AN HISTORIC cycling event which was first held almost 150 years ago has been cancelled due to weather damage to the grass track.

The Richmond Cyclists Meet takes place every Spring Bank Holiday weekend in the town alongside the other Richmond Meet activities, at Richmondshire Cricket Club, and is considered the oldest cycling festival in the UK.

The popular Richmond Meet with its annual carnival and fair, which will mark its 124th Meet this May, was born out of the cycling festival, which now sees more than 1,000 competitors taking part in five cycling events promoted by the town’s cycling clubs, Nutcracker Racing and Richmond Cycling Club.

The most historic and prestigious of the festival’s events is the Richmond Grass Track Meeting, which has been its main spectacle since 1869.

In recent years the event has incorporated the British Cycling Grass Track National Championship and has seen the UK’s highest ranking competitors fighting it out for the coveted champion’s jersey.

But a recent inspection of Richmond’s grass velodrome, located around the outside of the cricket field, immediately threw up concerns over several gullies that have sunk into the track over the winter due to the drainage of the saturated ground.

Richmondshire Cricket Club chairman Andy Barlow said: “Like many cricket fields this winter, ours has spent much of the time underwater.

“The outfield will be fine for cricket, but with grass track cyclists reaching speeds of 40mph it would have been potentially dangerous to race on.

“It’s a real shame - we were really looking forward to welcoming a huge and enthusiastic crowd to what is the sporting jewel in the Spring Bank Holiday crown."

One of the event’s organisers from Nutcracker Racing and multiple World Masters Champion Adrian Dent said: “It was a difficult decision for us to make but the formation of the gullies that have formed were literally causing us to take off on the bikes when we were riding the track during our pre-event inspection.

“It’s too dangerous as it is, and I certainly wouldn’t want to race on it.”

Mr Barlow added: “Once the cricket season is over we’re planning to repair the damage caused by the winter storms, and will be working closely with Nutcracker Racing to improve the cycling track which forms a large part of our outfield.”

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