So on the Friday afternoon I headed off to….
Yes I know that’s not in Wales but it is where the event is based out of, the Three Counties Showground to be exact.
Seeing as last year I had suggested having registration open on the Friday night to ease the queues on Saturday, I thought I really ought to turn up and help, so set off on Friday afternoon to take a direct cross country route to Malvern, via Buckingham, Aynho, Chipping Norton, Moreton in Marsh, Evesham and Pershore.
I turned up about 20 minutes before registration started and we were swamped! It seem the majority of the 190 competitors decided to turn up that evening and by the time we closed at eight, 130 riders had signed on.
The snack wagon had pretty much run out of everything except chips but at least the bar was still open. As I had been booked into a hotel in Great Malvern, I couldn’t really partake but had a good night chatting, then headed off to the hotel.
I was up at 07.00 although unfortunately the hotel didn’t start breakfast until 08.00, I headed to the showground on deserted roads ready for the day. Thankfully the snack wagon had restocked and I was able to grab a bacon roll and a cup of tea.
After registering the rest of the riders and carrying out a briefing the riders set off on their short 106 km training route, that apart from a short off road section in the showground was all on tarmac.
The concept of the Wales 500 over those at Kielder and on the Isle of Man being to make it more suitable for first timers. I left on the bike before them to ride to my static marshaling point, the idea was that I would check everyone past then move a short distance up the road to a petrol station where I’d see the riders pass me again on the return loop. Well that was the plan!
On the way out I’d passed signs saying “Long Delays” and a diversion. As it was the weekend, I ignored them and sure enough the roadworks were deserted and the road clear, so I didn’t think there’d be any issues. Having arrived at my marshaling point, I called back to event HQ only to discover that several riders had become confused by the diversion and followed it. Although they eventually got back on route, it was not good as the concept of the event is to stick as closely to the road book mileage as possible.
I headed back, “making progress” on the narrow country lanes, which was fine until I started meeting competitors coming the other way!
Reaching the end of the diversion, I witnessed a group of riders heading in that way but they had clearly worked out how to get back on route as they were indicating to turn back onto the correct route. I rode round the diversion but didn’t see any more riders, getting to the start I parked up and directed traffic. Certainly a lot of riders were indicating to follow the diversion until I waved them to continue on route. I made a “modification” to the sign, Which was fortuitous as I then got a call to say the route was blocked ahead and a diversion of our own was required.
Again I had to make rapid progress on narrow roads but at least this time all the bike traffic was headed the same way. Arriving at the last turning before the closure, I directed all bikes to carry on as they would rejoin the route a short way ahead were I was assured a rider had stopped to redirect everyone.
After some time the last three riders on course arrived (the beauty of everyone being on live GPS trackers) and I led them off. Unfortunately the rider redirecting everyone had gone and we missed the turning back onto the route, so took a bit of a detour before catching up again at my original second marshaling point. After this I was able to tail the riders back to the finish.
That evening we had the fun job of sorting the results, as we deemed those who had arrived early and worked out a way round the road closure to be on the official mileage but also those who had been redirected would be too despite having done a shorter route. Obviously anyone deviating from the route elsewhere was penalised for it but we had to work out a penalty system to account for those riders who had done one of the two “official distances” so that riders who went wrong elsewhere didn’t appear above them if they just happened to get the correct distance. The competition being judged on route keeping accuracy as well as adhering as closely as possible to the official distance. We had previously discovered that you could take the wrong route but still get the “right” distance!
To mitigate this we had to visually check the track of every rider to verify the results from the tracking company but managed to do so before some excellent food from our evening caterers arrived. Sadly the bar didn’t fare so well and managed to run out of beer only twenty minutes later!!!
For some bizarre reason they had not thought to restock after Friday night. At least there was lots of free wine offered and when they eventually got some more beer delivered, free beer! This was good for me as I was leaving the bike at the showground and getting a lift back to the hotel with John.
After some more good chat and a few beers, we headed the 10 minutes back to Great Malvern and our beds for the night.
To be continued….