2009 - Feedback Report

Before going into specific details of the event, I believe it is fair to say that, thanks to the dedication of the organising team, the club members who supported them and the help of their families and friends, this year’s Dartmoor Classic was a huge success. There were over 75 club helpers over the weekend plus 2 non-members and of course the Marvellous Marigolds. A larger than ever number of members did more than one duty by helping pre-event, on Friday, Sat, Sunday and post event to clear the site.

Only one member failed to respond when asked and he was asked three times. There is a heap of evidence to support this belief. Over a hundred participants took the trouble to e-mail tributes to the overwhelming impression that they had taken part in the U.K’s best ever sportive. Back this up with the very positive reports in the specialist media, the glowing comments on numerous internet sites, with the biggest readers’ forum giving it a whopping average rating of over 93% and we can all be incredibly proud of the Mid-Devon’s achievement.

Date: Selling out all 2000 places, nearly 8 weeks before the event, with an estimated 500 more wishing they had acted earlier, indicates that the last weekend in June was the right choice and the decision has already been taken to stick with this date for 2010. Fears over the clash with the FORCE ride appear to have been misplaced, with the Topsham based event attracting a record 650 entries.

Routes: By far and away the vast majority of comments received about the routes have been extremely complimentary, with most requesting that no further changes be made. There are advantages to sticking with the 2009 routes. The attraction for returning riders is the chance to improve on previous performances, while for those involved in its detail the job is already done, the website work needs little changing and the route cards need only minor modification.

There are advantages to “same again” but equally “change” is good as it throws down new challenges to the entrants. To keep the entry level up in years 7, 8 and 9 etc. we need to get those of the previous years to return.  They may do so for 2 or 3 years but then get a bit tired and jaded. I think that we have 4 good options – the courses of 2008 and 9 run clockwise and anti-clockwise. I do not think our 2007 route is as good.

Car Parking: All the feedback I did get regarding parking at the designated sites was very positive, with the majority stating the arrangements were extremely good, the stewarding was first class and it all worked very smoothly. A minority of participants chose to park in nearby residential roads and I am aware that this caused some frustration for locals.  Some complained of car doors being repeatedly closed and people talking loudly from before six on Sunday morning. This is something we must try to discourage in future.

The sawmills will only be available up till development of the site commences. We did our best by going to the Saw Mills before we went to the Rugby Club.  Maybe marshals needs to be at the end of Abbrook Avenue and Clifford Avenue (the 2 possible entry points) to move people onwards and not allow street parking.

Registration: After a small band of volunteers had spent many hours sticking pre-printed labels (provided by Stewart Bergman) on over 2000 envelopes and stuffing them with 18,000 items, before packing them into 82 boxes, transporting them to the ‘Depart Village’ and setting them out, signing-on went like a dream. Nearly two thirds of those who participated chose to register on the Saturday afternoon, leaving only about 600 or so to leave it till the Sunday morning. Consequently there was no queuing of any significance. Even the wait for timing chips to be scanned was no more than a minute or so. A lengthy queue did form to hand in chips, be given a time, collect a medal receipt, drinks bottle and trophy, before moving on to pick up or register for a medal. Although those of us involved in this post event activity were not happy with the build-up of bodies, those doing the queuing mostly appeared oblivious to the delay and were quite happy to chat about their experiences on the ride, listen to the music and enjoy an ice cream or drink. However, speeding up the deregistration process is something to be worked on for next time.

It may be easier if we hand out the minimum at registration to allow an entrant to ride.  Post event all the goodies and other info like CTT/BC leaflets, offers from traders and invites to the next years Dartmoor events and other Sportives because people are more likely to keep them.

If these items are in stacks there will be no need to stuff. They can be made into sets by the youngsters on Sunday and then picked up as people pass along the tables.

Depart Village: Take a bow Mike Melling, Steve Dart, Neil Marriott (electrics) and all who they delegated to, to ensure everything was in place. The atmosphere was fantastic and much enjoyed by all who attended, with everybody commenting that it was the best sportive start / finish area they had ever experienced. Just imagine what it would have been like if all those invited to exhibit had turned up. While some declined the invitation and a very few ignored it completely (most notably British Cycling), some, who had accepted or were at least expected, failed to attend. 

We need to have early written watertight assurances from the Abbrook Park Sports & Social Club that we are welcome and what the terms and conditions are going to be.  From recent info that I ‘gleaned’ we may not have the same storage available at Abbrook as in previous years and that will be an issue for the souvenirs.

Once we have had our ‘sweep up meeting’ we need to start canvassing for attendees. We need to do it on our own behalf and not leave it to Colin Lewis Cycles who are busy running a business and can only give us leads.

Jazz – while the Teign Valley Stompers gave some atmosphere they rarely ‘stomped’. We need to source other providers.

Andre Burton– went down really well – any other ‘circus’ ideas? I thought we were going to have a bouncy castle.

Portaloos: Of the several hundred females who took part, those who did comment said how fantastic it was that their preference for separate toilets had been catered for.

Starting Procedure: All went very smoothly and there appears no need to change the procedure at all. A useful addition may be an observer to see that all starters are complying with the helmet requirement. As one of the marshals on the very first junction I spotted a small number without a helmet but my calls to those riders were ignored. If we agree to accept the U.C.I. helmet rule we must at least try to enforce it.

Helmets - It may have been freeloaders as we did a check in the pens and all complied as far as I could tell.

Marshalling and Routing: Again, mountains of glowing praise for the volume of marshals, their friendliness, encouragement and patience and the clarity of route signs. Most said it should have been impossible to go off course; but a couple did manage it.

It is imperative that the lead vehicle knows the route to perfection. He did not this year and that caused an issue near Ashburton.

Feeding Station: Bountifully stocked and welcoming staff, were the general comments received. A very few thought the venue was a bit cramped at times. Because of having additional responsibilities with registration this year, I wasn’t able to visit the feeding station so I can’t comment on the matter.

We need to tie down our suppliers much earlier. I have written to Fisher and laid it on the line our general dissatisfaction caused by their late withdrawal of 4 promised people and no manifest to differentiate between what was for us as “free issue” and what was for Colin Lewis Cycles and needed to be paid for.

The same goes for the supplementary food from Asda or Tesco. If they do not put it in writing we need to write to them with words like “Our understanding is that on xx/06/10 you will provide yyyy bars of nnnn at a unit cost of £zz.zz. We will collect at aa hours or you will deliver to ddddddd with the postcode of AA## #AA.”

Finishing Procedure: After a late decision was taken to bring the finish gantry right into the heart of the ‘Depart Village’, the procedure worked well with riders crossing the line nearer to the bike racks and then joining the line to hand in their timing chips. With a tiny bit more tweaking, particularly with regard to the positioning of the timing tent, deregistration should be as slick as signing-on.

Ride Recognition: The high quality of the medals was again favourably commented on. A few riders were disappointed that they would have to wait for their medal to be posted to them after the event. A major contributory factor to their being a shortage of medals at the finish was the decision of many riders, who were clearly quite capable of completing and/ or achieving a bronze medal in the longer distance, switching to the shorter distance. To encourage newcomers, or those less able, the standards for the 65 mile route were much more generous than those for the longer distance. Consequently the more experienced riders mopped up medals of all colours with some ease. Further, because the longer route was 4 miles more that the previous year, a further 4% was added to the time standards. However, despite this route continuing to be a real challenge, many claimed that it was not as demanding as last year and therefore the standards were more achievable. All of this led to a big shortfall in the availability of medals.

One big reason for the high numbers was the generally clement weather. Had it been hot or very wet then we would not have had the problem at the level it was. The climbing in 2008 and 2009 was very similar but the main hills came earlier this year when legs were fresher.

Timing: Race Timing Systems Limited, were for the 3rd year, the most competitive of those supplying this sort of service. 

In the rider instruction it needs to say, “If you have auxiliary secondary retention devices (tags) on the outside of your front forks then slot the hanger inside the fork so it hangs vertically.”

On-line entry system: Everyday Cycling’s service delivered its own string of problems and errors. These need to be addressed and alternatives considered before committing to a decision on the 2010 provider. 

Website: Of all the promotional options at our disposal, the Dartmoor Classic website is now the most important. It is the world’s window on the event and, since taking over its management, late last year, Stewart Bergman has transformed its appearance. Its attractiveness of design, speed of response to required changes and overall image has made a major impact so that it now matches the very professional aspects the club brings to the staging of the event.  

Promotion: With people still clamouring for places, after the event had already sold out, and some even trying to buy places over the internet, the marketing of the event would appear to have worked well. Given that the event has now been oversubscribed all three times, the rider feedback and media exposure has been so complimentary and postal entries are already arriving, the 2010 edition should almost self promote. However, let us not get too complacent; the odd push will still be needed if we want the club to continue to benefit from the events growing reputation.

Organisation: Only one word can describe the overall efforts of the Chief Organiser – OUTSTANDING. Ken Robertson’s work overload ensured that the logistics of this massive undertaking appeared to have been accomplished by a small army of event management professionals. The club owes him a huge debt of gratitude, which will best be repaid by members stepping forward to at least significantly lighten his load, or even take over from him, if that is his wish.

Sundry suggestions for consideration for the 2010 event, made by those who took part this year:

  • Mechanics needed at ‘Depart Village’. – Ask Colin Lewis Cycles – they may have a problem in providing this on Saturday and running the shop.
  • Track pumps should be available. – Easy fix
  • Smaller numbers and alternative number fixing (or more scissors). – Numbers seem the right size given the date we have (sponsors) and the need to see them on photos). Phil O’Connor still ended up with quite a lot of “not known”
  • Lost Property and baggage hold – Yes – currently room in our store and a sign needed at the end of the registration area for “lost property”
  • Changing tents. Abbrook is having changing rooms and showers in the old training centre. We should seek to use them. There are also the football changing rooms that were kept locked and were not cleaned out prior to the event.
  • Because of the expected number of non starters accept more entries. – We need to talk to the Police before we go down that route. Maybe we allow substitutions for a £5.00 premium
  • Have age related standards. – No thank you I am suffering from sufficient whip lash self flagellation with out adding to it.
  • Have a big screen displaying the finishing times. Is this practical (Graham Brodie)?
  • Helmet observers – Start, route and finish. – see above and free loaders.
  • On going provision of tea, coffee etc for on site personnel. We need to agree a procedure with Lyn for low value purchases like tea.
  • Sun registration sequence – 100 mile entrants first. – say 6 -7am. Then 100km Yes, if you think it practical
  • Numbered climb signs with length and average gradient. We did that this year on Trendlebeare, Holne Chase, Grimstone, Tavistock, Batteridge, Pork, Merrivale, Postbridge and Cossick with the steepest gradient as well – all part of the UCI requirement.
  • Way-markers – Apart from arrows before each junction where there was a change of direction what do you have in mind?
  • Medals or alternative ride recognition, i.e. T-Shirt, certificates.
  • Recycling bins for separate waste.
  • Post event meal.
  • Terms and conditions displayed on website / rider information document, regarding refunds, transfers, entry at the event (Sat. only).

Ron Keegan

20/07/09

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