Wairarapa Ulysses Club riders. PHOTO/FILE
Skilful Wairarapa Ulysses riders keep peloton right side up
‘Flying by the seat of the pants’
Who you gonna call?
For cycle race organiser, Jorge Sandoval, there’s only one answer – the Wairarapa Ulysses Club.
Sandoval, who runs the Trust House North Island cycling series and the New Zealand Cycle Classic, thinks so highly of their skills at keeping racing cyclists safe, that he called the Wairarapa club’s riders up for the Classic that will run for the first time in Waikato, which started yesterday. He did not consider any other alternative.
Sandoval said the Wairarapa Ulysses Club riders had become an integral part of the cycling events he hosts.
“I know that they can always be depended on, and many of them have done training so that they understand the way cyclists are going to act.
“They’re real professionals and can adapt to any race whether it be a secondary school event or the Cycle Classic.”
Eight members of the club — Wayne Billing, Mike Purcell, Tony Allen, Andy Wilson, Colin Clarke, Greg Evans, Andrew Beattie and Brian Bosch — travelled to Cambridge on Monday for the four-day Classic featuring world class riders.
The first six will be marshalls while the latter two will carry cameramen filming the event on the back of their bikes throughout the event.
The race is the only Union Cycliste Internationale 2.2 sanctioned race to be held in New Zealand this year.
Fourteen overseas teams, including riders from Australia, England, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands and some of the top riders from New Zealand will be racing in the Waipa district.
The Wairarapa Ulysses Club riders, group motto ‘Grow Old Disgracefully’, are no strangers to marshalling, having looked after cyclists during 19 cycle events from May 2017 to May 2018 and many more events before that.
Riders from the club were an ever-present staple for about 15 of the 31 years that the Cycle Classic was run in Wairarapa by Jorge Sandoval before he took it to Waikato.
Bosch, the club’s secretary, said the Wairarapa riders were well-regarded because age was a key factor in their ability to marshal effectively.
“Every race is different, you’re flying by the seat of your pants so you need to take control of the situation and manage the safety of cyclists.
“Most of our guys are in their 50s and 60s, and have experienced quite a lot in their time, which means that they have plenty of life-skills up their sleeves if something unexpected happens.”
Bosch said keeping the cyclists safe was the most important part of the marshalls’ jobs.
“We’ll travel ahead and make sure all the gates are shut on farms and that there’s no stock loose or tractors about to appear on the road.
“If there’s a crash, or one of the cyclists gets hurt, we’re usually first on the scene and we have to make snap decisions about looking after them.”
Bosch said that most motorists were generally good at obeying the marshalls, but they did get abusive drivers occasionally.
“We had a secondary school event where a motorist did not want to slow down and just drove through the cyclists.
“There was also a time where we had a tanker driver try to get through right on the finish line with cyclists going past.”