Coffs Harbour is a town I have come to know well after so many childhood holidays to visit my grandparents and explore the beaches and hills. In October last year, Coffs Harbour was once again my family holiday destination, the trip from Sydney to the north coast of New South Wales has become a little less windy and a little faster. The Coffs region has a relatively strong cycling culture; there is a velodrome, a BMX track, wonderful mountain biking not to mention challenging road cycling, particularly if you are brave to take the steep climb up to Dorrigo.
Although it was a family holiday, it didn’t stop me from checking out the local bike shops, buying a cycling book (Tyler Hamiltons’ tell-all book, The Secret Race was still current), and catching-up with Coffs City Rotary who organise and manage the Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge, a cycling event that is now entering into its forth year in 2013. The warm welcome that I was extended as we lunched and chatted at the Deep Sea Fishing Club is the same that they want competitors from near and far to experience when they visit.
Fast forward to 2013 with 60 days before this years edition kicks off, I asked the event director Peter Wardman about the task of running such a big cycling event. He recalled how the idea was formed, “Fellow Rotarian Graham Lockett the current Event Implementation Director sold our Rotary Club on the idea of trying to emulate the hugely successful Rotary conducted Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge NZ. It replaced a successful Rotary charity fundraising ride at Coffs velodrome with one designed to attract a broader cross-section of riders.”
Event Director, Peter Wardman of Coffs City Rotary
Rotary in Taupo, New Zealand run the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge much like a business, though as Rotary is a community organisation, profit is put back into the community. While financial success is one of the cornerstones of any event – there is a difference between running an event as a commercial operation and as a volunteer organisation.
“I feel that whilst it may never be easy to successfully run such an event” says Wardman, “Rotary, with the seemingly untiring support of the community and especially that of other volunteer non-profit organisations does have it easier and more satisfying than would be the case with a commercial operator.”
Community Support has been key for the success of the Cycle Challenge
The value upon which the Coffs City Rotary measure the event success are not alone financial, rather it can be calculated by the broader community objectives which in turn influence the partnerships and engagement of business and local government supporting this event. For cyclists, both local and from beyond, it is about participation, enjoyment and ‘the challenge’. For the community, success means teamwork, cycling promotion, growth of cycling as a healthy transport alternative and tourism.
The Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge is still a young event, though last year it attracted the opposition leader Tony Abbott as a prominent competitor. The committee strive to continually make their cycling event attractive, Peter Wardman puts the Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge in perspective, “In my opinion this is one of the better organised emerging cycling events in Australia which does and will continue to cater for the changing wishes of cyclists as to such things as categories of ride, the scenic routes and the social aspect.”
Growth inevitably means that more resources and manpower are needed, personal time constraints and even inexperience of volunteers means that Rotary need to pay staff for certain tasks so that this growth is not hindered. “We enjoy very strong and sustained support, financial and in-kind from the local councils and businesses” notes Wardman, “the community has also embraced the event as one of its Flagships.”
The Cycle Challenge strives to cater for a broader cycling audience
In a comparatively short time, the Coffs Coast Cycling Challenge has become an import tourism and community event for the region and it allows the Coffs Coast to show-off the beauty of this part of our earth. This year the Coffs Coast Festival of Cycling has been brought to life for 2013 which broadens the appeal for locals and visitors.
“The Coffs Coast Festival of Cycling is being developed to give cyclists focused choices from just about all forms and categories of cycling on the Coffs Coast over a little more than two weeks in late July/early August each year. Of course cycling is but one of the attractions of the festival,” continues Wardman, “there will also be other entertainment provided to please all comers.”
For the purpose of continually improving the event, the organising committee survey participants to better understand the demographics as well the cyclists wants and needs – this information flows into the event planning and was a key motivation for broadening the audience to include BMX, Mountain Biking and social BUG rides into the new Festival of Cycling.
The Festival of Cycling offers even more for participants in 2013
The main event, the Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge, takes place this year on Sunday August 4 starting at the Coffs Harbour Jetty with eight categories catering for participants of different abilities. It includes a family ride, a 60km ride and 100km ride through Sawtell, Bonville, Urunga and Bellingen and returning to Coffs Harbour. Early registration is recommended and there is a chance to win a $3500 Trek Madone road bike. Further details and entry online: www.coffscoastcyclechallenge.com
Edited 3.6.2013 – Event is in its forth year