Back in the 1990s and early 2000s the staple diet for Lancaster CC riders from April to September consisted of an evening time trial on Caton Road, occasional two-up time trials on Ashton Road, and once a month a Salt Ayre evening organised by the club president Gordon Brennan and timekeeper/course measurer extraordinaire Cyril Dixon but the Salt Ayre evenings were not as we have them now.
They consisted of a one or two lap individual pursuit, a one lap time trial, and a short bunch race. It was not until 2007 when, unable to use the Caton Road time trial course due to temporary traffic lights that we moved to Salt Ayre for 10 mile time trials. We had four 10s averaging just eight riders per week before returning to our usual road time trials. Nev Pearson put down a marker with the fastest time of 23:58.
The following year, 2008, we had six Salt Ayre time trial events averaging about 18 or 19 riders per week with Graham Atkinson setting a new course record of 23:00. 2009 again saw us racing alternate weeks at Salt Ayre and rider numbers increased with the introduction of two and six mile time trials, but it was not until the following year when we went fully over to Salt Ayre that the phenomenon started to take off. John Ingham set the course record at 22:05 for 10 miles with his daughter riding 2 & 6 mile time trials. Whole families start appearing on the start sheet in the various distances with one of the most prolific being the Hirst family who some weeks had five or six members riding.
Numbers increased to 40s and 50s in 2010 & 11 and our success presented problems with timekeeping. In the early days one, two or three timekeepers with a checklist and a couple of stopwatches managed okay (on one occasion one of the three timekeepers upped camp midway through the event swearing never to time-keep again) but as the numbers increased so did the number of officials. Stopwatches were replaced with laptop computers running different timing programs: one attempted to record the crossing of the line of every rider, every lap but not absolutely accurately; the other attempted to record the accurate time every time a rider crossed the line but not necessarily their number. But this wasn’t the end of officials needed to run the event and ensure accurate timing. There was someone down the track shouting out the riders’ numbers as they approached the line, and somebody wrote down the numbers in chronological order to tie in with video recording of riders crossing the line as a backup. Add on two or three people to man the start, two or three more on the signing-on desk, and of course the refreshments, and we had upwards of 10 people running the event. Most riders got their times (provisionally) that evening but it was not until the early hours of the morning when I had analysed the spreadsheets that the final results were out. The breakthrough came in 2013 when Brian Kennedy successfully submitted a bid to Sport England for funding to supply a chip timing system. We were able to use this for the last couple events of the season and continually from the start of the 2014 season.
The improved timing system meant that for the 2014 season most riders got their finish time within minutes of finishing (often before they finished the half lap back to the start). The number of volunteers needed on the start side of the track hasn’t diminished but the timekeeping crew has been reduced to a minimum of two, although three are handy if volunteers are available. The final tabulated results are usually circulated via Teamer and on Facebook before midnight with far fewer corrections needed.
In 2014 we recorded 1189 time trials over the three distances – about 10,850 individual split times. 321 riders were recorded at 2 miles, 281 at 6 miles and 587 at 10 miles with no major incidents or problems to report. With the pressure off the timekeeping team we even managed to record times for the few riders who forgot to mount a chip on their bikes!
We averaged just over 56 riders per week with a maximum of 86 riders on 7th August. Unfortunately the reporter from Cycling Weekly was not there on 7th August but even though he chose to come on a cold wet evening we got a very complementary full page report in Cycling Weekly.
Salt Ayre time trialling in 2015 and beyond.
This coming season (subject to track and weather conditions) we intend starting the evening time trials a month earlier, at the start of March and to continue right through to the end of September, utilising the circuit lighting for at least the first seven weeks and the last seven weeks of the season. The first two weeks in September which have traditionally been the Lancaster Cycling Club two Hill climb Championship events will now be Salt Ayre evenings and the Hill climbs (Conder Bottoms and Jubilee towers) will be on the two Wednesdays either side of Midsummer which will enable competitors to enjoy the Hill climbs without the worry of getting home before it goes dark.
I propose changes in the evening time trials to comply more with the Cycling Time Trials (CTT) in relation to the “levy”. In any event organised under the rules and regulations of CTT a levy of £2 per rider is payable to CTT “except for entrants in events restricted to Juveniles and also the GHS Championship who shall pay zero levies“. Up to now we have paid £2 per rider in the 10 mile time trials, a total of £1322 in 2014. I am aware however sometimes the 2 & 6 mile TT have not been exclusively for riders under the age of 16. By allowing riders over the age of 16 to ride we should be paying the full levy for every rider and the event. So I propose that the 2 and 6 mile time trials which we have always designated as Cog Set time trials run as usual first on the evening and are limited to under 16's; they are thus exempt from the levy, with an entry fee of £2 per rider to cover any charges for lighting and track usage.
Over 16s who want to ride the shorter distance time trials will be included in the Lancaster CC time trial (otherwise known as the 10). If they have entered in advance via Teamer etc they will be put at the start of the field but otherwise they will enter where there are spaces on the start list. The timing mechanism will record the times; 2, 6 or 10 miles. All entrants in the LCC event regardless of distance will pay £4.50 per ride to cover the CTT levy, lighting charges and track usage charges.
There is also a need for more user participation in the running of the events.
The Salt Ayre events can be split into three stages:
1/pre-event. Setting out the field, dealing with Teamer and printing out all the paperwork needed for the event. Also setting the timing program ready for the event.
2/on the day. Putting out the timing mats, setting up the timing equipment, monitoring the running and ensuring the data is recorded on the computer and issuing times available on the night. Also included on the day is manning the signing-on desk, starting the riders and other ancillary jobs re the running of the event.
3/ post-event. Analysis of the results, correcting errors, posting the results on the web etc.
We particularly need more help at stage 2 but help at stage 1 and 3 would also be appreciated.