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Weaver Valley Autumn Road Race – sponsored by Leadout Cycles

Sunday 09 October

British Cycling Regional B Cat 3/4

A different sort of race report from me today. Therefore, none of my own tales of woe about punctures, saddle issues or getting dispatched from the pack. It all started at last year’s club AGM when, after my first season of not a lot of racing in the calendar, I thought that we needed more clubs to put on races to give those that want to race somewhere to go and do it. So I put my hand up to reinvigorate the WVCC Autumn Road Race. I’d heard just how hard it had become to get a BC road race organised in Cheshire, but thanks to the support of Kevan I got involved in the BC north west region race coordination meetings over the winter. It was clear from these meetings that there was a focus from BC to help enable Cat 3/4 races in the region which was really positive. British Cycling are clear that this is the grass roots (or tar and stone-chip) of the cycling world.

With the grateful support of the wider committee and other past organisers (Alan Kemp, Eleanor Underhill and John Keen to name but a few) I set about agreeing the date for the race and then a bit later on setting up the BC rider entry page. This was done fairly early in the year and it was a bit of a slow burn as riders entered in dribs and drabs but we’d collectively agreed that the race would take place regardless. Sam produced a fantastic poster for the event which we used to advertise the race across as many platforms as possible.

Another agreement made with BC was the local training of accredited marshals which has allowed AMs to be trained without the commitment/expectation to marshal a certain number of events per year – a big thanks to Kev for organising this and for all those that volunteered. The goal is for us to have enough AMs to marshal our own events from within the club; this keeps the costs down as low as possible and makes for a more sustainable event with everyone being local and not requiring marshals to travel from the wider reaches of the North West region. We simply cannot put on BC events on the open road without accredited marshals.

So back to today. After a frantic couple of weeks dealing with roadworks and traffic lights on the course and arranging for them to be removed as well as the water hazard on Dark Lane which was free issue from the sky creating a potential steeplechase race, Alan Silver was at the front door bang on 7:30 this morning with a van full of signs already and happy to help load up all of the accredited marshal signs and head out to the course.

After a couple of hours, we (Al more than me) had all fifty odd of the course signs set up absolutely spot on. Keys collected for the HQ and the Burco on it was starting to feel properly like a plan was coming together.

It was unbelievable how people just started to appear seemingly as if out of nowhere. Riders, marshals, helpers, first aid support, national escort group, commissaires, wife with cake, lots of cake. It really is amazing how many people are willing to give up a few hours of their time to help put the race on and as a chopper myself and speaking for all racers I’m so glad so many people do this for us.

It was great to see how Peter, the lead marshal, took control of all of the marshals and offered confident advice and instruction to new and experienced marshals alike. The Commissaires, Chris and Ian, just doing their thing like clockwork, all relaxed, attentive and more than happy to help and advise.

We only had 43 on the start sheet and with a flurry of apologies yesterday we were down to 40. It was disappointing to only actually have 29 on the start line but the race would go on. The course is deceptively difficult and with a small field with less shelter I expected that it may split early on. As the race began I set myself up to follow the convoy for one lap so I could double check the course as we went round and see how things unfolded.

Xander the mini marshal and second in command to Ann on the sign on was sat with me as we set off through the neutralised section and onto the race course. Within a mile the race was in bits. I couldn’t see who was pulling hard but I suspect it may have been Peter Lindfield of Tactic. Riders were getting shelled quickly and gaps were opening up everywhere. With bobbing here, there and everywhere across the course and checking in on marshals where I could, it was easy to lose track of the actual race. There were calls on the radio of riders off the front and then getting reeled back in but the radio would dip and out of range as I moved one way and the race the other.

After four laps or so a break of three went up the road on the approach to Antrobus. As I stopped to take some photographs near Great Budworth, the race radio crackled through suggesting they were working well together. They were, the photo shows what would be the first three in the race as they passed the Cock O’ Budworth with a group of five chasing and a further four behind that. Everyone else left in the race was getting perilously close to the ten minute cut off time and would likely be pulled from the race.

So, after watching the race come by the top of Hield Lane a few times it was time to get set up at the finish line by which time there were only nine riders left in the race. Still a group of three up front then a group of four and a couple of others behind.

We had four of us on the finish line judging with Graham Gregory leading the way up a set of very wobbly steps. Any difficulty of judging who was going to win was well and truly put to bed as junior rider Sam Llewelyn nipped off the front a long way out and smashed over the line for a very fine win. He was closely followed by David Pilcher and then Nicholas Richards. There was a great sprint for fourth which was won by Robert Monetta less than half a wheel ahead of Peter Lindfield who had pulled hard all race.

All in all we had nine finishers out of a very small starting field. It’s a deceptively tough little course in the flatlands of Cheshire and one that I hope we can use again and have some great racing on.

So, my first road race organisation is done as is my road race season; I’d have loved to have been out there racing but it was great to get a different perspective of a race.

I honestly couldn’t have done it without all of the fantastic help and support from everyone within our marvellous Weaver Valley Cycling Club – WVCC as well as all of the following in no particular order; Leadout Cycles for such a generous sponsorship, British Cycling North West and Commissaire Team, National Escort Group, Accredited Marshal team, lead car drivers, Mersey Medical who had pretty much nothing to do but I like it that way, Wincham Community Centre, United Utilities, Lingley Mere for getting their repairs done early and removing the traffic lights from the course, Cheshire Police, Cheshire West and Chester Council, all of my own close family members and last but by no means least, all of the fabulous racers who raced hard and kept it safe for everyone.

You are the guys and girls that make races happen.

Thank you. 🙏

A massive separate thanks goes to Al Silver. Legend. Thanks mate.

1st – Sam Llewelyn (Clwb Beicio Egni)

2nd – David Pilcher (Unattached)

3rd – Nicholas Richards (GS Mossa)