Ahead of Crit Under The Castle in Stirling, we caught up with event organiser Norrie Petrie to find what it is really like to organise an event on this scale.
Name: Norrie Petrie
Occupation: Online Retailer
Cycling Club: Stirling Bike Club
Volunteering role(s): Club Chairman and Event Organiser
How long have you been an event organiser for and what started you volunteering?
I've been an Event Organiser for around 6 years. I started assisting in club business as pay-back for the excellent coaching my son, Kyle, was getting from the Wallace Warriors coaches. I had organised clay target shooting events in the past and a lot of the organisational processes are the same.
Tell us about your very first event, how did it go, was it as difficult as you might have thought, what support did you receive?
The first event I organised on behalf of the club was the Boomerang 2-Up Time Trial. This was a very popular event, starting and finishing in my home town. That meant I was familiar with Race HQ and the route, which helped. Stirling Bike Club committee works as a strong team and there is always lots of help and sound advice available. I was never left unsure of anything and the support and appreciation on the day made all the hard work worthwhile.
You are organising CutC for the 3rd year running, how is it going and what lessons have you learned each year?
Crit under the Castle is a colossal event that grows like a monster each year! However, now in year 3, I have the organisational process in my head and the team now what needs to be done. We have just short of 400 competitors across 9 races this year. The event requires 100 volunteers to run safely and smoothly. Stirling city centre is closed for 12 hours to allow the event to take place over a secure and safe route.
I need to work closely with Stirling Council, Scottish Cycling, Historic Scotland and Central Traffic Management to set the date and keep the city's road network moving around our event. Having the last 2 races finish on the historic Stirling Castle Esplanade is no small acheivement and definitely a world class location.
We now have a good streamlined process of informing local residents and business's of the event and road closures.
CutC needs a healthy 5 figure budget just to break even. That is by far the biggest stress each year. Thankfully Stirling Council are very supportive and this year, Morrisons Garage, Stirling are our principal sponsors, relieving that stress.
In year 1, we were very optimistic with our time scales between races. We had terribly wet weather and instantly we were behind schedule. We amended our timings last year and also give a little more time to allow traffic flow between each race last year. That resulted in us being bang on schedule all day.
Organising a race of this size means you will inevitably meet hurdles and barriers. Taking the stance that you are prepared to take on all tasks and just need help from others, is the best way to get assistance. It's your event and they give you a hand - organisations welcome that approach. Stirling Bike Club has a great ethos and we want to do things right. We are methodical and that helps.
The Events Village has always been difficult for me to manage. This year Active Stirling have taken on that for us. They have great contacts and are willing to help us grow the event - with a view of working towards a Cycling Festival. Why not? Engaging with as many partners as possible can only be a good thing for our sport.
What has been your most memorable volunteering experience in cycling?
Watching the Youth racers last year tackling the cobbles on King Street was a fantastic sight to behold - especially when we had our very own Dutch Corner at the top, cheering them on. The kids felt like they were part of a proper high level event. I took great satisfaction, knowing that the club had pulled together a very special day for hundreds of racers and an exciting, fast paced spectacle for the thousands that turned up to watch.
Describe the perfect volunteer (without describing yourself!)
The perfect volunteer is the one who says "What do you want me to do? I can do anything and I'm here all day." We are very grateful of any help and CutC requires lots. It can be hard to slot in those that aren't flexible.
Advise someone who might want to become an event organiser but doesn’t know where to start.
Don't be frightened to ask for help. We all want the same end goals and organisers are keen to help others out. There are no stupid questions. Think big and make your event as big as possible. Don't accept no as a response. When approaching those that may be obstructive, have all your answers ready to neutralise the difficulty.
It's worth it - volunteers make our sport and most are very appreciative of your efforts!
To find out more about Crit Under The Castle - please see HERE.