Milton Keynes welcomes the world of cyclocross

This Saturday, November 29, sees the cyclocross World Cup come to Britain with a round in Milton Keynes

As we reported last year, Saturday November 29 will see the world’s best cyclocross riders line up in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, for round three of the six-race UCI cyclocross World Cup. It’s quite a coup for organiser Simon Burney, an indefatigable cheerleader for the international off-road scene for decades, since it’s the first World Cup cyclocross race ever to have taken place outside of continental Europe.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years,” explained Burney. “When you look at the other cycling events that Britain has put on — road, track and off-road — in the last 15 years, it seemed right that we should have a world-class cyclocross race too; Britain is a big enough cycling country now.

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“The last time Britain had a really big cyclocross event was the World Championships at Leeds in 1992 [Ipswich hosted the European Championships in 2012]. I kept on meeting British fans at the Koksijde round asking me why we couldn’t put on a race.”

Burney put in the bid to host the event and when it was announced that his bid had been accepted he began to realise the size of the task: “It’s really just me and a few friends; it’s not like there’s a big organisation and, although I’ve organised local races over the years, this is a big step up!”

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Happily, Burney’s 30 years on the circuit — as well as his work as a UCI technical delegate —means he knows where to go for expertise if he gets stuck.

Cyclocross is undergoing a resurgence that parallels the new-found popularity of other forms of cycling, an observation borne out by the fact that the National Trophy support races on the Sunday following the World Cup are oversubscribed. “The support races were something I was keen to do because in Europe, the pros race on Saturday and everyone goes home, but I wanted national-level riders to be able to race on the same course as they had watched the previous day,” Burney said. “It means people can make a real weekend of it.”

Although there was an option to use an established cyclocross course at Milton Keynes Bowl, the proximity of Campbell Park to the town centre — “it’s a perfect location” enthused Burney — helped tip the balance “and Milton Keynes has really got behind the event.”

On the ‘hup’

Hamstrung by the fact that it’s not an Olympic sport, there’s no doubt that cyclocross is on the rise. “I’d say that in the last six or eight years cross in Britain has grown a lot to the point at which local cyclocross leagues are running out of space at events,” said Burney. “Organisers put on free-to-enter under-12 races which in the past would have had 20 competitors; now there are so many riders that they have to split the field into under-10s and under-12s. It’s great to see, even if it’s causing problems with infrastructure.”