Liverpool Century Road Club 10 Mile Time Trial Bronze Standard Medal

Last Saturday night was the annual Liverpool Century Road Club dinner.  I’ve only been a member of the Club for a few years, but the event has become a firm fixture in my social calendar.  I recall my pre-Centurion days – riding solo on the lanes around Hale and seeing the kit and always being a little bit jealous.  But back then I was always too intimidated to join a cycling club – I wasn’t good enough, or at least so I thought.

But to my great surprise and delight this year I was awarded a medal!  Towards the end of this season I “accidentally” entered a time trial.  I was out for an evening spin and totally by chance stumbled across the “Club Ten”.  I thought I would hang around and watch.  Before long I was badgered in to “pinning a number on”.  Needless to say I was completely clueless, but somehow got around in a half decent time.  I didn’t know the time was ok – but the encouragement from the volunteer marhalls and timekeepers was sufficient to ensure I would try again in future.  There was only one more Club Ten left after this one – but I made sure I turned-up for it and delivered a time of 24.39.  Unknown to me this qualified me for the Bronze Standard – hence the medal.

I do love this time of year.  The end of the racing season and everything just starting to feel a wee bit Christmassy.  And its a measure of the feeling that the members have for their Club, that year after year the talented and hard-working young lads that are now making their way forging successful careers as bike riders always return to support the occasion.  Chapeaux therefore to Matt Brammeier, Mark McNally, Jonny Mcevoy and Mike Gregg.  Once a Centurion – always a Centurion.  Indeed even Mr Ian Bibby could not avoid the allure of the Century Dinner – such is its infamy.

Whilst eternally grateful for their continued support – this event is never about the pros.  Of course its essential that the younger members who desire a racing career can see a clear pathway to the top and evidence that they can succeed and overcome the biggest of obstacles.  But the annual prize giving is an opportunity to celebrate Club members achievements of all levels, ages and abilities.  And whilst our pros are doing their thing in the Continental Classics and in the UK Premier Calendar series, there is a small army of unpaid volunteers with a passion for their sport which is so strong that its just infectious.  At times on Saturday night I swear you could touch it.

I could not begin to imagine the number of man hours that are given each year to: the organisation of races and Club events; turbo-training sessions at the Club Rooms; leading rides on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; delivering coaching and training camps at home and abroad; – the list goes on.  And not a single penny has ever been paid to anyone for their commitment – they do it all for love, often fitting it in around their own busy jobs.

Its accurate to state the Century has more than its fair share of “Alpha Males” – but it really was the females that stole the show this year.  Our self-styled “Ladies in Lycra” are the highest ranked Club team in the country this year – an exceptional achievement…especially when you realise most have them have only been riding for a year or less, and to borrow a favourite phrase of a certain Manxman, surely “more to come” next year.

So what is it about this fine Club that can at the same time help produce bike riders that race at the highest level of the UCI World Tour, and develop a ladies club team that has become the best in the country in under a year?  A Club that can even encourage a fat bloke like me to achieve something in sport for the first time in my life?  Passion and Commitment.  Perhaps two very over-used words, especially in Sport.  An unpaid army of unsung heros who quietly go about their business.  In an era when the concept of community seems to have been smashed some wise old heads have created an environment where every member can feel not only valued and appreciated but also able to contribute – which so many do freely, without any arm-twisting.

My regret is really that I didn’t discover the Century sooner.  Several years of seeing them on the road and always being a bit too shy to approach them, or intimidated at the speed by which they would fly past me.  Finally I grasped the nettle and approached the then Club Secretary George Darlington.  He could not have been more welcoming and encouraging.  A real gentleman with a heart of gold.  Cancer robbed the Century of this fine servant, and at the same time made me appreciate that it would have been a privilege to have known him longer – and that really was all my own fault for not getting involved sooner.  So don’t hesitate.  Seize the day.  If you think you might like to join a cycling club, then I’m pretty certain you will enjoy it.  And if you chose to do so, you will go a long way to find one with a bigger heart than the Liverpool Century Road Club.  Whatever you want to achieve from just riding your bike to competitive racing, there will be help, support and encouragement for you all the way.  You never know, you might even discover you’re a bit better than you think you are.