Cycling fever to hit Lancaster as city centre racing returns

Action from a previous Lancaster City Centre Criterium
Action from a previous Lancaster City Centre Criterium

Lancaster is set for a taste of Tour de France fever when bike racing returns to the city centre next month.

The third running of the Lancaster City Centre Criteriums will see Dalton Square and the surrounding area taken over by professional, amateur and junior cyclists alike on Wednesday, August 6.

LC3, as the event is known, contains three races on the night culminating in the Lancaster City Centre Crit where a fast and furious race will see top bike riders do 40 to 50 laps of a tight and technical course that takes in Moor Lane, Bulk Street, Robert Street and others.

Organiser Brian Kennedy, chairman of Lancaster Cycling Club, is hoping the event will bring in the crowds having seen millions of fans line the route in Yorkshire and Greater London for the first three stages of Le Tour this week.

He said: “The key difference between crits and regular road racing is in the Tour de France spectators stand in their spot for a while and then the riders whizz past.

“You don’t really get a sense of who’s doing well but with the crit races they are coming past almost once a minute.

“Dalton Square makes a perfect spectator hub and it’s ideal for an exciting night out even if you don’t know anything about bike racing.”

Crit racing is the boom form of the sport in the UK with the ITV4-televised Tour Series having taken in 10 city centre circuits during May and June.

And with the Lancaster event entering its third year, Brian is hoping for a bigger and better field for the National B category race this time around.

The line up looks set to include local professionals Bolton-le-Sands’ Jack Pullar, who will be fresh from competing in the Commonwealth Games for Scotland on August 3, Carnforth’s Matt Cronshaw and James Gullen.

Brian said: “We’ve got four elite category riders signed up for the event so we’re optimistic we’re going to have a better and larger field for the final race than we did last year.

“It takes time to grow this but a stronger field this year would mean people saying ‘oh he raced in that last year’, and so on.

“People aren’t necessarily going to come from Birmingham and Glasgow for the event but they will come from across the North West and Lancashire.”

And the organisers are hoping to replicate some of the Tour de France festival vibe on August 6 with Brian himself having taking in the world’s biggest bike race at VeloFest at Kilnsey Park in the Yorkshire Dales.

He said: “We’re aiming for more of a buzz in Dalton Square this year with things like a music PA running alongside the race PA.

“We want to create the sense of an evening out, not just something that is for cycling fans.”

The evening starts at 6.30pm with the Lancaster Youth Grand Prix and is followed at 7.10pm by the Dalton Square Cobbled Classic for amateur cyclists.

The main event, sponsored by United Utilities, starts at 8pm, and is set to last around an hour.

Briain believes it is a night that can cement Lancaster’s place as a hot spot for bike enthusiasts.

He said: “I think the race boosts the city as a cycling centre for people to visit.

“And that ties in with all the cycling initiatives there have been in the area over the past few years.

“The city council has been working hard promote Lancaster and Bay Area as a cycling centre and this goes along with that.

“People with an interest with cycling will be more likely to come to the area if there’s a big race going on and they can join in with the atmosphere.”

The Lancaster City Centre Crit was first run in 2012 as the city council organised the event as part of the London Olympics.

Now in its third year, Lancaster Cycling Club, with support from United Utilities, have taken over the running of the event for 2014.