How to – organise a ‘cross race

I’m by no means a seasoned expert in this field, with only my third event in the bag as a race organiser. I have, however, lost count of the number of folk telling me they’d love to put on a race but just have no idea how to. So, here is how I organise a race.

This sequence/list of ‘shit to do’ assumes that you have already found a venue with ample parking, public facilities, easy access and most importantly, a variety of natural features that will lend themselves well to create a cyclocross course that racers will want to come back to year after year. Enjoy!


1. Get permission

Before you waste your time dreaming up the next Hoogerheide, get the nod from the local council or landowner to use the venue. Make sure they know what they are getting into and get that permission in writing. This in some instances may need a bit of persuasion, you know, to convince local authorities that grass does indeed grow back.

[I’ll include the ground recovery reference document made by SCX community once ready]

2. Get out on reconnaissance

You’ve got the nod from the council, you now need to be absolutely certain that you can actually pull a course together out of the grounds you’ve accosted. Take a couple of full weekends of exploring paths, ways, clearings, desire lines, features & structures. Always ride them in both directions and start to stitch the pieces together. Ideally get some pals up, of varying abilities and roughly pull together a 2.5km~3km circuit.

3. Get the event official

Ok, so here I can only comment on the TLI system. I’ll happily expand this for BC/SC system if someone would care to elaborate but for now, TLI. There are very few steps to go through for setting up an event though TLI.

  1. Complete Application to Promote an Event form.
  2. Complete Membership Application form (as Organiser).

Get them here (http://www.tlicycling.org.uk/Downloads.aspx) and send back to TLI.

Once registered with TLI you’ll want to setup an entry system, if not with BC/SC I’d suggest something like Entry Central. You’ll need to register as an organiser with EC, just get in touch with Ian McLaughlin at EC and he’ll take it from there.

4. Get social

Love it or hate it, most of your entries are going to find out about your race through social media. Simply relying on word of mouth isn’t enough to ensure you maximise the potential for entries. Smash the social medias; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Though I would advise that you make a basic website as the centre for information dissemination.

5. Get your course dialled

You’ve got a rough course sorted, the entries are flying in and the internet is broken by the news of your new event. The pressure is now onto to get your course dialled in.

Course width wise you are looking for 3-4m at all times. There are going to be some parts you can’t quite get that width but as a guide try and create a course with plenty of width. This will promote opportunity to race. My ideal course mix would be 80% off-road, 15% on-road/track/path and 5% off-bike. Time wise off the bike you’re looking at around about 30 seconds maximum, though sometimes the weather conditions will dictate that. This can be achieved through artificial features such as stairs, steps or the classic double barriers and natural features such as steep run-ups.

Pay attention to where your start chute is going to be. This wants to be open, straight and long enough to stretch the field out; ideally around 200m of sprinting to the first turn.

Locate somewhere for a race pit, about 20-40m long with entry to the right (sorry south paws, you’re in the minority) in a well draining and fairly flat area with easy access for pit team to get to. A double pit which meets around equidistant of the course is the dream but we’re not always that blessed and this is grassroots after all.

Features wise I think some organisers might desperately try to get as many varying ‘cross sectuers in as they can; secteurs such as steep climbs, run ups, steps, fly-overs, steep descents, jumps, dead turns, rhythm sections, wooded-rooted sections, sand sections, mud sections, rest sections. While this might appear to create the holy grail of courses they will often miss out on the most important part of a grass-roots course, stoke. To my mind you create this through running the fine line of ‘I’m going to c*nt it on this bit | I totally smashed that section’. RGCX is full of these moments, the jump after the lap line, the descent to the run-up, the dead turns before heckler hill, the right hander drop off before the dead turn to the barriers, the entire west woods, the rooted left turn before the pits after the rhythm section. All these sections run the line of will I or won’t I make it and that’s what makes a course, to quote Mr Sachs, ATMO.

6. Get your event planned

Get fully involved with a spreadsheet. Make sure you budget for everything, work out all of your event income and event costs to make sure your dream to host an event isn’t also going to bankrupt you. I’ve developed a plan which adopts the TLI & EC method, feel free to borrow it and amend it for however you want to run you’re event.

Here’s my DRAFT Event Plan

7. Get your course equipment

  • Stakes – for a 2.5km – 3km course you’re going to need around 350-500 stakes.
  • Tape – for a 2.5km – 3km course you’re going to need around 5-6km of tape ~ 24 x 250m rolls.
  • Barriers* – you will want at least two of these and 2-3 stobs per barrier to keep them in place.
  • Tempo spray – courtesy dictates the fluorescent indication of nasty roots and rocks, 4-6 cans of.

*An opinion on barriers – these should be at least 4 – 5m apart and no higher than 30cm tall. I know the UCI call for a 40cm maximum but at that height you’ll find most people will need to actually jump over the top of them rather than run over, regardless of how smooth their portage is. This height not only promotes portage souplesse but also encourages the bunny hoppers to the party.

8. Get your race and event equipment

  • Arm numbers & pins.
  • Sign on tent & tables, sign-on sheets & pens, notice board for event timings.
  • Timer, electronic timing system, lap numbers, last lap bell & chequered flag.
  • Commentator & PA system.
  • Marshals and marshal equipment.
  • First aiders.**
  • Race radios.
  • Start whistle & large buckets for the start line clothing dump.
  • Lap number boards, last lap bell & chequered flag.
  • Cash, prizes, medals & podium.
  • Event catering.
  • Event toilets / portoloos (with sufficient supplies).
  • Event signage; to sign-on, to toilets, to catering, to race start, to race pits, course crossing points.
  • Event bins.
  • Spare stakes, barrier tape &  tempo spray.
  • Air horns, klaxons, cowbells, thundersticks & megaphones.
  • Sponsor banners & flags, cable ties & snips, rope & knife.

** Please ensure that your first aiders are clearly identifiable, they have either race radios or mobile phones and all event marshals have a way to contact them. Ensure that you have a clear access from the public road to the race course to allow for potential ambulance access.

9. Get your event information out

  • Send rider information pack out.***
  • Send marshal information pack out.
  • Send Risk Assessment to TLI.
  • Chase u18s for Day Membership forms (signed by parents or guardians).
  • Populate the TLI Standard Registration form with entries.

Get them here (http://www.tlicycling.org.uk/Downloads.aspx ) and send back to TLI.

*** This should include event timings, race gridding, venue directions, venue parking, course location and directions from parking and points of contact as an absolute minimum, the rest is just fluff.

10. Get ready

  • Last minute course recce and clearance the weekend and the Saturday before your event.
  • Signage up to warn venue users (we all know I mean dog walkers) of the upcoming event.
  • Set out the course the day before. ****

**** I like to be up the whole day before setting out the course, erecting barriers, last minute clearance, root spraying etc. There’s absolutely nothing worse than panicking about whether or not you will have the course ready for your guest’s arrival. It irons out the last minute kinks and pretty much guarantees that you will sleep the night before, mostly because you’ll be completely f*cked.

11. Get the party started

This is the easy bit. Everyone arrives, everyone races, everyone gets stoked, everyone goes home thinking your event was the danglies.

12. Get the place tidy

Clear course of stakes, tape, barriers & signage. Leave absolutely no rubbish. I’ll go as far to say that, less the ground degradation, my venues have been cleaner when I left than when I started. Simply because I find on the course clearance and recce days I’m constantly picking up the local Young Team’s nocturnal flotsam and jetsam.

13. Get your event wrapped up

  • Get the results published and communicated via all the social medias and
  • Injury/Accident/Incident Form (if required)
  • Return Event Return form including completed Standard Registration sheets, Day Membership forms and cheque for day membership levies to TLI.

This is, of course, in no way exhaustive but that’s pretty much how I run a race. Please feel free to email me or add comments below of what you do differently or think should be included.

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