Monday 19 September 2011

Copenhagen UCI World Road Racing Championships

This is what the future will look like; or what the
present already looks like if you're lucky enough
to live in Copenhagen. The Bryggebroen was the
first bridge to span the city's harbour for 150 years
and is reserved for cyclists and pedestrians.
(© Stig Nygaard CC2.0)
Copenhagen is, without even the shadow of a doubt, a very fine place indeed to be a cyclist. It was the UCI's first official Bike City and achieved third place in a list of the 11 Most Cycling-Friendly Cities in the World in 2009. An estimated 36% of the population cycle to work, clocking up a seriously impressive 1.1 million kilometres each day between them - and the municipality aims to increase that percentage to 50% in the next three years. It's even given rise to a new verb used by architects and town planners: to copenhagenise means to create a cycling infrastructure including dedicated cycle paths, bike lanes, public bike programs, secure parking and even public access maintenance facilities, and it's become widely recognised as a sure-fire way to improve the urban landscape and the quality of life enjoyed by citizens.

(© Archer10 CC2.0)
If there's one thing guaranteed to get more people on bikes, it's a large-scale, well-run bike race; so it's a safe bet that the city would have been overjoyed when it was picked to be the host of the 2011 UCI Road Race World Championships - and that they'll have really pushed the boat out in getting prepared, ensuring one of the best events in years. All races - time trials and road races alike - will start at the spectacular Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall Square where they'll be overseen by someone who ought to know a thing or two about cycling: the Vejrpigen, the Weathergirl, is a mechanised sculpture high up in the Richshuset tower. Ever since 1936, she's come out with her umbrella and dog if it's going to rain and her gilded bike when it'll be fine.

By tradition, Copenhagen is said to have begun life in 1167 when royal advisor Bishop Absalom built a castle on the island of Slotsholmen, nowadays home to the Christiansborg Palace where the castle's remains can be seen preserved in subterranean excavations. However, archaeological evidence has shown that there was already a sizable town here at that time. Once the castle was built, the town was in an ideal position to take advantage of the excellent natural harbour - indeed, the name Copenhagen is derived from the medieval Danish word Køpmannæhafn, meaning merchant's harbour - and begin to grow into a city, receiving a royal charter in 1254.

Rådhuspladsen - the start of all this year's races
(© Karri Huhtanen CC2.0)
After the Second World War - during which the Danes refused to co-operate with Nazi policy, despite being occupied by them - Copenhagen continued to grow and began transformation into the modern city that it is today, occupying numerous natural and man-made islands and combining traditional Scandinavian architecture with the strikingly modern. Now that the harbour's importance has declined, the city has looked to tourism to form an important part of the economy; becoming one of the top destinations for European tourists and especially attractive to the sort of young tourists who go to Amsterdam, Reykjavik and Barcelona. This, combined with the city's deep love and respect for the bicycle, adds up to one thing - this year's World Championships are set to be one of the most spectacular cycling events in years.

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