Sign up to give back. That's what we're urging you to do right now with our campaign to get more people volunteering. You could get involved by registering your interest in volunteering at an event this year. But British Cycling's Yorkshire region is taking 'giving back' to another level — by giving back to its volunteers.
Team Yorkshire (TY) brings all the volunteers in this sizeable region under one umbrella, and gives them not just a snazzy polo shirt but a sense of belonging and a huge network of like-minded people who could even turn out to be good friends one day.
At Team Yorkshire's first major event — the Grasscrete Ryedale Grand Prix last August — its members provided a cheerful and ubiquitous presence around the race, their bright blue TY jerseys marking them out immediately as part of the race organisation and lending it an extra air of professionalism.
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BC Yorkshire region's vice-chair Marc Etches is a key figure in setting up TY. It's all about rewarding the people who give up their time for free, he says.
"We're trying to branch out to these volunteers — your commissaires, your judges, your drivers, your marshals, your organisers," he says, getting across the point that there are lots of ways to volunteer. "It's those who stand on the corner with a flag — or not nowadays — those who put the time in, week in, week out, and just for the love of the sport. We said well, how do we bring them all on board and reward them?"
Part of the idea says Etches, who also organises the Sheffield Grand Prix and is the chair of Sheffrec CC (he's a busy chap), is also to bring the regional board closer to the people it represents and help to close what can be quite a big gap.
"You've got these little groups of people that make decisions on behalf of [members]," he says of the various boards. "In Yorkshire, we have 11,500 members, and often people don't know the actual purpose of the board. A lot of members don't even know they exist."
It had originally been hoped that the Team Yorkshire initiative would get going in 2020. Of course, we all know what happened there. Last season's Ryedale Grand Prix, a National Series Road race, seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the show on the road in the end, says Etches, not least because of the numbers of people needed to put it on.
"It's pretty much organised by everyone out of Yorkshire," says Etches. "When there's so many people and they're not all from one club, you know, it's nice to be able to put them all under Team Yorkshire as it were.
"The ball has only just started rolling," he adds. "This year will be the telling year where we can start to pull it together."
Etches is understandably proud of the level of dedication and enthusiasm for cycling that permeates Yorkshire. It's not by accident that so many major races take place in the region, he says.
"We are quite blessed really, because I think it just shows the strength and depth, you know… because we do stuff, we get on with it."
But he reckons the Team Yorkshire model is one that could benefit any region looking to bring its volunteer force on board; to help them network and make them feel more valued.
"I just think it's making them feel a part something a little bit bigger — part of the region. That they're contributing and, I guess, not just there to marshal, that they're part of something a little bit bigger."
Etches does have one additional idea though, that seems to work pretty well with his own Sheffield GP promotion — an after-party with a free bar.
"When we've cleared up and finished up and swept everything, then we get the beer vouchers out. Our volunteers get looked after, because without them, we wouldn't have an event."
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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields.
Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.
A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now in the past, although that doesn't stop him banging on tirelessly about "that one time" he nearly rode a 20-minute '10', and planning the big comeback that everyone knows will never actually happen.
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