Journalism: Issue-based feature

My extended (or issue-based) feature is somewhat of a follow-up from my news story concerning the loss of Perranporth Airfield for bike racing and training as I believed that it was indicative of a larger problem that Cornwall has with bike racing at the moment.

My supervising tutors had fears concerning whether or not it was too similar to the news story, which was titled ‘Perranporth Airfield put brakes on cycling event,’ and that it was my job here to justify it. My justification is as follows:

Road and criterium (closed-circuit) racing in Cornwall is at an all-time low with the diminishing of the Cornish Series to just three down-sized races at St Eval Kart Circuit. It was a series that used to consist of upwards of 10 events over the summer cycling season. Couple that with the cancellation of the Dales/Velotive road race series at Leedstown after ‘complications’ with the local Parish Council, there are now only a handful of races across Cornwall this season. Most of these are either club time-trials and sportives, non-competitive, mass-participation rides.

Although cycling has technically never been stronger in Cornwall with club memberships booming and  over-subscribed sportives, I felt that Cornwall’s current problem with competitive racing deserved greater attention. Here is the opening few paragraphs of the article:

Reinventing the Wheal
Cornwall has a problem with cycling, but it isn’t what you would expect, writes Sam Moore

This is not a problem concerning abusive drivers (or cyclists) or even bad road surfaces, although they could easily be debated in a lengthy manner. And to say that cycling is struggling outright in Cornwall would be a downright lie.

In terms of general participation, like a lot of places across the country, Britain’s most southerly county is booming with the rise of the ‘weekend warrior’ or MAMIL (Middle Aged Man (or woman) in Lycra). Running off the back of an Olympics which has more than doubled British Cycling’s membership, the Duchy, like most places in England, has seen a steady increase in those participating in cycling at least once a week (7.24% of the population to be precise).

No. These are not the problems Cornwall has with cycling. The problem is with racing. As of this year clubs have lost the use of Perranporth Airfield for just that.

The aerodrome, which lies six miles southwest of Newquay, played host to the Cornish Series, Cornwall’s only criterium racing event. The Series consisted of upwards of ten events each summer, with each event hosting numerous races for every category of rider as well as for women and children. Now, the Cornish Series has been reduced to just three events hosted at St. Eval Kart Circuit.

“At the moment there is no place in Cornwall to allow for criterium racing and youth racing in particular,” says Rod James, Chairman of One and All Cycling and co-organiser of the Cornish Series.

“We’ve spent the last few months trying to sort out what we can do.

“St. Eval Go-Kart track have very, very kindly let us run three events there in May and June. But they do have a long-term problem with some of their neighbours complaining so we have to be very cautious about it as we don’t want to upset them.”

Tip-toeing around disgruntled locals seems to be a commonplace when it comes to organising criterium and road racing in Cornwall. What was set to be a prosperous series of road races at Leedstown this year has already been cancelled after just one event after the Parish Council objected to its overtaking of the village for the afternoon.

I then go on to include the thoughts of other influential people in the Cornish cycling community, including Scott Tompkinson, organiser of the Leedstown races, Richard Pascoe, a cycling veteran and co-founder of One and All Cycling, and Andrew Parker, British Cycling’s South West Regional Events Manager.

Together they paint an interesting picture. Tompkinson despairs at the local council’s and motorist’s misunderstanding of road road racing, and Pascoe believes that a news system of well-funded, profitable clubs and events should be introduced. Ultimately, Cornwall’s only hope now for a closed-circuit is the Wheal Jane Group, who have preliminarily agreed to resurface parts of the perimeter track at the disused mining site near Baldhu. This is, however, dependent on a £10,000 donation from One and All Cycling.

Target publication

The target publication for this article was difficult to pin-down as it is quite a specialist subject. It is also quite localised (to Cornwall), meaning that it probably wouldn’t suit the larger publication like Cycling Weekly and Cyclist, which cover a more national and international range of stories. Given this, I have opted to list the target publication for this article as an online source: VeloUK.net. They are a non-profit organisation that take pretty much anything to do with cycling in the UK, including race reports and features.

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