Thousands descend on Milton Keynes for historic World Cup Cyclo-Cross

An estimated 8,000 turned out to watch the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup's first visit to Britain, and they were not disappointed. Photos by Andy Jones

Words by Maria David

Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, was the setting for cycling history when thousands flocked to the town to watch the first ever round of a World Cup Cyclo-Cross race in Britain.

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More than 8,000 fans in bobble hats, coats and wellies, carrying banners and flags turned out to celebrate cyclo-cross and make some noise at the first UCI World cup round to be held outside continental Europe. This was also the first international elite cyclo-cross race to take place on UK soil since 1992.

Organiser, Simon Burney, was so pleased: “It has been a really good day and I am delighted. The event has exceeded all my expectations.”

The morning saw a few thousand fans enjoy the junior men’s race, which was won by Gavin Haley from the US, with Arthur Green and Thomas Craig not far behind.

As the day progressed and the sun came out and so did the crowds who were keen to see the best cyclo-cross racers in the world in the flesh tackling the challenging 2.6km course.

Crowds were at their thickest on the high points of the course where riders struggled up the muddy hill, or where there were steps and hurdles to scale, and this provided a very raucous atmosphere of frantic bell ringing, foghorn blowing and cheering as the different riders heaved their way around the circuit.

Elite men's race weaves its way around the course

Elite men’s race weaves its way around the course

Particularly loud cheering was reserved for the British riders during the women’s race with fans urging Nikki Harris and Helen Wyman to bag podium spots. The breathtaking fight right to the line between Sanne Cant and Katie Compton was so close that spectators were cheering without knowing who had actually won!

But the support for Nikki Harris, on the third spot of the podium behind Cant and Compton was unquestionable, and without doubt was deafening!

In the men’s race, it was a Belgian one-two for Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout from Frenchman Francis Mourey, after a four-way battle that included Lars van der Haar. The crowd went wild over the suspense, and went even wilder for Ian Field.

The Brit produced the race of his life by finishing 12th in this stellar field. ‘Cross super star Sven Nys another crowd favourite showed impressive riding to finish 8th after having dropped to the back of the field because of a mechanical problem.

More impressive riding was displayed on the steps near the end of the energy sapping lap. Where other riders dismounted and carried their bikes, Jeremy Powers who bunny-hopped up the steps, much to the delight of the crowd.

What was good about the Campbell Park course was that the undulating circuit allowed people to watch the race from various vantage points, and see the riders snake their way back and forth around the convoluted course in the distance.

Commentary was provided by the respective Anglo-American dynamic duo Matt Payne and Richard Fries who injected even more drama and excitement into the action. Furthermore, large screens around the course allowed people to watch the whole race without moving at all.

Feedback from the elite riders was very positive and some even suggested it was a potential world championship venue. Second placed Vantornout said: “The organisation was top. It reminded me of the World Championships in the US where everyone was really excited. I hope it comes back here next year.”

This was a great day for cycling in the UK and it was also a day for anyone and everyone involved in cyclo-cross to come to Milton Keynes, catch up with old friends and enjoy the action over a few beers.


What they said: Spectators give their view on the event

People came from far and wide – and not just Britain – to watch the Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Milton Keynes. We spoke to a selection of fans to get their opinion on the event.

Dan Lomas, Bradford

“It’s a huge thing for this country to have a world cup event here and see Brits do so amazingly well is an added bonus for inspiring children. I’ve got young ones who are just starting out so it’s great. We were supporting Ian Field and Jack Clarkson so we were really pleased with their results. We were also supporting Annie Simpson and Lars van der Haar. We will definitely watch a World Cup again in this country but we also have ambitions to watch a race on the continent as well.”

 Julian Markham, Blackburn

“We’ve been to the World Championships a few times on the continent, so I thought you’ve got to come here if there’s one on your doorstep. The atmosphere’s been brilliant. Really good. There are not as many drunk people as you see in Belgium or Holland but it’s a good scene. It’s really good – I’m impressed. Having the circuit on a hill is great for the spectators – it’s superb. I’ve been to see the worlds a few times and this would definitely make a good world’s circuit. The riders might find it a bit too muddy – I’m not sure if they’re used to having mud all the way round. I’m supporting Sven Nys and Ian Field, and in the women we are supporting Helen Wyman.”

 Phillipa Jenkins and Glen Whittington, Tunbridge Wells

“We both race in the London League races so we thought we would come up today and see how the pros do it. It’s a great atmosphere and the course looks absolutely spectacular. It’s awesome that they’re having the National Trophy race as it opens it up for everyone to have a go. I’ve chickened out of doing it, but most of my friends are! It would have been special to do it, but there are some pretty crazy hills and I wouldn’t have fancied doing so much running! I have only ever seen World Cup events on TV, but we are now thinking of going to watch the last round at Hoogerheide. That’s a bit of trek – it’s just nice to be able to get in the car to go on and see one. We want Milton Keynes back next year.”

 Caroline Martinez, Dublin

“Cyclo-cross in Ireland is small but is growing. We have a few Irish riders competing today, so they will be underdogs. It is easy to get flights from Dublin to Luton so I thought I would come to watch the world cup while visiting friends who live here. I am not supporting anyone in particular. I just want to see the best riders in the world – Sven Nys, Helen Wyman, Katie Compton, Sanne Cant – the amazing people that I usually see on television. I have never been to watch a Cyclo-Cross World Cup event before, and this is pretty amazing. Cyclo-Cross is such a great spectator sport. If the World Cup comes back here next year I will definitely come and see it.”

More on the Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Milton Keynes