Since the beginning of our time working with Ken and Ali, team managers of Jam Cycling RT Coached by BPC, we wanted to host a race.
It’s so important for teams to get involved in racing, whether that’s turning up to compete, marshalling or organising. Without teams, there are few organisations whose sole purpose is to put on cycling events, so it’s pretty important for the sport.
This year there’s been a noticeable decline in people entering races, leading to small fields or, worse, race cancellations; disappointing for everyone involved. Up until a few weeks ago, we’d experienced the disappointment of receiving a few emails saying planned races weren’t going ahead.
Then we had to cancel our own.
We wanted to do something unique and interesting. Aware that most cyclists would be at the tail end of their season, with some of them having raced the same few circuits dozens of times, the idea was to host an Elimination Race. A similar format to that which occurs in track cycling, but on an outdoor circuit with road bikes. There would be heats and finals, as well as a repechage (i.e. a last chance race for those that were eliminated in the early stages to make it into the final). It was meant to be a day-long event, with men and women’s races, with big prizes and a fun party atmosphere.
As sponsors of the team, our role was to front money. To pay for the race circuit, buy numbers and chip timing, and fund the various other bits required to host a cycling event. Ken and Ali, however, devoted hours and hours of their own time to organising all those things. From communicating with British Cycling (BC) about the points we’d be able to award to race finishers, setting up the event on the BC system, securing commissaires to help with the event – all made more difficult by the unique format we’d chosen for our race, to organising the hire of the track, first aid cover and chip timing equipment.
It took a lot of chasing of BC to get approval for the event. It then took more time to establish how exactly the points would be awarded. Only once these parts had been formalised could we market the event fully. Despite our best efforts, after 9 weeks and 4 days of pushing the event, we had only 12 women and 15 men signed up. Not nearly enough.
We couldn’t run the event with such small numbers. So, the only option was to cancel. However, instead of admitting defeat and writing off the time and money, we decided to make the most of the situation. Ken and Ali released a survey, to find out exactly why the entries had been so low. The survey received more than 40 responses with 95% of respondents being aware of the race. It was great to see our hard work on spreading the word about the event had therefore paid off, so what was driving the lack of entries?! Everything from the timing of the event (bank holiday), to the amount offered as prize money (off-putting, apparently) to a misunderstanding of what the event would entail were cited as reasons. The fact we got so many responses is promising in itself; all these people were interested enough to take the time to respond (if you’re one of those people and reading this, thank you!). We know that this idea will work, we just need to make some changes to get it off the ground next year.
As the track was already booked and paid for we made the decision to go ahead and use it! Our awesome team mates were happy to come along and we ran a test elimination race. As someone is eliminated each lap, there needs to be a quick decision on the finish line as to who’s been eliminated, and this needs to be relayed to a marshal further round the track who calls/displays the rider’s name/number to let them know they’re out. So, we practiced this with some willing volunteers from our women’s and men’s squad, which was really useful.
In doing so, we also captured some awesome images and video, which we can use to explain and market the event next year. We also spent the day with our team mates, catching up and getting in some all-important team bonding! Of course, we would have loved to have been able to pull off this novel event first time round, but it was always going to be risky trying something new and this time it didn’t quite work out.
Life gave us lemons, but we made pink lemonade!
Massive thanks to Ken and Ali for all the time and effort in trying to make the event happen (it will happen next year) and for being awesome humans in general. We’re also really grateful to those that came along to our test event on Bank Holiday Monday: Cat Forrest, Matt Grey, Adam Littlechild, Esme Cole, Lucy Parsons, Callum Hughes, Adam Thompson, Chris Hall and Francis Cade. Legends, the lot of you.
Photos: Chris Hall
Co-team sponsor: Buckley Performance Coaching