More people than ever turned out to watch the annual Outdoor City Weekender, an action-packed 3-day festival that celebrates Sheffield’s impressive outdoor offer.
Now in its third year, the Weekender – which this year took place on 9-11 March – boasts four headline events, and a host of fringe activities that appeal to all ages and abilities.
More than 1,000 people lined seven of Sheffield’s steepest hills to cheer on the cyclists of The Magnificent Seven cycle challenge, and crowds at the inner-city mountain bike race, the Howard Street Dual, were double those of last year.
Di Buckley, head of economic strategy at Sheffield City Council, said: “These figures prove that there’s a real appetite for these kinds of events in Sheffield, and that this is the place to come for people seeking outdoor adventure, city culture and rural escapes.
“We’re delighted to see that with each passing year more and more people are turning up to see what it’s all about, and that the event is clearly fulfilling its ambition to grow awareness of Sheffield as The Outdoor City. This helps to grow our economy as people take advantage of Sheffield’s unique lifestyle offer.
“We hope people were inspired by what they saw at the Weekender and are encouraged to try something new, whatever their ability. Whether that’s a high octane sport like mountain biking, a gentle stroll in the local park, or something in between.”
It wasn’t just those watching the events in person who enjoyed everything the Weekender had to offer, as live streaming brought the action to a much wider online audience. The Howard Street Dual has had more than 12,500 views on YouTube, and the Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF) final has received over 45,000 views, with that figure continuing to rise.
More women also took part in the Weekender this year. The Howard Street Dual, which took place in the city centre on Saturday 10 March, saw 17 female riders take to the city centre dual slalom track, in comparison to just eight last year. It was local rider Carrie Poole who once again topped the podium and, in the men’s category, last year’s winner Brett Penfold narrowly missed out to local legend Steve Peat in the nail-biting final, with a stewards’ enquiry needed to confirm the result.
Jon Dallow, who runs the event along with Nick Hamilton of the This is Sheffield bike blog, said: “A stellar field of athletes and pro riders rocked up to the Howard Street Dual, drawn by the magnet effect of Steve Peat.
“Not only did it bring this great sport out of the woods for everyone to enjoy, but it also built on Sheffield’s reputation of hosting ‘the biggest littlest race in the world’, the annual Steel City Downhill in Grenoside Woods, which returns on 5 May.
“Sheffield’s MTB scene is a close-knit community but it is accessible to all and doesn’t require you to be a top athlete to get involved. So why not get on your bike and go have fun? There’s a wealth of MTB trails, bridleways and facilities that is the envy of many right on our doorstep.”
In The Magnificent Seven cycling challenge on the Sunday, 107 riders (24 more than last year) – made up of 14 women, 55 men and 38 veterans – took on the 26-mile route, which included seven of Sheffield’s toughest hill climbs.
Competitors came from all over the country to take part but it was three riders from Sheffield who took the top prizes; Kieran Savage, Rebecca Goodson and James Allen.
Event organiser and secretary to Sheffield’s largest cycle club, SheffRec CC, Marc Etches, said: “This year’s Magnificent Seven was the best yet with the largest number of riders and some very good racing in all categories.
“Entries sold out very fast and riders really want to be part of the event.
“The racing was strong from the start and the senior men’s category was especially fierce with a great battle between the Cycling Sheffield pairing of Kieran Savage and Joe Clark and 2017 winner Andy Nichols riding for B38 Underpin Racing.
“I was pleased to see Sheffield rider Rebecca Goodson win the women’s category and especially proud to see my friend and team mate James Allen win every climb to claim the vets category.
“The crowds were again amazing and the residents came out in force to support the race, which was great to see.
“The finish at the Côte de Bradfield was very special as all the riders got to see The Outdoor City from the summit. It was the perfect finish to a unique event only available in Sheffield.”
At the 13th Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF), many of this year’s strongest films featured women and almost one third of the 112 films had female leads, or were made by women – more than ever before.
ShAFF organiser Matt Heason said: “We had another brilliant festival this year. This is certainly thanks in part to our collaboration with The Outdoor City Weekender, which helps us plan a full visitor experience.
“Ticket sales were great, we ran four ‘Best of ShAFF’ events which were all virtually sold out, and The Outpost at the Workstation and mobile cinema truck at the train station were once again big hits.
“One area where we showed a massive increase was in visitor engagement. A staggering amount of people used an app developed by local company Boom Beam to score the films they watched, which is a great way for us to get feedback and inform our film choices for next year.”
And at the Rab Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF), two Sheffield residents fought off a world-class pool of 134 female competitors to make the podium, with Michaela Tracy in second and Leah Crane in third.
Sam Whittaker said: “This year’s Rab CWIF was a huge success with over 380 competitors from 23 countries around the world.
“The semi-finals were some of the best I’ve ever seen with lots of tops and some outrageous displays of strength.
“There were four Brits in the final, Leah Crane, Michaela Tracy, Matt Cousins and Aiden Roberts
“It was a great start to the competition season and everyone seemed to have a great time enjoying the climbs over the weekend.”
The Outdoor City website also received even more hits than last year’s record-breaking year, with more than 6,000 visits to the site from hundreds more users over the course of the 2018 Weekender. It’s clear from these results that the website is an increasingly useful resource for all those seeking information about Sheffield’s impressive outdoor offer.
The Outdoor City Weekender launched the city’s calendar of outdoor adventure for 2018. To see what else there is to look forward to in Sheffield this year, please visit www.theoutdoorcity.co.uk/the-outdoor-city-in-2018.