West Riding Track League Round-Up
What a difference a year can bring!
At the beginning of 2009, it looked like the death knell for a cycling league which had produced over one hundred years of continuous cycling, stopped only by two world wars. Falling numbers, cancelled meetings due to boggy track conditions, a financial loss and the resignation of the organiser due to work commitments looked like spelling the end for this historic league.
Determined to save it from closure, the volunteers decided to run for one more year under a new and inexperienced organiser. With lots of help and willing assistants from both the existing volunteers and new ones, the league started the new season at its banked grass track at Roundhay Park in Leeds in May.
The first hurdle had already been overcome. Shaun Gregory, the Visitor and Retail Manager of Roundhay Park together with John Roebuck, the Head Gardener had arranged for remedial drainage works to take place over the winter of 2008. This enabled the league to run for 11 weeks out of the 13 even after bad weather. Previously, a heavy downpour would mean the track was unusable for two weeks. By the end of this year’s league, there were still some drainage problems but with the good will of the parks department and some redirection of the track, the season finished with a grand finale. Further drainage works are to be undertaken over this winter by Roundhay Park to further improve the track which is already at its best for several years.
The second was to increase numbers of riders as this would be the only way to survive for the future. The best way forward was to advertise the league. Thanks to the local paper, The Yorkshire Evening Post running a couple of articles, excellent coverage on the British Cycling Website and Cycling Weekly, numbers have continued to increase over the year, particularly amongst the under 12’s. From 28 freewheelers finishing last year, this year 53 children raced during the season.
In addition to the league, the first Yorkshire Grass Track Championships for several years was run on the 13th July with cash prizes and trophies for the winners and medals for the children.
By the season end, it was clear that the league was now a resounding success, thanks in no small part to the dedicated team of volunteers turning up week after week to set up and run each event. A grand finale was held on the last night with special medals for the league winners, cash for the seniors and certificates and prizes for the children. These were presented by Ron Wise, who had returned for a nostalgic ride around the track after racing in there in the 50’s.
And in the future.....
Thanks to all the support and hard work by Roundhay Park, next year should bring even more success. It is hoped to continue to expand numbers, particularly for seniors and Juveniles by offering a superb track and possibly prize money. Also under discussion is to consider applying for a grant to provide bikes both fixed and free wheel to increase young participation.
Watch this space and check out both our website British Cycling for next years dates and put them in your diary. Many Olympic cyclists have raced at Roundhay, could you be the next one?
I have spent this year learning about race programmes, handicapping, promotion, regional championships, league points and track rules. I thank you all for your patience and I couldn’t have done it without all the help I have been given by everyone.
(Now a bit more Experienced) Organiser!