The 2017 HSBC UK National Road Championships are the jewel in the crown of the British domestic road cycling calendar and the Isle of Man has been chosen to host the championships in June. Here, the Department of Economic Development's Tourism Events Manager, Michael Doherty, explains how the Island's successful bid came about.

Beyond seeing Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh on TV, I really had no idea about competitive international cycling and even less of a clue about the sport on the Isle of Man. The last four years have certainly changed that.  Since becoming involved with the bid for the Island to host the UK National Road Championships I discovered a story that includes Tour de France champions, Olympians, unsung heroes, rising stars, a terrain made to forge cyclists and an event history filled with the names of world cycling legends.  

The Island’s cycling heritage went far deeper than I’d imagined. This was particularly through Manx International Cycle Week and Bicycle TT which dates back to 1936. Its history reads like a world-cycling Hall of Fame with past participants including Eddie Merckx and Laurent Fignon. Tom Simpson was a popular winner in 1963 while 1979 saw victory for local hero Steve Joughin. In 1993 Chris Boardman set a blistering record time over the mountain circuit of 1 hour 23 minutes and 54 seconds, which stood until 2015 when Peter Kennaugh beat it by six seconds.        

The Isle of Man is an enigma to many in the cycling world. How has a place with a population of just 83,000 produced such a depth and level of cycling talent? This conveyor belt of cycling talent starts with the grassroots junior league organised by the irrepressible Dot Tilbury MBE at the National Sports Centre. Dot’s energy and enthusiasm have helped dedicated young cyclists to achieve their goals. This has meant a host of Manx stars such as Mark Christian, Lizzie Holden and Anna Christian and others breaking into the pro-ranks to join Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh.

It was no wonder then, that with all this cycling pedigree that Richard Fletcher, Chairman of the Isle of Man Cycling Association and experienced cycling race organiser Steve Shimmin came to meet Trish Joyce and I from the Department's Tourism Events Team with the idea of bidding for the British National Road Championships.  The Championships are the most prestigious event in the British domestic cycling calendar. All professional, international cycling stops in the last week in June each year to allow cycling pros and elite amateurs to return home for their respective national championships around the world.

Richard and Steve’s enthusiasm and belief that the Isle of Man could deliver this event was infectious. So our first job was to work up a business case to see if the event was likely to benefit the Island’s tourist economy. This meant looking at the past performance of the event in other destinations in terms of visitor numbers, length of stay, visitor spend and media exposure including TV. The proposal obtained unanimous support from the Department of Economic Development's Minister, Laurence Skelly, and political members  as well as the Island's Chief Minister.

That support gave us the go-ahead to prepare a formal bid document to the sport’s governing body, British Cycling. Pulling this together with Trish, Richard and Steve made us realise just how strong the Island’s offering could be. We had experienced organisers, a stunning course, purpose-built HQ facilities at the TT Grandstand, top home-grown talent performing on the world stage, political support, Police and Highways support, the backing of the local cycling community and bags of enthusiasm. The countdown to find out who would get the 2016 Championships was nail-biting. With such a strong bid what could possibly go wrong?

Gutted…We lost! The Island had narrowly missed out to Stockton-on-Tees.

Disappointed but undeterred we listened to the feedback from British Cycling. This centred on the need for the Island to hold a successful British Cycling-sanctioned, elite cycling event on the Mountain Course before we could go for the Nationals. Richard, Steve and their team delivered just that in April 2016, with the Manx International Cycling GP on closed roads around the TT course.

The Island was now in a position to re-apply for this prestigious event. This time the bid was successful with the award of the 2017 British National Road Championships going our way.  

The run-in to the event has now begun with most of the teams and officials already booked. Our efforts are now on encouraging cycling fans to visit for the Championships and the mass-participation sportive, while organisers Richard and Steve and Clerk of the Course Ollie Last are focussed on race logistics and planning.

With Mark Cavendish, Peter Kennaugh, Mark and Anna Christian, Lizzie Holden and many others returning to compete on Manx soil against Britain’s best riders, the Isle of Man can proudly say 'Cycling’s coming home!'.  

The Men's and Women's national Road Race Championships are scheduled to take place on Sunday 25th June, with the Time Trial taking place on Thursday 22nd June and a Mass Participation Sportive planned for Saturday 24th June. Find out more here.




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