53°25'57.51"N 1° 6'24.30"W
If enthusiasm was all that was needed to organise a bike race, the Tickhill Velo GP would be as big as the Tour de France. Held for the first time in 2013, it felt immediately like an established event and the fact that it doesn't have a pedigree stretching back decades, like the Belgian criterium races it so closely resembles, came as something of a surprise to many fans and riders.
In the case of some races that include events for men and women, it soon becomes clear that they consider the women's race to be a bit of a chore, something they've had to do in an attempt to appear modern. So, they don't bother chasing up decent sponsorship and end up with a race that looks and feels every bit as half-assed as it is with a prize fund that wouldn't even pay for the bouquet given to the winner of the men's race and complain when only six or seven riders (who, discovering that nobody's even bothered to advertise the event and they haven't been provided with any facilities, understandably can't really be bothered with making much of an effort) sign up. I spoke a great deal with the organisers while writing this preview and it was obvious to me that they are definitely not in that category and that they have a very deep appreciation of women's cycling. When I asked event organiser Richard Stoodley why he feels it's important to support women's cycling, it was clear that he doesn't just think it's the right thing to do, he can't comprehend why anyone might not want to become involved in the sport.
"Why not? It's a growth area of cycling; National & International Level success means spectators EXPECT to see a women's category; it gives other girls and women something to support and aspire to be/do; it's great to promote something that counters the teenage binge drinking images that we see on the TV in every town centre" Stoodley answered, adding: "Both the men & women are ELITE… they are the best in their field at this level, therefore there should be no differential. The women have put in equal training and effort and we believe that they should benefit equally. The Title Sponsor agrees with our view that the women should get equal prize money."
When talking to someone like Stoodley, it's easy to feel optimistic about the future of women's cycling in Britain. Therefore, we as fans have a duty to support his team or organisers and their race - they're doing the things we've all argued for so long that all organisers should be doing, and for all the right reasons. Let's all try in any way we can - by going to see the race, by following it on Twitter and helping to spread the word with retweets and by telling everyone who'll listen all about it - to hep make sure that this race gets the recognition it deserves, so that it becomes an example of how to do things right. I have no doubt that it'll make it onto the Women's National Series calendar sooner or later, and we'll be able to say that we played a part in making it a success.
Unfortunately, finances are always an issue in women's cycling, and even the keenest organiser will experience difficulty in attracting even a fraction of the sponsorship they dream of finding - companies such as Boels (which has been pumping enormous amounts of cash into women's races and teams in Europe for a few years now) are few and far between, so teams and race organisers alike battle constantly for every penny they can get and struggle to persuade potential new backers that there really is an audience for the sport. Tickhill, though, has proven that it can be done, provided the organiser really pushes for it and, at the time of writing, Stoodley was excited to announce that he'd just received confirmation from what he described as "a HUGE sponsor which will allow us to carry out most things on our event wish list… one being "very attractive" prize funds!"
The organisers are, of course, still searching for more backing, and the more they receive the better an event they can provide - and the better the returns for sponsors. With sponsorship deals starting from as little as £99, there's a package to suit every company. Contact Richard Stoodley at email@example.com for more details.
Tickhill is a good example of a criterium and demonstrates how the format enables an organiser to put on a great event while keeping costs to a minimum and limiting road closures so as to make the race more acceptable to local councils and non-cycling fan residents. A compact parcours also offers benefits for fans - the Tickhill circuit is 1.232km in length, but from east to west it's a just half a kilometre across and from north to south only 95m, which means that any fan that chooses to do so can easily walk around the entire parcours and see all the corners, bends and straights as the race plays out.
It's a very flat circuit (total elevation gain per lap is only 4.2m) with two straight sections of 370m and 520m, meaning that it can be a very fast race; add to that the five difficult bends and, perhaps most important of all, the general party atmosphere in the village created by making the GP part of Tickhill's T-Fest music and dance festival (another tradition at the Belgium crits, which are often an important part of village festivals and fetes) and the race becomes a very enjoyable event indeed. The race will continue for 50 minutes and three additional laps.
View Tickhill Velo GP in a larger map
The start and finish is located on Sunderland Street (A631) outside the Scarborough Arms pub. The riders set off west along the latter half of the first straight, covering 170m before arriving at the 18th Century Buttercross (which marks the site of the market and where fresh produce for sale would once have been displayed on the stone steps). The parcours takes a route around the Buttercross that's just wide enough to be fast and easy in dry conditions but just tight enough to require caution when wet, especially when crossing the white road markings as the riders leave Sunderland Street and join Castle Gate (A60) and again after they've rounded the Buttercross and rejoin Sunderland Street.
The riders now head east along a straight 390m section, passing by the start line. Having passed to the right of a traffic island, they arrive at a tight right-hand corner leading onto York Road. It may be necessary to avoid the centre of York Road at the junction as rainwater, oil and leaves can collect in a shallow depression; this will be far easier to do in a smaller group of riders. York Road continues for 90, and ends at a junction with Lancaster Crescent, where riders turn left; there are two drain covers a couple of metres beyond the point where the two roads meet which will also be easier to avoid in a smaller group. Lancaster Crescent continues for 112m, then reaches a T-junction with two more drain covers lying in the centre of the road. Riders turn left onto a slightly narrower road and proceed for 87m to arrive at a T-junction and a left turn back onto Sunderland Street. As was the case when the riders left Sunderland Street, the centre of the road at the apex tends to collect water and assorted slippery detritus. Now on the final straight of the lap, the riders can get their heads down and reach very high speed; they will arrive at the finish line after 340m.
|The Buttercross marks the western end of the circuit|
(© John Garfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Not yet available
Tickhill lies immediately west of the A1, making it extremely easy to reach from the south and north. Leave the A1 at Junction 34 before taking the B6045 into Blyth, followed by the A634 to Oldcotes and the A60 directly into Tickhill. This section of the A1 is motorway and thus is not open to bikes.
From the east or west, take the M18 to Junction 2 at Loversall then follow the A1 south to Junction 34 and use the previous directions.
With parking a premium in Tickhill all year round, bike or train is definitely the best way to get to this race. The town does not have a railway station of its own, the nearest being at Doncaster 13km away: take the A60 south via Loversall and Wadworth, then directly into Tickhill. Google Earth and Maps both have applications that will design routes suitable for bikes from any point in the United Kingdom.
(© Ian S, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Once, Tickhill was the second most important town in South Yorkshire, as can be seen from the substantial remains of its ruined castle, and enjoyed great prosperity; when castles became obsolete the town entered a period of decline and today it's a quiet place with a population of 5300. Accommodation is therefore limited to the local pubs, some of which rent rooms, and to Hannah's Guest House which, despite a bad reputation in the past, has by all accounts undergone significant improvements. With the race and festival going on, these rooms are likely to be booked up well in advance; fortunately, Tickhill is very close to Worksop (15km), Rotherham (23.5km), Doncaster (13km) and Sheffield (30km) - all larger towns with much more accommodation.
...And while you're there
Tickhill is less than 4km from Harworth - the town that will forever be famous among cyclists in Britain and overseas as the home town of Tom Simpson, who now lies in the town's cemetery. During his professional career and for many years afterwards, Simpson was widely considered to be Britain's best-ever chance at a Tour de France victory - his sixth place in 1962 remained the best placing by a British rider until Robert Millar came fourth in 1984, his 1961 victory at the Ronde van Vlaanderen is the only time a British rider has ever won the race, his World Championship in 1965 was also the first by a British man (Beryl Burton had won in 1960) and would not be matched by another British man until Mark Cavendish won in 2011. All cyclists know how Simpson met his end on Mont Ventoux in 1967, and how the amphetamines found in the pocket of his jersey forced the cycling world to start dealing with the problem of doping. There is a small museum dedicated to him in Harworth, and you can pay your respects at his grave (53°25'8.13"N 1° 4'21.57"W).
It's probably also worth knowing that notable bike-hater Jeremy Clarkson lives in Tickhill. That this race probably really annoys him is another fine reason to support it.