City centre ready to put on a wheelie good show

Champion: Rotherham's Dean Downing won the series last year
Champion: Rotherham's Dean Downing won the series last year
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city centre bike racing is returning to the streets of Sheffield this summer.

As The Star predicted last week Rotherham’s Dean Downing will have the chance to defend his British Cycling Criterium Elite Series title when one of the stages takes over part of the city centre on the evening of Wednesday, July 25 - two days before the Olympics Games in London.

Downing, aged 37 of the Rapha Condor Sharp team, who won the title last year, said he was delighted to be able to race so close to home and hopes to be able to battle younger brother Russell: “It’s a race that I have circled, starred, underlined everything on my calendar!

“Growing up in the area around the likes of Chris Walker and Malcolm Elliott it would mean a lot to me to be able to race Russ in Sheffield.

“It depends what kind of schedule he has but I’d definitely fancy my chances!”

Professional cycling was last in the city in 2006 when a stage of the Tour of Britain finished in front of the Town Hall. Organsiers are keen to stress that the criterium series is a different event to a tour, though. Raced over a circuit of one mile the riders are in action for an hour plus five laps before a winner is decided. Start and finish will be close to the Peace Gardens with the circuit making its way along Arundel Gate before heading back past the Town Hall via Norfolk Street and Surrey Street.

Sponsorship from Claremont Hospital has played a major role in allowing the City Council’s Major Sports Events team to host the event.

Tony Barrett of Claremont explained it is a logical progression of their support for the Rapha Condor Sharp team who regularly train and use the hospital’s facilities in the city.

He said: “The Claremont Hospital has worked extensively with Professional and Elite cyclists for many years, with Olympic, World and National Champions visiting the Claremont.

“We are proud be able to share our passion with Sheffield by enabling the return of exciting professional cycle racing to the city, especially in this Olympic year.”

Sheffield City Council said they were pleased to be bringing the sport into the heart of the city. Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, Jobs and Growth, said: “It is exciting to bring professional cycling back to the city centre.

“Not only will this event maintain Sheffield’s profile as a leading city for hosting major sport events in the UK, but it will also attract people into the city centre, boosting the evening economy, and promote cycling as a sport for people to get involved with, just two days before the start of the world’s biggest sporting event in London.”

The race is expected to be televised, with Sky Sports and ITV4 both being supporters of the sport. Further details of other events during the day, including races for children will be announced by organisers shortly.