Datalynx Ltd and Parenesis Ltd have sponsored this series of grass roots Mountain Biking events for the past two times of running. The series focus on providing opportunities for riders of vastly different abilities and ages and with separate races being staged for women and men offering complete parity in prizes.
For me, I cycle for fun and to maintain fitness primarily so personal participation in competition is not my main motivation. I did start a cycle team, but that was a vehicle to get more women involved in the sport and at the same time promote the work of some UK charities; Prostate Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Awareness and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Support Association. I have known Mike Travers, the owner of Travers bikes and the organiser of this series of events for about 8 years now, and when he explained to me his concept of racing based on ability to encourage people who perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily take part in races, I felt it matched the aims of what I was trying to achieve with the team well. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions at the beginning of the series this year, and lack of availability of our team members due to other race commitments, there wasn’t anyone who could regularly help me promote the series by participation for every round. We did have two riders from our team take part in some rounds Sandra Mackay and Barry Macdonald and they are far better riders than me and very focussed on racing. So, I felt that I should put my body where my money and mouth were already, and decided to take part myself. This was extremely daunting for me, I have been training quite hard on an indoor trainer throughout Covid, mostly to stay fit both physically and mentally, but the last time I’d been out on a mountain bike was about 3 years ago (once only) and before that about 8 years ago and never competitively. I would rate my ability on a mountain bike as being very basic, I have/had no technical skills whatsoever. I am self-employed, so can’t afford to be injured and I am basically scared of crashing. Due to Covid, work has dried up for me so the former was less of a concern but I am still basically a ‘scaredy cat’.
The first round was fast approaching and my anxiety levels were sky rocketing, but I took part, got round and didn’t crash. The conditions were pretty much perfect though and it was a race that favoured fitness over technical ability. I placed third in my league and was somewhat dumbstruck. I enjoyed the friendly and supportive nature of the competitors, organisers and helpers of the event, it was totally different from the road cycling racing I’d experienced on the few races I’d done before. What was especially encouraging was the number of parents willing to take the kids to take part and support them in their races. The sponsorship monies that Datalynx and Parenesis gave, was used to give all the under 12s and under 9s free entry to each of the five rounds. What a fabulous way for young riders to experience a competitive event with electronic chip timing and with medals and prizes just like the professionals they’ve seen on TV. To hear them afterwards reliving every turn and pedal stroke was really heart-warming. This reaffirmed my belief, that the availability of any grass roots sport is essential to for the health and wellbeing of our future generations.
So, the series went on, and I took part in each and every one, I had deliberately paid for the whole series up front to give me fewer reasons not to take part. Before every round I felt feelings of anxiety about not wanting to get in other riders’ way, about crashing and about not being good enough, in hindsight I should probably bought shares in Imodium. After each hard hour and a bit of racing, I loved the esprit de corps and the virtual back slapping, and because of the way that Mike Travers had set the series up, it felt like there was something to play for every participant, in every one of the leagues. In reality, my skill level was my main limitation and as we experienced rounds with increasing difficulties and less than perfect weather conditions, that became very evident. I crashed albeit not badly in three rounds which was frustrating and embarrassing and added a bit to my feeling of not being good enough. However, as my rivals were quick to point out, I was new to the sport and they were crashing too, which made me feel a lot better. My lowest point was after round four where I felt I just didn’t have the knowledge or skill to tackle the technical parts and so I sought help. In between rounds four and five, I had two one-hour mountain bike skill lessons with Travers rider and British Cycling coach Kev Darragh, where we went right back to basics. The difference in my confidence in my ability between round four and five was dramatic. I felt better equipped to do some of the more challenging features of the course which by round five was longer and more technically difficult. Although I was happy to finish, I was already working out how I could improve for next year. Even more exciting than the feeling of finishing 5th in my league of about 20 riders, was the fact that there was free ice cream for all of the competitors and helpers and there were sprinkles and a chocolate flake!
It was a superb series of events and I would encourage you to come along next year. If you don’t fancy racing, come along and cheer, it is a lovely venue, a woods on private property, and the bluebells in the early rounds were wondrous, as was the sound of the woodpeckers getting lunch.
TRANSPARENCY ON THE SITUATION
We made a big leap forward in 2021 (it was actually ready for 2020) regarding the timing of the race, we now have chip timing across all categories with instant results…kind of.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
It was a massive undertaking to implement the timing chips into the race series, it has involved learning new software for both the registration and the timing side as well as the timing hardware itself. Getting an off the shelf solution was too expensive, so we have developed our own system, whereby chips are stuck to the number boards.
We were obviously slightly nervous going into the Clubs Champs as it was the first time we had used it in the real world, we did setup the system at home and went through as many scenarios as possible, testing out every number board, angle, height and bike attachment we could think about but there was always going to be the odd issue.
The first race issue we had was due to us using a side mounted antenna which gave the most accurate timing but had a limited reception. Directing the antenna down the track increased the coverage but picked up riders before the finish line. We obviously have a backup system so no results are lost, we still do manual timing and can highlight missed riders and update the results after the event. We also have a time lapse camera which picks riders up going across the line, so if everything failed we could watch the race back.
This setup picked up every rider on the first lap then 85% of the riders 100% of the time with the remaining 15% missing either single or multiple laps
Round 1 of the Series
We upgraded the system with a gantry and 2x antennas above the riders to give a more accurate read right above the finish line, plus the antennas are much closer to the riders. The antennas cycle on and off multiple times a second meaning they are scanning from slightly different angles to get the best reading (the best reading is chosen from the strongest signal read withing half a second of the first reading).
This setup also picked up every rider on the first lap and then just over 90% of the riders 100% of the time with the remaining 10% missed either single or multiple laps.
What’s next to improve accuracy?
We are looking into a number of things:
Additional side mounted antennas to work alongside the overhead antennas to create a ‘curtain’ scanning area.
Helmet tags: This is something I wanted to avoid, the logistics of getting them back from the riders, the need to remove them because they will mess up timing at other race events (not run by us), and the cost is far higher than the ones we currently use on the number boards. We have ordered a small batch to test and depending on the results we may run a live test at the next race with riders we know have not been reliably picked up by the system in previous races or, if time permits, swap to this system.
The benefits are the rider’s head is much closer to the antenna and it has an unrestricted view with no bike or rider in the way to cause issues and it is not going to be touching any metal parts of the bike. It’s also sealed from the weather.
Antenna cables: These can be shortened once we have a final setup to prevent signal loss.
Currently we post the results straight after the race (even when we know they need editing). The reason for doing this is because we are only a small team and in an ideal world, we could hand over the timings to another team with the manual results to check and update before publishing, but we need to move on to setup and use the timing system for the next race. So nothing is lost we publish and then go back and update it later.
We plan to have the updated results ready by Monday, possibly the same day, as we improve the accuracy of the system and there are less issues to update.
Things you can do to help
Don’t bring your number board too close to the gantry when other races are on. When you have finished your event, do not walk back through the timing gantry (or close to it). There is a delay between the system recording your lap time and being able to record another, but if you sit there and have a chat then walk back through, the system thinks you have done another lap. To help with this we will try and finish all races up the hill, which will result in riders finishing on the car park side and thus no need to come back through.
I would like to thank my girlfriend, Amanda for spending hours researching and pulling together the system from the initial idea I had and the box of parts I gave her! Also, thanks to our friends Natalie and MariAngel (who comes down from London) who help out calling the riders through and recording the results manually. They have been amazing and are invaluable. Neither of whom have any connection to cycling but have both just turned up to help.
It was tricky to tell coming out of lock down how fit/not fit people were and understandably some people under/over estimate where they were at. This bears no reflection on anyone's ability but its easier to juggle people around now, rather than a few races into the series. So unless you let me know of a good reason why you should be put up or down (injury, mechanical etc) The changes will be made midnight Wednesday.
Men's Elite Relegated to League 1
Men's Elite Promotion from League 1
Men's League 1 Relegated to League 2
Men's Elite Promotion from League 2
Men's League 1 Promotion from League 2
Women's Elite Relegated to League 1
Women's Expert Promotion from
League 1 Zoe Swainston
The under 9”s and under 12”s will all receive finishers medals (made out of a plant based bio plastic). They are available in a number of colours. They will get a new part for each round they finish, 5 to complete the set!
Due to COVID the medals will adorn a handy bush where the kids can pick the colour they want.
No On the Day Entries Due to the massive pre-entry for the series and the difficulty taking payment On the Day due to Covid restrictions. Entries will now close midnight Friday and this will be the same for all remaining rounds. Please let anyone know that was planning on turning up on the day that they still have time to enter.
Good news and hazy news, there still isn't much guidance on the clarity for a return date, although the date of the 29th of March has been quoted for the return of grass roots sports it isn't clear on whether its competitive, groups sizes and procedures etc. Hopefully this will become clearer of the next couple of days.
The good news, the bridge has weathered in really well it is looking great, conditions are very dry, the work we did on the drainage last year has been worth while. The brambles have taken over in places and there are a few fallen trees across the course, so there is quite a bit of work to do to get the course back up and running as it hasn't seen any tyre or foot fall (other than the owner walking his dog) over the last 2 years.
I will crack on and prepare the track with an aim to get events running again in April. The plan is to do the club championships first to give people a chance to get their race legs back before we start the series.
Thanks to Epic Orange who are sponsoring the #TraversMTBSeries in (2020....possibly, might be 2021) and supplying the Jerseys for the Series. They have also supplied the jerseys for the Club Championship. They look stunning. Anyone looking for a supplier for your Team kit or event I can highly recommend them.
Normally an exciting day...the race numbers have arrived!
Updated! I will suspend entries for both the Club Champs and Series today. The reason for this is to limit my liability. I will reevaluate the situation either when the government gives us more information or closer to the start date depending on developments.
Its now clear that the series cant go ahead with the first 4 events coming within the 12 week quarantine period for the most vulnerable people. Amanda my girlfriend falls into this category, so I cant chance bringing the virus home.
If things do get better for later in the season I will re-valuate the final 2 round.
Just 2 months before the Club Champs and a week later for the first round of the Series.
I would like to thank our sponsors Fibrax Limited for a fresh delivery of course tape. Without their help it wouldn't be possible to run the series.
For those that dont know, Fibrax Limited are a Welsh company that make quality upgrade parts for your bikes, Lightweight Rotors, Disc Pads, Cable protectors and a great looking stealth bell.
HAND BUILT TITANIUM FRAMES.