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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 52

Episode Description

As a member of British Cycling’s Elite Road Racing Task Force, race organiser Chris Lawrence was able to provide valuable insights on the operational realities of bike racing to panellists including Phil Jones, Brother UK’s Managing Director. Enjoy this extended interview with Chris, whose organisational palmares includes National Circuit Series events, the Newark Town Centre Races and the Dudley Grand Prix.

You can watch Chris' YouTube workshop on race organisation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O42K33tfYiU

The Brother UK Cycling Podcast

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Episode 52: Chris Lawrence interview 

Episode contents

  • 00.02 - Introduction
  • 00.37 - Hello And Welcome
  • 00.55 - Part One: Becoming an Organiser
  • 10.25 - Part Two: Light Bulb Moment
  • 16.18 - Part Three: Relationship Manager
  • 24.44 - Part Four: Once Upon A Time in the West Midlands
  • 32.56 - Part Five: Essential Viewing
  • 39.02 - Part Six: Nuts and Bolts
  • 48.34 - Part Seven: Challenges and Rewards
  • 52.11 - Outro



Timothy John

“If your passion lies in elite British road racing and you want an inside line on the teams, riders, organisers and sponsors that make this sport such a compelling spectacle, you’re in the right place.

“I’m Timothy John and joining me for every episode is my co-host, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones.”

Phil Jones 

“Thanks, Tim. It’s great to be here. We’re going to use this platform to talk about all the key issues surrounding the sport. With special guests, deep dives into hot topics and plenty of chat, we’ll keep you informed about all things UK racing. Stay tuned!”

Hello and welcome

Timothy John

“Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast where our guest today is Chris Lawrence, organiser of the Newark Town Centre Races and Dudley Grand Prix, and a member of British Cycling’s Elite Road Racing Task Force. 

“Chris, thank-you very much indeed for joining me.”

Chris Lawrence

"Yeah, thank-you for the invite, Tim."


Part One: Becoming a Race Organiser

Timothy John

“Race organisation: it’s absolutely at the heart of this puzzle we call elite British road racing. How did you get involved? It’s not an easy job.”

Chris Lawrence

“So, kind of by accident, it has to be said. I’d had, in my professional career, some experience with running charity events for walking. I’d raised about £150k for Cancer Research once upon a time by doing event management. I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I was responsible for the welfare of about 100 people of varying activity levels. 

“It came at a time when I was without a club, but my friend was with Barnsley Road Club, and I got kind of navigated to a person with influence called Gary Barnes. Gary was trying to

facilitate an event organiser for their time-trial, which happened to be on the A1 at Ramley in Nottinghamshire. I said, ‘Well, I’ll do my best and give it a go.’

“We got to the day, and it was rained off. A couple of days before, I said, ‘The forecast is torrential. We’ll stop the event.’ The district didn’t like that, but there we are. In September, we ran it properly, and it was loaded as one of the best events that the time-trial guys had been to: the information that we provided as a manual.

“Then we got to the third event - this is year two - and we set 11 riders off, but had to cancel it because of torrential rain. I gathered the guys into the village hall and said, ‘I want more

control over this. I don’t want people going off into the never-never, up somewhere where I have no control. I’d like us to deliver British Cycling events instead.’

“We did the Barnsley races at Hade Edge, which was a Regional B. The club was fearful of transformation and going down that route. They thought what came with it was, ‘club in peril’; loads of debt. If any race is effectively managed, you should never have that circumstance. 

“So we went from there to running a National B the next year with a Regional B before it: a double-header. The likes of Connor Swift, in his days with Cycling Sheffield, Ryan Perry and one or two others of note. I think Harry Tanfield was in that field as well. 

“The rest was getting in touch with councils. The Barnsley Town Centre races came about. The Barnsley Not In the Town Centre Races came about, and that was another remarkable


“Life changed. I moved to Newark. I kept on with Barnsley in 2022. Newark has had two years, we've got Dudley, and Generation Pro has many other strings to its bow to come, fingers crossed.”

Timothy John 

 “Well, that’s an impressive organisational palmares, Chris. Is there anything in your professional background that’s given you an aptitude for organising people and events?”

Chris Lawrence

“By profession, I work in contract management, and supplier relationship management, so, primarily, throughout my career, dealing with facilities management. You’ve got to have those people skills, networking ability, consultation, commercial acumen to dabble in that. Just because you haven’t isn’t a barrier to you being an organiser. We tackled some of those obvious things [in the workshop]. 

“The bit that I didn’t tackle in the first bit was engaging with the governance systems and the regional boards and the regional work groups when I lived in Yorkshire, and subsequently in the East Midlands, but never losing the link between the different boards and the different operations so we share best practice, but having that network of people is just a huge enabler, and I can only encourage people to do that and try that journey because it works.” 

Timothy John 

“And being a people person and having those people skills sounds like a pretty valuable arrow in the race organiser’s quiver.”

Chris Lawrence

“Oh yeah, without a doubt, but you’ve got to know where you’re going and have a focus on that and navigate those challenges when they come. 

“Dealing with people, you know, has its kind of fluid nature, and you’ve got to try and work that as much as you can; all in a positive spirit, but at times it’s a challenge but you can

overcome that, for sure.”

Timothy John

“What took you from organising charity walking events into cycling, Chris? Where does cycling fit into your personal background?”

Chris Lawrence

“Ok, so, the bike was my way out. Without getting out the tissues, at about the age of seven or eight, my mum and dad split up. I used to live in the south and then we went into the north where my mum took me.

“I always had a bike, and I was out of the whole ‘latchkey kid’ era. At eight or nine, I was taking myself off to school. That would be absolutely unthinkable these days. 

“To be fair, my mum had no idea where I was from one minute to the next because I had just taken myself off. Great life experiences, great challenges. It’s the whole kid of the Eighties who knows everything. Well, they don’t know everything, but they’ve probably got a fair idea. 

“Cycling was my way in to enjoyment. It really started properly at the age of 12 or 13. High-school had started. There were groups of kids on the weekends riding in groups. 

“I was born in Ossett. Well, I wasn’t born in Ossett, but I lived in Ossett, which, incidentally. is where Colin Sturgess is from. We used to go into the woods and mountain bike over to Holmfirth. I did some racing when I was about 14, and then lost a little bit of it, by getting to 16, 17 and being distracted by going to pubs and clubs, and that lasted maybe three or four


“At 23, I bought my first road bike. There was a group of us. We went off to France and Belgium and all sorts of stuff to do mostly sportives. As I got to 26, 27, I was a late entrant into racing. I joined Featherstone Road Club. We were doing time-trials up and down the A1 on a winter’s night: the old Great North Road. 

"As I found my place on that, my career took off a little bit. I was down to London. The whole work-life balance went out the window. The opportunity to race was limited, and I was less successful as Father Time clicked over. I got to 36, 37, and the whole piece about the race organisation and the time-trial clicked in.

“Cycling was always in me. I’ve got memories of Chris Boardman winning in Barcelona in 1992, having posters on the wall of mountain bike stars from the era - David Baker, Tim Gould. Jason McRoy was the big one, of downhill fame. 

“That was always there, without a doubt, but took its own course from about 24, 25, when the obsession kicked in, and it hasn’t gone.” 

Timothy John

“The reason I ask Chris is I wanted to know is it possible to be a race organiser without having spent time on the other side of the barriers?”

Chris Lawrence

“Clearly it helps, but it’s not a barrier to entry We’ve got plenty of organisers out there who have come by way of their family, young children getting into the sport, and then think, 'This is really good.' 

“We’ve got plenty of people who have been into football all their lives, or rugby or cricket, never really thought that cycling as a thing for them. 

“The easier that we make the sport to undertake - so we talked about best practice playbooks - and a lot of enabling subjects in the task force, there shouldn’t be a barrier. 

“We’ve looked at, to coin a phrase, ‘stuff that’s the wrong side of the pay wall’. There’s information out there, but it’s just kept so people can’t be tempted in by some of those obvious

things, so absolutely not [requirement for prior experience as a race organiser].

“It certainly is a strength if you come with experience of managing people and being around people. If you have some part of that in your character, they are tools that you can utilise.” 

Part Two: Light Bulb Moment  

Timothy John 

“It’s good to know that it’s not essential to have been chewing the handlebars for many years before you can put on a bike race. 

“You’re best known Chris for the Newark Town Centre Races, which I think I’m right in saying is a comparatively new event. I know Otley and Ilkley, for example, go a long way back. 

“You mentioned that a life change took you to Newark. When did you first put on the Town Centre Races?”

Chris Lawrence

“It’s first year was 2022, but I’d already spoken to Newark and Sherwood District Council in 2020. But, for obvious reasons, Covid took away the opportunity for that year and 2021. 

“Big props to the councils that advocate cycling, of which NSDC are one. They continue to support, and hopefully we’ll get the event for years to come because it’s a really attractive


“It hasn’t got a big field, but that brings the best of the best to the table, and we’ve seen some excellent racing. Jake Scott and Emma Jeffers [won in] year one; Alec Briggs and Robyn Clay in year two. Hopefully, we’ll get through a fair few more, plus there’s loads of youth racing. Generation Pro has as its mantra, inspiring the next generation. We will always stand by delivering youth racing because that’s our future.”

Timothy John 

“It seems a particularly photogenic race. We’ve got tonnes of pictures from Larry at VeloUK, a website that Brother sponsors. 

“Did you see that market square and think, ‘I could put on a bike race here,’ or were you determined to put on a bike race wherever life had taken you?”

Chris Lawrence

”No, it was a light bulb moment. My partner and I were walking across the market square, going off to Wilkinsons to buy a dustpan and brush and all the attributes you need to kick on, and I just walked over and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And she said, ‘What for?’ And I said: ‘It’s an itch I’ve got to scratch, I’m afraid.’

“Of course, with Covid, it wouldn’t have given anybody an insight into the way I delve into delivering an event. There is time that’s needed to dedicate to it. Clearly, it can be quite absorbing. You have to travel to different places to suss out routes or do risk assessments. But all those things, once you get the foundation of anything done, with a methodical,

thorough approach, you reap the benefit. 

“Like you say, we’ve got such good support from the council, such an aesthetically attractive event that we’re reaping the rewards of that hard work from the first year. It’s the way it has to work; well, it’s my way of working, and I hope to continue and be successful across all the events I’m involved with.”

Timothy John 

“How long did it take, Chris, from that initial light bulb moment to staging the first edition? Are we talking months, up to a year?”

Chris Lawrence

“Well, the good news is that I’ve got a spectrum of examples from two years to 10 weeks. With the Barnsley Town Centre Races, when we started the process, the race I’d talked about where Connor had raced, was in May. 

“I’d contacted Barnsley council. Barnsley had held the national championships in 2015. The organiser at the time had either got distracted with other stuff but had no preciousness about somebody else taking it on and particularly with the support to back us, which was fantastic. 

“Reaching into the council, we said in August or September, we’d like to get it on. They didn’t come back to us until March with a phone call. They said, ‘Do you remember that call?’ And

you’re scratching your head to remember what on earth you’d said because there'd been a number of subjects. 

“They said, ‘We’d like you to know that we’ve got the support for Barnsley. Can we run it in September?’ With a view that we were going to try and do it to the standard of the national series, it seemed absolutely ridiculous to do it at any other time than July, so that gave us April, May, June.

“In 10 weeks, as a new blood organiser for that scale of event with a team that was in the same place, but we landed it with aplomb, and then in the year after that, which was 2018, we

were adamant that we should be part of the National Circuit Series, and we were. 

“Dudley, the same. We had been contacted by the local BC team to work with the council and local volunteer cohort. Again, we used all of those examples from learnings in Newark and Barnsley, so it can be done, so long as you’ve got plans and reach out to a network of support from the guys in BC, you can get the whole skeleton of what you need to help support. 

“Newark is probably the other end of the spectrum, but by circumstance. Had Covid not got in the way: I wrote to them in March or April of 2020, who’s to say that wouldn’t have been

part of the calendar? We had a provisional date. It could have been done and it could have been there, but but it day take a year and a half because of the circumstances. 

“The more time the better, but it's something that you can do.”


Part Three: Relationship Manager

Timothy John

 “What is the most important relationship, Chris? You’ve mentioned the councils in a couple of different contexts, both in Barnsley and Newark. 

“Newark, I guess, looking at that market square, I guess there’s a Chamber of Trade and businesses to get onside. Police, perhaps not so much in a circuit race as a road race, but of all those different pieces of the jigsaw, of all those different relationships, what would you say is the most important to manage?”

Chris Lawrence

“There is any number, it has to be said. Councils can come in all shapes and sizes, and Newark is probably the extreme of that. You’ve got a funder, which is Newark and Sherwood District Council. You’ve got the highways, which is governed by Nottinghamshire County Council with a sub-contracting organisation in between, and then you’ve got a piece of land which is where the finish line is, which is the Royal Market Square, which is managed by Newark Town Council, so you’ve got a whole range of authority stakeholders. You’ve also got the A46, which means you have the National Highways Agency. 

“You’ve always got a safety advisory group: environmental health, the police, blue light partners, transport operators; how those engagements take place is important. The two bits that I always give a lot of energy and time towards are volunteers and people who want to make the event a success, and the guys from British Cycling who enable me to help shape and pull

on different resource options with technical expertise to help and make sure that we have the best event. 

“Making sure relationships are sound: everybody has a plan, everybody has sight of the plan, everybody knows their role on the day or in advance of the day. It’s the old adage of, if you fail to prepare, you can prepare to fail. You may as well do your absolute utmost to make sure that everything’s in order so you can make the best of the opportunity, and we certainly try to do that.”

Timothy John

“It’s not as simple as getting a particular individual to give you the green light. There are a lot of people involved to make the event a success.”

Chris Lawrence

“Yeah, combined councils are definitely easier because everything’s under one roof, but that’s not to say it’s difficult. You just have to make sure that you’re aware of all the components, but it’s more than just having a contact with the cash.”

Timothy John 

“Unfortunately, I’ve never been to the race, but I’ve seen scores and scores of Larry’s pictures. It looks like a wonderful night out. How many people do you get into that square? How many people turn up for the race?”

Chris Lawrence

“Yeah, we certainly saw growth last year in 2023. We think that we’re at about 2000 people around the circuit and certainly the pictures of people around the finish of the men’s race are tremendous. They show the passion and all the good things that circuit events like Newark Town Centre should have: people getting excited, seeing the thrill of the event and the anticipation of someone’s success; in that case, some of the images we saw this year, Robyn and Alec Briggs. Young people: great with social media, great with exposure, and just maximising everything that’s good for our sport.”

Timothy John

“We’ve used that picture of Robyn a couple of times on our social channels. She’s on the team that we’re sponsoring this year: DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK. Larry’s got a frame-by-frame of her crossing the finish line and the change in her expression from amazement to exultation; wonderful to see. 

“What’s the standing of the event in the town, Chris? Are people now counting down the days to the next one? Does it draw people from different communities? Is it popular with local


“I know that in Otley it’s almost the highlight of the entire year. Are you getting somewhere close in Newark?”

Chris Lawrence

“The reality is that as an organiser you face pressures to ensure that the race has good standing or is well regarded through a number of ways. 

“Sure, there is always going to be an aspect of how does your race fit with the local businesses, and Otley is blessed with a lot of leisure businesses in and around the circuit: pubs, fish

and chip shops, takeaways, restaurants. Ilkley is the same. They have a great lay up for outside eating, all the way down the high-street, and it all fits. 

“We have some challenges because Newark is a close-knit town. Barnsley was the same. Is the event going to marry with the sofa and the carpet shop? Probably less likely, but we do a lot of community engagement to try and ensure that there’s the opportunity for businesses to engage with the event, get publicity, get exposure. We have great media, great social sites, banner options. We have a commentator talking about sponsors and interested parties all night long. 

“We give a range of options, plus hospitality, that people can talk to - dignitaries, councils - and try and influence how their life goes and get people interested in their brands:

property services and all the rest of it. Will we please everyone? You can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs. You’ve just got to roll with the punches at times. 

“Has it felt like it’s beneficial? Yeah, absolutely. We do a lot of analysis, post-event, to show how much exposure the town received. I’ve seen people on my social media who, on the face of it, don’t appear to have any connection to Newark turn up and take a picture of the Market Square. You can’t lose sight of the fact that’s bringing footfall and spending money and generating interest in the local community. The net residual benefit to Newark from the event has a reality. 

“People, for five hours, during a July night might get frustrated, but it’s the unseen net benefit that comes over a longer period that we have to try and maximise. It’s difficult but we’ve

got hone in on it.”

Timothy John

“And more broadly, does it inspire the residents? Difficult to measure, I’d guess.” 

Chris Lawrence

“Having a carnival atmosphere, which we try and engender, certainly at Newark especially, because of how it’s configured, brings people to an attractive event. The imagery of people having enjoyment: an offering to attract them that’s broader than just a cycling event which can trigger the leisure sector as well is a good thing. 

“Certainly, in Newark, there’s a back story of [national] championships. The Tour of Britain has been there. People really like it. There’s part of the course we know that as we go round,

checking that everything is working as it should, there are doorways and people out on the street with deckchairs. 

“We were stopped by a family who said, ‘You wouldn’t mind doing this every night would you? It’s been brilliant. No cars, no noise, no one getting angry and having road rage. We’ve got young people celebrating a sport, and it’s fantastic. We’re sat here having a bottle of wine and watching the race, and it couldn’t be any better.’

“If those little things are there, it inspires everybody. The crowds at Newark speak for themselves, really. They come from far and wide but they are there en masse from Newark, and it’s

certainly well-regarded in the town.” 



Part Four: Once Upon a Time in the West Midlands

Timothy John

“Let’s move eighty miles down the road to Dudley. What took you there, Chris? Is it a trojan horse into Birmingham? One of the recommendations from the Elite Road Racing Task Force is to engage bigger cities with more diverse communities. Does Dudley open a doorway to that?”

Chris Lawrence

“Yeah, I think it does. The route of how we got to Dudley was Generation Pro Cycle Events was created to enable councils to engage with a provider that offers an end-to-end service: full event management, full procurement, delivery on the day, all the sporting stuff, all the technical stuff, with the kind of experience I’ve picked up and my network of suppliers and people who we bring into an event to help shape it. 

“Clearly, when you run an event as successful as Newark, the opportunity to help other councils is obvious. You can grow the sport by growing the business. That’s one thing. I’ve viewed an ambition to do that. 

“A couple of people had watched the Commonwealth Games and came away with the view that it was fantastic. In the West Midlands they have very few major events. We know that there’s a disparity between events above a certain line in the country. Melton is probably the south point, generally, for national stuff, so having a major championships land on their

doorstep, they came away and said, ‘This has got to happen. We’ve got to keep going with this.’

“The local council engaged with British Cycling in the West Midlands region, who, by hook or by crook, were referred to me to consider the running of the Dudley Grand Prix and give them the whole mechanical proposal that enabled them to go to the council, engage with its sanctioning process to release a budget line for it, which we did. Again, this was within a period of about 10 or 15 weeks, so we knew we were on a tight time-table.

“This was working with the BC teams, the combined council, the volunteer group, who were mainly from Stourbridge Cycling Club, Halesowen, Wolverhampton Wheelers, all of the clubs in that locality. 

“We hit the ground running. The highways department was really supportive. They gave us a course that we could run on that was sustainable. That’s important: relationships that

enable these sports. The town has been redeveloped. The bus station has shut down and disbursed elsewhere. There's a tramline. 

“All of these discussions are held to shape the circuit. I think the riders loved the circuit, with one caveat, which was a corner that had had a bit of diesel oil spillage on it, and it was bit of a slip and slide and some riders came off worse than others, but largely speaking it brought something different to the series, which is no bad thing. 

“It did rain, though. It definitely, definitely rained!”

Timothy John 

“Your ability, Chris, effectively to walk into another town and deliver another successful race, was that the genesis of this Task Force recommendation for a ‘winning patterns playbook’? 

“If you know how to approach  local authorities, chambers of trade, whoever it might be, and you understand the sporting technicalities of putting together a circuit, should it be possible to deploy a standard approach and bring bike races to towns and cities across the country?”

Chris Lawrence

“The important thing to remember is that it is one way to do it. The important thing to remember is that people can be creative. There’s a number of different ways. If you have a low cost, sponsorship is always there. Some of our bigger races are driven entirely by sponsorship. 

“When you go into a brand new environment and put down a marker, knowing the exact cost of an event, then a way to do it is to get council funding. They become invested in the event, so all the mechanics can be unrolled: communications and marketing, the schools, highways, transport services, local police. In Dudley, they have a council-run restaurant, which lends itself to the hospitality offering. The list goes on.

“But that is one way to do it. Another way is to do it is with full sponsorship and generate income for the event locally, which has been the mainstay for events such as Ilkley and Otley,

which is good. 

“The other thing about going around the country and being a travelling circus is that we’re able to deliver back into the sport: the experience, share expertise, take people on a journey, and then organically grow capability and confidence to do things that people may have been slightly wary of. 

“An example from my own experience is that the club just needed assurance that it wasn't going to be on the hook for a load of money. It doesn’t need to be. We’ve got a model that satisfies any risk around that. The more people become familiar with taking to their authority leaders about funding sources that aren’t necessarily aligned to the council. It could be a sustainable transport fund, or it could be a health and well-being initiative that comes out of different pockets of government funding, not just the council.

“Will a playbook help? Absolutely. It will also drive us to test British Cycling with ensuring that we have considered, clear and consistent practices and approaches that allow ease of access to certain things. If we take policing as the flavour of the month, from the articles that were out post-Tour of Britain and stuff that’s happened more recently, ensuring that we

have a template that’s consistent, reasonable, rationally thought out and cost-effective, then we’ve got somewhere to go. 

“I don’t think at the moment we’ve got all those things dialled in, hence why we came out with that recommendation from the Task Force. We certainly need those things to make sure we give the next wave of organisers who want to get into the big stuff and take what they’ve already got and just allow enablement of that because without it I think there’s going to be some further challenge down the road.” 


Part Five: Essential Viewing

Timothy John 

“Well, you’ve given me a nice lead, Chris, into your event organisers workshop when you talk about your willingness to share expertise and capability. Now, this is a seminar, for anybody who hasn't seen it yet, on YouTube and, for listeners, I can’t recommend highly enough giving an hour and a bit of your time to this because, even as journalist, I found it a huge eye-opener: the level of detail required to put on a well-organised bike race.

"Certainly for anyone whose contemplating putting on a race of their own, I would say this is essential viewing. It covers everything from the availability of signage and Accredited Marshalls and commissaries to remembering to turn off the auto-braking system on your car if it’s a vehicle in the race convoy! 

“Chris, what would you say are the areas most commonly overlooked by new organisers?"

Chris Lawrence

“I think cycle sport has kind of got itself into a halcyon-era phenomenon. Fifteen years ago, the entry fee was £15. Well, the sad fact of the matter is that the cost of living and inflationary increases have taken the cost of delivering almost every event and lifted it to a place where, as an organiser, you’ve got to have an eye on sustainability at all levels, whether that be purpose-built facilities, whether that be national or regional B races, or whatever else. 

“We just must have a view and look at all the costs that we would like associated with the event and reverse engineer that and look at things like sponsorship. Even for an event out in the sticks, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker might chime in with 50 quid. Soon, you might have a few 50 quids, and you work that up for a little bit of publicity, a little bit of

social media spin for the local shop or service provider, and I suppose it's always asking friends on social media if they would like to partake in sponsorship. 

“If we talk about the workshop, it’s fair to say there is a lot of helpful material on just about everything in the sport but probably lacking is to be an event organiser, so we were conscious that our next phase was to support that in terms of demystifying the process. 

“I, myself, as an organiser for BC, am a product of organising workshops delivered in Yorkshire by Bob Howden and Marc Etches and Peter Sutton and people like that. To move to the East Midlands, to deliver in the region face-to-face workshops and then to do this, I think is the right place to go. 

“What we’ve also done is look towards the governance systems in BC to encourage all the regions around the country to do exactly the same, so they can nurture new organisers,

give them the support networks, try and encourage people to talk to one another, because it’s not always you and your big club that does it. 

“The Yomp Bonk guys - James Hawkins, Tom Hutchinson, Will, Eugene Cross - are all people who call upon networks, as I do, to come on board and support the sport and make stuff happen with relationship management and all the rest of it that makes stuff continue to roll. They’re definitely the things that are important: learning the skills, having the people around you, making sure that you’ve got something that’s financially secure and sustainable and linking in with agencies and businesses to help that all along.”

Timothy John 

“And how central to all of that, Chris, is the role of Sport Developer? Toby Turner was on your call. Obviously, a very capable guy. His passion for the sport really came across.

“One of the Elite Road Racing Task Force recommendations that struck home with me was for a wider geographical spread of races, and, as somebody living on the south

coast of England, I can only applaud that. 

“How valuable is it to have an active Sport Developer in a region, encouraging people to organise bike races, particularly in areas that might not have hosted the Tour de France or the world championships in the last ten years?”

Chris Lawrence

“Yeah, critical, without a doubt. Anyone who wants to run anything beneath a national series race, and even within the national series as well, they need to engage with Sport Developers. They’re the first port of call because they will help you shape up your race: what type of event you’re going to land.

"They’ll ask testing questions to make sure you’ve got a volunteer force; you’ve got an idea of when it is that the race is to be run. If you haven’t got an 'existing' circuit, they will give you at lest their best guidance, their professional guidance, as to whether a circuit that you might have crafted up is appropriate, so you don’t have any issues, any pausing or halting of races, so that it makes a better event that you can build from and increase the sport. 

“They can give you all sorts of equipment and advice. They can be the central hub of networks in and around the region. The regional boards all have regional workgroups that the Sport

Developer helps work. If they don’t know the answer immediately, they’re probably within a phone call of getting the answer. It’s that kind of role.

“Toby’s great. There’s loads of them around the country that are all good: Tom Wilson and Matt Gott in various parts; Jack Rees and all the other guys who are there. They’re all hugely passionate about cycle sport. That’s the important thing. Not any of them are in place because it’s a job. They’re doing it because it’s a past time and their passion.”


Part Six: Nuts and Bolts

Timothy John

“Let’s move on now to talk about the Elite Road Racing Task Force. Of course, that’s commanded a lot of headlines in our area of the sport. You were on the panel chaired by Ed Clancy, a triple Olympic champion, of course, along with Phil Jones, Brother UK’s Managing Director, so a lot of strength-in-depth. 

“But I guess you were able to provide the nuts and bolts of how to put on a race. How did your skill set integrate with those of the other panellists?”

Chris Lawrence

“There was a mixture of us all on the Elite Road Racing Task Force. From a background sense, I had a sighter on the event organisation piece, but what comes with that is the need for commercial skill sets, managing the riders, so it worked really well in terms of the knit together. We tested one another. We tested BC around the barriers that we all see; some of those pressure points that we would like to have got at, whether brand new or legacy. We’ve attacked them. 

“As well as everything that’s known and obvious to all, I also have forums and networks with national event organisers, outside of the circuit series: Peter at the Beaumont, with Colin, with Roy up at Lancaster, Austin down at Guildford, with Bob, I don’t know everything, no one does, but what I tried to enable was that input to that task force was clear, structured and

where things were unknown, and I'll give you an example in a minute, I reached out to a lot of people to make sure that what I was putting forwards was fit for it. 

“One thing we had to look at was the ‘elite’ and what that looks like. Is it the Tour of Britain, the Women’s Tour of Britain? I think we can agree on that. We certainly tackled the whole UCI piece and international racing outside of the Tour of Britain. We needed a little bit of context-setting around what that means. Of course, in our National Road Series, we know what those economies are, and we know them individually. The organisers have freely provided that, which has contributed massively to the understanding of those who are close to it. 

“Courtesy of Colin Clews, who helped me a huge amount, I got an insight on the international piece. A National Road Series race has an economy, but we’re a step ahead with what Colin does. We have a 1.1 - I might be getting the reference points wrong from memory - but if we were to look at the Tour of Britain on a single-day level, what would that mean even

further, and some of the dependencies and impacts of choosing those. 

“It helped us to understand that it would have been folly to all cry out, ‘We need 10 UCI 1.1s or 1.2s,’  because the challenge needs to be staggered to achieve it. It would be unrealistic to believe that could happen tomorrow; if we were to say at least £80k to £90k for one of those UCI races, and that’s dependent on the venue, so it’s a heck of a challenge, and it would have been irresponsible for us to have dog-whistled towards those numbers, without a doubt.” 

Timothy John 

“Yeah. There is an overriding sense of realism from the sixteen recommendations. I know there were forty action points in total, but 16 of them have been put before the public. 

“Which of those sixteen, Chris, do you consider, from an organiser’s perspective to be the most valuable? Succession planning, for example, has a very practical feel to it. Centralised procurement, again, you can see how that would be of immediate value to a race organiser. There were three recommendations alone for the National Circuit Series, which I guess was

your touchpoint into this process. 

“Which of the sixteen could you put your finger on and say, well, that’s the one that I think could make a genuine difference?

Chris Lawrence

“I’m going to spin this one, as you might imagine. To me, it was always forty, and it was split three ways. It was road, circuit and there was stuff that covered the job lot. Where the generic bits sit, for example, we’ve got the demystifying of what a race organiser is. 

“I was always clear to say that this wasn’t about the elite. This was about ensuring that the pyramid has a solid base, so, where we have grassroots. I started off and have done many, many things on school yard circuits up at Wakefield or Forge Valley or Doncaster: learning the ability, but creating a playbook to allow us to understand what that all means. We’ve done some of that on the workshop to unravel some of those things and give everyone an ease of navigating the topic, but certainly that’s it. 

“There are some critical issues that are definitely in the road piece, which are about consistent approaches around safety measures, whether that be appointing NEGs, AMSs, policing. Those things aren’t easy to overcome, and I know, thankfully, that BC are into dialogue around those really heady issues. It’s got to be overcome because that’s an enablement to the

sport and without those critical things being at the foundation: again, it’s the pyramid, the house of cards analogy. 

“We’ve got to try and make sure that we hold those 40 points to account. We’ve got to have some place where we understand what is being done on them. We’ve got governance systems within the region. I know full well that they are being exercised to bring that to a place where we know what is the ambition to do to deliver those forty pints and we know that the next phase is, when are we going to do it?"

Timothy John 

“How confident are you, Chris, that BC will deliver those recommendations? The CEO Jon Dutton mentioned it as recently as the announcement about major events. 

“There were five key bullet points at the centre of the press release that accompanied that conference: one concerning the Women’s Tour and the Tour of Britain, another concerning

putting on a multi-discipline urban event, for example. 

“These are big, flagship announcements and in among it all, was a pledge to deliver the recommendations of the Elite Road Racing Task Force. Are you confident that will happen?”

Chris Lawrence

“Yeah, you’re right. They are very big statements, aren’t they, so there will be a measure against them. There would be hope that all of the recommendations have been assessed.  They’ve had plenty of time to kick back on potential issues with the volunteers who participated in that task force, but they accepted the report and therefore that’s the first marker which says, ‘Yeah, we get where you’re coming from’. The second part is, ‘We’re going to do this, and we’re going to do it properly, and this is when we’re going to do it, and we’re hopefully going to deliver it by…’ something that’s realistic. 

“We were asked to deliver ‘smart’ recommendations, and I think we’ve done that. We need further dialogue on points, because context to new audiences is always important, particularly if they’re going to take us on to resolve some of this stuff. 

“Has it been the case that we’re saying stuff for the first time? I don’t think we are in a number of cases and that might give rise to a lot of people criticising it for being around the cycle

again. But, have we ever had the CEO put all his money on the table? We’re hoping he sticks it all on red and we get it red, rather than it going black and it going off into the bank. 

“But we are at a point where some of this is really serious. The policing has got to be front and centre of making sure that we transform and enable road racing to happen.” 


Part Seven: Challenges and Rewards

Timothy John

“Let’s finish up with a few rapid fire questions because I’ve taken up most of your afternoon already! 

“What is the most challenging aspect to being a race organiser?”

Chris Lawrence

“There is a lot of time constraint on delivering events like this. The reward comes in waves. The atmosphere at the events, the engagement with the riders; the families when you’ve been in and around youth races and the big, flagship events, and other the stuff like Monsal Hill Climb and the national hill climb. 

“You see people all the time. It is one big family, and these events are where everybody is there. That’s the reward and the time that goes into it is just a lead in. It’s February now. It’s

paper-pushing time. You’re doing deals with the councils and you’re trying to get buy in from the sponsors. 

“All of that hard work is in anticipation of those four weeks in July. Never mind those three weeks in July and several thousand kilometres. We’re doing that walking every night to be fair, but the joy of those four weeks is brilliant for those involved, and there’s plenty of us.”

Timothy John 

“Tell me, Chris, is this addictive? You organise two rounds of the National Circuit Series. You help out at the Sheffield Grand Prix too, I know. You’ve just mentioned the Monsal Hill Climb, and Marc Etches of course was one of your guests on the workshop.”

Chris Lawrence

“It is addictive. Dudley, put to one side, and Barnsley was a little bit similar for those who were there, but it’s usually gloriously warm, and the sport is excellent. The volunteer engagement, the post-event stuff. We work hard and play hard. A lot of us have either come along with friends for many years, through racing or riding or volunteering. It’s just one big family on a great big party for four weeks, but that party involves a lot of hard work. I could be up from 5am on race day and not get back to the small hours. That’s just part of it, but the rewards are massive.

“There is also the end of season, fall-off-the-cliff moment, which usually is after Newark, being the season-finisher. The day after, I wake up in the morning with a sense of relief and have a little bit of a time on my own, shut the door and usually in floods of tears, because it’s usually been a great, successful period of time. That’s the reward. If It get to that point, and it’s happy crying, then happy days. I’m not doing that in public, just for the record!”

Timothy John 

“Well, look, if anyone’s listing to this podcast, and anybody who had watched Chris’ workshop and was umm-ing an ahh-ing about whether to take that step and become a race organiser, you couldn’t hope for a more inspiring statement than that.

“Chris, thanks very much indeed for your time today, and very best of luck with all of your events in 2024.”

Chris Lawrence

“Thank-you, Tim. Thanks for the opportunity and all the best.”



Phil Jones

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