My friends over at FTR Milltag hosted their first ever road race today and from the outset decided it would be as entertaining as a mini spring classic. Billed as "A reet proper hard bastard bike race" with a bit of a back story about a bloke called Malcolm, it would take place in the heart of Yorkshire in the quaint little village of Saxton, heading around a rolling seven mile circuit that had ample opportunity for a breakaway, but wasn't so hilly that the race would split to pieces from the go. A full field of 70 riders took to the course from a variety of teams across the region.
Similar to the intermediary sprints you see on TV, the race would have two "primes" for which riders could win prizes during the race to help keep the spectators entertained. However, unlike a normal race where you might get a £20 note, the chaps at FTR decided to go one step further and with the help of North Brew Co, commissioned a special FTR beer which they would hand out by the crate to the winners of the two primes and also the overall winner. Very much in the spirit of the spring classics.
The race itself was fairly Flandrian as conditions go. As riders signed on the blue skies lured many into a false sense of security but as the race got underway the heavens opened and a stiff breeze rolled over the course. As promised, there were numerous breakaways throughout the day with the biggest gaining around one minute from the peloton and staying away for nearly three laps. In the end the race came back together before one of the Prologue Race Team riders, Gavin, slipped away to take the win with a hotly contested sprint finish behind him.
In continuing the theme of making the racing slightly more entertaining that your typical 2/3/4 road race there was a little after party shortly after the race where everyone could meet up and exchange the usual power stats and willy waving that come with any amateur road race, indulged over one of the special FTR beers.
All in all it was certainly a race done differently and for a first time organising crew, done very slickly. It's worth noting that without volunteers and organisers all of the amateur races that help bring riders through to the top simply wouldn't happen. If like me, you enjoy the racing but don't always want to ride, I thoroughly recommend getting involved as a volunteer.
I spent the day driving one of the four cars around the course keeping the riders safe, but there are many different options from marshalling on the junctions and seeing the riders every lap, or more depending on the circuit, to waiting at the finish like to record the finishing sprint. Recently a lot of races have really struggled to get marshalls and races are being placed under a lot of pressure as a result. It's a great opportunity to watch some local riders you probably know, whilst having a bit of fun watching them. There is no harm in a little roadside picnic to pass a bit of time.
So, if you have a spare Sunday why not ride over to your local race and lend a hand? You get to ride your bike and support the racers at the same time. I can't promise every race will have it's own beer, or a man from The Commute on hand to finely craft your coffee though...
A big well done to all involved for pulling off a fun and entertaining day.