Feature: Beverley Races Going Going Gone

First there was the East Yorkshire Classic RR, a victim of politics in British Cycling, and now the long running Beverley Elite Crit has been cancelled because of British Cycling decision making…

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Feature: Beverley Races Going Going Gone

As the season of National A events begins this weekend for the top British teams (men), VeloUK talks to the organisers of two events that used to feature in the racing calendar but sadly are now no longer part of the fabric of the British racing scene

This year, the number of races for Elite men continues to dwindle and after the East Yorkshire Classic Road Race was shelved a few years ago now, the same organisers, Martin Cockerill and Andy Cawley have pulled away from a crit which was part of the Elite Circuit Series fabric, many people’s favourite event in Beverley.

And the reasons for these two races being lost to the calendar is not because of the usual reasons such as budgets or traffic on the roads but because of decisions at British Cycling making it untenable for the organisers to continue with the events.

To find out more, I spoke to Martin, one of the organisers, who admits, in his words, those sitting in the ivory towers at British Cycling are making decisions that don’t make sense for volunteer organisers. They don’t appreciate the time and effort that you put in; from raising the sponsorship, organising the event and putting the barriers up” Martin explained. … continued after advert


The first race that was lost was a popular one with riders and on a great course in East Riding of Yorkshire; the East Yorkshire Classic, a race that had been run by Hull Thursday RC since the 50’s in one shape or another. Back in 2003, Andy and Martin took over the organising of the race and took it from a two day event to a one day road race and later, added the elite crit.

In 2003, the road race was an Elite event and then became part of the Premier Calendar in 2004. Like a lot of events that have been running for a long time, the race became a part of the fabric of the sport. It was one to look forward to for sure and having seen it close up from the back of a motorbike for many years, it was an exciting race with finishing loops on the outside of the historic town as well.

Hamish Haynes beats the legend Roger Hammond to the line to win the 2006 British RR Championship in Beverley

But, in 2012, it seems politics within British Cycling, the Board, the road commission and the Yorkshire region itself, saw the event lost after Martin and Andy had been told they had won the right to hold the British Road Race Championships again but were then gazumped by another organiser from the same region of all places.

Martin admits he knows from sources within British Cycling they were stitched up and so the sport lost a much loved road race. And all because of politics which reeks havoc in all sport and sadly too, in cycling where we need these long running events in regions where cycling is much loved and supported like East Yorkshire. You only need to look at the Tour of Yorkshire to see how much cycling means to Beverley. The East Yorkshire Classic ticked so many boxes its loss was a major blow to the sport being taken to the public.

Looking back at the organising of the event, Martin explained “Andy and I put a team of people together to organise the race (including upwards of 50 marshals on the day) because to do it on your own was pretty daunting so we broke it down into groups. So, we had one guy for the course design, one for PR, another for the sponsorship and so on.”

“We started in January having monthly meetings and set out milestones of what needed to be done and when. I looked after the BC side of things and Andy looked after the sponsorship and risk assessments. We had a good infrastructure and great local sponsors who don’t get a lot out of it but certainly put a lot in”.

“It was very satisfying to organise it over the years and meet the riders like Rus and Dean Downing and managers like John Herety; legends of the sport.”
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But, if you really wanted to know how much the sport meant to the locals, then a night out at the Beverley crits, even when raining, and one look at the crowd of thousands lining the barriers, showed just what the bike race meant to the place.

“The Friday night race for us was always about being a spectacle” explained Martin. “One for the spectators whilst the Sunday road race was about us and where we grew up riding bikes and racing them. It was for the riders, a top class race which was very satisfying to see come to fruition. Every race was as good as the other” Martin added before admitting the road race championships in 2006 and won by Hamish Haynes, was a personal favourite.

But even when the road race was lost to the racing calendar, the Friday night circuit race, which for four years on the trot was the host of the British Crit championships, continued to be held in the town. The event came along a few years after the road race and for the first few years, would draw a crowd of a few thousand but then it really caught on and the crowd grew to seven or eight thousand.

The race was held on a course which had a bit of everything. Fast corners mixed with slow ones on paving, cobbles, some bits which were technical and long fast straights where the power could be put down.

Asked about the run of circuit championships in the town, Martin says “there was none of this biding they do now. BC approached us – we didn’t ask for the national championship – and they asked if we would be willing to do them. Of course we said yes. And then the following year they gave them to us again and the following year again. After the fourth year, they told us they had to find some where else and we had no problem with that.”

Times have changed with BC however and now they have a tender process. “They ask you to pay for the tender but we just put a zero tender in on the understanding that we’re volunteer organisers and if they want a race of that calibre, they know we can do it. It’s a no brainer, we are not going to pay BC for it – they should be paying for us… It makes you wonder how many of those people employed by BC and making rules have actually organised a race let alone closed down a whole town center for a day for three events.”

“Last year we received a call saying that they were providing new backdrops as they wanted HSBC logos on them – which is fair enough but what transpired was a totally inflexible approach to who we could have as race sponsors. We were told that two local business men; relative minnows in the world of finance, could not be sponsors, despite the fact that they in no way shape or form represented any competition to the Global Giant HSBC.”

“They were registered with the financial services authority and that was enough so we lost them. Both had been with us since the beginning in 2003 and sponsored us every year for 15 years. We asked if anyone at BC would be willing to speak with HSBC to seek permission to allow us to accommodate these sponsors but we just received a stock reply – ‘No it’s in the contract’.”

“Jonny Clay (at BC) was incredibly apologetic but said his hands were tied.”

“HSBC were not putting any money into the event. We said to BC, okay, but are you going to give us the money we are going lose in sponsorship and they said we can’t do that”.

“The next thing to happen was in the week of the event, BC called to inform us that the podium truck would not be coming as it was required elsewhere and they offered a low level trailer instead. We argued that Mike Smith would not be able to see to commentate, nor would any of the crowd across the road be able to see the presentations above the new meter high barriers. We said we could not accept the trailer but would be happy to arrange an alternative podium ourselves. BC insisted this would not be appropriate and magically the podium truck became available for this high profile event. This sort of stress and distraction is not required days before the event”.

Also in the week running up to the event, we found out that the new arrangement for chip timing which took over from the photo finish which BC provided previously, would only be available for the Elite Criterium as that was all he was contacted to do. We were informed that if you want the 3rd & 4th event and the women’s race doing, that will cost you an additional £300, something we had not budgeted for and could ill afford at short notice having already lost two sponsors. Again, additional stress in the final few days”.

“By this time our enthusiasm to continue organising these popular events was at an all time low. We were volunteers putting on top class events for the benefit of BC and all we were getting was unhelpful stress from all directions.”

“The final straw came well after the event in October. Whilst trying to reconcile the accounts, we noticed there was a £2000 hole in the bank balance. It transpires after a bit of digging that BC Yorkshire had taken the decision to withhold all online entry payments to our account in May, three months before the event without any discussion or warning.”

“The reason being at that time they had not received the cheque for the levies for the 2016 event. We had paid these, albeit after a slight delay – firstly as the commissaire did not send the levvy form until weeks after the event and then we had difficulty in obtaining a postal address for the regional administrator to enable us to send them”.

“A cheque was sent to the Regional Administrator in Sept 2016 however for some reason this did not arrive at BC HQ. The fact they had not received them was only communicated to us in passing seven months later in May 2017 when we were told that there was hell on at BC as you have not paid the levies. A second cheque was immediately written and posted but again for some reason failed to make it through the postal system.”

“A third cheque was hand delivered at the end on May”.

“During the period between Oct 16 and May 17 despite ‘there being hell on at BC’ – not a single person from BC made any contact with Andy or I to bring this to our attention. The suspension of payments was made without our knowledge or agreement and despite the fact the third cheque was cashed in June 2017, the transfer of entry fees to our account remained frozen until we discovered it some four months later”.

“I sent a letter to Jonny (Clay) and cc’d the new CEO (Julie Harrington) and I got a reply from Phil Heselwood saying ‘are you running the event’? We never heard anything from the CEO or anybody. So I said, “No, we are not running it”.

Martin then explained to me how in not wanting to see their 15 years of hard work cease, they had found a replacement organiser who would take over with help from he and Andy, and that they would gradually back out over a few years.

“Being enthusiastic, the new organiser attended the organisers meeting at BC in Manchester. He reported that the atmosphere in that room was horrendous. BC were getting a real beating from the organisers and along with all the emphasis on Red tape, Risk assessments and liability etc, he decided it wasn’t for him and withdrew his offer of taking over the organisation of the event”.

That was the nail in the coffin of the event and all because of British Cycling red tape and bad decision making for volunteer organisers. For instance, when I asked if the event was a non national series one, would it be as difficult and the reply was a decisive no.

“If there wasn’t so much red tape, there would be more organisers but BC just don’t get out there and support the organisers. They want to you pay for it, tender for it, put a letter of intent that you want to organise it and so on. Their approach is all wrong”.

“They know there are organisers out there that can put on top quality races like Otley, like us, the Lincoln organisers. As a national organisation, they should be coming to us and saying ‘here you go guys, this is the budget, and these are the guidelines you have to work to”.

“They are using us as volunteer organisers and we’ve never taken personally a penny out of the event here. Year in year out, we spend hours making it run smoothly and BC are getting it for nothing”.

To finish, Martin told us even the council in the region were not happy with the loss of the races and how many regions can say that? They know the races bring money into the region especially back in the day when there was three days of cycle events from racing to sportives. Now, the only big bike race to visit the town is the Tour of Yorkshire which only the selected few from Britain can race.

The loss of the Road Race and the Circuit Race is sad for the sport and even sadder that it is all so unnecessary. We need races and British Cycling should be working to keep races not making decisions that see them gone.





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