On Wednesday 20th July 2022, I hosted a whole cyclocross race as Beyond CC, with my business partner – Alison Wood – friends and family. It was a moment of madness me agreeing to do it, but not only did we pull it off, we absolutely SMASHED IT (if I may say so myself).
This specific event was Round 2 of the Central Cyclocross League Summer CX series at Milton Keynes Bowl, listed on British Cycling as a Go-Cross race which means the races were shorter (35mins for adults) and a little more chilled than the typical Winter season races.
Who Are Beyond CC
Back in December 2021, Alison and I had the idea to create the ultimate community for women who ride and looking to take on the challenge of going beyond their current limits. Originally the idea was to support women to train for their first century (100miles) in 2022 but we soon realised there is a space out there for a community that goes beyond just one event.
Beyond CC is an inclusive space to support you on your journey, no matter your start point. We also cater for individuals who like to run and swim as well as ride.
Here’s what our members get:
- Monthly training plans to suit your experience
- Live and on-demand strength and conditioning sessions
- Weekly indoor cycling community meet-up
- Workouts and training plans based on female physiology
- Monthly seminars to support training (nutrition etc)
- Professional support from both Alison and I – Personal Trainers and Cycling Coaches
Cyclocross Race Pre-Event Organisation
Before I agreed to host this event, I asked the organisers what exactly would be involved in order to determine if I’d be able to find enough people and get the job done.
Here’s a pretty complete list of things we needed to do:
Before race Day:
- find volunteers (up to 10)
- design the course
- curate music playlist / get a DJ
On Race Day:
- build / set up the course
- provide marshals
- cover registration / sign on desk
- chips and race bibs
- help with lap board / scoring
- gridding / race starts
Bearing in mind we’d never done this before, nor been to The National Bowl in Milton Keynes, the organisers helped us out with course design, using parts of the course from Round 1 and reversing the rest.
I put out a call for volunteers on my social accounts as well as asking my nearest and dearest. Alison was already roped in being the second half of Beyond CC.
I’m so grateful that Tasha, Modestas, Jade and Alicia agreed to support us on the day. I loved seeing them use their strengths in a completely different scenario to their day jobs! We got a bit too busy during the evening and I forgot to get a team picture but they’re the fab souls featured in the imagery captured.
Last but not least, I put out a call on Facebook for a DJ, and Frank – who I’ve spent many an evening dancing to his playlists live on Facebook – got in touch and agreed to come down.
Race Day Uncovered
Race day arrived and all that was left, was to get to the venue. It was a military operation figuring out car pick ups, people pick ups, drop-offs (Alison’s dog to the dog sitter), petrol, directions and then making our way to Milton Keynes.
We arrived around 12:30pm where we met Nathan who filled us in on what we needed to do – armed with printed copies of the course map to help us set-up the course – our first task of the day.
Cyclocross Course Set-Up
Building the cx course was the biggest and most time consuming task. None of us had ever built one before – some of the crew had never even seen one and in my anxiety, I never even thought to fill them all in on what cyclocross was or what exactly we would be doing.
I just told them to wear comfortable shoes, and boy, did we need them. We clocked up over 20,000 steps each walking while putting the stakes in the ground and attaching the tape. But considering we were mere amateurs in course building, we finished with plenty of time to relax for a while and grab some food.
Within no time at all, the first race participants started to arrive and the next part of our day was to begin…
All The Admin
“Sign on” as it’s known, consists of a gazebo where riders can register on the day if needed, sign that they’re in attendance, then grab their race numbers and timing chips.
We had Tasha, Jade and Alison looking after sign on and they clearly had it under control as every time I popped over they looked busy. They were stationed there for the whole evening to look after participants of the 4 races scheduled.
The Cyclocross Races Themselves
For each race, there was the pre-race briefing to do, which was pretty short and sweet. Then it was onto gridding, checking with the timing tent they were ready, checking the course was empty, before blowing the whistle to set the riders on their way.
During the race, I kept myself busy between checking in on the team and cheering the riders on with cowbells (borrowed from a rider). For one of the races I also hung out at the timing tent to look after the lap board, ring the bell for each riders final lap and wave the chequered flag for the end of the race.
Cyclocross Tips From the Blog:
- What To Expect At Your First Cyclocross Race
- Review: Liv Brava SLR 2020 | Womens Cyclocross Bike
- Cyclocross Kit Essentials For The Winter Season
Post Event Jobs
Once the final race was completed, all that was left to do, was to pack down the course and all the other bits like gazebos etc. Detaching and unwinding what felt like miles of tape then pulling every stake out of the ground was about as much as my brain could handle at that point.
Thankfully packing down was quicker than the set-up and we managed to finish in about an hour so we could get on our way back home to Essex / London.
Post Race Feedback
When it comes to cycling, and cyclocross specifically, I’m keen to advocate for more women getting involved and it’d be especially great to see more People of Colour on start lines.
So hosting this race was a big deal for me, Alison, Beyond CC and our community and the feedback has been fantastic.
There was one situation when it was suggested to one of the female racers that she hang back for the winner to lap her so she wouldn’t need to do another lap. This is perfectly normal, I’ve done it myself. However, a guy standing on the course sidelines felt it appropriate to tell her she “could do her make-up while [she] waited”.
I am so glad that the woman actually stood up for herself and told him how not okay that was as a comment. It’s actually quite scary how freely comments like this are thrown about and in hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention in order to follow this up.
I was glad to see the woman in question did follow up with the race organisers and a statement was made in the community. Sometimes it can feel like there’s no point raising a complaint, as you’re never sure it’s going to be taken seriously.
I did consider not sharing this incident, but I think it highlights even more why representation matters, how far we still need to go just for gender quality, why Beyond CC is needed and how important hosting this event was.
I was stood right next to a guy who asked the timing guys who was hosting the race that evening… and was super proud to jump in and say “that’d be me, with Beyond CC”.
What Did This Cost Me?
We all know that time is money; well, money is money too. When it comes to volunteering there are tangible and intangible costs involved.
People are giving up their time and taking days of annual leave – we know how valuable annual leave days are. The there was the cost of petrol, I had to hire a car was we couldn’t all fit in my car, then snacks and drinks.
I also had a photographer along – which obviously is over and above what was required – to capture some imagery we could use on our Beyond CC website and socials, as well as this write up.
Would I Do It Again?!
After agreeing to host this cyclocross race, trying to find volunteers to support and in the lead up to the day, honestly, I was super stressed and thought I would never, ever, do this again.
It was a long exhausting day, but I had the best time and I *think* I would do it again… like, next year. And only for a chilled out event, not a Regional or national race.
Before I go, I need to give a huge Thank You, once again to SunGod (I’m a SunGod Ambassador) who supported me by providing sunnies / vouchers for volunteers and as prizes for winners. I’m wearing the SunGod Momentum Limited Edition Velans which were launched in July 2022 to mark the inaugural Tour de France Femme aves Zwift and celebrate women in sport.
“The more momentum we make, the more change we create…”Sungod momentum campaign 2022
I’m looking forward to heading back to Milton Keynes to race in one of the Summer CX events – if you’re considering trying out some cross, this is the ideal place! Check out the Central Cyclocross League on Facebook and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!