As the XC World Championship delivery partners, ESO Sports, finish their contract and have left the site we have been asked many questions around the lasting legacy of the UCI events at Glentress.
The feedback from many spectators, volunteers, crew, and across all social media platforms is that the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships was a brilliant event, across all disciplines showcasing Scotland and Scottish mountain biking to a global audience.
We think that there will be a strong legacy from the hosting of the World Championships from new and increased number of trails, ability to host future world level events in a premier destination, and the global ‘word of mouth’ that will spread about the amazing passionate people who make mountain bikers so welcome in the Tweed Valley and across Scotland. This will leave Scottish mountain biking in a stronger position and will help us sustainably grow the sport for many years to come.
As riders, and people who love the sport, we were thrilled by the world’s elite XC riders taking on the technical trail features at Glentress. In particular, the event-specific Salmon Ladder rock roll, Quarry gap jump, and Storm Arwen features were exciting, challenging, and tested the abilities of the world’s best XC riders.
The images of Pidcock, Schurter, van der Poel, Sagan, Richards, Ferran-Prevot, Short, and Aldridge (to name just a few of our heroes) riding these features and the drone images over the Tweed Valley made us really proud of Scotland and our ability to host world level events.
We have had many questions from riders and businesses asking about the removal of these features. From the outset, the plan was that these features would be installed on a temporary basis and were constructed for the purpose of creating a world level event.
That said, Forestry and Land Scotland have spent many hours with their own teams and with external partners, including ourselves, investigating options, debating and analysing the risk/benefit of retaining any of these temporary features, assessing whether there were any mitigations that could be put in place to help their management. This was a complex process during which FLS reached a decision that may disappoint some of the mountain bike community but was deemed necessary for FLS to mitigate risks to itself as the organisation which manages the site, and its many users, on an ongoing basis.
We hope it might be helpful for the MTB community, and other interested stakeholders, to understand the perspective of the land manager and the decision making framework that land managers (or owners) use to help them make decisions on the level of management, and subsequent risk, that any trail on their property occurs.
‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Countryside’ publication from the Visitor Safety Group (VSG) has defined within its ‘Guiding Principles’ a risk control matrix that has three factors which helps land managers ‘strike a balance between visitor self-reliance and management intervention’.
- Location and terrain – From ‘Undeveloped to Heavily Developed’
- Level of visitor’s skill, self-reliance, and personal responsibility – From ‘Advanced to Minimal’
- Level and type of hazard management from manager/owner – From ‘Minimal management to Advanced Management’
Glentress, particularly around the Peel café, bike shop, car parks, and toilets etc, is a site that is heavily developed, attracts a wide range of users including non-mountain bikers, users with minimal mountain biking skills and experience, and a high degree of management.
This means that all features require a high degree of planning, awareness from riders of what they are getting themselves into, and an easily identified progression that build the users’ skills to ensure they can make good, informed decisions on whether to ride the trail or not.
As noted earlier the FLS risk assessment on all the temporary technical trail features determined that the level of risk was too great for them to remain.
In addition, contractual obligations meant that ESO Sports, the event delivery partner were required to remove the temporary features before the contract end date.
Another fundamental within the VSG Guiding Principles is that visitor management does not ‘take away people’s sense of freedom and adventure’. The new trails being built at Glentress as part of the masterplan features large jumps and fast flow trails and a new skills area, effectively replacing the old Freeride area located at Buzzards Nest, will have the opportunity for technical trail features designed into a network that will consistently provide progression.
We have been given permission from the VSG for people to download Chapter 2 of ‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Countryside’ however please consider buying the full copy if you would like to explore this topic further.
At Glentress, the legacy from the hosting of the world championships will be:
- The new trails as part of the Masterplan were built at the same time as the XC course and are looking fantastic. The contractors, On Track (Bike Park Wales), will be back on site shortly to finish the trails and they will be open in October 2023.
- CRC Trails (Tarland Trails) are going to be designing, with consultation, and building the last section of the Glentress Masterplan trails and the new skills park over the coming months.
- The overall visitor experience at Glentress has been improved with new parking, improvements to café/bike shop area, and visitor gateway building.
- FLS will be applying for retrospective planning permission for the start/finish area to remain. This will be key for future ambitions to bring back world level XC racing to the Tweed Valley and Scotland. It is, by some distance, the most expensive piece of infrastructure to be installed for the XC world championships.
- FLS are proposing to identify areas of land ‘sandbox areas’ that will have flexible planning permission to easily allow future large-scale events to create their own unique and event specific trail features. This will allow the event organiser to create features with their own unique character.
- The reception and welcome the world’s best riders, biggest teams, spectators and governing bodies received from the local community and businesses in the Tweed Valley was extraordinary, and we know is spoken about in the highest regard globally. This is a a huge legacy from the event and will without doubt encourage more visitors from across the globe to visit the Tweed Valley for years to come.
There have been a number of initiatives that are delivering, and will continue to make a big impact, on Scottish mountain biking.
To highlight a few of them:
- Cycling Facilities Fund – this has helped support and provide crucial match funding new trails in Tarland, Laggan, Fort William, Bellshill, Glenlivet, and numerous pump tracks and MTB Skills areas across Scotland. In total, the fund will help develop over £20m of cycling facilities.
- Race the Worlds – this amazing initiative ran by Scottish Cycling has given over 300 young people the opportunity to experience racing with a chance of participating/racing at venues hosting the world championships. It is hoped the success of this initiative will result in an increase in grassroots racing, particularly, for children and young people.
- Increased focus on equality, diversity, & inclusion – the UCI Cycling World Championships were the first cycling world championships to have an ambitious framework for equality, diversity and inclusion. The success of this framework will be adopted into practice across cycling and mountain biking in Scotland.
- Global and political reputation – our reputation for the quality of our mountain biking and cycling has been noted by a global audience and will result in increased tourism and opportunities for our innovative product development companies. The reputation of cycling and mountain biking and its many benefits have been have reached high within Scottish and UK Government which will help deliver on the newly launched ‘Strategy for Scottish Mountain Biking, 2023-2025’.
Overall, we believe the legacy for Glentress, and the whole of Scottish mountain biking, from hosting the UCI Cycling World Championships will be strong. We have been proud to support, where we can, many of the exciting trail developments, events, and programmes that have been helped by Scotland hosting the world championships.
Within the new national Strategy for Scottish mountain biking there are many exciting projects still to be delivered and we look forward to doing our best to make sure they happen, and we collectively learn lessons from the world championships that will shape an exciting future for Scottish mountain biking.
We hope you can be a part of it.
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