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2023 UCI World Championships: A Parade of Cycling’s Finest

By Matt Stephens

Every year, the world of cycling comes alive at the various UCI World Championships held in different countries for each discipline. However, this year is very different: in the first event of its kind, the finest riders in the world will come together in Glasgow and across Scotland to compete at the highest level in all 13 UCI World Championships. They are (take a deep breath) BMX Freestyle Park, BMX Freestyle Flatland, BMX racing, Gran Fondo, Indoor Cycling, Mountain bike cross country, Mountain bike cross country marathon, Mountain bike downhill, Para-cycling road, Para-cycling track, Road, Track, and Trials.

I’ve been privileged to have ridden at the 7 Road World Championships in the past (and watched many more) and absolutely loved it. The Worlds are unique, it’s not just the various battles for the coveted rainbow jerseys but the electric, internationally flavoured atmosphere that sets it apart. Plus, of course, the fact that riders are representing their countries, not teams.

In fact, The UCI World Championships is more than just a competition; it’s a festival of cycling that unites enthusiasts, athletes, and casual observers in a thrilling spectacle. This year is going to be super special! What a way to celebrate our beautiful sport. So, here’s an overview of what to expect between the 3rd and 13th of August, during which over 200 rainbow jerseys will be awarded.

I’m kicking off with road cycling as it’s what I did (so excuse me)! The picturesque landscapes of Scotland will serve as the backdrop for the hopefully epic road events where star-studded fields will tackle winding roads, challenging climbs, and fast descents. The road events finish in Georges Square so there’ll be a real urban feel to the finale. The terrain for the road events is hilly, with 3,500 metres of elevation in the elite men’s and 2,300 metres in the elite women’s. Rather than mountainous races, they’ll have the feel of the hilly classics.

All the time trials take place in and around the city of Stirling on parcours that I’d describe as flat with a few short climbs and a punchy finale.

Mountain biking takes the action off the roads and into rugged terrain, where riders navigate rocky trails, steep descents, and adrenaline-pumping jumps. The action for the Cross Country and Marathon takes place at Glentress Forest whilst the Downhill action explodes at the Nevis Range – which is often described as the Outdoor Capital of the UK. Fort William is a legendary downhill location and a true mountain bikers’ paradise.

For those who prefer the speed and intensity of the track, the velodrome events are a real sight to behold. The thundering noise of the wheels on the wooden track, the lightning-fast sprints and the tactics make for incredible entertainment. The track races demand split-second decisions and explosive power, resulting in brilliant racing. All of the track events are set in the Chris Hoy Velodrome, the spiritual home of cycling in Scotland.

BMX and freestyle cycling bring an element of creativity and flair to the event. With jaw-dropping tricks, gravity-defying stunts, and a touch of showmanship, these disciplines showcase a different side to our diverse sport. Riders will launch themselves off ramps, perform aerial acrobatics, and push the boundaries of what’s possible on two wheels. Some of the skills on display are utterly crazy and I can’t wait to see them! Glasgow Green will host the BMX Freestyle and trials; the Glasgow BMX Centre the BMX; and the Emirates Arena the indoor cycling.

As I mentioned earlier, the Championships are not just about competition, though – they are about promoting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle through cycling. The event will hopefully encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to embrace the bike as a means of transport, exercise and recreation. By showcasing the world’s greatest riders, the event may inspire people to take up cycling and experience the joy of riding themselves. The various host towns and cities will transform into vibrant hubs of cycling enthusiasm too, with festivals, exhibitions, and community events complementing the racing action, creating an electric atmosphere that will reverberate through the nation. It’s also a chance for Glasgow and Scotland to showcase their warm hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and love for sport to the world.

Are you excited? I know I am!