Cycling championships cruise to success

World Championships close on high note, despite lack of cycling success for Danes in main event

When Great BritainÂ’s Mark Cavendish crossed the finish line to claim gold in yesterdayÂ’s final event of cyclingÂ’s UCI Road World Championships it was in front of an estimated 250,000 spectators, making it the countryÂ’s largest ever sport event.

“This goes beyond my wildest expectations,” Jesper Worre, president of the Danish Cycling Federation (DCF), said. “Our stated attendance goal was 150,000 on Sunday. If I predicted 200,000, people would have thought I was crazy because everyone had to take the train out here and back again.”

Attendance forecasts were based on the attendance at last yearÂ’s World Championships in Melbourne, as well as factors such as the capacity of the S-train network.

Yesterday’s warm, sunny weather most likely helped increase attendance – especially among those living in the area – but overall attendance for the week is also likely to surpass the DCF’s most optimistic expectations.

Organisers had predicted at most 500,000 people would attend the week-long championships that featured time trial events in downtown Copenhagen, followed by the road races north of the city. At least that many showed up according to police estimates.

While Danes are faithful followers of major cycling events such as the Tour de France, yesterdayÂ’s finale represented the first time since 1956 that the Road World Championships have been held here. The support of the locals as well as the efforts of the DCF were praised by cyclingÂ’s international governing body, the UCI.

“We’re really satisfied with the fans, the atmosphere and the entire organisation of the race,” UCI spokesperson Enrico Carpani said. “Yesterday was a great day for cycling fans.”

Along the sidelines, among the flag-waving Danes, were strong contingents of orange-clad Dutch, tri-coloured Belgians and, particularly, Norwegians who had made the journey south in the hopes that one of their two favourites would win.

But while defending world champion Thor Hushovd was prevented from a repeat win after he got caught up in a crash, and the young Edvald Boassen Hagen hardly made an impact in the race, the droves of Norwegians returning home appeared mostly upbeat.

“Of course we wanted to go home winners, but we’ve felt welcome here and we had a good week,” Oslo resident Siv Kristianssen said. “Events like these are as much about coming as they are winning, and honestly, the riders go by so fast, it’s hard to even tell how the riders are doing until they finish.”

Financially, it is still too early to tell whether the DCF will make money from holding the event after its costs are added up, but as a whole the event is likely to have injected millions of kroner into the economy. Pre-event calculations forecast that spending on everything from hotel rooms to beer sales during the races would top 205 million kroner, based on attendance of around 400,000.

Among those most affected were those who had to deal with a week of road closures and detours. Much of downtown was off limits to cars, and prior to race getting underway there had been widespread predictions of traffic Armageddon. Few of those problems materialised, however. The hotline – created to field questions about the road closures – received about 1,000 calls on the first day, but it had been staffed to receive thousands more.

Residents living along the road race route also had their driveways blocked during the three days of races held in CopenhagenÂ’s leafy northern suburbs. There were a number of groans in the local press due to concerns about emergencies and home care services, but on race day most of those worries seemed lost in the excitement.

“This is probably the only time we will ever experience this, so we’re making the most of it,” Lone Hansen, of Nærum, said. She and her husband had invited friends, who biked over, and seemed as occupied speaking with other spectators as watching the race.

One snag in what Worre called “the best World Championships ever” was a failure to reopen Geels Hill – site of the finish line and one of the main arteries leading into Copenhagen – to traffic by Monday morning.

That final mar is unlikely to affect future organisers of major sporting events copying CopenhagenÂ’s model of using the city as a backdrop, however.

“We’ve shown we can organise a championship in a capital,” Worre said after Sunday’s race “London (host of the 2012 Olympics, ed.) has had a representative over here to check things out. He is responsible for closing off parts of London next year and he was impressed with the way we did it.”

If there was a serious disappointment for this yearÂ’s World Championships, it was the Danish riders themselves. With a gold, silver and bronze medals to riders in the under-23 and junior classes, the youngest riders proved themselves competitive on home ground, but in the menÂ’s elite events, Danes were never a factor.

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