THOUSANDS of cycling fans will head to Sheffield city centre tonight for an elite national event.
The city has been selected to host the final round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Race Series, and the Women’s National Circuit Race Championships - just days after Bradley Wiggins’ historic Tour de France win.
The action, accompanied by live commentary, begins at 7pm when the UK’s leading women will race for 55 minutes with the winner crowned National Criterium Champion.
From 8.30pm, the final round of the men’s Elite Circuit Series will see the top teams battle it out for the title in what organisers say will be ‘an exhilarating evening of pedalling’.
They hope the free event, sponsored by the Claremont Hospital at Sandygate, will mark a permanent return of high profile cycling to Sheffield city centre.
Sheffield Grand Prix manager Marc Etches said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase elite cycling to the city of Sheffield. To host the final round of the Elite Circuit Race Series and the Women’s National Circuit Race Championships on the same night is a real treat for Sheffield.
“South Yorkshire has long had a strong cycling community with some very successful pro riders from the area, so to finally bring them home to compete in the city centre is very exciting.”
Coun Isobel Bowler, Sheffield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, said: “Having the cycling Grand Prix here and welcoming the participants to Sheffield just days before the London Games begins is a real treat for the city.
“Sheffield has been at the forefront of supporting the Olympic athletes from home and abroad for the London 2012 games and once again this event puts us on the sporting map.
“Not only will this attract people into the city centre, giving a valuable boost to the economy, I hope it will also be a great way to promote cycling as a sport for people to get involved with.”
Some roads in the city centre will be closed partially or completely. Arundel Gate from Furnival Square to Norfolk Street will have one lane closed from 11am to 2pm, and Pinstone Street towards Furnival Gate will be shut from 5.15pm until 9.30pm, and in the other direction from Furnival Gate to Cross Burgess Street from 5.45pm until 9.30pm.
Both races will see riders cycling laps of a 1.4km circuit around Sheffield city centre starting on Pinstone Street at the top of the Peace Gardens.
Riders will then head down towards The Moor before turning left onto Furnival Gate and sweeping into Arundel Gate.
The route then passes the ‘cheesegrater’ car park and the Novotel, before taking a left turn up Norfolk Street past The Crucible.
For the final stretch, riders must tackle a tricky cobbled section along Surrey Street, before swinging round in front of the Town Hall for the finishing straight along Pinstone Street to cross the line.
Nonnas Italian restaurant is hosting a VIP enclosure at the finish line. Passes are £50 and include food, drink, and free entry to the official after-party. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
n More than 150,000 people have backed Yorkshire’s bid to host the first two stages of the 2016 Tour de France.
A team was in Paris at the weekend to push the bid to stage a 114-mile a day route covering Sheffield, Leeds, York, Hull, Scarborough and the Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire is competing for the honour against Barcelona, Venice, Berlin and Scotland.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We have over 150,000 pledges of support from the public backing our bid. We have the landscape, the people, the passion and the resources behind us to host a world class Grand Depart.”
Those behind the bid say the Yorkshire route would include hill sections to rival some of the Alpine stages.