What did it feel like to have such an event like the Cycling World Championships happening right at my doorstep? It was quite historical. Glasgow is no stranger to hosting significant cycling events - in 2017, we saw the European Championships in Scotland's biggest city, and earlier in 2014, the Commonwealth Games took over the dear green place. But never before has it, or any city for that matter hosted something as big as these World Championships.
It was obviously not all rosy during the 11 days of racing: racers themselves faced grim Scottish conditions, locals were fuming about the road closures, and of course, the men's road race was interrupted due to a demonstration. Overall, though the 'Super' World Championships were well-received and have left the city in a bit of post-Worlds blues.
The 2023 Cycling World Championships were unmissable, from the fans to all the pro bikes and the whole city being blanketed in action. These were the three highlights of the last two weeks for me.
From downhill to trials, cycle ball to cycling athletics, and the more traditional track and road cycling, these World Championships really had it all. Chatting with any local, they were in awe about the range and many different disciplines of cycling there is in the world, and many referred to the event as the "mini Olympics".
Similarly, the range of talent from different nations was amazing to see. It's not usual that the cyclists you only know from the screen are actually sitting at your local cafe, or that you pass the likes of Demi Vollering on your way to work. It was interesting to try to spot who the riders in their national kit were, and then see them race. Interestingly, my Finnish compatriots mostly made the headlines due to their seemingly terrible heat-adaptation skills.
At a film screening hosted during the Champs, I was chatting with a person who'd been volunteering at the event and the sheer excitement with which she told me she'd been spectating "something that was like football on bikes" was contagious (and yes, I didn't know much about cycle-ball before these World Champs, either).
Bringing all of the different styles of cycling together seemed to somehow elevate them all to a similar level, instead of the typical road, MTB and track taking over and the rest remaining in the shadows.
Living locally, it felt almost like a cycling Fringe was happening in Glasgow and with so much going on, it was hard to know what to see without feeling fear of missing out.
Although it'd been great to see a separate U23 women's road race, the 2023 Cycling World Championships delivered equality in a lot of ways, and gave the spotlight to those that deserve it, but are often forgotten.
I mean, Glaswegians, and Scots more broadly, are a very friendly bunch so it was no surprise they certainly welcomed the visitors with open arms. Watching the pros try out the local greasy, beige delicacies was a joy, and washing it all down with a sip of Irn Bru… could it be better?
The best bits were the interactions of the locals with the pros surfacing on social media. Michael Matthews (who we chatted at length in our latest podcast episode) was certainly not the only one who got a dose of the weegie banter.
The road racing, due to the circuit taking over much of Glasgow city centre, was the racing that made the city buzz. I did not speak to anyone who would have been angered by the World Championships – although I am certain there were some, especially at the taxi ranks.
The racing brought the whole city centre to a halt for multiple days, and I agree, it was somewhat cumbersome to get to places if you relied on motor vehicles and public transport as your means of getting around. However, cycling and walking around the town was more enjoyable than they have perhaps ever been in the nine years I've lived in Glasgow. The city was heaving with people and the murmur of conversation was filling the streets, instead of the rumble of the outdated double-decker buses.
And once the road races hit the city circuit… I could have thought I was at a big continental European bike race, not far from the excitement I'd seen in Paris for the Tour de France. The very dedicated Dutch and Belgian cycling fans seemed to be everywhere and ignored the ban on having a bevvy on the street – and this only elevated the mood around the course. Because, unlike some other sports fans, they seemed to keep things under control (at least as far as I could see).
But it wasn't only the adult European fans lining up the course that was my highlight, it was also the younger generations. The amount of children, and on Sunday at the Elite and U23 women's road race, young girls, was heartwarming to witness. And the little moments, such as Alison Jackson receiving a pack of doughnuts on the Montrose Street climb (or, Mur de Montrose)… pure gold.
The city centre buzz seemed to also extend beyond to the suburbs, as when I was doing a local after-work ride, the roadside walkers were cheering me and my pals up the draggy climb as if we were pros.
The Cycling World Championships didn't only bring the best riders to town, but it also encouraged locals to host activities and events. Glasgow, despite having a large number of cyclists, is sometimes still lacking behind the likes of Manchester or London in terms of the cycling community, especially for the young non-competitive enthusiasts.
The World Championships changed that, at least temporarily. Throughout the 11 days, there were more group rides organised than I've ever seen before, and brands such as Rapha, Le Col and Ribble were busy gathering the fans together for social activities and meeting their ambassadors and pro riders.
The Bike and Art Collective hosted at the Platform in Glasgow attracted over a thousand visitors over the weekend, all gathering to see the cool bike tech and hear the speakers. Rouleur had its own mini-setup on the east side of the city, and it had the vibes of the much bigger Rouleur Live. And how could we forget the Specialized showroom? That place was like its very own Specialized exhibition, completed with a wind tunnel and what felt like hunners of bikes.
Now, I only wish all this would come back to Glasgow and Scotland asap (perhaps it will in the form of another large bike race). Hopefully, it will lead to a few more of those potholes being repaired...
Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops.