Hosting a Race – May Stage Road Race 2015
Kingston Wheelers hosted the first day of the Surrey League 3 day stage race on the bank holiday weekend, 2nd-4th May 2015.
To host a race the club provides a volunteer organiser who will facilitate the race and arrange all the details from paper work, booking race HQ to the numerous volunteers required on the day, even the cakes and refreshments! Kingston Wheelers hosted 3 road races in 2015 but also arranges Time trial and hill climb events as well. These open events are for all qualifying riders (where license or affiliation allows) and are important to the amateur cycling community to grow the grass level roots of the competitive side of the sport.
The organiser isn’t the sole person to work on the event, whilst they are the principle, they rely on a host of others to help out with a lot of different tasks. The club has grown a lot over the past few years and we thought it would be a good idea to write an article to highlight some of the roles that are required, so more members are more comfortable to volunteer and will step up when they realise it isn’t all that hard. On a personal note, I find helping at these events incredibly rewarding and fun, you get to meet a lot of people in the club and other clubs (racers) who are always very grateful for the events. Thank you to all the people who contributed to the article.
Organiser – Marc Handford
At last year’s skills day I said to Dai that I wanted to give something back to the club, as it has done so much for me with my cycling and I felt I should help out. What I meant by this was to help out at some of the upcoming events like say marshal, bake cakes or drive someone around a course.
We left it at that and then I got a email from Dai a few months later saying congratulations you are now in charge of organising the club’s section of the May Stage Race. Well, for someone who has never raced or really understood the racing world, it felt like a daunting task ahead. My response was “are you guys sure about this?” Dai reassured me and gave me a list of contacts to get in touch with who could help me.
So off I went. The thing that I found very early on was that everyone just assumed that I understood this world of racing and always spoke as if I knew the course and the basics of how a day like this runs. Which I didn’t but after meeting up with Phil and having him guide me through the early stages I started to get my head around things.
The best thing I did early on was to go and cycle the course, making notes along the way, so I knew what I was dealing with and saw the venues we would use. With about 2 weeks to go, I asked Dai & Maria to recheck the course and put up the public notices that Phil Barella had done for me. On the day itself, Chris Wright and Phil J were in charge of course set up and take down, following an instruction guide that I produced and using the brand new signs that Ed had kindly made for the club.
Another thing I found extremely useful was getting heavily involved in helping Phil organise both March races that the club hosted. This enabled me to get a feel for as many job roles as I could, so that I had a better understanding of what was involved in organising one of these events. From this I was able to identify what areas, as a club, we could improve and which people would be great to get involved. He kindly did the same for me at the May race.
In order to plan the event, I decided to break each key area down. I asked for a head marshal, in this case Rob Gardner, he was very organised. He organised the marshals on the day and answered any basic questions during the briefing. I helped by doing a document containing information on each of the marshal points and what was required for each point, that was handed out to every marshal point. I did the same for the finish line judges. I got John Evans involved very early on and left it with him to plan the finish area how he pleased, as he had helped out on the March races and so he already had an idea what would be required. I answered any questions he had or spoke to the appropriate people to get the answer for him. I arranged for cars and drivers for the Commissaires and Neutral Service, liaised with Chief Commissaire, Richard Hemley from British Cycling to ensure that he could brief everyone prior to the race.
I would say one of the tricky points was to get the post up for volunteers as soon as possible and just keep hassling and bumping the post back up so people saw it. The most stressful part of this was the final week running up to the event as I was waiting for info, permits and other document from various people and I received it all last minute so meant it was all a bit hectic when it didn’t need to be, that would be my only negative.
Otherwise I am really glad I did this, it is something new that I can say I have done and I really enjoyed it, especially on the day seeing everything fall in to place. The one thing I can take away from this is that the individuals that make up this club are so passionate about cycling and that shows and comes out every time we host event like this.
Club Race Secretary – Phil Barella
All I did was make sure the wheels were turning as Marc didn’t know everyone there and volunteer marshals didn’t know who Rob was as well so I pointed people to them. I also did the little jobs that just needed doing on the day and an extra pair of hands. I attended part of Rob’s marshal’s brief (very good it was too) and made sure the drivers and co drivers were prepared for the chief comms briefing. I helped setting the hall up and putting chairs out, helping Dai with the spare wheels for the specially liveried neutral service car. Marc was worried one or 2 people didn’t attend but overall we were well represented, though I think there was 1 or 2 drop-outs. We were also asked to do sprint recording for sprint points and a KOM points tally. I did the KOM points. Went to the crossover point where the courses change and merge into one another and then proceeded to help marshal until the last lap when I zipped up the hill to get the flag and recorded the KOM points.
With regards to the race, by the last lap time the race had ebbed and flowed between a break and the peloton. Sadly it proved too much for the KW contingent (who did their best) but the field was very strong for a 2/3 cat field. On the last lap, the break dropped one or two riders who went backwards and there were 4 remaining. From my viewpoint the leader up the KOM section just before it flattened at the top had it and the second place guy had enough of a gap to the 3rd and 4th place. Pat Wright, a second claim wheeler who’s been having a solid season for Paceline, took 3rd after an immense battle up the hill and on the finishing straight. He took a couple of seconds on the 4th placed London Dynamo rider, Stuart Spies. The peloton, or what was left of it, then followed a short while later, with a crash taking out one rider, and the back markers following soon after.
Overall a very good day, was enjoyable and everyone did a superb job.
Chief Marshal – Rob Gardner
It was heartening to see so many Kingston Wheelers volunteer to stand by the side of the road for several hours on a day where there was every risk of all sorts of horrible weather. Thankfully the weather held out and despite there being relatively few experienced marshals present the set-up and briefing went very smoothly and everyone was in place and ready to go well in advance. It is a testament to the attentiveness and professional approach of everyone that the feedback from the racers, commissars and NEG motorbike riders was all extremely complementary and the entire event passed without incident. Another great example of how much the members of the Club are prepared to give to the sport and doing so with a big smile and tons of enthusiasm. Grass roots sport doesn’t happen without volunteers by the dozen and I am pleased to be a part of a club that fully embraces this spirit.
In the words of Emma F: “It’s always a real buzz helping out with club races. Saturday’s race was no exception – when the peloton blurs past, you feel like you could be watching any international cycling race! It’s also pretty fun having a massive red flag to wave around at traffic. Most of the drivers are extremely good natured and seem to enjoy the spectacle. We even had a older gentleman who lived down the road come and chat to us about how much he enjoys the races taking place in his neck of the woods!”
Well done everyone and I look forwards too seeing as many of you as possible at future such events.
Driver of Assist Comms – Tom Gibbs
Arriving at race HQ I was a little apprehensive about my day of driving the assistant commissaire in front of the peloton. However, any apprehension was soon overcome with boyish excitement as I got to put a flashing orange light and radio aerial on the roof of my car and pulled into the race convoy. Soon I was joined by both my passenger for the day and the peloton in my rear view mirror and we were ready to race!
Pulling away from the HQ into the ‘neutralised zone’ there was an almighty scrap between the riders to get on my rear bumper, the best position for any early attack! After half a mile, the commissaire pulled in his flag, I accelerated away from the peloton and we were racing!
Racing was hectic from the start and, 100m in front of the peloton, I was in one of the best places to see the race develop. Soon a break formed and the decision was made to pull over and move behind them, running the race from behind the break.
During the race our main job was working with the commissaire to time the gap between the break and the bunch several times per lap. As the race progressed this gap was never stable, varying from 1:40 to a paltry 0:08. Every time the gap dipped below 30 seconds we pulled back in front of the break, each time blasting the horn on the way past to warn the riders we were coming. Sitting behind the break was the perfect place to watch the race, with plenty of discussion of who in the break was looking good, who looked on the limit and if the peloton were going to bring it all back together!
Before the finish we moved back in front of the break, accelerating over the finishing line to allow the assistant commissaire to judge the final sprint. Winner declared, it was time to go back to HQ for some well earned cake.
Overall, it was a great day out and I enjoyed every second of it. You’ll never get a better view of a bike race and driving along you do feel like you could be a DS at the tour, especially following the riders through the corners!
Neutral Services – Maria Thompson / Dai Michael
I have been excited about being in the neutral service car since I had heard that we needed to provide one. As soon as the list went out I couldn’t put my name down quick enough. I would drive as the owner of the vehicle has to, which is odd, and Dai would be jumping out. It is better this way around anyway as he knows all things bikes so would be more useful than me. Marc had some neutral service car signs made up and we got a flashing light, it was worth the 5am start already.
As the first racer dropped off his wheels we carefully labelled them and asked who was allowed to use them. By the time we were stacking fifty wheels into the car, the reality of the situation materialised. There was no way we were going to get the correct wheel out for each rider. The car was overflowing and we had to start turning people away, I was promising that we would help everyone and leave no one stranded to not stress anyone out. People were still coming over with their wheels when we were lined up in the convoy to go!!
The road surface was pretty bad and we were kept very busy, not with just punctures but loose handle bars and a snapped chain. Good thing Dai was on hand, as apart from changing a wheel no one seemed to know how to fix anything else. We didn’t bother looking at whose wheels were whose but just grabbed the first one which was compatible (10 or 11 speed) when it was required. I did mention earlier that we would not leave anyone stranded but we did in the end, but if you are going to ride an eight speed and on tubs, then that is what happens.
It was quite stressful as a driver as you are just stopped on a country road and just praying that no one is speeding around the corner. I did try to pace a few people back on but struggled to match the pace on the rolling course. Once we had stopped we did have to hot foot it to get back on to the race. Only one civilian car pulled over to let us pass. I was getting frustrated when others were not so considerate, we had a flashing light for goodness sake. Then we had to get in front of the medic which was a bit tricky on the windy small roads. It was a big relief when the race ended and we had done a good job (well apart from Mr 8 speed). The racers were all much nicer then expected as I thought that they would be stressed out and shouting but no one did and they appeared very grateful.
Both Dai and I had a great day helping the racers out. We also did a number of other small chores through out the organisation of the event. These are often simple thing that anyone can do, like picking up the kitchen equipment from the lock up and put up the notices on the race course two weeks prior. All you need is to do is cycle round the course or drive and tape up the notices! So nothing hard or complicated you just need to give a few hours of your time to the club. We look forward to seeing even more new volunteers at the next event.
Marshal – Andrew Davis
Marshalling at the stage race was very exciting this year. My son Cameron (11) and I got a lift down with Maria Thompson to the HQ at Alford, ready for our marshal briefing at 8:30 sharp.
Marc had laid out all the equipment we needed in advance, flags, hi-viz, whistles, radios, bell and lap board. Rob Gardner did an excellent job of explaining the duties of a marshal, along with the specific issues on each corner. Our corner AM3/DM1 was the most complicated as we had to count the laps down on the first circuit, then redirect the riders (and the Motorcycle National Escort Group riders!) onto the Dunsfold circuit, ring the bell on the final lap, AND direct the riders up the hill to the finish. Phew!
Rob dropped Julie, Pete, Cameron and me off at our corner, and we got settled in. The marshal duties are simple but absolutely vital to ensure the safety of the riders, and having been in a number of road races, I am eternally grateful for good marshalling. Our task was to get in to position prior to the race arriving and politely asking any cars to wait a minute while the riders pass. Holding out the red flags, wearing high viz helps, as does having multiple people at each point. You also have to be aware of the racing line the riders would prefer, and try and stop cars outside of that normal path. As you would expect, 99% of drivers are curious and friendly but occasionally you get one panicking (and stopping in precisely the wrong place!) or rarely – a slightly grumpy one. Being chatty, friendly and smiling always helps. On a particularly tricky corners, the NEG riders will jump forward and stop traffic for you – which adds an extra line of defence.
Fully prepared, we waited for the race to arrive. The first notice you get is when the radio crackles into life –which suggests the race is a couple of miles away. They you get the NEG rider coming through (and often stopping for a quick chat), and finally the cars and racers arrive in a high speed blur. 20 seconds later, they are all gone, and we start the clock to count the lap time. On a couple of laps, there was a break so we shouted time gaps to the peleton. As we were at the main corner on the race, lots of spectators and marshals who had finished for the day kept swinging by and having a quick chat, which kept us entertained. We had to keep the lap-board up to date and for good measure, shout out the laps to go. Someone asked me “don’t the riders know how many laps they have done” – well, I can tell you from experience, riding flat out in pack of 60, elbow to elbow, you can sometimes forget how many you have done!
There were only 2 small issues on the day. We had a huge horse lorry stuck trying to do a sharp turn on our junction 5 mins before the race came through at one point! Luckily they managed to get clear. The other issue we had was not expecting the riders to take the blind “racing line” (i.e. on the wrong side of the road) round the bend as they started the Dunsfold circuit. Luckily we had stopped all the traffic but something to remember next year just in case!
On the final lap, my son had the plum job of ringing the bell, as a fellow racer, I can say that sound is so sweet! Then we waited until they came round the final time when we directed them up the hill for the finish. It was great to see a small break off the front at the end, with 2nd claim Kingston Wheeler Pat in the mix! Then it was back to the HQ for too much cake, and congratulations to the racers. Overall, it was a great morning out, with lots to do. It also felt great to have contributed to such a warmly received event.
It was particularly nice to have the following comment from Declan Egan from Cadence CP – “From a racer perspective, I can say that Kingston Wheelers are one of the best clubs when it comes to marshalling as the numbers of marshals on each corners are spot on. You can never have too many.”
Finally, Cameron and I managed the 55k home with smiles (and a slight tailwind!)
Kitchen – Harry Bunnell
After a last minute swap, I was put in charge of the kitchen and I roped in my other half Maria for a bit of help. We had an early start, taking our bikes on the train to Godalming and then cycling 10 chilly miles to the race HQ in Alfold. We got there just before 8am to start setting up and putting out all the amazing cakes (lemon drizzle, malt loaf, brownies and many more) that many Kingston Wheelers had made for the day.
Soon enough there was a queue for tea and coffee as the marshals and racers began to arrive. Things quietened down from 10am after the racers rolled out and I was able to nip out to see the race come past for the four laps of the Alfold course, before it headed over to Dunsfold. From 1pm we had another busy hour as riders and helpers came back for more cake. The new addition of cheese and ham rolls were a popular choice – nice to have a savoury option after a gel-fuelled race. We finished up the day collecting up mugs and cleaning the kitchen, all wrapped up and ready to cycle home by 2pm. If you’ve ever fancied running your own cafe, this is the volunteering role for you! It’s great fun and means you get to meet lots of fellow cyclists throughout the day.