Andy Wood of Weaver Valley Cycling Club has achieved many things in his first year as organiser of arguably the biggest and most hotly contested women’s race on the domestic calendar – the Cheshire Classic. Not only did he source amazing sponsors in Epic Cycles, Delamere Dairy, De Vere Hotels and Roberts Bakery, as well as support from the Breeze Network and Halfords, but he also managed to persuade British Cycling to get their act together with the Accredited Marshals Scheme that has been promised for so long.
Closed roads for a road race are pretty much unheard of – for a start it costs too much, and when, as an organiser, you are often pushed to the limit financially to put your event on, then road closures are the last thing on your list. It also depends on where your course goes too – and the Cheshire Classic goes up and down a bypass, so the local council are never going to go for that. However, with Accredited Marshals comes a new concept – stopping the traffic with lollipop signs but instead of them saying “Stop! Children!” the say “Stop! Cyclists!”
The first thing that I noticed on the way to the headquarters, was the large number of “Caution! Cycle Event!” signs on your approach to the bypass. This meant that drivers had warning from an early stage that there was an event on – not a small side hiding in a grass verge – but a sign on every lamp post in the couple of hundred metres leading up to the area where the accredited marshals were going to be in place, so drivers had no excuse. The next tell tale sign was “Traffic Control Ahead” which is probably what the drivers didn’t want to see!
How did it affect the race? Well there were two main sticking points on the course – firstly the entry on to the bypass – this is a single carriageway bypass, with no central reservation and cars will speed down that section of road so it is very dangerous. The presence of the accredited marshals meant that the bunch was able to enter the main road from the sweeping left-hand bend without worrying about oncoming traffic. The second tricky place was the main climb, where the finish is, “The Cliff” on Acton Lane, where the gradient gets steeper towards the top. Again, the presence of the accredited marshals meant that cars had to stop at the top of the climb whilst the riders came through, which also meant that all of the road was used (until you came around the bend to find the stopped car!)
It was a classic Cheshire Classic, with Karla Boddy of MG Maxifuel taking the win in a tight sprint finish with Emma Grant of Matrix Fitness. A superb ride by Karla, who was understandably emotional at the finish! But, in my humble opinion, there was another star in the making – it was Andy Wood’s first solo attempt at organising a bike race, which was one of the most well-organised events I have been able to attend. I only hope that the riders appreciate all the hard work and effort he put into the event to make it such a great success.