Protective Four Peaks – Austria

Ian Wakefield

What is the Four Peaks?

OK I agree it’s a rubbish name for a bike race, however what used to be the Trans Germany has now become the Four Peaks and is rapidly becoming the best known European mountain bike stage race.  One thousand participants ride more than 270 kilometers, and climb more than 8,860 altitude in meters.  The event is estimated to attract more than 10,000 spectators at the stage locations.

Preparations

I was one of those 1000 competitors, and over the preceding 9 months had prepared myself for the challenges to come.  Or so I thought. Preparing to race across the Alps and training for it in the flat lands of Norfolk is far from ideal and being accident prone didn’t help either, six weeks before the start I hit the deck on a wet slippery road in Macedonia and broke my little finger in two places.  Big deal I hear you say, but would I really be able to hold onto the handlebars tight enough with a broken finger on descents? to cap it all, on a rainy ride to Beccles three days before the start, I once again hit the deck, and now had road rash all down the right side of my body and left, with big bruises across my left thigh, and a broken finger.

Excuses over then, I flew out to Saltzburg on Monday 15th June 2015 where I met my long time friends Mursel and Kathleen Rexhepi who had just completed three weeks training in the Swiss Alps.  We drove to the starting location of the race, a beautiful town called Bad Kleinkirchheim.  I couldn’t pronounce it either so it became “Bad Clench and Climb” which amused my friends.

The Tuesday was spent preparing the bikes and familiarising ourselves with the routines, locations and arrangements for race day.

That night was a sleepless night, I was very nervous about what was to come. I had so many doubts.  Had I trained hard enough? Had I trained long enough? Would I be able to cope with all the climbing? Would I be able to manage the descents? What if I fell off and bashed my broken finger again? the questions were endless.

Stage 1 (49 km climbing 2349 m)

Billed as the “Hardest day” this was the one that scared me the most it was over 49.36 km and up two major climbs, giving a total elevation of 2349 m.  Each day included an enduro challenge, ranking riders in terms of their speed down the most technical sections.

The first climb went well and I rode within myself to reach the first summit “Wollaner Nock” in good time.  It was at least 4 years since I had ridden down a steep ski slope so had to get off an walk on occasions.  Into the woods half way down and we were onto the enduro section.

In the rain it was very difficult to manouvre across the wet roots, sharp rocks, drops and ledges without coming off and I did so on several occasions.  Finding out later that I was roughly three times slower than the leading rider Juri Ragnoli (ITA) over the same section.

Soon enough we came to the second climb up to “Kolmnock Gipfeltrail”, at 10 – 12% for most of the way, until the top which was 31% and required the rider to carry their bike, in most cases it was too steep even to push.  It seemed to take for ever to climb this last few hundred meters. Shortly after this I punctured, and with tubeless tires this really was a pain, the tire wall had a sharp cut which was too big to be sealed by the sealant, it took about twenty minutes of messing around to put an inner tube in and get going again.

Once over the top we were on the Franz Klammer World Cup Downhill Ski slope, which varied between -20 and -27% , the track was wet and slippery and with fingers and forearms aching from braking I was relieved to finish Stage 1.

Ian Wakefield

Ian Wakefield – Four Peaks – Stage 1

Stage 2 (91 km climbing 1969 m)

Although stage 2 was the longest stage at 91 km, it was one I was looking forward to as I knew I’d be able to take advantage of my flat speed, one of my only strengths.  Our opening descent out of Bad Kleinkircheim was neutralised, thankfully traffic police had stopped traffic and the 1000 strong peloton snaked it’s way down the winding road to the riverside in Radentheim.  My favourite part of this stage was drafting in large groups through the flat sections, I especially enjoyed leading some of the small groups although really i knew i should be saving my energy.  Riding in a group was proving to be highly effective as we sped past lone riders and small groups who didn’t have enough energy or motivation to jump on the back.

The stage ended fairly uneventfully in Hermagor, a pretty alpine town.  After washing my bike I decided to ride to my hotel rather than catching the bus, a distance of about 8 km.  The hotel (Strasswirt) was beautiful and the owners friendly and helpful.

Ian Wakefield - Stage 2 - Four Peaks

Ian Wakefield – Four Peaks – Stage 2

Stage 3 (59 km climbing 2421 m)

Next morning at 8 am I had an 8 km ride to the start, my friends and most of the other riders were on the bus.  It was a good opportunity to warm up and get rid of some stiffness in my legs.

Whilst waiting for the start I sat in an archway talking to some German riders who told me they were from Dortmund, I told them my dad (Now deceased) had been stationed there in the 50’s, they told me the camps were no longer there and we had a little joke, but I was thinking of my father, his life, his death and wondering whether his spirit was with me.  I had his Royal Artillery lapel badge in my bag, I touched it for good luck and swallowed to avoid being seen with tears in my eyes.

Stage 3 had the biggest single climb of 1300 m, I felt strong up it and went past many of the riders I’d been riding with or near for the last few days, it took me about 2 hrs, which meant I witnessed the two lead riders Christoph Sauser and Juri Ragnoli on their final descent, coming back down (they had completed the climb in about 1 hr roughly twice as quick as me). Before you judge, bear in mind they averaged 380 watts for the whole climb of 1 hr, I averaged about 208 watts for 2 hrs which was absolutely on my limit.

The second part of the stage became a real challenge for me having burnt too much energy on the first climb. With another very tricky technical section just before the second feed station, I was relieved to make it to the finish relatively unscathed.  When I say that, I actually had bruises all down my chest and stomach where the seat had hit me on steep descents, bruises all down the inside of my thighs where I had tried to grip the seat on rocky descents with my thighs, bruises down the front of both thighs and shins from previous crashes and a broken finger.  I realised at this point I was going to have work on my descending technique, as I felt many of the injuries were down to poor technique.

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Ian Wakefield – Four Peaks – Stage 3

Stage 4 (71 km climbing 2122 m)

Noticing ten minutes before the start that yesterday’s crashes had caused my seat to be broken and was angled at a 45 degree angle to the side wasn’t an ideal start to the stage, but luckily the neutral service team were able to replace it before the gun went off.

The stage started in Tropolach and although it was raining, it was one I was looking forward to as once again it was flatter and longer, I was feeling stronger with the past three days riding now firmly in my legs.  Going into the mountains I rested long enough at the back of each group on the road to save enough energy to go past to the next group on the road, I did this about six times and was feeling good working my way through the field.  On some of the long climbs off road, I worked with other riders and on occasions took advantage of shelter behind stronger riders, leaving them when they ran out of energy.

The enduro on stage 4 was a pleasure and more like the trails I was used to in Thetford, unfortunately due to poor signing and marshaling I and a half dozen other riders went the wrong way, about 2 miles out of our way half way down.

As I approached 60 km in the pouring rain and mist I dared to think I was going to finish, each climb seemed to become longer, the skies became darker, I became colder but I knew I was getting closer to the end.  Eventually in the distance I could see a peak and I could see the sun shining through, this must be the final climb I kept saying to myself.  As I went over the top, the sun did indeed shine on me, a feeling of warmth came over me and I looked at the sky and said “Dad I’m going to finish”, somehow I felt he was with me.  I remembered his final bike ride to the post office before collapsing with a heart attack and it bought tears to my eyes. I wondered what he would have thought about me on this Austrian mountain, would he have been proud, maybe, maybe not, but what I did know is that I was proud to be his son.

The final descent was truly exhilarating and so close to the finish I was letting the bike run longer and longer between braking.  As I came across the finish line, an enormous sense of achievement, relief and excitement came over me.

Ian Wakefield

Ian Wakefield – Four Peaks – Stage 4

Final thoughts

I didn’t have to wait too long before my team mates Kathy and Mursel came in holding hands across the finish line, it was group hugs all round and an emotional visit to the podium for photos, it was going to take some time for it to sink in what we had all done and overcome.

Before the race I had designed some team jerseys, the motto on them was “Vincit qui se vincit” which translates as “He who conquers himself, conquers” we all conquered ourselves and I personally will treasure the memories and camaraderie from my team mates and other riders for many years to come.

Results

I finished 208 in the masters category which was won by Udo Bolts (GER) a twelve time finisher of the Tour de France.  The overall race was won by Juri Ragnoli (ITA) who narrowly beat former world champion Christoph Sauser (SWI).

 

 

Back to Norfolk

Gressinghall

In years to come I’d like to look back at this blog and remember the times in my life which have been inspiring, emotional or significant.

Coming back to Norfolk is one of those significant moments.  In 1988 when I was 21 years old I left Norfolk and my hometown of King’s Lynn to work in Reading, Berkshire.  I remember clearly how difficult this was and how homesick I was early on.  Since then I have worked all over the country and lived in some beautiful places.

Over all that time, I came to appreciate what a special place Norfolk really was.  I kept thinking that if I’d never left, then I would have taken it for granted and probably would never really have appreciated it.

Twenty six years on and my life changed forever with the death of my father. With an uncertain future through self-employment, and a stream of trips from the Midlands to Norfolk sorting out my dad’s affairs, I started to feel that maybe the time had come to move back to be closer to my family.

I began applying for Jobs in Norfolk, and in July 2014 I was offered a Job at a charity in Norwich.  Finally I had the opportunity to move back to Norfolk, but this meant leaving behind my life in Loughborough and my girlfriend of five years, a heart breaking decision.

Mum helped me to find a cottage near Norwich, and when the time to move came, my brother came with a van to help me.  He later told me that as we passed through Clenchwarton where our dad had lived on our way to my new house, that he talked to dad and told him that he was bringing me home, needless to say this brought a lump to my throat.  My journey was equally emotional remembering all that I had left behind and thinking about the new life I had in front of me.

Bintry Mill, Bintree, Norfolk

Pictured: Bintry Mill, Norfolk where three generations of Wakefield’s lived, going back to the 1780’s.

Slowly I settled in to my house, work and routine.  I began to explore, and started with some of the places and people on my family tree.  I was now living two miles from where my grandfather was born, Swanton Morley.  For over twenty years I had pored over maps of the places my ancestors had lived trying to get a picture in my head of what it was like.  Now I lived there, and each cycle ride took me through the villages and past the houses where my ancestors had lived, loved and died, I felt at home.

Although I was enjoying making lots of new discoveries on my family tree, I really missed not being able to share them with my dad, who would have been interested I’m sure.

One of my favourite things to do in Norfolk, has been to ride for hours down tiny country lanes, ending with visits to friends and family.  The beautiful wildlife, endless beaches, big skies, picturesque villages and friendly locals always make for a memorable ride.

Pictured: Kessingland Beach, Suffolk, where my G G Grandfather Charles Bonney-Georges headless body was washed up in 1901.

Pictured: Kessingland Beach, Suffolk, where my G G Grandfather Charles Bonney-George’s headless body was washed up in 1901.

Many of my ancestors never left Norfolk, I’m starting to understand why …….

NB Featured picture is of the Gressenhall Workhouse gates, where another G G Grandfather Matthew Bowes lived and died.

 

 

Make yourself heard!

Marketing masterclass

I was recently asked by an old CIM colleague of mine Rob Gray to contribute to a piece he’d been asked to write for CIMSPA and their S&PA magazine.  I was flattered to be asked and delighted that the piece was published in October 2014.

It’s really a marketing masterclass aimed at the sports sector, and I really hope my former colleagues from CIMSPA and the sports sector found it insightful and useful.

Here it is – Marketing masterclass

Nibali wears yellow in Cambridge.

Nibali wear yellow in Cambridge

Vincenzo Nibali is not a name that trips off the tongue but one that I will remember with pride for a very long time. Seeing Vincenzo Nibali the “Mailott jaune” riding through the streets of Cambridge with fellow riders on the 7th July for the 3rd Stage of the 2014 Tour de France brought a big lump to my throat.  Why you ask? From March 2014 I had been employed by Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council to promote stage 3 to it’s residents, so seeing thousands of people lining the streets, experiencing the deafening roar as the riders passed and seeing the greatest bike riders in the world in the greatest bike race, right in front of me was truly amazing.

The Devil and I

 

The Devil and Me 2009 Monte Carlo

My interest in the Tour de France goes back as long as I can remember and inspires me each year to ride more, ride harder and to be more ambitious.  After witnessing the 1st stage in 2009 which saw Fabian Cancellara win the time trial I was mesmerized.  That stage was in Monte Carlo, a more classic backdrop you just couldn’t imagine.

Among my highlights of that day were meeting the famous “Devil” and also Sean Kelly a legend of the tour.

2009 was one of the first times that electronic gears were used on the time trial bikes, which you could clearly hear as the riders flicked their levers on the steep climbs round the circuit.  Other than the tremendous speed of the riders the other thing that captured my imagination at that time was the helicopters.  Each rider, on setting off at 2 minute intervals, was tracked by the helicopter. Behind each rider was a car bearing the riders name on the bonnet all accompanied by flashing lights sirens and thousands of spectators it was truly spectacular.

Since that day I’ve dreamed of  my own helicopter hovering above me, and behind me a car with my name on. Although I know that will never happen, it certainly makes me ride faster, even on a wet windy day in Derbyshire.

2014 has been a difficult year in my life beginning with the death of my father, who loved to cycle and rode his bike almost everyday, it was shortly after his death that I got a job working on the Tour de France.

Although my father rarely gave compliments I felt sure that he would be proud of my new appointment and my contributions to the greatest bike race on earth.

I worked hard for 4 months, planning, organising and working with colleagues to both make sure Cambridge was appropriately branded with lamp post banners, posters, bunting etc.. and to make sure local residents were aware of the significant disruptions which would affect them on July 7th (a Monday).  This we achieved effectively with a few stressful moments but in the main everything we set out to achieve we did.

Stephen Roche

Stephen Roche 1987 TdF Winner

On the night before the race I was on duty capturing images of the build up, and couldn’t believe my luck when I was introduced to Stephen Roche one of only two riders to win the “Triple Crown” Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and the World road race championships.

So to race day.  Walking into Cambridge at 7 am it was a beautiful day and crowds were already starting to gather. Tour makers were being briefed and the Council were removing bikes locked to railings.  I was looking forward to a historic day.  As part of my role on the Social Media side I had a list of images to send through to control to posted, I worked my way round taking pictures of the crowd, start line, tour buses, big screen and of course the riders.

Just before the start I was given access to the “Tour Village” a secure area where media, riders and officials relaxed and went about their business, it was quite a privilege.  I felt like a little boy in a sweet shop, everywhere I looked there were riders, team mangers and beautiful girls (all dressed in yellow of course).  I took my photo’s then moved on towards the start, as I’d got this far I thought I would ride my luck and walk down the inside of the barriers where riders were gathering, nobody stopped me! It felt like an out of body experience, was I really walking down to the Tour de France start with the worlds greatest riders all around me? I was and in the end as I didn’t have a security pass I decided it would be best to leave voluntarily rather than be ejected which would have been embarrassing, so I hopped over the fence.

Helicopter Stage 3

My Helicopter – I wish :-)

Trying to get to the start on the other side of the barrier was impossible and I had to give up, just too many people.  As I was making my way over to Trumpington Street I got a text from a friend telling me she thought “My Helicopter” had arrived!  It certainly felt like that, I was almost floating down the road with excitement.  A few minutes later the peleton came past preceded by the procession, service cars and numerous police and gendarmerie. Right in the centre was Vincenzo Nibali, the Yellow Jersey – a moment I will remember for the rest of my life..

Shortly after the stage John Bridge OBE who is Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce in Cambridgeshire published an opinion piece which was very complimentary of the communications during the event here it is: John Bridge Chamber Opinion Piece Aug 14.

The Great Basketball Swindle

GB Men at the 2012 Olympics

Introduction

It is with sadness that I find myself writing this blog about the “Great Basketball Swindle” which has seen basketball in Great Britain gradually become swept under the carpet, and now seems to be regarded by many in authority to be a second rate sport.

Back in November 2013 I was really excited to be taken on as the Digital Communications Manager at GB Basketball.  Basketball was a sport I knew nothing about at the time, but what I did know was that it had a great image, was popular all over the world and was especially strong in the inner cities.

Having spent much of my time in previous professional roles trying to create more of, and better opportunities for people to participate in sport at grass roots level, it was a welcome change to be focusing on those at the elite end of the spectrum.

To begin with I was in awe of many of the GB Players, who in general had gone through the UK system and were now playing for some of the top clubs in the world. But as each week progressed and I researched each player to write a weekly update for the website, I felt as if I got to know them and to some extent understood their motivations and what made them tick.

Role Models

The link between grass roots, club, college, county, national and international became clearer and clearer the more research and writing I did. In all it’s estimated that about 350,000 people in the UK play basketball at least once a week, but of course we know only very few of these will ever make it through to the elite ranks.

However as is usual with all sport, most of those who play, aspire to be the best they can be, and perhaps move up to the next level.  We often talk about role models in sport, and basketball in the UK has many. To name but a few, Luol Deng, Andrew Sullivan, Stef Collins and Johannah Leedham.

Luol Deng is a great example of a role model and has an interesting story too. Born in Wau, Sudan (now South Sudan) he is a member of the Dinka ethnic group. As a young boy he moved with his family to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Egypt, he met former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka, who taught Deng’s older brother, Ajou Deng, how to play basketball while also serving as a mentor for Luol himself. When they were granted political asylum, his family emigrated to Brixton, South London.

While living in Brixton he played for Brixton Basketball Club. He was spotted at the London Youth Games, and progressed to play for England and Great Britain. Deng went to college in the U.S and subsequently went on to play for NBA Teams Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. It is estimated that he now has a Net Worth of $30 million, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots and through his foundation, he recently launched a basketball academy in South London.

Zero funding awarded

Great Britain Basketball who manage the elite teams are funded by UK Sport. On February 4th 2014 I travelled down to London to hear UK Sports decision on whether they would continue to fund Basketball. As I entered the office at 10 am it felt as if someone had died, the room was in silence.  I said “You know don’t you?” the reply came back “Yes we got zero funding”, I didn’t know what to say.  The announcement was embargoed until 2 pm so we had until then to prepare our responses to the public and the sporting world.

The reason given for “Zero” funding was that Basketball had not hit it’s performance targets and that they did not have a realistic chance of a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This may have been the case but was removing all funding the right thing to do?

We decided to focus on all the progress GB Basketball had made in the last few years, and developed the “achievements campaign” to try and turn the tide, reverse the decision and perhaps even change the criteria applied to funding.

At 2 pm there was a media frenzy, the Performance Chairman Roger Moreland had 14 interviews that day across London with journalists eager to get his reaction, which was disappointment, frustration and anger.  The main point he made was that “Team Sports” were being treated unfairly by the funding system, it was much harder to reach the top level in a sport which is played all over the world, and where a whole team has to perform. If sports like basketball in the UK were ever going to achieve an Olympic medal, funding could not be turned on and off. The current focus on medals was not in the best interests of sport in this country.

Performance Chairman Roger Moreland’s reaction

Social Media campaign

So with this as a background we set about launching a social media campaign #nolegacy4bball, a hashtag which represented how we felt.  The 2012 Olympics has been hosted with a focus on legacy, we now felt that basketballs legacy had been killed off, how would this effect young people just starting out. No National Teams to aspire to, no more role models, no aspirations to go to the next level (which was gone) and therefore NO LEGACY!

We focused our campaign on these achievements:

  1. Two GB Players nominated for FIBA Europe Player of the Year
  2. In the 2012 Olympics GB Men lost by 1 point 79-78 to Spain who went on to win Silver
  3. In the 2012 Olympics GB Women lost in overtime to France who went on to win Silver
  4. Both GB Teams now ranked in top 25 in the world compared to 75 plus in 2008
  5. GB Under 20 and England Under 18 teams now play in FIBA Division A
  6. In recent years 6 British players have been nominated for European Championship teams, including one MVP
  7. Basketball is the second biggest team sport after football in the UK.
  8. British players are now the 3rd highest group outside the USA playing in the NCAA Division 1 (55 Players)

#Nolegacy4ball

The campaign was a great success to in terms of raising the issues and challenging the current system, the #nolegacy4bball achieved 3.5 million timeline deliveries on Twitter in an eight week period.

Unfortunately all of our efforts were in vain and at the UK Sport appeal on March 19th GB Basketball were once again told they would receive no funding.  Not long after this myself and colleagues were informed our services would no longer be required, and ‘shell shocked’ basketball administrators began to explore other funding possibilities and to decide which teams could be run and which could not.  To date no solution has been found and many of the GB Teams futures are in question.

I genuinely  hope a solution can be found and that UK Sport will rethink it’s ‘Medal focused’ funding strategy in exchange for a more long term approach. If not the 2012 Legacy for basketball in the UK may be lost forever, thousands of children may never step on court and basketball will be something that happens on the TV.

Below in chronological order is a list of the articles which I wrote for GB Basketball

  1. GB’S DOMINIQUE ALLEN LEADS FRENCH CLUB COB CALAIS TO LF2 FINAL FOUR
  2. GB’S RACHAEL VANDERWAL LEADS UL HUSKIES TO IRISH PREMIER LEAGUE FINAL
  3. GB’S STEPH GANDY TOP SCORES AS HATTERS SECURE 19TH ENGLAND BASKETBALL DIVISION 1 TITLE
  4. SEASON-HIGH POINTS SCORING AND REBOUNDING FOR GB’S TEMI FAGBENLE
  5. GB’S RACHAEL VANDERWAL LEADS UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK TO FOURTH LEAGUE TITLE
  6. CAREER HIGH 23 POINTS FOR GB’S ELLA CLARK IN NCAA
  7. GB TRIO DOMINATE FOR SHEFFIELD HATTERS
  8. CUP FINAL DOUBLE-DOUBLE FROM GB’S STEF COLLINS NOT ENOUGH TO STOP TEAM NORTHUMBRIA
  9. SHEFFIELD HATTERS STAY TOP WITH GB PLAYERS OUT IN FORCE
  10. WILDCATS WIN BIG AT BETTY CODONA CLASSIC
  11. FIFTH STRAIGHT DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR GB’S TEMI FAGBENLE
  12. GB’S STEPH GANDY DOMINATES IN HATTERS VICTORY OVER RIDERS!
  13. THIRTY POINTS FOR VANDERWAL AS HUSKIES TOP PREMIER LEAGUE
  14. FOURTH DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR TEMI FAGBENLE
  15. SPOTLIGHT ON GB SENIOR WOMEN
  16. GB PLAYERS HOME AND AWAY – WEEKEND ROUND-UP

 

Update: 6th November 2014

Seven months after withdrawing funding, and with continued pressure from organisations such as GB Basketball, UK Sport reinstated funding to the tune of £1.18 million.  This followed a full review and consultation. This is a great result for British Basketball and many other sports and an acknowledgement that the previous funding criteria was flawed, if it was to encourage long term growth of team sports such as Basketball.

Here is a link to the story on the Great Britain Basketball website.

 

 

 

One thousand kids experience Olympic Legacy


On 5th July 2013 over 1000 children from across Nottinghamshire competed in the Sainsbury’s School Games.  The event which is held twice a year was the culmination of hundreds of level 2 (qualifying events) which had taken place across the county in the months leading up to the final.  All eight of Nottinghamshire’s districts and boroughs took part in a range of sports consisting of athletics, table tennis, tennis, netball, football, cricket, rounders, golf, tag rugby, boccia, mini basketball and basketball.

The competition was preceded by an inspiring opening ceremony at the University of Nottingham’s Park Campus, where there were performances from 13 year old Holly Fallon, pictured below.

Image

Holly gave an impressive rendition of ‘The Worlds Greatest’ and was interviewed about her choice of song by young leaders from the Nottinghamshire Leadership Academy Network. She told them that she thought the song represented the values of the School Games and that the message was ‘If you try hard enough, and believe in yourself, dreams can come true’.  Jason Gardener (Olympic Gold Medalist) and Charlotte Henshaw (Paralympic Silver Medalist) certainly agreed with this message and during their interview with Tom Burrows (Young Leader) they described their own journeys to the tops of their sports and told the young people how they had started their careers but competing in school sport just like them.

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Pictured – Tom Burrows interviewing Charlotte Henshaw and Jason Gardener.

The opening ceremony also had performances from Oakfield Dance Group who performed a contemporary dance piece inspired by the School Games values of teamwork and determination, the performers were from Oakfield School and Sports College.  They were supported by Holly Fallon who sang ‘Titanium’.

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Pictured – A performer from the Oakfield Dance Group

At the Nottinghamshire School Games we always like to end the opening ceremony with a memorable act which captures the imagination of the young people and ‘fires’ them up for the days competition.  This year was no exception and the honor went to Excelsior School of Dance who qualified for the event by winning the ‘Dance 4′ county dance festival ‘Episodes’.

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Pictured – Excelsior School of Dance in full flow

Sporting Champions provided us with a fantastic compere for the event, a young athlete call Julz Adeniran, Julz who has represented England on several occasions has a personal best for the 110m Hurdles of 13.72 and is ranked in the top 5 Nationally.  Julz introduced all the acts and guests are really spread some of his enthusiasm to the young people (and some old :-) ) when on several occasions he got the audience doing countdowns, cheering and generally raising the roof.

Several local dignitaries attended along with representatives of many of the UK’s most well known sporting organisations, they were thrilled by the opening ceremony and many stayed on to watch the days competitions. Councillor John Knight, Committee Chairman for Culture at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Well done to everyone who took part in the summer Nottinghamshire School Games. It has been a wonderful opportunity to showcase sport within our schools in the county and great news that so many children took part.”

The highlight of the day for me was witnessing an Olympic Gold Medal winning sprinter race against the children at the Sportshall Athletics.  Jason was greeted by deafening screams of excitement as he went into the arena, he was handed the microphone and asked the children ‘OK so who thinks they’re fast?‘ ‘I do!‘ they all screamed. ‘OK who thinks they’re faster than me?‘ again ‘I do‘ they all screamed. This was fantastic to see and was raising the hairs on the back of my neck.  Eight children were nominated by their teams to take part in the race, and with a little help from Jason, Corie Cote, of Ryton Park School, pipped him on the line.  For one little boy he would be able to say he’d beaten an Olympic Gold Medalist for the rest of his life.

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On your marks, get set, GO!!! (Jason Gardener races all comers at the School Games)

We hope that Corie may perhaps carry on to emulate his new hero Jason Gardener, but more than that we hope that the young people who competed at the Sainsbury’s School Games will be inspired to make sport and physical activity part of their lives.  In conclusion we’d like to thank all the leaders, volunteers and organisations who helped us to make this event possible.  Special thanks go to Sainsbury’s who have invested £10m to help us ensure that our young people get the best opportunities and experiences from sport in their county.

Photo’s by Eleri Tunstall of Ikootu Photography

This article is written by Ian Wakefield and first appeared on the Sport Nottinghamshire website.

Milk Race 2013 – Nottingham

Christian house and Ed Clancy

The history of the Milk Race is legendary in the UK having run from 1958 right up to the last race in 1993, which was the last time the race came to Nottingham.

So as a lifelong cycling enthusiast it was with great excitement that I made my way to Nottingham city centre on Sunday (26th of May) to witness the revival of one of the greatest British bike races. The revival was brought to life by Anthony Doyle MBE, a former professional cyclist who was World Pursuit Champion in 1980 and 1986.

Unlike the original Milk Race the format of the 2013 race was a criterium, meaning that the cyclists ride a circular course for a set time/number of laps, or sometimes a combination of the two, until you have a winner.

The commentators described Sunday’s course as a tight technical, but fast, three-quarter mile route which centered on Market Square and the Council House in Nottingham.

The day began with a fun ride for families and non-competitive riders around the city centre course.  Some concern was raised before the race over tramlines and how safe they would be to ride over, but the race organisers had temporarily filled the tramlines on sections of the course where this might have been an issue. The focus on families and fun was supported on the day by a collection of cartoon characters merrily dancing their way round the square, and lots of opportunities for kids to try out different bikes and of course a plentiful supply of milk.

Womens Elite Race

The first professional race of the day was the Elite Womens Race, which took place over 50 minutes plus 5 laps.  First prize was £1,000 (the same as the mens’ race).

The favourites for the Elite Womens Race were Emma Trott (Sister of Laura Trott, a double Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion on the Track) and Dani King from Southampton who won Gold in the 2012 Olympic Team pursuit and is also a double World Champion in the same discipline. The race was started by Dame Sarah Storey, herself a winner of 11 Paralympic Gold Medals.

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The racing was fast and furious with Dani King showing her class early on to pull out a quarter mile lead.  By the end of the race Dani had stretched her winning margin to almost a whole lap. The thousands of spectators lining the route were generous in their appreciation for her display of speed, confidence and endurance. The chasing group crossed the line a few minutes later in a bunched sprint with Hannah Barnes (MG-MaxiFuel) coming in second and Amy Roberts (Wiggle-Honda) third. For the record, my vote for most aggressive rider would certainly be for Emma Trott who consistently made big efforts to ride off the front and she was rewarded with 7th place.

Final Placings:
1 Danielle King – Wiggle Honda – 59:33:00
2 Hannah Barnes – MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
3 Amy Roberts – Wiggle Honda
4 Emily Kay – Scott Contessa Epic
5 Annabel Simpson – Team Hope Factory Racing
6 Charlene Joiner – MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
7 Emma Trott – Boels Dolmans
8 Hayley Jones – Node 4 / Giodana Racing
9 Jessie Walker – Matrix Fitness Racing Academy
10 Lucy Martin – Boels Dolmans

Dani King

Pictured: Dani King (Winner Womens Elite)

Varsity Race

Next up was the Varsity Race between the University of Nottingham and their old rival Nottingham Trent University (NTU).  Having some inside knowledge I knew that the NTU team had been training hard for this, but unfortunately they were outclassed on the day by at least half a lap by both University of Nottingham Teams.

My overriding memory of the race was listening to the disbelief of the Commentator that one of the NTU riders was riding a ‘Fixey’ (fixed wheel bike with no gears) with only one brake.  This caused some amusement from the cycling aficionados around me but, to his credit, the guy put on a good show and demonstrated that it was not all about the bike!

Pride of Nottingham

Now was the turn of the ‘Pride of Nottingham’ Race which was in the same format as the Varsity Race;   one lap per rider relay. Among the teams competing were Nottingham City Council, The Ambulance Service, Police Service and Nottingham Panthers.  The race was undertaken in good spirits with some of the competitors in fancy dress and riding a variety of different styles of bike. Joviality aside, every rider gave 100% obviously inspired by previous races, with the eventual winner being ‘Nottingham Panthers’.

Mens Elite Race

The grand finale was the Mens Elite Race which included two high profile Olympians;  Ed Clancy who won Gold in the 2012 Olympics Team Pursuit (also World Champion) and Stephen Burke who won Olympic Gold in 2012 with Ed Clancy in the same event.

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The race was to be over one hour plus 5 laps. Within a couple of laps two riders, Felix English (Rapha Condor) and French rider Alex Blain (Team Raleigh), had broken away to form a 20 second gap over the chasing group. With average speeds of around 30 mph and with less than 6 inches between riders, the race truly was a spectacle to witness close up. Each time the riders lapped the gap between them and the chase group got bigger and bigger.

With suffering etched into every rider’s face as they embraced the pain and summoned as much mental strength as they could muster to hang on to the wheel in front. With each passing lap more and more riders dropped off the back, unable to keep up with the blistering pace. Once they became lapped then they had to ride off the course.  All in all probably only half the field finished the race because of this rule.

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As the race was coming to its final few laps it was obvious that, with the exception of technical incidents or crashes,  the two lone riders would be victorious.  But who would win the final sprint? English and Blaine were trying to surge away from each other. Over and over they tried to break the shadow of the rider behind until finally, on the last lap, Felix English burst away to beat his rival by a few meters on the line.

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In the frenzy of effort to beat each other the pair had gained almost a lap on the main field, who were lead in a few minutes later by Ed Clancy MBE who won the bunch sprint to claim 3rd place.

Final Placings:
1 Felix English – Rapha Condor JLT  -01:08:58
2 Alex Blain – Team Raleigh
3 Edward Clancy – MBE Rapha Condor JLT
4 Tom Moses – Team Raleigh
5 George Atkins – 100% Me
6 David Lines – MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
7 James Williamson  – Node 4 Giordana Racing
8 Roman Van Uden – Node 4 Giordana Racing
9 Graham Biggs – Team Raleigh
10 Sam Witmitz  -Team Raleigh

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Pictured: L to R Alex Blaine (2nd), Felix English (Winner) & Ed Clancy MBE (3rd)

Final Thoughts

It would be amiss of me to end this article without making reference to the tremendous vision, commitment and organisational expertise of Nottingham City Council, British Cycling, The Milk Race, Anthony Doyle MBE and its sponsors;   including the Dairy Council, all of whom not only made the event possible but also a truly memorable experience and an event I hope will make a return to Nottingham very soon.

For all my photos from the Milk Race see:

2013

2014

First published by Sport Nottinghamshire