The dust has settled on the UCI World Championships in Scotland, with the glitz and glamor of the world's best bike riders racing in Glasgow and across Scotland from Fort William to Edinburgh is now a distant memory. The best XC mountain bike riders descended on Glentress, just a brief drive from Edinburgh for the XCC short track and XCO races, on a custom-built track that promised and delivered MTB fans a festival of top-class mountain bike racing.
I was lucky enough to be on track at Glentress for the entire program of MTB racing, shooting and reporting on the thrilling racing and amazing electric atmosphere as the massive crowds enjoyed World Championship wins for Tom Pidcock, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the XCO and Sam Gaze and again Ferrand-Prévot in the XCC.
The UCI promised to create a lasting legacy from their inaugural Cycling World Championships mega event and with the crowds silenced at Glentress, and the event forgotten by most, almost six weeks on I had been hearing rumors of the purpose-built track and jumps being demolished.
Of course, you would expect the feature jumps and steep drops to be removed, purely to avoid members of the public thinking they are Nino Schurter or Kate Courtney, and having a go themselves. However, I was pretty shocked at what I saw at Glentress, and what was left of the track, currently an unrideable mess, and most of the trails shut, with various heavy duty construction equipment digging up the entire site. I asked myself, is this what you call a legacy? The Power of the Bike was the slogan for the Glasgow World Championships, but what use is a bike if you can't ride the trails?
Having ridden at Glentress many times over the years, and recently staying in the Rider's Retreat hotel while attending a Cube press day testing the Cube Stereo Hybrid 140 ABS. I firstly swung in to see Murray, the owner of the Rider’s Retreat to see what he thought of the state of the trails that usually bring in riders from around the world, and provide the bulk of his livelihood.
"It's a mess out there, go see for yourself when you head up. This isn't what was promised here. New trails are going in up the top, but everything is currently closed, while the work to remove the Worlds Track goes on. It's Forestry Commission Land, so it's up to them what happens, I get why they've taken the jumps and features away, but I'm sure you'll agree, that this isn't what any mountain biker would have wanted to be left with.
"It's certainly not a legacy to encourage anyone to come here and ride, the chance to ride even some of a World Championships track would have been a major draw and benefit to the Tweed Valley, especially with Tom Pidcock winning, not just for us here at Rider's, but to all the other small businesses around us and in Peebles and Innerleithen."
After chatting more with Murray, I decided to try and remain impartial in my opinions and borrowed an e-MTB and headed up to have a look for myself. It wasn't pretty, my first stop was the huge rock jump that was a massive draw for the crowds during the world's, now filled in with an awful-looking concrete berm in its place. The drop-off that led into the jump was also gone, now fenced off and inaccessible. The lovely green foliage that was there, mostly wiped out and just rocky dirt left.
Over the road, the two bridges that connected both sides of the track are also gone and the singletrack trails that led up and down are just a filled-in pile of earth. I couldn't help but question why this would have been done, it connected both sides of the Glentress trails, was perfectly rideable for anyone, and would have served a purpose to link everything together easily and take riders away from the road they have to use currently. I was beginning to see what Murray meant.
The tunnel further on that I had stood and watched Tom Pidcock and Nino Schurter battle through just six weeks previously, still there but fenced off and no sign of the trails that led in and out, with just rocky unrideable dirt all around. The decorative plants that had adorned the walls, also wilted away to nothing.
The entrance to the tech zone and start-finish area, and the final feature jumps that led to it, were again, obliterated. This section of the track delivered some of the most exciting and decisive moments, it was here that Tom Pidcock and Luca Schwarzbauer had collided at the controversial end of the Mens XCC, and where Matthieu van der Poel had crashed out on the opening lap of the XCO, reduced now to a big pile of stone.
The start-finish straight, however, was the worst and now resembles a runway with massive foot-catching holes left in it – presumably from the poles that held up the various VIP booths and commentary positions. Before I headed back down to drop off the borrowed bike, I was approached by one of the construction staff who basically moved me on. He seemed almost embarrassed when I told him that I was a journalist reporting on the legacy.
Heading back up the road to Edinburgh I came to the conclusion that minimal effort had been made to remove the track, which you'd assume was to save on costs, but with millions having been made available for the construction of the track you have to wonder where the money actually went. It certainly wasn't spent on retaining a first-class mountain biking legacy that future Tom Pidcocks could enjoy and develop their skills. A lost opportunity indeed...