A view from the other side

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With a wealth of experience and knowledge, Kathleen Collard-Berry was asked to give an insight into her duties at the National Youth (GHS) Final. Assisting at the event was Caitlin Peters, the 2019 Junior Women BBAR and Champion of Champions winner who gives her insight from the other side of an event.

Caitlin wrote:

Giving back to the sport I love is something that is important for me. Normally I just rock up to a time trial, get my race number, warm up, head to the start line and then it’s time to race. Everything else is done for me! There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t realise- I soon found out for myself when I helped out with the finish timings at the National Youth Championships.

Quite nervous about getting the timings wrong, I was put in charge of texting the times from the time keepers over to Stewart Smith who could then add them into his spreadsheet. All I had to do was simply type a number and hit the send button, easy right? No! I was so worried that I would type the wrong letter or something but thankfully I managed it ok in the end.

It was really interesting working with the time keepers just to see how they operate. They each have a stopwatch, lap the time a rider crosses the line and then they double check they both had the right time. Then they shout the time over to me, where I jot it down in a text along with their rider number ready to send.

One thing I really picked up on was just how important it is for riders to shout their numbers out when finishing! It really does make it so much easier! This is because, and we’ve all done it, when you’re in a rush and you stuff the number into skinsuit so it can’t be read, hearing the number yelled out avoids any confusion. Another thing I noticed is that it can get a bit pressurised when multiple riders come all at once. I think we had 4 riders crossing all within 5 seconds of each other at one point. This is difficult because you have to make sure you lap each rider and then make a note of their numbers. I thought this was stressful enough until I was reminded that these were 1 minute start intervals- imagine it with 30 seconds!! From now on, I’ll be shouting louder than before!

The other thing that was really lovely to experience was that quite a few of the riders came back to where we were once they’d finished and thanked us for our help. This made all the hard work seem easy- such a simple thing to do but so meaningful!

To conclude with, as a rider, I think it is SO important that if given the opportunity we do a bit of “community service” and help out at a time trial just to experience the other side of things, whether that be marshalling, helping at HQ, on the finishing times team etc. It really made me appreciate the whole organisation of time trials and know that the volunteers have so much more to do than we might first think.

With Kathleen adding:

The National Youth Championships was a happy event; good organisation and great weather.  Having Caitlin on the finish line for texting was a bonus for Maria and myself as it was great to have someone so young and so talented to help out. 

At National Championships of any description we always have two timekeepers in order to ensure we get all the riders clocked in.  So after starting the watches at the Start Area Maria and I headed off to the Finish Area to find Caitlin waiting for us.  As the weather was so good it was out with the picnic chairs and down to work.

The biggest problem with any event is identifying the riders.  As Caitlin so rightly said if they call their numbers out as they go by that is extremely helpful to us.  One of the biggest problems is riders putting their numbers on too high on their back, or riding in clothing that rides up their back making the number impossible to read.  I have also seen riders with their numbers pinned to their right side. Upon being asked why the response was “so that the motorists can see me”.  Well great for the motorist but not so good for the timekeeper who is usually (but not always) on the left side of the road.

However, on the day we did not have too many indistinguishable numbers.

I would agree with Caitlin that all participants in cycling events would benefit from helping out with the events; we particularly like having different people sit with us to do the texting back (when necessary) as they soon pick up on the difficulties, such as actually seeing the numbers.

Participating in other roles within the event would also be useful as there is a lot to organise and helpers are always needed, especially marshalling, signing on, etc.  David Collard-Berry reckons that there is nothing quite like standing on a corner of the turn watching how riders tackle the turn.  It is worth at least a month’s coaching fee!!