At the latest inner city Outdoor City sporting shindig, Ben White was proudly showing off his urban slash. “I got beaten up a bit,” he said, glancing down at a long wound on his calf.
“I went down the stairs ok, but then there was a tight left hand that was a bit green and greasy. But the cobbles were fine.”
Urban Cyclo Cross came to Park Hill on Saturday, and 100 hardcore cycling masochists of all ages raced round the Urban Splash housing scheme, up and down cobbles, steps, grassy banks, wooded glades and regenerated and unregenerated parts of the listed housing estate.
“It’s wonderful to have this event here, to bring people, activity and fun to somewhere which was once described as an eyesore,” said Chris Maloney of local cycling group Ride Sheffield, as he prepared for his first race.
“But I’m going to get annihilated. I’ll be wheezing round at the back trying to remember where I left my lungs.”
Organiser Adam Simmonite had enlisted his mum to make cakes, his wife to handle paperwork, and his kids to hand out timers to make the event happen, as well as spending many weeks gathering sponsors and supporters and preparing initially nervous landowners.
It’s wonderful to have this event here, to bring people, activity and fun to somewhere which was once described as an eyesore.
He believes the ‘Urban Cyclo Cross’ series is unique to Sheffield - the Park Hill races were the second event after Kelham Island in the summer and followed by the next races at Whirlow Hall Farm in the autumn. Adam is now looking for sponsors and supporters for the 2018 series.
“It’s about bringing something a bit different to the urban environment, but it’s also about Sheffield’s industrial heritage and celebrating the areas being regenerated that in the past were in the doldrums,” said Adam. “Like at Park Hill where Urban Splash have been really supportive. There’s an amazing renaissance here, with all these businesses moving in. It’s like the Little Mesters reborn, and we want to show that cycling is part of that new Sheffield.”
The event was linked to the free council and NHS supported South Yorkshire Cycle September scheme which aims to get local businesses and individuals registering their interest in cycling, and cycling as many miles as possible this month - the miles up and down the cobbles and steps of Park Hill will join the 350,000 already logged on Cycle September.
People clocking up their urban miles included families and children as well as hardened racers.
“We do a lot of cycling, but I thought it would be nice to do a race together,” said Katie Taylor, preparing for the first heats with son Benjamin. “I think events like this inspire people to cycle, and show people how accessible it is.”
Keen racer Sam Burton was practising for a traditional rural Cyclo Cross event on Sunday. “Normally you race through fields and woods and if you fall off it’s into a pile of mud. But if you fall off here it hurts.”
GP and mountain biker Margo Duncan was originally ‘terrified’, she said, but had calmed down after walking the course.
“It’s a fun family event, and people will come and have fun and see that cycling isn’t that hard.”
(Compared to the cobbles of Park Hill, the commute home of an evening is a doddle, goes the reckoning).
“And it’s nice to be here, as this used to be a really out of bounds area, but now it’s brilliant.”
Adam Simmonite took a moment to reflect as the exhausted riders swooped by on their fifth lap.
“They’re on a journey,” he said. “They go down the cobbles where the old tenements used to be, and then up a grassy bank in Sheaf Street Park, then into Park Hill Phase 2 which feels brooding, but in a good way, where it feels as if something is about to happen. And then down into the new Park Hill which is an amazing space. It’s a journey through Sheffield and its people.”
“It’s been really interesting,” said Ben White, dabbing his bleeding leg. “Today shows how this city is coming back.”
More info: http://sheffieldurbancx.co.uk