A few months ago, we were invited to the Scottish Mountain Bike Conference in Aberdeen where we had the pleasure of listening to Trudy Lindblade as she set out her plans for the Cycling World Championships of 2023. Trudy is the Chief Executive Officer of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, set to oversee 13 Cycling World Championship Events hosted in Scotland next August. It is the first time in the UCI’s history that the World Champs for all UCI-recognized cycling disciplines (with the notable exception of Cyclo-cross) will be held together in what organizers are calling a Mega Event.
Trudy spoke with great enthusiasm about the enormous task she and her team have ahead of them, making it very clear what an incredible opportunity this World First event is for the sport of cycling and everyone that’s part of it, as well as everyone who is not yet part of it but will most definitely be thereafter.
Showdowns for BMX Freestyle Flatland, BMX Freestyle Park, BMX Racing, Gran Fondo, Indoor Cycling, Para-Cycling Road, Para-Cycling Track, Road, Track, Trials, Mountain Bike Cross-Country and Mountain Bike Downhill will all take place over August 3-13, a time during which myself and my Bikerumor colleagues will wish we could be in several places at once. Also… and this is pure conjecture from me, but given EDR-Enduro’s (formerly the EWS) recent call-up to UCI World Cup status, it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see a 14th event added in due course. Again, pure conjecture, but i’d probably bet at least half of the £1.26 in my back pocket on it.
We sat down with Trudy to learn more about specific plans for the World Championships, and what kind of legacy she hopes will remain after the dust has settled, and the medals awarded.
Interview with Trudy Lindblade, CEO of 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships
Bikerumor: 2023 will be the first time in the history of the UCI that 13 Cycling World Championship Events will be hosted in the same place. Can you tell us why that decision was made, instead of having the Championships spread out across multiple countries and continents as has traditionally been the case?
Trudy Lindblade: When the UCI President David Lappartient came in for his first term, this was part of his manifesto, coming into his presidency to try and bring all the World Championships together. And it was just to create an event of size and scales, so cycling could have that moment where everybody in the world can see what a great big sport cycling is. And it’s not just, you know, the Olympic sports that you see on TV every couple of years, whether it be the Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games.
Bringing it together, they can put cycling front and center every four years, because the event will be held every four years prior to the Olympic Games. It helps with that sustainable future of cycling. So again, showing the depth and breadth of cycling.
People who might traditionally have not considered a discipline might go, “Well, I might give that a go”. And then there’s a new audience piece. So, by bringing them together we are mixing the audiences as well. Cause if you think about cycling, it can be quite tribal in a way.
Um, so we’ve got an opportunity to say “Well come and explore something a little bit different”. And then hopefully by doing that we are providing that new audience opportunity to grow people, and bring people into the sport. And that bringing people into the sport can be more people riding bikes. It can be commercial revenues, you know, any of those types of things, which sort of goes back to that sustainable future of the sport.
How does cycling keep up with the other big sports in the world to make sure that it has a long-term future. And there’s lots of other things; obviously the UCI and cycling are doing, but for this and our purpose, you know, bringing an event of size and scale together in one spot allows you to hang lots of other things off it.
Bikerumor: Forgive me. Are there cycling disciplines that will be in the World Championships that aren’t an Olympic Sport?
Trudy Lindblade: That’s okay! So, there are some non-Olympic Sports. So, um, some of the BMX and Urban are not Olympic sports.
So, Trials and Flatland. Um, you’ve got Indoor Cycling, so Cycle Ball and Artistic Cycling. Um, not all of the mountain bike events are Olympic Events. So, you’ve got quite a range of disciplines that are in the World Championships that are not necessarily seen on that big stage every day.
And I think particularly for some of those emerging sports, and I love to use the example of Artistic Cycling because when I describe that to people, they are intrigued by it because it is very different. You know, Artistic Cycling… gymnastics on a bike, Soccer Ball… soccer on a bike, or football on a bike. The indoor worlds were just actually held in Belgium last week [5th November].
You know, it is different. I sent a couple of our team out there for a reconnaissance because we need to learn a bit about it, you know, it’s not something we’re familiar with and they’ve just come back raving about it. They said it’s a really a good event.
Bikerumor: It’s amazing, and about as far removed from cycling as you can go while still involving a bike.
Trudy Lindblade: Correct. It’s just, it’s amazing what they do. That’s the other thing we sort of talk about, you know, the bike, the humble bike. I call it the humble bike because it is just a humble bike.
And you know, it, there’s just so many things and elements that it can do for you in your everyday life that’s different. And that’s part of the broader messaging of our event is, you know, the bike is not just something you can win World Championships on – there is so much more. So, we can use this event to give those broader messages.
Bikerumor: I suppose with the Indoor Cycling as well… like you say, it was held in Belgium. I think like parts of the sport have different levels of following in different regions of the world. So, I guess it’s gonna raise the profile of every single discipline all at once.
Trudy Lindblade: Exactly. And, and our challenge is to make sure that we do that; it’s to give each of those disciplines in each World Championship its appropriate moment. And we are really conscious of that because we want to make sure that this is an inclusive event and that inclusive means not just making it accessible to people to attend or to watch or to participate, but it’s also, you know, we want to be able to tell people about your blue-ribbon events, and then you’ve got your emerging events or your lesser-known events. And so, we want to tell that whole story of cycling. And that’s really important to us.
Bikerumor: So, we’re interested in knowing what the costs are going be, and also what the cost would’ve been for you guys to put the bid together for Glasgow in the first place.
Trudy Lindblade: Yeah, so this was not necessarily a traditional approach because it came through the UCI president’s original manifesto.
He was talking about it with my Chair, who’s also the Director of Events in Scotland, and some of our funding partners at Sport Accord. It’s where all the sports come together each year. So, we went into an exclusive negotiation period with the UCI to bid for this event.
During that period, we had obviously the opportunity to work with the UCI on demonstrating how we would be able to host. And the great thing is that we had, in Scotland, recently hosted the European Championships in 2018 which was a brand-new event. You know, it was a multi-sport event based in Glasgow. The difference here is our event is Pan-Scotland, and that’s really important for us that we are engaging with as much of Scotland as we can.
We had just demonstrated that we had the ability to run an event – a brand new event – to take it on and run it successfully. The bid was done through Event Scotland, Glasgow City Council, UK Sport, the Scottish Government and British Cycling.
So, we couldn’t be doing this without them. It was a really collaborative approach from the beginning because this event hasn’t been done before. So, we have a shared vision with the UCI about what we would like to see, and I think that’s a really nice way to start your bid where we are coming at it collectively.
We’ve taken this idea and we are creating it together and we’re essentially creating together the UCI’s blueprint for the future. Now, probably that will look slightly different in France in 2027, but at least we’ll have the functional model that will help them take it forward and then each country there on in, as happens in any major event, will add their bit to it.
So, we’ll put our Scottish Kilt over it, and France will put their, whatever the equivalent is, over it and we’ll do it that way. Events of this size and scale can’t be delivered without principal funders, which are our government funders, but without also the support that they bring as well.
And Scotland’s got a ready network of major event credentials; from transport to, you know, their local councils – they’re all experienced in event delivery.
Bikerumor: And what are the expected costs of delivering the event next year?
Trudy Lindblade: Yeah, so with our funding partners, it’s around £45 Million. That is the expected delivery cost. So, you know, we’ve got an opportunity to deliver a terrific event. And we need our funding partners and other partners to help us do that. So, you know, we’ll also be bringing on a range of commercial partners to supplement that.
Bikerumor: You mentioned during your talk at the [Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland] conference that certain facilities were already under development in advance of the event. I’m wondering whether there will be funding available after the event to keep some of those facilities open. Like, for example, just down the road from me at Glentress, they’re currently building the Start and Finish arena for the Cross-Country.
Trudy Lindblade: Yeah, definitely, that’s the purpose of the Facilities Fund. So, the £8 Million Facilities Fund wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had this World Championships. It was a bit of a catalyst. So, we are really proud of that.
And that was all about, you know, inspiring a nation for cycling about, you know, building facilities. Because we’ve got all of these people that are wanting to cycle and we’ve got to make sure Scotland’s got those facilities to enable them to do that.
And that could be from creating a pump track to making sure toilets and bathrooms are available within facilities. There’s a range of things that that can go toward. So, for us, absolutely part of the creation of these facilities is so that they have a long-term use afterwards. So, for the funding that goes out, you know, there needs to be a plan that’s submitted with that funding.
And, it’s not just about creating it for the event. It’s actually about, you know, for us it’s about the before, during, and after. For us, that after piece is really important because there’s no point us doing this if we don’t have the after piece. Um, and that is really important now. Once we’ve got the funding it’s up to the local authority or the agency has been issued that funding to then make sure that they do that upkeep post. But certainly, that’s all considered in the early stages when we’re assessing the bids for funding.
So, for us that’s really important. Regarding the XC Track near you [Glentress], we’re working really closely with Forestry and Land Scotland to develop the new trails in Glentress Forest. As you know, they’re building that to a Master Plan. We are adding on some extra trails. There’ll be some very limited temporary infrastructure. What we tried to do is limit the amount of temporary infrastructure because we want to keep what we can. So, the timing for us is really good to be hosting this down in the Tweed Valley. You know, Forestry and Land Scotland had that Master Plan ready to go, so we were able to capitalize on that.
So absolutely, we’ll be hoping to leave as many trails as possible there so that people can ride them afterwards. And in fact, for many of our events, um, you can actually, at the moment, ride at many of the facilities; parts of the Mountain Bike Downhill, for example.
You can ride in the Tweed Valley Forest. You might not know the trail yet because they haven’t released the trail, but there’ll be parts that people can try and explore. You know, you can go to the Glasgow Velodrome on a Saturday or after work. Um, you know, the Velodrome is open and I think that’s a little-known fact that the Velodrome is open nearly every day of the year. And you can go in and ride it. You can do a taster session, you can get your track license, you can take your kids on a Saturday morning. That’s a bit of a legacy from the  Commonwealth Games.
So again, you’ve got another major event legacy that we are able to use, you know, just under 10 years on. Um, so really important that we get people to experience what we can, and, you know, emulate their heroes to create the heroes of the future.
Bikerumor: Can you tell us much about what the event at Fort William [Downhill] will look like? Will any new trails infrastructure be going in? Will the downhill track be modified in any way for the event or is it too early to say?
Trudy Lindblade: It’s a little bit too early to say, but we are definitely working with Nevis Range and with Rare Management, our event delivery partner, on what we can do to make the World Championships special.
Because we know how special the World Cups are. I had the pleasure of being there this year and just, Wow. What an event. It bucketed down with rain. And it did not change how people behaved. Do you know what I mean? Like everyone’s still engaged. It was still brilliant. It had great racing. My son watches that downhill video, I reckon every second night.
So, our challenge is, how do we make it that bit better? How do we make it into a World Championship?
So that’s the challenge we’ve set our team, the challenge we’ve set Rare Management, and the challenge we’ve set Nevis Range. Um, and part of that is looking at the course. So, um, there will be more to come. Yeah, we’ll definitely be looking at how we can make it just that little bit different.
Bikerumor: Maybe some legacy features to remind everyone of the World Championships?
Trudy Lindblade: Absolutely. And you know what? We’ve got really ready and willing partners in Nevis Range and also Sports Scotland and the Scottish Government who would help. If we can make those changes, we’ll make sure that we do that. So, we’re in those discussions at the moment and hopefully we’ll have something exciting to share soon.
Bikerumor: For the events themselves, will there be funding to help athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the trip to Scotland compete?
Trudy Lindblade: Yeah, so this event is an opportunity for the UCI and for us to look at things a little bit differently.
So, it is an objective of the UCI and, and with our support, to have as many countries as possible compete. Um, we talk about 120 nations of the 202 member federations of the UCI. If we could, we’d have every member nation compete and we’d work out a way of supporting the UCI to make that happen.
Obviously, the role that we’ll play as the event delivery partner is that we will try and make, particularly for some of those nations that do not have the resources that some of the bigger nations have, we will provide some on the ground solutions to support them. And, I think a really good example there is the para-athletes.
Um, so making sure, because you’ve got para-athletes that compete in road and track, we’re looking at how we can help them move between the venues. So, we are working to find options to work with them to make things easier because we know, and particularly as the first edition of this event, we know how people will move around the event and the competition schedule helps us with that planning.
Um, so we are talking to all the federations and finding out what works, what their questions are. Is there anything that we need to think about as an organizer and how can we help them? And then obviously the UCI will play its roles through how it uses its Solidarity Fund and other things that they have in place for how they support member federations that might need additional support so that. But once they’re on the ground, we’ll certainly do what we can for those nations that do not have not the same resources as the others. In fact, even for the big nations, we also want to make it as simple as possible for them too.
So, it’s just striking the balance to be honest, because we can’t do everything for everyone. We’ve got an amazing event to run. But we want everyone to come to Scotland and experience a great time. So that’s our objective.