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Commonwealth Games: David excited to welcome world to his back yard

Man who campaigned for Commonwealth Games to take to streets of the Black Country speaks of his immense pride.

DUDLEY COPYRIGHT MNA MEDIA TIM THURSFIELD 14/01/22.David Viner, who campaigned for the Commonwealth Games cycling events to come to Wolverhampton and Dudley, who hopes it will leave a lasting legacy for the area..
DUDLEY COPYRIGHT MNA MEDIA TIM THURSFIELD 14/01/22.David Viner, who campaigned for the Commonwealth Games cycling events to come to Wolverhampton and Dudley, who hopes it will leave a lasting legacy for the area..

David Viner sounds almost like he is riding the race in his mind as he paints a verbal picture of the route for the Commonwealth Games cycling trials.

“Down the hill towards Tipton, that will be 50mph along that stretch, right along Birmingham New Road, into Priory Road...”, he says excitedly.

“It is exciting to think that Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, and maybe Chris Froome, some of the world’s best, will soon be riding through the Black Country.”

Indeed, just over six months from now, 1.8 billion television viewers around the world are expected to tune in to watch the world’s top cyclists navigate the streets of Wolverhampton and Dudley in what may well be the biggest sporting spectacle the Black Country has ever seen.

On August 4 this year, the top cyclists from the four corners of the Commonwealth, will converge on Wolverhampton’s West Park, make their way to Dudley and then return, taking a detour through Wombourne on the way back.

The trials will start and end in West Park, Wolverhampton

Mr Viner, a retired police officer from Halesowen who campaigned for the region to secure the time trials, hopes it will go a long way to raising the profile of the area on the world stage.

“The beauty of the time trial is that there will be quiet moments, that will give the TV producers the opportunity to pan out onto local landmarks,” he says.

“Some of the filming will be done from the air, so you will see places like West Park, Molineux, Wightwick Manor, Himley Hall and Dudley Castle. Coronation Gardens in Dudley will be a nice spot, with the Council House behind it.”

The event will pass Dudley Castle

He adds that the section of the men’s race on the return through Sedgley, which will see the competitors fly down the hilly and twisty Moden Hill, and then back up the steep slope of Catholic Lane, will make for an exciting spectacle.

“I’m told that Moden Hill will be a particularly demanding slope to descend down,” he says.

Hopefully the competitors will find Moden Hill easier to negotiate than this cyclist

There is, or course, a risk, that the Black Country’s role in the Games will be overshadowed by the Birmingham 2022 branding. David says it is important that Dudley and Wolverhampton Councils make the most of the opportunity, and ensure that TV viewers are left in no doubt where them event is taking place. He hopes the 23-mile men’s route – and the slightly shorter women’s route – will be festooned with local branding.

And he is urging spectators to fly the flag for the region.

“I hope people will getting their Black Country flags out on race day and wave them proudly so people around the world will know what the Black Country is all about,” he says.

David Viner

Unlike the conventional road race, the time trials will see each competitor leave from West Park at a different time, and they will be clocked in on their return to calculate how long it has taken them to complete the course. David, who is chairman of Halesowen Cycle Club, says the origins of the competition go back to a time when cycle racing on the public highways was against the law, and bike buffs looked for clandestine ways to get around the rules.

Fans of the sport argue that this gives a truer representation of the riders’ abilities, as they are not crowded together and do not get in each other’s way.

Ironically, Wolverhampton was one of the towns to host Britain’s first legal road race, meaning that the time trials became less necessary.

St Peter's Church, Wolverhampton

“From the early 1900s until 1932, Percy Stallard who was from Wolverhampton had been racing abroad,” says David.

“He said to the National Cycling Union that he would like to hold a mass-start road race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton.

“He got permission from the chief constables of Llangollen, Shropshire and Wolverhampton, and it went ahead in June 1942. The Express & Star supported it, and it raised funds for forces’ charities.

“That was the first ever road race held in England. Wolverhampton is a town with a strong cycling tradition.”

David hopes the competition will leave a lasting legacy in the region, and hopes that schools in the area will take pupils to watch.

The men's route will take in Himley Hall

“Unlike the Tour de France, which will be the 200 best cyclists in the world, the Commonwealth Games opens up cycling to many countries not traditionally associated with the sport, countries such as Trinidad and Tobago.

“It will be a stage for promoting diversity, giving a broader range of cyclists a chance to shine.”

The other legacy David hopes, is that the West Midlands will finally get a velodrome. It is a great source of disappointment for him that the indoor cycling events for Birmingham 2022 will have to take place 130 miles away in London. But he hopes that blow will be softened by the realisation that the region needs a venue of its own.

In April 2020, a petition signed by more than 7,000 people called for a velodrome to be built in Birmingham. But a report commissioned by British Cycling concluded that the region was adequately served by the velodromes at Derby and Newport in Wales. “This does a great disservice to the people of our region,” says David, who is now hoping that a more modest, training velodrome could be built in Wolverhampton.

The campaign has the backing of Halesowen MP James Morris and Dudley South MP Mike Wood.

David says: “The cycle track would cater for cyclists from across the region, from Shrewsbury in the north west to Coventry, Stratford and Warwick in the south east. It will make track cycling available and accessible for all.”

Men's route

  • Leaving West Park and heading onto Park Road East, the course navigates through Wolverhampton city, passing the Wolverhampton City Council offices, St Peter’s Church, Queen Square and the Church of St John in the Square, before heading south onto the Penn Road (A449).

  • The course leaves the Penn Road (A449) at Goldthorn Hill and then heads direct to Sedgley on the Wolverhampton Road (A459).

  • Once in Sedgley, the course takes a left onto the Tipton Road (A457) and then onto the Birmingham New Road (A4123) and Priory Road (A4168), passing Priory Park and into Dudley town centre.

  • Within Dudley town centre, the course passes close to Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo, before heading past Coronation Gardens, Dudley Council House, Dudley Town Hall and Stone Street Square.

  • Leaving Dudley, the course heads back towards Sedgley on The Broadway (A459), with a challenging detour on Moden Hill and Catholic Lane, the biggest climb on the course, combined with a challenging downhill section.

  • The cyclists will then follow Gospel End Street and Cotwall End Road down into Gornal Wood, before turning onto the Himley Road, passing Himley Hall on route to Himley and Wombourne

  • The final section of the course takes in the Stourbridge Road (A449) towards Gospel End and Wodehouse Lane, across Penn Common before re-joining the Penn Road (A449) shortly after 5km to go. From here, it’s a straight run along the Penn Road, before a final challenging section in Wolverhampton city centre passing Market Square, before finishing in West Park.

Women's route

  • The women’s route is shorter than the men’s route, so it does not take in Gornalwood and Himley.

  • Instead, it deviates from the men’s route at Sedgley and the women will cycle along Gospel End Road, before taking in the final section across Penn Common, before re-joining the Penn Road (A449) shortly after 5km to go.

  • From here, it’s a straight run along the Penn Road before a final challenging section in Wolverhampton city centre, before finishing in West Park.

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