It’s not easy to run a Chain Gang

“After my 437th lap round the hub, I decided to start something new”

I was riding Tuesday nights over at the Stephen Burke Hub. 10 miles there, 20 miles round the track, 10 miles back, quality training. But, it was bit of a cliquey bunch, I didn’t really get on with them well. After my 437th lap round the hub, I decided to start something new, something local. Skipton CC Tuesday Night training was born. A fast paced, rain or shine ride up to Buckden and back. One, windy, wet Tuesday, it was just 4 of us. On a sunny evening we had riders from Ilkley, Skipton, Prologue, Bronte and others. 20 riders wasn’t unusual.

Come the summer, I was keen to reclaim my Tuesday nights, several were racing locally and numbers had dropped off. To me, it was spring training, preparation for racing. It was time to close Tuesday training until the next year. Nick (one of the regular Ilkley riders) dropped me a message on Facebook; “How about running the chain gang on a Wednesday?”; I wasn’t keen. We had our Wednesday night club ride, which I loved. It started without me. Andrew Fletcher had taken the initiative to run it alongside the club run with a group of the regular chain gang riders from Crosshills. Skipton CC riders wanted the chain gang and I relented.

Last year saw the launch of Paceline Cycles in Crosshills. Run by Mark Hanson, Paceline got snazzy kit, regular rides and matched Skipton for numbers on the chain gang. We had a great summer chain gang. A good bunch every week, some quality riders, and a great workout. There were dramas, there’s always dramas, but overall, a big success. I messaged Mark at Paceline as we came into spring for 2017. “Let’s do it again”. All was set for another summer of Paceline/SCC chain gang. Paceline has grown, 17 riders on the first week, many who hadn’t ridden with us last year and saw it as the Paceline chain gang. A few of the old guard stopped in to pick up Skipton CC at Dave’s on the way through, with the bunch riding straight through. We caught up, but lost 3 or 4 of our riders in the pursuit. Nightmare.

“There were dramas, there’s always dramas”

Keen to make it work and repeat the success of the year before, I changed the format. We’ll meet them on the road. It worked. A sharp 6:30 set off from Dave’s, we were a couple of minutes either side and joined smoothly. When it works, it’s great. A smooth through and off, 28mph all the way back to Skipton, and a bloody good sprint for the line. But you get one rider out who’s got something to prove, it falls apart. Wheels get chopped, people get fustrated and tempers flare. More riders, more testosterone, and more difficult to control.

It all came to a head Tuesday 11th July. Mark messaged me to say he no longer wanted the shop name associated with the ride, concerned a crash would reflect badly on Paceline. One more chance I thought, we’ll make it work. I followed Mark’s wishes, but agreed to make the event Skipton CC/Paceline riders only and try to keep it running. We’d control who comes our end, they control theirs. Wednesday 12th, 10 Skipton CC riders and a sunny evening. Matt told us Paceline must be behind, so we waited at Buckden. They were, about 20 of them. Mark A from Paceline came to have a chat. “We’ll split the group, we’ll set off first, give us a couple of minutes”. He was right, 30+ riders on the road together is a recipe for disaster. Paceline set off.

“30+ riders on the road together is a recipe for disaster”

It was a disaster, but for a completely other reason. Sam came a cropper (on his own) and had to be collected in an ambulance. Shortly before we’d collected Sean (who had set off earlier) and Adam, who’d been dropped from the Paceline group. We were going well. Fast, smooth, “maybe this is going to work”. Skipton riding as Skipton is great, it always was. It was great riding with a bigger Skipton+ too. Now with Paceline, so numerous and now having their own identity and ideals, it no longer makes sense.

I’m afraid this is farewell to the Skipton Chain Gang. New Skipton CC Wednesday training rides start from next Wednesday, details to come!

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