16 June 2023

Illawarra Festival of Cycling saddles up to recapture the 'magic' of the UCI Road World Championship

| Keeli Royle
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two women with bicycles

Destination Wollongong UCI Bike City coordinator Samara Sheppard and Acting Lord Mayor Tania Brown announce a new community ride. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Illawarra cyclists will celebrate the city’s bike-friendly status with a special festival planned on the anniversary of the UCI Road World Championship.

A new community ride has been announced for 24 September and is expected to attract more than 1000 cyclists of all ages and abilities to the Wollongong foreshore.

Wollongong Acting Lord Mayor Tania Brown hopes the anniversary event will recapture the inclusivity and community atmosphere of last year’s event.

“Everyone was getting in and having a go,” Councillor Brown said.

“Seeing young and old getting in amongst it was one of the highlights of the UCI and I want to capture that magic again.”

The local community will have the opportunity to return to the roads ridden by international champions, with part of the original course closed off to ensure safety for all riders, regardless of their level.

“Here they’ll have three hours to ride the track,” Cr Brown said. ”It’s not a race, so anyone can participate at their own time and speed.”

Interest in cycling has continued to increase since Wollongong was thrust onto the world stage, with more and more people utilising our local tracks.

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Destination Wollongong UCI Bike City coordinator Samara Sheppard said the exposure had even promoted tourism to the area, with people travelling specifically for the sport.

“Surprisingly, it’s had a big impact,” she said.

“A lot of cyclists have seen the world championship that was on the roads here and they have come over already at the start of winter to ride the roads because it’s a nice environment and great training as well.”

She hopes that events such as the Festival of Cycling will continue to drive momentum and interest in the sport across the Illawarra.

“When young kids see some of the world’s best cyclists riding around their city, it inspires them to ride a bike,” Samara said.

“To have opportunities for the kids and for locals to continue to participate in cycling and to be involved in as many ways as they can is really important for the city.”

two women on bicycles

Samara and Cr Brown test out local cycling tracks at Lang Park. Photo: Keeli Royle.

And the UCI legacy isn’t limited to road cycling.

As Wollongong continues to secure its status as a must-see destination for cyclists, the local council is investing in more infrastructure and opportunities for people to use their bikes and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

“We’ve got a cycling strategy for 2030,” Cr Brown said.

“That’s included mountain bike paths at Cringila and the criterion track, so it’s not just one thing, it’s all abilities.

“These are not facilities that are closed off, they’re here for everybody to enjoy.”

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These new facilities could also create further tourism and hosting opportunities for the region.

“We’re really excited about the developments on Mount Keira as well with mountain biking, that’s going to be a new space we’re looking into for mountain bike events and to grow cycling in all its disciplines,” Samara said.

Cr Brown is determined that the impact of the UCI World Championship will continue to drive positive change in the community for many years to come.

“We have built on that legacy. The numbers are going up and it is all about making us a more livable and inclusive city,” she said.

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