trials now over, the action switches to the road races and first up it’s the junior men with the route taking them into the Yorkshire Dales and a climb of Kidstones Bank starting 37 kilometres into the race.
That’s followed by the Summerscales ascent, ridden on exposed moorland and crested with around 85 kilometres in the tank, ahead of three laps of the closing circuit in Harrogate.
Friday 27 September
Women’s Junior Road Race
Doncaster to Harrogate (91.5km)
Most of today’s route is on flat but exposed roads, meaning that the wind could be a factor.
The terrain gets bumpier as the race heads into Harrogate, and while there is no lap of the closing circuit, the two uphill drags in the finale should make for some late attacks.
Men’s Under-23 Road Race
Doncaster to Harrogate 192.5km (including 3 circuits)
The first half of today’s race is again pretty much as flat as it gets in Yorkshire, although as yesterday the bunch will have to be vigilant for crosswinds, with the climbing kicking in just after the midway point at Ripon, before the road heads upwards then back down again into Pateley Bridge.
Then comes the main climb of the day, Greenhow Hill, which averages 8.6 per cent over 2.8 kilometres, topping out at 402 metres, and which is likely to result in a selection; with its descent ending just before entry to the Harrogate Circuit, any riders dropped on the way up will be battling to get back on.
Saturday 28 September
Women’s Elite Road Race
Bradford to Harrogate (149.5km including 3 circuits)
Expect huge support for local lass and 2015 road world champion Lizzie Deignan today – especially when, early on in the race, it heads through her hometown of Otley. Afterwards comes the first of the day’s two main climbs, Norwood Edge, with the route then heading through the Nidderdale Valley.
The next climb is the Lofthouse pass, whose 426-metre summit comes with a little under 50 kilometres raced, but even this early an initial selection is likely to have been made before the riders head down towards Masham.
After Ripon, which comes at the exact halfway point of the 149.5-kilometre race, it’s short and sharp climbs before encountering more of the same as the race hits the three laps of the Harrogate Circuit.
Sunday 29 September
Men’s Elite Road Race
Leeds to Harrogate (284.5km including 7 circuits)
The closing event of the championships is as ever the men’s road race, with more than 180 kilometres of riding before the seven laps of the Harrogate Circuit – a long day in the saddle which will likely follow the usual script of a break being given a bit of leeway before being brought back and the battle for the rainbow jersey commencing in earnest.
There are three tough climbs to be tackled on the way to Harrogate that are likely to see selections made in the main peloton – the Cray and Buttertubs passes, followed by Grinton Moor, where a temporary bridge is being installed to replace the one swept away during the recent floods.
The seven laps of the closing circuit will see a continual thinning out of the main bunch and – unless someone manages to spring a solo attack and stay away – it will be a very select bunch that contests the finish and the right to wear the rainbow bands for the next year.
Travel and accommodation
Harrogate itself is very busy for the duration of the championships, and particularly on the final weekend, where it is currently 95 per cent full onBooking.com and most of what is left isn't exactly cheap.
You could also check out Airbnb.com, or Pink Moon Camping which is the official provider for camper van parking with a site at Beckwithshaw, right on the Harrogate circuit, and a pre-pitched tent site in the spa town itself.
There is much wider availability on Booking.com, and at a much lower cost, in Leeds or York, both of which have direct and quick trains to the town with extra services being laid on during the event – and both of which also have various attractions and nightlife options to keep you busy away from the racing.
Remember also that for the elite road races, among others, you also have the option of catching the start and the final (in the case of the former, a change at Leeds would be necessary), although it’s worth bearing in mind that others will have the same idea and services are likely to be very busy.
The official line is that bikes will not be accepted on trains anywhere in Yorkshire for the duration of the championships. We are checking with individual train operating companies and will update with more information once we have it. In the meantime, check out thetrainline.com for tickets and fares within Yorkshire and from further afield.
Car parking is available at the Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate – currently, it is £10 per vehicle during the weekends and £5 on weekdays – and can be booked here. It’s a 20-minute walk from the fanzone and the Harrogate Circuit, although a shuttle bus is available for £2 return. Expect queues to get in and out, and factor in extra travelling time accordingly.
There are smartphone apps available giving full information about the championships for both iOS and Android devices, while a full Spectator Guide is available on the Yorkshire 2019 website here which includes details of fanzones, campsites and various events being held throughout the week besides the racing.
Finally, this is Yorkshire in late September … check the weather forecast, and go prepared for every eventuality. Most of all, have an enjoyable and memorable trip.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.