Leeds has been put forward as the UK's candidate to host a leg of the 2016 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Series as a replacement for London, it has been announced today.
A leg of the Series has been held at London’s Hyde Park since 2009, except in 2012 when it was the Olympic venue, but British Triathlon has now chosen Leeds to take over hosting a British round for an initial three years.
The national governing body told insidethegames that the creation of London’s cycling superhighway will prevent a leg being held in Hyde Park next year.
Work began on the north-south route of a £160 million ($237 million/€222 million) cycleway across England's capital last month.
The route south of the River Thames is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year, while work on the north side will begin in the summer and is due to be complete by spring 2016.
If Leeds is chosen it will follow in the footsteps of other major international cities such as Cape Town, Auckland, Gold Coast, Yokohama, Chicago, Abu Dhabi, Stockholm, Hamburg and Edmonton, which are all hosting races this season.
“British Triathlon has selected Leeds to host a leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series following a UK-wide candidate city selection process,” said Jon Ridgeon, British Triathlon director for major and national events.
“The selection process sought to identify the best possible option available to ensure that British Triathlon continues to host an annual leg of the series, which acts as a stunning shop window for the sport.
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring the ITU World Triathlon Series to Leeds, which is a city with a great passion for triathlon and an equal ambition to make the event a huge success.”Hosting an event would also mean that Leeds-based triathletes Alistair Brownlee, gold medallist at London 2012, and younger brother Jonathan, bronze medallist in the English capital, would be able to compete on home turf in one of the final races before Rio 2016.
The pair have advised on a potential route for the event, which would see Olympic-distance elite men’s and women’s triathlon races start with a 1,500 metres swim in Roundhay Park, before a 40 kilometres bike route into the city centre, and a 10km run through the heart of the city in Yorkshire.
"The ITU World Triathlon Series is about delivering world-class racing in iconic locations and Leeds will guarantee to do just that,” said Alistair Brownlee.
“I am sure that spectators will line the route and the city centre will be full of fans cheering on the athletes as we cross the finish line."
Last July, Leeds hosted the opening of the Tour de France with as many as 3.3 million people lining the two-day Grand Départ route in Yorkshire.
“The Tour de France Grand Départ 2014 demonstrated how much the people of Leeds and Yorkshire love sport, and the opportunity for not just myself but also for athletes from around the world to race in front of crowds like that will create an unforgettable event,” added Brownlee.
“It will create a platform to inspire the local community to get involved in the sport and continue the proud triathlon tradition within Yorkshire.”The ITU is expected to announce its 2016 calendar in the aftermath of the Yokohama series event in May, before which Leeds City Council’s Executive Board will be asked to fully endorse the bid at its meeting on April 22.
If Leeds is successful in its bid, the cost of hosting an event each year is expected to be £230,000 ($340,000/€319,000).
The event would be supported by a mass-participation race, which it is hoped would attract thousands of entries from people keen to take part in one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK.
Similar to the Grand Départ, the Council would look to involve local schools, communities and stakeholders in developing a programme of cultural events and activities in the build up to and around the event weekend for everyone to get involved.
“Following on from the success of our local athletes at London 2012 and the amazing Tour de France Grand Départ, Leeds and Yorkshire is now well and truly on the international sporting map and hosting a round of the ITU World Triathlon Series would be another fantastic world-class event to showcase our city and county live around the globe,” said Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council.
“I’m sure thousands of people would come out to watch the world’s best triathletes in action, and of course the possibility of seeing Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee race in their home city for free in front of a passionate Leeds and Yorkshire crowd would be something very special to see and experience in terms of an incredible atmosphere similar to the Tour de France.
“And with the mass-participation element and cultural events and activities like the Grand Départ it would be something everyone could get involved with.
“We are just waiting to hear with fingers crossed now if we have been successful.”
The bid fits with the Council’s ambitions to make Leeds the most active city in the UK, encouraging people to not only take up triathlon but the component elements of swimming, cycling and running and lead healthier lifestyles.
It also matches the Council’s focus on making more use of Leeds city centre for major events to raise the profile of the city and boost the local economy.
October 2014: ITU opens bidding for host of major triathlon events
October 2014: Abu Dhabi joins World Triathlon Series host cities
September 2014: Gold Coast added to expanded calendar for 2015 World Triathlon Series
September 2014: Chicago added to World Triathlon Series as Edmonton confirmed as host of 2014 Grand Final