BERWICK WHEELERS CYCLING CLUB
Autumn Update, from Jami Blythe. Photos by Jami, aerial shot curtesy Sky Vantage Productions
Our home town of Berwick upon Tweed became the back drop for the biggest bike race in Britain this month. Anticipation began to build as soon as the route had been announced, all those months ago.
It could be argued that the status of the Tour of Britain is increasing year on year, with big names such as Mark Cavendish and Mathieu Van Der Poel being drip fed to fans as the line up was announced. Of course, with big individual names come equally big team names and we wanted to be certain we didn’t disappoint both visitors and pros for the big day.
Planning began in July with weekly meetings hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, drawing in shop keepers and business owners to discuss what we could do together to paint the town red in preparation. Window dressing competitions, market stalls, giant tv screens, bespoke coffee offers and ‘Hunt the mini cyclist’ all followed. The good town folk of Berwick were full of creative ideas.
As well as the Chamber of Commerce, we found new club partnerships with the Welcome Visitors Project and Tourism Development as we collaborated to bring our ideas to life. But the one day show that is a international cycle race, proved itself not just to be a one trick pony. Very early on in our discussions, we all agreed that we should leave a legacy behind, invest in the buzz and capitalise on the interest of all things two wheeled and leg powered. Building a future of cycling in and around town was our key goal to create in the wake of this opportunity.
Early in August, five of our club members met at West Ord Farm with half a plan and a length of rope. What followed, on a bright and sunny day, was a giant bicycle the size of an entire field, mowed by the land owner and then sprayed to create a massive piece of land art. No GPS was involved in the making of this fine piece of artwork, only a scale drawing, measuring tape and half an idea of what a bike looked like.
Each year the Tour of Britain holds a land art competition, and as we knew the peleton would pass the edge of this field it seemed like a shame not to give them something (or at least the viewers on TV via the helicopter) something to look at. The entire length of the bike exceeded 200 metres, with scale handlebars and chain ring to match. Sky Vantage Productions kindly snapped our masterpiece from the air using a drone and we’d like to think we became an internet sensation overnight as it was shared on social media as far as France.
Elsewhere, our members were working tirelessly and daily behind the scenes with a working group which saw a number of attractions in town brought to life on the night before, including a ‘change the puncture’ competition and opportunity to watch the finish of that days stage on a big screen near the Food and Beer Festival at the Barracks.
As well as being invited to the official launch of the Tour coming to Berwick, with photo shoots and media interviews, we were also hugely privileged to be gifted places on a Ride Out ahead of the official start of the Tour, with three of our club riders joining local school children who were also wearing Berwick Academy’s winning cycle jersey design.
As if one bite at the cherry wasn’t enough, at the official Pro team stage presentation just an hour before the start of the race, six of our members joined Team Ineos, Team Wiggins Le Col and Wanty-Groupe Gobert on stage as they were announced to an impressive crowd on Marygate. We presented a club cap to each team, and special thanks must go to James Fouche of Team Wiggins Le Col for being a good sport and wearing it!
The 120 international riders then rolled down Hide Hill, across the Old Bridge and onto the A698 near Longridge. The flag was dropped to mark the start of race proper, just as the helicopter seemlessly panned out to showcase our land art bicycle to viewers across the world. You would almost think this was a well oiled plan!
As the riders made their way to Newcastle, the good town folk and visitors stuck around and were entertained with the big screen and market stalls at the Quayside.
Cycling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or indeed on everyone’s radar, but the town showed that this was matterless. Life sized effigies of Mark Cavendish, smiley faces made out of bike parts, flags, bunting and the circus like atmosphere of the arrival of the team buses, all appeared to spark the curiosity of those even with no interest in getting on a bike.
We hope this wasn’t a one-off and the circus will come to town again in future. If so, we will be waiting, but all the while basking in the aftermath of what was a truly memorable, collaborative and thrilling experience. The crowds who lined the streets may have waved off the peleton as they departed, but we will continue to fly the flag for all things cycling related until they come back again.
Spring Update, from Jami Blythe
Latest: see '2019 Reivers' tab (above) for results and race report.
As we spring our way into 2019, we’re having a busy time preparing for the start of our racing season as well as our sixth annual Reivers Road Races which take place on March 23rd.
Winter has been fairly generous to us, without too much time off our bikes. It seems that it’s not over yet, however. While we await the tail end of the cold snap to pass, we are in full Reivers Race mode.
The success of previous years races at Ford and Etal have laid a fantastic foundation for us. Under the guidance of British and Scottish Cycling, fostering solid relationships with our regional reps from both sides of the border, and with financial support from Simpson’s Malt in Berwick, we couldn’t be more excited.
Some changes to proceedings this year will see an inaugral women’s only race, using the same two lap circuit and finishing on Ford Bank, the change in line being introduced last year. We have been overwhelmed by the support from clubs and teams as we welcome 40 riders to this race.
Our Cat 3/4 race will see a field of 80 riders from all over the country tackle the 40 mile course also. As the popularity of our road races continues to grow, who knows what the secret is? Home baked cakes at the end? A stunning backdrop of rolling roads set against the typically snow covered Cheviot hills? The Reivers Gin sponsored King and Queen of the Mountains? The daffodil lined course punctuated by pretty villages? The thrill of returning clubs who look to the Reivers as a spring board to their racing season? Who knows.
You can stay up to date with race build up on our Facebook and twitter pages. Here’s to another great day.
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