AJ Bell Tour of Britain: The Longest Day
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/*! elementor - v3.19.0 - 26-02-2024 */ .elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-stacked .elementor-drop-cap{background-color:#69727d;color:#fff}.elementor-widget-text-editor.elementor-drop-cap-view-framed .elementor-drop-cap{color:#69727d;border:3px solid;background-color:transparent}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap{margin-top:8px}.elementor-widget-text-editor:not(.elementor-drop-cap-view-default) .elementor-drop-cap-letter{width:1em;height:1em}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap{float:left;text-align:center;line-height:1;font-size:50px}.elementor-widget-text-editor .elementor-drop-cap-letter{display:inline-block} We will all remember where we were when we heard the news of the Queen’s death. As with the Sunday morning announcement in 1997 of Princess Diana’s death. Or the World Trade Centre attack of September 11, 2001. Some world events are lodged in the brain, indelibly marked and recalled for a lifetime.For the AJ Bell Tour of Britain press team – myself included – Thursday, September 8 will live long in the memory. What follows is 24 hours in the lives of Peter Hodges and Nick Bull, press and PR team leaders for race organisers Sweetspot, as they contend with the likelihood of Queen Elizabeth II’s death before the race’s conclusion and the ramifications for the event. The eight-stage race, the 18th edition of the country’s national Tour, was due to run from Aberdeen in the north of Scotland, all the way down to the Isle of Wight, a total of 1,204km taking in some of the most spectacular scenery these islands have to offer. But Mansfield turned out to be the end of the road for the race.At the press room briefing the night before the opening day in Aberdeen, Peter forewarned us. Should the worst happen, the race would be forced to halt due to circumstances beyond the organisers’ control. Here’s how it played out.  *            *            *05:30amPeter Hodges, PR and Marketing Manager for Sweetspot, fires up his laptop and begins printing out result sheets and dealing with emails from the night before having reached his hotel at 23:15 the previous evening.  West Bridgford with a Robin Hood vibe (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com) “We left for the start at 7:15 to be on site and open the media desk by 8. West Bridgford was really busy – we had national BBC, ITV central, BBC midlands, plus the written press.”Peter and his stage start crew organise pre-race interviews and press room accreditation before heading to the finish in Mansfield to join the post-race crew in the civic centre. 12:30pmPeter and his team arrive in Mansfield to join Nick Bull and the rest of us finish crew in the press room. I am busy dealing with journalists and photographers, and checking stage results. Business as usual. All is calm and under control – at least for a brief spell: “Then one of our colleagues told us she had heard from a contact that the Queen was under medical supervision,” says Peter. “Nick also heard the same from his contact at another media organisation.” Richie Porte enjoying what transpired to be his final day of racing before retirement (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com) Within minutes, notifications from the BBC and the Guardian confirm the two sources’ tip offs. The alarm bells were ringing. “We started to call our team and sat down with the Sweetspot representatives: commercial sponsors, venues, partnerships, Hugh [Roberts] – our CEO,” Peter tells me. “We had plans already in place and conversations with the police should something happen to Her Majesty during a stage, or during the race. This was just before 2pm. We thought it unlikely there would be another announcement before the stage finished, but had to be ready in case the podium celebrations needed to be cancelled.” 14:00pmPeter joined the Tour of Britain organisation in 2007, having been a teenage fan for the previous three editions of the race. Nick has only missed a handful of stages over the same years, covering the race for Cycling Weekly as a journalist before making the switch to the PR side. “He’s done 17 and I’ve done 18 effectively,” says Peter. “So he’ll always be one behind!”They are a remarkable double act of Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour statistics, able to recall any given race or stage from every edition they have seen for almost two decades. For example, this year’s Stage 4 finishing in Helmsley, Yorkshire, was won by Team Movistar’s Gonzalo Serrano from Spain. Nick begins writing the stage report immediately, asking me to find the last Spanish stage winner at the Tour – he’s got enough on his plate, to be fair. It takes a lengthy trawl to find the answer – a decade…  Photographic memories (photo: Zac Williams/SWpix.com) I put the same question to stats supremo Peter the following day and there is barely a moment’s hesitation. “Dartmouth, 2012. Pablo Urtasan, from a four-up break with Marc de Maar, Ivan Basso and Samuel Sanchez,” he fires back without hesitation. “That was one of the greatest Tour of Britain stages. “I can vividly remember every race. In my head are a lot of sports statistics and a lot of history. And I’m the same with music. Play me a song and it will take me to driving along the A500 in Stoke or something…”Nick may not have quite the same affection and association with Stoke’s legendary A500, but is on a par with his colleague on this race’s history. How does he retain all this information?“No idea!” he claims. “The media guide, which is basically our bible with all our stats, and the documents on our server, show who is leading by day, what nationality they are, how many stages Quick Step, for example, have led the race – every eventuality.” 15:00pmMeanwhile, stage 5 has finished in Mansfield and Peter is in the thick of it: “We had a challenging finish anyway, as some of the peloton inadvertently went the wrong side of a carriageway within the final kilometre, fortunately all safely. So we had footage to review and started an investigation on that incident. And there’s this other worry going on in the background.” Jordi Meeus wins the 5th – and final – stage of the 2022 AJ Bell Tour of Britain (photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com) Backstage, Peter and his crew are taking care of business, live on TV: “Are the jerseys ready, especially on a wet day? Have we got all the dignitaries? And all the riders? Are we on an ad break? I do all that behind the podium, plus our colleagues are liaising with the TV interviews, plus the likes of Cycling News, Cycling Weekly, and various podcasts. That all takes around an hour and a half.  “But post-stage, the advice was go to Gloucester, go to your hotels, and unless anything changes, we are racing tomorrow. So it was as normal, but with the knowledge that something dramatic may happen at any point.” 16:20pmThe whole team is beavering away in the press room, transcribing interviews, downloading and uploading video and photo content, writing press releases. It’s keep calm and carry on, but with a nagging doubt in the background. What if it happens now?“We were almost ready to send out race reports, photos, newsletters, then Nick got another heads up from his contact that the news was imminent,” says Peter. “Here we were in the civic centre in Mansfield and I said to Nick ‘Has she passed? He looked up and said ‘It’s happened.’ Tom Pidcock (Team Ineos) meets and greets in Mansfield (photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com) “We started calling the team. Hugh, our CEO, was on the phone to British Cycling, as they were getting guidance from the DCMS as to what would happen. We did not send any of the stage-related reports or photos, or anything celebratory. Then at bang on 6:30, the announcement came. We had already agreed on the wording of the statement beforehand. “The media inquiries flooded in immediately – emails, texts, WhatsApp messages, phone calls – plus the teams, and the journalists in the press room.” 19:30pmThe media room is packed up and we are ready to head to our hotels in and around Gloucester. The rest of the team drive south while Peter and Nick remain in situ.“We had to leave the Civic Centre by 8 o’clock,” says Peter, “so I got in the car with Nick and we relocated to the glamorous surroundings of the Tesco Extra car park in Mansfield. We had a couple of phone calls and a Whatsapp group with all the key directors of each area. Around 8:20, we notified the teams: go to your hotels, carry on as normal, but tomorrow’s stage is cancelled, update on stages 7 and 8 to follow.” 21:00“The statement was sent out to the whole of the world. We made sure key partners, such as British Cycling, sponsors AJ Bell, Škoda, the councils involved – particularly Gloucestershire – signed off on the statement, and everybody was immediately responsive, to their credit, considering it was late on a Thursday night. Race Director Mick Bennett updates L’Equipe (photo: Rhodri Williams) “Within about five minutes of us sending that, we got a call from Mick Bennett, our race director, who was with Sergeant Duncan Street from the Central Escort Group to say his officers had been recalled. So it was game over. The CEG is made up of highly skilled officers from various forces, and their numbers are limited, so they’d be required for escort duties for any number of movements of the Royal Family, heads of state and dignitaries. The police officers left the same night.” 21:10Peter continues: “I started driving down the M1, Nick writing the new statement cancelling the remaining stages and reading it out, tweaking the wording, taking phone calls. We sent it to all our team en route to the services at East Midlands airport, because we know it’s a good service station with lots of plug sockets! Got a couple of coffees – I know it was 21:40, because we set the alarm so we didn’t have to pay for parking after two hours… “It was around 22:30 by the time we had it all loaded up onto emails and ready to send. Nick was dealing with the broadcasters’ enquiries, and we let everyone know at exactly the same time. So in the space of ten hours, we had gone from notification of medical supervision, stage finishing, cancelling stage 6, then cancelling the entire race. We knew Friday was going to be a national day of mourning. Some people were upset that their big day had been cancelled, understandably, but there was no choice.” 01:40am “We arrived at the hotel in Cheltenham. It was a very weird atmosphere. Even the roads seemed to be quiet, but we might have been imagining it. Some of the media team had stayed up to see how we were, so we had a drink and a chat with them. Given the amount of coffee we had drunk, it’s no surprise I didn’t get to sleep until well after 3. Then I was up at 6:50 the following morning, ready to field phone calls and enquiries.” Breaking the news (photo: Rhodri Williams) PostscriptThe core Sweetspot team convenes at 9:00am Friday to organise any remaining loose ends. There is still much to be done: radios and transponders collected from departing teams, advance warning signage from Dorset and the Isle of Wight to be taken down, a fleet of Škodas to be returned to Portsmouth, other race vehicles returned to storage at the HQ in Surrey, a temporary press room set up in Cheltenham. The logistics of major bike races are staggering under normal circumstances. This extraordinary Thursday tested the organisers to the limit. Speaking to Peter and Nick the following day, I remarked that they both seemed remarkably calm and collected under great duress.“I’m always comforted when people say that, but I’m obviously perfecting the art of acting like a swan: calm on the surface, but underneath there is utter turmoil going on!’ says Peter. “But the whole point of when you have a crisis is there is no point panicking and rushing around. Be calm and organised, and that’s what we prepare for.”Was it Nick’s most stressful day of work to date? “I would say so. There were parts of it in hand and prepared for. We have always got our crisis comms ready to go if needed and we are always updating that. We knew as soon as it happened there was no chance of going ahead with the Friday stage, but there was a slim possibility of continuing on Saturday and Sunday. But by 9 on Thursday we had lost our police safety bikes and that was it.” Cool under pressure: Peter and Nick taking care of business (photo: Rhodri Williams) “It is so much bigger than a bike race,” Peter concludes. “We are all focussed on the Tour of Britain, but there are other considerations. We always say we are one big family, and in times of crisis, families pull together.”Words: Ian Cleverly  Photos: Rhodri Williams and Alex Whitehead/SW PixSweetspot, organisers of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain, The Women’s Tour and The Tour Series, appear at The Cycle Show, April 21-23, 2023   
The Cycle Show Selects: September
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Your weekly fix of cycling, eBike and triathlon news… /*! elementor - v3.19.0 - 26-02-2024 */ .elementor-widget-divider{--divider-border-style:none;--divider-border-width:1px;--divider-color:#0c0d0e;--divider-icon-size:20px;--divider-element-spacing:10px;--divider-pattern-height:24px;--divider-pattern-size:20px;--divider-pattern-url:none;--divider-pattern-repeat:repeat-x}.elementor-widget-divider .elementor-divider{display:flex}.elementor-widget-divider .elementor-divider__text{font-size:15px;line-height:1;max-width:95%}.elementor-widget-divider .elementor-divider__element{margin:0 var(--divider-element-spacing);flex-shrink:0}.elementor-widget-divider .elementor-icon{font-size:var(--divider-icon-size)}.elementor-widget-divider .elementor-divider-separator{display:flex;margin:0;direction:ltr}.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_icon .elementor-divider-separator,.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_text .elementor-divider-separator{align-items:center}.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_icon .elementor-divider-separator:after,.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_icon .elementor-divider-separator:before,.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_text .elementor-divider-separator:after,.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_text .elementor-divider-separator:before{display:block;content:"";border-block-end:0;flex-grow:1;border-block-start:var(--divider-border-width) var(--divider-border-style) var(--divider-color)}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-left .elementor-divider .elementor-divider-separator>.elementor-divider__svg:first-of-type{flex-grow:0;flex-shrink:100}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-left .elementor-divider-separator:before{content:none}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-left .elementor-divider__element{margin-left:0}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-right .elementor-divider .elementor-divider-separator>.elementor-divider__svg:last-of-type{flex-grow:0;flex-shrink:100}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-right .elementor-divider-separator:after{content:none}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-right .elementor-divider__element{margin-right:0}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-start .elementor-divider .elementor-divider-separator>.elementor-divider__svg:first-of-type{flex-grow:0;flex-shrink:100}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-start .elementor-divider-separator:before{content:none}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-start .elementor-divider__element{margin-inline-start:0}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-end .elementor-divider .elementor-divider-separator>.elementor-divider__svg:last-of-type{flex-grow:0;flex-shrink:100}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-end .elementor-divider-separator:after{content:none}.elementor-widget-divider--element-align-end .elementor-divider__element{margin-inline-end:0}.elementor-widget-divider:not(.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_text):not(.elementor-widget-divider--view-line_icon) .elementor-divider-separator{border-block-start:var(--divider-border-width) var(--divider-border-style) var(--divider-color)}.elementor-widget-divider--separator-type-pattern{--divider-border-style:none}.elementor-widget-divider--separator-type-pattern.elementor-widget-divider--view-line .elementor-divider-separator,.elementor-widget-divider--separator-type-pattern:not(.elementor-widget-divider--view-line) .elementor-divider-separator:after,.elementor-widget-divider--separator-type-pattern:not(.elementor-widget-divider--view-line) .elementor-divider-separator:before,.elementor-widget-divider--separator-type-pattern:not([class*=elementor-widget-divider--view]) .elementor-divider-separator{width:100%;min-height:var(--divider-pattern-height);-webkit-mask-size:var(--divider-pattern-size) 100%;mask-size:var(--divider-pattern-size) 100%;-webkit-mask-repeat:var(--divider-pattern-repeat);mask-repeat:var(--divider-pattern-repeat);background-color:var(--divider-color);-webkit-mask-image:var(--divider-pattern-url);mask-image:var(--divider-pattern-url)}.elementor-widget-divider--no-spacing{--divider-pattern-size:auto}.elementor-widget-divider--bg-round{--divider-pattern-repeat:round}.rtl .elementor-widget-divider .elementor-divider__text{direction:rtl}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-divider,.e-con>.elementor-widget-divider{width:var(--container-widget-width,100%);--flex-grow:var(--container-widget-flex-grow)} SHOW NEWS /*! elementor - v3.19.0 - 26-02-2024 */ .elementor-column .elementor-spacer-inner{height:var(--spacer-size)}.e-con{--container-widget-width:100%}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer{width:var(--container-widget-width,var(--spacer-size));--align-self:var(--container-widget-align-self,initial);--flex-shrink:0}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container{height:100%;width:100%}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container>.elementor-spacer,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container>.elementor-spacer{height:100%}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container>.elementor-spacer>.elementor-spacer-inner,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer>.elementor-widget-container>.elementor-spacer>.elementor-spacer-inner{height:var(--container-widget-height,var(--spacer-size))}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer.elementor-widget-empty,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer.elementor-widget-empty{position:relative;min-height:22px;min-width:22px}.e-con-inner>.elementor-widget-spacer.elementor-widget-empty .elementor-widget-empty-icon,.e-con>.elementor-widget-spacer.elementor-widget-empty .elementor-widget-empty-icon{position:absolute;top:0;bottom:0;left:0;right:0;margin:auto;padding:0;width:22px;height:22px} The Cycle Show 2022 SIGN UP TO THE CYCLE SHOW 2023 PRE-SALE The UK’s biggest cycling show will be back next year at the iconic Ally Pally. From the biggest brands and stars of the sport, to incredible custom bikes, demo tracks, skills sessions and some of the industry’s top experts – we’ve got it covered! Don’t want to miss out? Sign up for pre-sale today! SIGN UP NOW The Cycle Show 2022 HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2022 SHOW Do you want a taste of what’s to come in 2023? Relive some of the highlights from the 2022 show and discover what you can expect next year as the Cycle Show returns to Ally Pally. FIND OUT MORE SEASONAL NEWS (Photo by Cycling Weekly) JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE SELECTED TO DEFEND TITLE The reigning world champion abandoned the Vuelta a España less than two weeks ago after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in a crash on stage 11. He has since been cleared to defend his rainbow jersey, The men’s road race will close out this year’s World Championships, taking place on Sunday 25 September. READ FULL ARTICLE (Photo by Cycling Weekly) MEET ZOE BACKSTEDT: JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPION Zoe Bäckstedt is confident going into the Junior World Championship road race next week. The 17-year-old completed a clean sweep at the Watersley Challenge juniors race last weekend, winning the overall title as well as all three stages and the mountains classification jersey.  DISCOVER MORE REVIEWS & BUYER'S GUIDE (Photo by BikeRadar) MOUNTAIN BIKE SHOES REVIEW The Five Ten Trailcross Clip-In was launched in early 2022, aimed at adventurous mountain bikers, gravel riders and bike packers alike. Read the full review today.  SEE FULL REVIEW (Photo by BikeRadar) THE BEST ALUMINIUM ROAD BIKES The best aluminium road bikes can rival bikes with carbon frames; aluminium remains a great material for making bicycle frames. Discover the full list of the best road bikes below. READ MORE TOP TIPS & ADVICE (Photo by Triathlon) THE BENEFITS OF TRAINING INDOORS Indoor training in spring and summer? Is that even possible? As it turns out you can and it is an increasingly popular option for cycle enthusiasts all around the world. DISCOVER MORE (Photo by Cycling Weekly) 7 ESSENTIALS FOR EVERY BIKE RIDE Cycling Weekly have put together seven of the most important tools which everyone should take on every ride or, at the very least, on every ride which goes further than you’d be prepared to walk back!  DO YOU HAVE THE ESSENTIALS? Subscribe to The Cycle Show mailing list to keep up to date with all the latest news in the cycling world.  SUBSCRIBE NOW