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The face behind the race

Ever wondered what it takes to organise a road race, triathlon, duathlon or sportive? Snap! Which is why we pinned down Phil Adkins, race director of Bristol Grand Prix and owner of Bristol cycling collective, Le Sportif, to get the 101 on getting a cycling event rolling

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Hello Phil. What inspired you to organise Bristol GP?
I’ve always loved the excitement of racing, from my first mountain bike race in the ’80s to watching classic races like the Tour of Flanders and Milan San Remo. The friendly atmosphere of cycling is unique, and while everyone has a favourite rider, fans really appreciate the effort the riders put in and are less partisan than in other sports. Organising an event to take part in or to watch, that makes people happy and healthy, is great!

The Bristol GP has a great team of enthusiasts producing it, we all love cycling and are committed to getting more people into cycling. We are inspired by the combination of grass roots participation and elite level racing. The adrenalin of the day is fantastic.

How were you feeling in the run up to the inaugural Bristol GP in 2015?
The 2015 event was an exciting build up and we were lucky to be part of the Green Capital project in Bristol, which had a real will to make things happen in the city. Bristol City Council really believes in cycling and have helped us with the race. We are indebted to a huge number of people: our volunteers, British Cycling, racers and, of course, our sponsors who are key to making the event happen. But I won’t say it isn’t a nerve-wracking experience! It’s easy to forget all the challenges in the excitement of the day, but the most important thing is to be committed to the race year round and try to get things in place in a timely manner. The immediate run up to the race should be calmer than the previous six months.

Now you’re on your third event, what advice would you give to the Phil of 2015 to help better organise that launch event?
The biggest lesson in the first year was to focus on the core event of the race itself. We’ve learned that there is no substitute for involving experts and to trust their abilities. We were also involved when the Tour of Britain came to Bristol last year, organising a charity ride for the stage sponsor, OVO Energy. It was great to see how an event of that scale operates. I think we’ve also learnt that having faith that sponsors will come through and get involved is important. British Cycling has been fantastic in helping us avoid any major pitfalls!

What makes your race different from other events in the cycling calendar?
The Bristol GP has a unique atmosphere as it is held in Britain’s first Cycling City. The number of local clubs that race and volunteer on the day makes the event friendly and exciting. We also have a Love My Bike lap, when everyone is able to ride the closed roads and see what the course is like for the racers. There are also some great ex-professional riders in Bristol who support us: Gerry Bowditch of Dream Cycling and Ken Knight of MEKK bikes. I think Bristol has a unique cycling culture and we try to bring all the different aspects of it together, from commuters and leisure riders to professional racers.

Bristol-Grand-Prix-2016-race-startWhat channels have been the most successful in helping you build the event?
We want the race to be as much fun for the racers as possible, and we want them to put on a show for the spectators, to inspire people to start cycling, so we try to spread the word as widely as possible. It’s really exciting when you find unsolicited coverage of the race. In 2015 a local photographer, Sean McGowan, created a photozine that was fantastic. We also have lots of reviews on cycle club sites and there are some amazing pictures that we come across in all sorts of places. Now that we are in the third year of the race we are fortunate enough to have a good following on Twitter and we are increasing our Instagram output as well – we have so many great images from the race and it would be crazy not to share them! I’m sure that coverage on cycling sites like this one also really help us to get known. We target the local papers as well, to attract as large an audience as possible.

Any famous faces/well-known names attending the event?
The race is getting a good reputation among riders. Tristan Robbins (Raleigh GAC), who was National Junior Champion, raced in 2016, as well as other big names on the domestic scene, such as Rob Partridge (Bike Channel Canyon) and ex-pro riders like Gerry Bowditch. It’s brilliant to see professional riders on the streets of the city; it certainly adds glamour and pace to the event! Last year the Pedal Heaven team brought a great squad and swept the board with Rory Townsend putting on a great show of strength. Some up-and-coming riders such as Pfeiffer Georgi, who has been a stalwart of the event, won the youth and women’s GP last year. She’s gone on to win some really important races in Europe. We are always flattered by the quality of all the fields, and the speed and quality of the racing. British Olympian and GCN presenter Matt Stevens was the guest speaker at our launch last year, which was a real honour. It’s fantastic for up and coming races like the Bristol GP to have the support of such high-profile cycling celebrities.

Is it too late to enter this year’s race?
It’s not too late to enter the race, but places are limited and are selling out fast. If you’re thinking about entering then don’t delay!

Bristol Grand Prix takes place on Saturday 19 August. For more information or to apply, visit www.bristolgrandprix.com. Follow Bristol GP on Twitter @bristolgp or Le Sportif @lesportif.cc

With grateful thanks to Phil Adkins – we wish you lots of luck for the day.

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