On Sunday 9th August, the London chapter of the Rapha Cycling Club organised its first ever road race. With Club Secretary Rhys Howells at the helm, and hundreds of hours of preparation invested, the 125km-long, categories 2,3 and 4 race successfully took place on a sunny day in Essex.
A cycling club is only as good as its members, and Sunday’s race would not have been possible without the help, mostly voluntary, of said members. From pouring cups of tea to putting up signs beforehand and so on, the RCCLDN community was out in force, along with a few members from RCCMCR and RCCITL. Rapha spoke to five of this invaluable group for insight into the support that goes into organising a road race.
“It went incredibly well. It was really stressful but I’d put a lot of prep in so I think that it paid off. There are so many dynamic things that are happening and pinning people down to do their jobs is hard. St John’s Ambulance pulled out on Tuesday, as did a few people in different roles the night before, for example. It is quite hard to guarantee everything when people are volunteering so I’m grateful to everyone that gave up their time for us.
In the week before the race I had a parish councillor call me up to give me loads of grief about not wanting it to go ahead. He was saying things like ‘think of the children’ and calling it a ‘ghastly proposition’ but that was all the opposition we had. Everyone else has been really positive; people particularly liked the attention to detail. For example, we got the riders black pins for their race numbers, and at the HQ we had a nice mountains backdrop behind sign-on. We strimmed down a grassy area at the finish line so we could have a marquee with music blaring and cash primes each lap just like at the Belgian Kermesses.
Safety was really important to us and we secured the support of the National Escort Group to lead the race on motorbikes, making sure the coast was clear up front. That’s not common at this level of racing. We awarded a prize to the rider with the ‘safest influence’ in the bunch too.
Afterwards, the accredited marshalls, who are all really experienced, came up to say how happy they were and how impressed with how well organised it was, which was a big compliment. Our focus on running the race was to show our commitment to UK racing and we have received acknowledgement from British Cycling too, which is as much as I could have hoped for to be honest.
We had a great turnout by RCC members. Some were marshalling, some brought cakes – even a couple who couldn’t make it on the day baked some – and I hope that the ones who were there left with the feeling that the RCC is a grounded club. RCC racer Barry Hughes did well to sprint to sixth place and they certainly rode as a team, which is great to see. I can’t wait for the next one!”
The Accredited Marshall
“You need more accredited marshalls at races nowadays because of risk assessment, so I went and got qualified to be able to represent the RCC. My son David competes for the club.
At each race there’s quite a few accredited guys, in the lead cars and at junctions. It gets a bit hairy at times with the country lanes so you have to have your wits about you.
I was at a double bend today, and had to make sure they didn’t go over the side of the white line as well as stopping the traffic coming towards them. We had to stop the race at one point because riders were straying into the other lane. I like marshalling because it gets you out on a Sunday morning and you’re involved in the racing.”
“I went along to the RCC Manchester chapter launch night and took my camera along, putting the photos on my website afterwards. Since then I’ve been to a couple of races that the RCC guys have competed in. I’m not paid; it’s just an honour to be featured. I’m a full-time graphic artist and photography is more my passion. I try to tell a story through the photos and hopefully I have achieved that.
Last week one of the RCC racers got in touch and said they’d be racing on Sunday so I came down. You do need a plan to photograph a bike race. I got myself a route map and then used Google Street View, which is very handy so you can work out where the riders are coming from and try to get yourself into good positions. It was a real privilege to be involved with this event. I had a brilliant time and the weather was superb too!”
“I was a race direction marshall, which means you direct the riders in a particular direction. You’re standing around with a big flag, essentially. It was a really good day, though, despite the super early start. I met a few cool people and it was great watching the race go by.
I don’t race and don’t possess the legs to but thought it would be nice to get involved and talk to some of the guys who are racing as well as doing my bit to help out the club. This is my first road club and it’s been fantastic.”
“I’ve been a member of the RCC since the start of the year and I’ve met a lot of great people – not just strong riders – already. Although it is massive, global even, I feel like we’re all part of this ‘thing’ together. When you’re out riding and you pass people in the same kit and wave to them, or say ‘hi’ – that’s a pretty good feeling.
I rode over on Sunday to cheer the riders on, and I may well have baked a cake as well… As it’s the RCC race, it’s even more important for our ‘home’ racers to see people cheering them on. I think it’s just a nice thing to do…”
Rapha’s Head of Brand James Fairbank competed in the race and has written a report, which you can read here.
You can view Matt Randall’s full set of photos from the RCC London Road Race on his website.