THE name Simon Burney is synonymous with cyclocross for most English-speaking riders who took up the sport in the pre-social media age. Burney's “Cyclocross – training and technique" book – often referred to as the 'bible' – was first published in 1990 (back when bar-end gear shifters and toe-clips were still used by racers).
It's perhaps not too surprising then to discover that Englishman Burney is the man behind the UCI World Cup series coming the Milton Keynes, to the north of London, next month (November 29th).
Simon raced professional cyclocross for three seasons until injury curtailed his career back in 1986 and now, aged 52, he works as a consultant to the UCI's off-road racing division.
First moving from racing into into team management, Burney formed the Ace Racing Team that became the dominant team in the UK in the 1980s and '90s. When he picked up sponsorship from Peugeout Cycles for the Ace RT, Simon also formed a Peugeot off-road professional racing team with David Baker, Tim Gould, Fred Salmon, and later Nick Craig, as his star riders. As well as racing 'cross they incorporated the new sport of mountain bike racing as the first bikes of that kind became available.
In addition to this wealth of experience, Burney has been a Great Britain cyclocross team manager and also served on the UCI cyclocross commission between 2006 and 2010.
We knew that Simon's UK World Cup bid had been in the pipeline for a number of years, but we asked him how exactly it had come about.
“I've been involved in 'cross for a long time," says Burney, “and I felt that in recent decades the UK has been missing out on that top level of racing. Britain hosted international 'cross races when I was younger, but our last World Championships were back in 1992, then a big gap to Ipswich hosting the Euro Champs in 2012. We used to have the Halfords International in Sutton Park for instance, and Harlow and Crystal Palace both had big races that attracted good international riders. Those were the races that inspired me."
The eventual UK World Cup bid actually came about more through a series of fortuitous events though than any strategic planning from Burney.
“Like a lot of things, it was the right people talking at the right time," says the tall and distinctive Derbyshireman.
“Peter van den Abeele (UCI off-road manager) chatted to me casually about expanding the 'cross World Cup and asked me what I thought the chances of a UK round would be," says Burney.
There has been a lot of talk about the globalisation of cyclocross in recent years, the future possibility of a World Cup round in America and of course the UCI funding of an early season race in China for the past two seasons. Our thoughts, at the time were (and they still are) that there are also countries, like Great Britain, and Switzerland and Germany which are much closer to the traditional cyclocross heartland (of Benelux) whose 'international' scenes also need a boost.
And MK aren't concerned that we're going to chew up their central park?
Is everything on track?
Is the course more or less as shown on BC website for the NT or will there be two different courses? Yes clean it up depending on weather and deep rutted
How does he assess the health of 'cross in the UK
Without Olympic status cyclocross is always going to be the poor man of international cycling?
The USA Cycling partnership is Sittard (Geoff Proctor) has attracted some funding from the NGB but GB internationals has also traditionally struggled for funding?
With CX the fastest growing branch of the sport can he see that changing for the funding of British CX teams?
And CX in the Olympics? It has applied as early as 1990?
Is there likely to be another bid from MKWC for the 2015-16 season?
He took Richard from MK to Valkenburg This is the best – we can do better than this he reportedly said.
Britain's best chance of a win in MK is with Helen Wyman – what do you think of her chances/ do you admire her?
Burney has attended every cyclocross World Championships since 1982 (over 30 years) and jokes at the end of his book that he will continue to go until an English-speaking rider wins an Elite Worlds title. I asked him who that rider might be.
“Well, I probably have to say that it will be an American or possibly Helen (Wyman) or Nikki (Harris) – they can definitely podium, but I think Katie Compton is the most likely candidate. Compton's on a level above, almost up with Vos, whilst Jeremy (Powers) would have to step up again to challenge for a medal."