Organising the Cheshire Classic

September 2011. It is the Weaver Valley CC AGM and Terry Veal has announced he is stepping down from organising the Cheshire Classic after 30 years. As I'm not going to be any use to the club racing, and as I quite enjoy marketing and organising events through what I've achieved with Bridgewater Riding Club, I decide to volunteer. I like what is happening with Women's cycling, there is a nice community and the riders are really developing.

I believe there is great potential and hopefully I can help raise the profile of Women's cycling and put on some events to remember in the process. But this wasn't just any normal race either. This was a British Cycling National Series race, with elite riders coming from around the country, as far as Essex and Aberdeen. This was a race full of heritage, with past winners such as Mandy Jones, Nicole Cooke and Lizzie Armitstead. This was a race built up by Terry. And I was up for the challenge.

Sleepless nights

Fast forward to 6am on Sunday 22nd April and I'm up driving to reece the course for the sixth time in the last couple of weeks. I only slept 2 hours on Saturday night and the week leading up to the event was no better either. A horrific nightmare kept repeating on me about a car crashing into a whole side of the bunch. Terry and I also had notice leading up to the event that there would be a doping control at the event, that too was playing on my mind. Getting everything going was one thing, but also making sure the facilities were ok for doping control was another.

For me, there is an incredible amount of responsibility. As event organiser you are responsible for the safety of 70 women to get round 10 laps of a 7.7km course, which contains narrow country lane and fast bypass. Ok, I can't help it if something does happen, but you don't half worry.

Setting targets

2012 was to be Terry's last year and after 30 years I wanted him to go out on a bang. My main priority right from the start was to ensure the safety of the riders while also adding in a new incentive to spice the race up a bit. Terry and I agreed that the National Escort Group would be a great edition, having talked to Ian Shearer at NEG, we sorted out the amount of outriders needed and that he would also come on board as a paramedic. My second aim was to raise funds to include an intermediate sprint halfway round to break the race up.

Sponsorship - I feel for team managers

It was then down to raising sponsorship to pay for it all. This is when it first dawned on me how hard it was going to be. I've worked in sales previously for a good 4 years, which included cold calling in the early days, and raising sponsorship for the race was much harder. I sent out hundreds of letters and emails of which I got a couple of replies to try again next year, and thanks to those who did reply. I concentrated on local companies, major companies particularly those in sport around the North West and major national companies involved in cycling and Women's cycling.

After months of work we finally got three sponsors on board in the form of Phil Weaver at Epic Cycles, John Keen at Lightbox UK and Dave Hinde from Dave Hinde Racing. They were magnificent and not only allowed us to pay for the NEG but altogether gave us a prize fund over £1000. Three times as much as the previous year.

The Race

Happily the race passed without a hitch. It was one of the best races I've been involved with. Really positive and towards the end really fast. A couple of breakaways tried to get away but it was eventually a break from Sarah Storey and a junior called Molly Weaver. Sarah Storey picked up the win, which was great having been placed second and third in previous years. She has a special place within the club, not only as a fond supporter of the race but she also spoke at our club dinner a couple of years back. I think everyone spoke about Molly Weaver at the end, a junior in her second year of racing to have the maturity to follow the break and stay with Sarah for two laps was great riding. She has a natural talent.

One rider also stood out for me, Frankie White. She got dropped on the first lap due to a mechanical. 10 laps on your own is murderous but she kept on going. That showed incredible determination and great spirit.

Of course none of the race is possible without the invaluable support of the club, we have over 30 members of Weaver Valley CC helping out for free, missing their Sunday ride. Humbling.

Social Media

We also moved to a new HQ as found by Terry which was well recieved by the riders but for me the biggest investment in the race was our new website and Twitter feed. It allowed us to communicate with the riders, they communicated with us and we kept them involved by being open about the race. We were open and updated riders on the course map and condition, accomodation, line up, prize fund and any coverage we were receiving from the race.

After the race it was amazing to receive the amount of tweets and blogs about the race. It was really heart warming to see riders, spectators and the press getting involved with the race - there were hundreds of images and even video being posted. For me it was the icing on the cake and the best result of 8 months hard work.

Needless to say I've submitted our expression of interest to British Cycling for 2013 - bring it on!!

Shimano RS80 Wheel Review

Dave Hinde said that these were the best wheels £400 could buy and he wasn't half wrong.

Along with adding a Deda Blackfin fork, these Shimano RS80 Wheels are the best upgrade I've made to my bike. They roll along beautifully, pretty stiff and are incredibly forward going.

Previously I had a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Equipe's. They did a good job but over time they started to loose stiffness and the stickers had to be replaced at least 3 times which frustrated me to no end. They seemed slightly sluggish uphill too - not needed when you're 88kg!

I actually wanted a pair of Shimano RS80 wheels originally following a couple of good recommendations in the club but Dave didn't have a pair in stock.

Anyway now I've got a pair the difference is huge. The roll up quickly, react well with you when you need acceleration on climbs or sprints and are altogether a really nice wheel. They are made of alloy but have a carbon laminate for increased stiffness. They make a lovely purring sound when rolling along country lanes.

The weight is spot on too. Lighter than the Mavic Ksyriums at 1521 grams a pair. I also noticed they are slightly larger, wider at the inner rim and deeper in depth too. They seem ready for some action straight from the off.

If you're in the market for some new wheels and have around £400 to spend, I would totally recommend these wheels, in my opinion they are worth more and £400 is a steal!

2 months on from the bike fit

At the start of February I had a professional bike fit with Pedal Precision who are based at the Velodrome in Manchester. You can read more about the session in another post however in short the main change was lowering my handlebars and extending the hoods to stretch out my back.

The results have been fantastic. Combined with a new set of Shimano RS80 wheels, I totally believe it has helped me achieve a 200 mile weekend to Llanberis in February, complete the Cheshire Cat including the ascent of Mow Cop and altogether becoming more comfortable, stronger and faster on the bike.

I feel more assured on the bike, more planted, more confident. Little injuries and niggles are now no more, combined with good stretching and light warming up, I've not had any problems for the past 2 months. The changes were made to encourage me to keep my upper body particularly my hips still, allowing my legs to do more work and channel more power down to the pedals. I certainly feel a lot stronger on the bike.

If you're struggling on the bike, even just slightly, need a second opinion or looking to get some extra gains it was well worth it. I would highly recommend Richard at Pedal Precision.