Great Britain is planning a bid to stage the world road race championships in the next decade, with Wales, Scotland and London the likely locations, and the likelihood of a suitably ambitious bid boosted by Mark Cavendish's victory in this year's title race in Copenhagen.
Brian Cookson, the British Cycling president and newly elected president of the UCI road commission, said that the success in Copenhagen of Cavendish and the British team, have added fresh impetus to a proposal that is long overdue. It is 29 years since Britain last hosted the world road championships, when Goodwood staged the title races in 1982.
"We will bid for the world road championships," said Cookson, speaking at the weekend's British track cycling championships in Manchester. "It's difficult in this country with the way the public sector is at the moment, but I think there are a number of places where we might do it successfully; maybe Wales, maybe Scotland, maybe London - I would think those places are the favourites. But we're in very preliminary discussions with those people."
Asked whether British Cycling is taking a lead in those early discussions, Cookson said: "We are talking with them through our competition division. We're also talking with UK Sport about our own role internationally and our strategy, and a world road race championship has always been on our agenda.
"The last one was 1982, which is far too long ago," Cookson continued. "You need to plan six to eight years ahead with the UCI and other partners, and start raising awareness. But the fact Cav won this year has raised the profile and it increases the opportunity."
Cookson stressed that the London Olympics are the overriding priority, but he admitted to the desirability of holding the championships on British roads while Cavendish is still competing - and while he can still win. "I certainly would like to think we can do it in the next ten years, and I think Cav will still be riding," said Cookson.
Cookson, who has served as British Cycling president throughout the transformation of Britain's top cyclists from also-rans to world beaters, also reflected that Cavendish's victory in Copenhagen represented perhaps the most significant milestone in that transformation. "It's almost unbelievable to go from where we were, which was also-rans in everything, to the success we've had across the board - in track, BMX, mountain biking," said Cookson. "But we've always been second tier in road racing.
"But this year's been the most exciting year I can remember for road racing in this country. The strength in depth of the whole team in Copenhagen was extraordinary - and young Lucy [Garner, the junior world road champion] - wow! What a fantastic sprint finish she produced. There is talent bubbling through.
"But the men's race was something else," Cookson added. "I have never seen a team dominate like that from start to finish: to control it; to manage it; to let the early break get a lead but not too far, then peg them back; and let the group go again, get a minute, bring them back. And then that turn from Bradley [Wiggins] was amazing. Philippe Gilbert: where was he? And then Cav finished it off in his own inimitable fashion, as we all knew he could.
"Despite all the things we've done so far in other disciplines, there's always been a group of people who've said: ‘Yeah, that's all very well, but road racing...' It is the biggest prize, there's no doubt about that: the men's professional road race championships is the absolute pinnacle for national teams. And to see a team dominate like that was unbelievable."
Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
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