INNERLEITHEN is gearing up to host world-class riders for the Enduro World Series Championship.
And organisers are urging the community and businesses to “grasp what will be an enormous opportunity for the town”.
The international mountain biking event finishes its last leg of the series with 300 elite Enduro athletes competing on trails in the forests of Traquair and Caberston on Sunday, October 3.
Locals are encouraged to embrace the event, which will officially begin on Wednesday, September 29, with family-friendly events.
Community leaders have heaped praise on the Enduro team for “bending over backwards” to engage with townsfolk.
Event director Paul McGreal attended this week’s meeting of Innerleithen Community Council, updating members on what he called a “world cup” event that will attract the best riders from around the globe.
The Event Festival Village was to be set up in Victoria Park but is now being located out of town, to fields just beyond the Red Bull car park on Traquair Road.
Mr McGreal said: “We recognise that this event is going to generate a significant number of people coming into the town, and we need to park them somewhere, so the field is our solution to that.
“Riders get car parking as part of their entry fee, so there is no reason for them to be parked anywhere else in town.
“We also recognise that lots of them use small campervans, and we figured that, slightly reluctantly I have to say, if we don’t manage that issue by providing a space for them, they are going to end up elsewhere, and that would annoy people and that is what we are trying to avoid.
“We have an area designated as a very basic campervan parking zone. I’m reluctant to call it a campsite because we are not offering that kind of facility, but that is kind of what it is.”
It is said that accommodation in Innerleithen and surrounding areas are full over the period of the event.
A shuttle bus will be put on to transport people to various locations associated with the event, which will also stop on the town’s high street.
The multi-user path is expected to have a high number of many cyclists and around 50 signs will be erected advising people not to cycle on pavements. Marshals have also been appointed to help the event run smoothly.
Members of the event team say they want to avoid road closures and only plan to close off a few metres on the back road between the Red Bull car park and Walkerburn.
The junctions at Hall Street and Traquair Road will be managed by traffic lights and operated by a team member.
There are also plans to extend 20mph speed limit north of the Granites Road beyond the Golf Club and south of the B709 beyond the festival car park entrance.
There will also be no waiting zones on these stretches of road to ensure there is no disruption to residents.
Chairman Marshall Douglas said the change of location for the campsite removed a lot of the concerns voiced to the community council.
And the virtual town hall information event was hailed as a great success.
Community councillor Jackie Couchman said: “I have to commend the team for the efforts they’ve made to pick up and listen to people’s concerns and keep people as informed as possible.”
Organisers also reached out to businesses in the town, providing them with information packs on how the added footfall could benefit them.
Asked about the reaction, Mr McGreal said it was “mixed”, but there were no negative responses.
He added: “However, hand on heart, I’m not sure as many people have recognised the opportunities as need to. I’m conscious of the concerns around the event, and ultimately that was one of the reasons we decided to move the event further out of the town.
“But one of the downsides of that is the potential impact on local businesses and we will have to work quite hard together to maximise the benefits.
“We’re working hard to minimise the negative impacts, but we can’t do all the positive stuff ourselves, that does require engagement. This is an enormous opportunity; it’s absolutely huge. This event, if it runs well, is going to be here for a number of years.
This is a massive opportunity for the town, but it needs to be grasped, and there’s only so far we can go on that. We’ve tried with our business engagement packs, but we need support from businesses as well.”