Wheelbase Cyclocross – organisational skills to the test

It seems to be ground hog day. The torment is the same each year. I plan the course, I rope in everyone that’s needed. I liaise endlessly with the council, I pack the car late at night, I get up early… then – somehow – a bike race ‘happens’. I am not a natural organiser. It’s not me.

But I have to do it. Get those violins on – I can feel a lump in my throat. I honestly feel – at the end of a day organising a bike race – that I’ve done something for someone. I’ve given a bit back. People turn up, warm up, cut up (the park) then grab their money (if they’re lucky and can wait for the crap organiser) and they’re off. I did it for them. Toby (Dalton – director of wheelbase) did it for them. As did Louise, Len, Donna, Katie, Carolyn, Mick, Jack, Alan, Simon, Sue, John, Damian and a few others. They got their bit of bike racing, we got knackered. But boy does it give you a buzz.

Number one thrill for me this year in organising the Wheelbase Cyclocross in Victoria Park, Haslingden, was designing the course. That’s the little boy bit that I’ve been doing since about four years old. I love it. One shocker for me this year was that the course that I’d spent ages training on and refining over the last few months needed to change a bit in the final days before the event. The rain had had its way. Ten days of rain meant that the more technical bits of riding just weren’t appropriate – mud on the flat is enough of a challenge for riders – but I think we made the best course possible,

Another big thrill that seems to be getting more regular these days was the two races for the youger riders. As my children grow up, I can see the value of cyclocross to young riders and love watching both the under 12s and under 16s races. The genuine determination that exists in children of such young ages is so inspiring. My own daughter Lily and nephews Matthew and Angus all rode the under 12s race (Haygarths almost 10% of the field!) and the obvious pride mingled with genuine awe as I watched them go about their own battles with such natural guts that betrayed their small bodies. They – and all the other youngsters doing battle with the Rossendale filth – were fighting like soldiers.

The other kickback I get from this is watching from afar what I do myself. Watching races (albeit whilst running round with a pen in my mouth and bits of paper everywhere trying to work out prizes) like this reminds me what a great sport this is. Watching Paul Oldham, Ian Bibby, Rob Jebb, Jonny McEvoy in the same race as people two to three times their age, lapping at less than half their speed – it’s just fantastic. Watching the sheer stoicism of people who clearly shouldn’t be enjoying themselves getting on with it for an hour in the filthiest mud imaginable was just humbling. We know why we do it – but others wouldn’t start to understand.

And so… the tidy up. The day itself was over with more of a whimper really. Lots of filth to try and brush from the park before the street sweeper came in the next day, and a bout 3000 metres of plastic tape to reel in… but soon enough we were out of there. The next day’s rain helped to clear a good deal of the filth from the park, and inspections this week show a remarkable recover from something that resembled part of the Somme. It’s a ‘Friends Of’ group meeting next week which I think I’ll go to. I may not let my dog shit all over the park every day and I may not smash beer bottles in the band stand, like a lot of other regular users of the park, but bringing in 160 + people to enjoy Victoria Park for a day makes me a very dear friend of the park.

Tamzin and the parks people at the council and Councillor Morris, who helped me out in softening the blow of the cyclo-mud extraveganza are also dear friends of the park. They shared the vision and their confidence is well appreciated.