OLVESTON resident Ben Bradley was a volunteer at the Severn Bridge Road Race on March 1. Here he gives an account of his experience.

As volunteer ‘Red Flag Marshal’ I witnessed the awesome sight of 80 elite cyclists racing through our village.

Sheer muscle power reassured mankind it’s not short of alternative energy sources – if only it could have been converted to power traffic calming flashers for unruly motorists.

Bristol Road Club meticulously prepared this classic road race, now in its 48th year, on a circuit starting at Marlwood School, turning into Vattingstone Lane, powering down Elberton Hill at up to 50 mph, turning sharp left into Aust Road, whizzing through Olveston to Tockington, racing the lung–busting climb up Old Down Hill back to the start. The sun shone on nine of ten laps.

Top racers from 51 clubs over southern England were enthusiastically supported by villagers who brought chairs and bolstered trade with the local pub, bakery and shop. Even our vicar preached a shorter than usual sermon so the congregation could come and enjoy the spectacle.

I assisted ‘Accredited Marshals’, trained and licensed in law to control traffic, and ‘National Escort Group Outriders’ who adhere to the ‘ConvoyCraft’ code and are highly trained to ensure public safety during cycle road racing. Some of these guys attend 70 events a year throughout Europe.

Our job was to close road junctions for several minutes and placate mildly irritated drivers – who quickly mellowed at the spectacle flashing before them with motorbike outriders, cars carrying Commissaires, judges and organisers, lead cyclists trying to escape and the main peloton, and tail-ender service cars, ‘broom wagon’ to brush up the fallen, and last but not least the paramedics.

George Mills-Keeling (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling) finally stamped his authority on the race, one of the fastest recorded on this circuit with an average speed of 27 mph.

It reminded me of a mini Tour de France – great fun for all. Let’s welcome them back next year.