Coronavirus ‘devastating’ to Welsh cycling industry

Dyfi Bike Park

Wales is regarded as one of the world’s top biking destinations

The coronavirus pandemic is having a “devastating” impact on Wales’ cycling industry, with parks closing and others limiting their activity.

Mountain biking is worth more than £54m a year to the Welsh economy, but the sector faces challenging times ahead.

Three parks in north Wales have already closed temporarily.

Uplift services at Cwmcarn Forest in Gwent have stopped running, while those at Bike Park Wales on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil will finish on 21 March.

Black Mountain Cycle Centre near Abergavenny continues to trade, but with measures to try and contain the spread of Covid-19.

The extensive trail network located in forests managed by Natural Resources Wales remains open for the time being.

Phil Stastiw, chair of Mountain Bike Wales, said: “Trail centres, especially bike parks that have an uplift service are in many cases postponing their uplift services.

“Trail centres with an onsite cafe are also working hard to maintain high levels of hygiene for visiting riders while they remain open.

“The same goes for accommodation and guiding services who depend on one another for high quality adventure experiences.

“All cancellations are having a devastating financial impact on communities right across Wales.”

Antur Stiniog

Established in 2007, the Blaenau Ffestiniog-based bike trail is run as a not-for-profit community enterprise and supports local groups and charities.

About 200 people are employed and it contributes £1.5m to the local economy.

A statement from Antur Stiniog said: “Following Government advice and the latest guidance from Public Health Wales, we feel we have to do what we can to protect our customers from exposure to the virus, and do our bit to get this country back on its feet as quickly as possible.

“The coming few months will be a huge test for us all here at Antur Stiniog, as it will for everyone who will be affected by the virus in the UK and across the world.”

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Meet the Athertons: Living the mountain biking dream in Wales

Dyfi Bike Park

The park was opened on the outskirts of Machynlleth in August 2019 by world leading downhill siblings Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton.

The family spent a £2m bank loan to build trails on land falling from the 666m (2,185 ft) Tarren y Gesail Mountain to sea level.

“We have taken the decision to close the bike park until further notice,” the family said.

“Many other bike parks have taken the same decision: Antur Stiniog and Revolution, our closest friends and it will hit us all hard.”

“We are gutted but things are progressing rapidly across the country.”

Bike Park Wales

Located on the forested hillside south of Merthyr, it is the biggest and most visited bike park in the UK.

It employs over 50 staff at its cafe and bike shop, as well as a trail maintenance crew and uplift bus drivers.

Their statement said: “Given that riders come from across the UK to ride we feel we have a role to play in the fight against this disease.

“Therefore we will be suspending the operation of our uplift facility effective from Saturday, 21 March until further notice. We are devastated to have to make this decision, but these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and we have to play our part.

“We plan to stay open as a pedal only venue as long as we are able to and it is safe to do so.”

Impact on the economy

According to the Welsh Government, Visit Wales has invested more than £4m in developing mountain biking since 2011, with the tourism sector worth £3bn across the country and employing 132,000 people.

The UK Government has said the Welsh Government will receive £475m to respond to the pandemic, and many in the cycle industry hope some of that money will come their way.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/wales/51975721

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