Jenny Copnall, British National Mountain Bike Cross-Country Champion and Dee Doocey, GLA Chair of Culture Media and Sport will be presenting podium medals during the final day full of road and off-road cycle racing at Eastway on Saturday 21 October before it’s handed over for the Olympic Park build to begin.
Jenny, who rides for Subaru-Gary Fisher, got her first experience of MTB XC racing at Eastway and has gone on to the very top of the sport with UCI world series and championships competition experience and three national championship wins. She supported the users’ wishes to obtain a full replacement for Eastway, including particularly a place where riders could train and compete in the Olympic discipline of mountainbike cross-country.
Dee Doocey is GLA Chair of the Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee. She took interest in the users’ claims to have a full replacement of Eastway and her assistance was invaluable in securing the attention and outcome required to do this. The loss of London’s finest cycle sport facility serving the people of East London to create the Olympic Park could have had a damaging effect on the popular pursuit of cycling without her direct assistance in negotiations with the London Development Agency. A full replacement at a site in Redbridge six miles away is now likely, subject to planning permission. The gap of one year from November 2006 to late autumn 2007 will be filled with a smaller interim provision on an LDA-owned site in Docklands. This is far from ideal for the community and sport users, but it’s preferable to what was on offer before Dee Doocey became involved with the users’ case.
Eastway Cycle Circuit, 26 hectares of rugged open space with a one-mile closed road circuit, is all about cycle sport. It’s seen over 30 years of riding and has been the place where many top riders started out. Sited between Stratford and Hackney Marshes, its land is now needed for London’s Olympic Park. Cycle sport is eventually to be resettled away at a site in Redbridge following an agreement between the London Development Agency and users of the circuit. This finale event is intended to celebrate Eastway and to prepare riders for a move. It is sponsored by Evans Cycles with additional support from the London Development Agency.
Eastway Users Group has campaigned for the full replacement of Eastway since it first learned of the LDA’s plans back in 2003. Only after a reopened consultation and planning inquiry cross-examination of Lord Coe in May 2006 did the acceptance of this objective by support of the LDA come about.
Users are not delighted about losing a sport facility of national importance, but at least they will be going away from Eastway on a high following a great day of road and off-road races. Youth riders from as young as under-8s will be racing on Eastway’s mile of undulating road circuit. Road events end with an Elite road race. This is then followed by the final blast of a ‘Beastway’ – the country’s largest weekly mountainbike race, normally just a summer series, which is making one final autumn reprise with up to 200 riders charging round Eastway’s off-road singletrack. Separate adult and youth races will see some of the country’s top riders battling it out for cash prizes, single race medals and a combined prize for the best in both road and off-road events.
Mountain bike and road racing are Olympic disciplines of cycle sport in which Eastway riders have real prospects for 2012. A boost will come in 2007 with the Grand Depart of the The Tour de France. Many of Eastway’s users – especially the youth riders – are looking forward to taking part in TdF support events and then in the London Games for real. National champions and highly-ranked youth competitors ride regularly at Eastway, so the new facility to replace it is intended to be a place where they can develop their skills and athletic abilities in safety, away from London’s traffic.
The end of the day will see many riders leaving with a heavy heart for what their sport is giving up for the Games, but full of hope that the new replacement will be as good as Eastway or better, when it finally opens in the autumn of 2007. The campaign to secure a replacement was long and sometimes hard, but at least there is now something to celebrate beyond the closure of the country’s finest closed road circuit and the venue for the largest mountain bike series.
Find out more at www.eastway7506.btinternet.co.uk.