‘Cross from the other side

Fluent in Cross’ Alan Dorrington writes about the recent Cycle Sport Pendle/Hopetech event that he and race organiser and FiC colleague Mark Turner were responsible for..


“Organising a ‘cross race is hard work. Organising and then riding in the ‘cross race you’ve put on is harder work still….

I never knew how much work went into organising a race until I helped Mark run our first event 4 years ago, aided and abetted by a large team from Cycle Sport Pendle. As a regular competitor, I had like most others, turned up, ridden my race and gone home again blissfully unaware of the organised chaos behind the scenes. Well, I assume other events have similar organised chaos behind the scenes unless it’s just the way we do things…

Course planning is always a considerable challenge – you have to work with the physical layout of your venue, its contours and paths (or lack of) and then consider how to cater for several hundred cars, riders and spectators at the same time. At Waddow Hall near Clitheroe, the venue for the last 3 years of the NW League CSP Cyclocross, we are blessed with a private estate, ample space and great facilities for spectators and riders alike. It is not however, an overly flat area, and in the spirit of mixing things up and by way of antidote to other flat parkland courses, we are able to make full use of the hill in the north of the estate. The course is a bit over a mile long and it’s surprising how much tape and how many stakes are needed to lay the course out, even using existing features like trees and posts where possible. A dedicated team laying out the course on the day before makes life much easier, and being a private venue, we can guarantee the course is still there the following morning for race day. It’s a day which starts early for all helpers and marshalls and usually involves plenty of running around, parking cars, taking entries, sorting start lists, prizes, checking the course, changing the course for different races, getting said races off on time and generally making sure all goes to plan.

Having devised variants of a tough Waddow course for the last 3 years, with Mark and with help from Dave Haygarth, I had an urge to ride it and see how it rode in race conditions. Running around for 6 hours solid before racing on one of the toughest courses in the NW League is probably not ideal preparation, but I opted to moonlight as a Veteran in the (younger) Senior race at the end of the day, once all the niggles of organisation had bedded in. And it certainly was tough, riding the long climb near the start of the lap multiple times, and ‘enjoying’ the slightly sketchy descent back down to the pits mid lap. Various Garmin traces recorded around 1500ft or more of climbing during the 1 hour race – quite chunky for a sport that is normally based around a flat course.

As a club, Cycle Sport Pendle really gets behind the race each year with big numbers of helpers putting in long hours, and the NW League now provides more than welcome volunteer marshalls as part of a goodwill contract between League racers and the League where folk agree to volunteer at one event throughout the season. Either way, it’s all run by volunteers for the benefit of all, and as being involved behind the scenes can be a lot of fun, I urge you to find your local cross race and volunteer, even just once a season, to help out. In the end, all of us and the sport benefits from this.”

All Pics: Jo Allen


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