If you’ve been watching the women’s tour, you can’t help but notice the numerous police officers on motorcycles that zoom around the event. This is the Central Escort Group, and the men and women who work in this specialist unit are tasked with ensuring the road ahead stays clear for the women of the pro peloton.
It’s a well-oiled machine, and we had a word with the man in charge at the Friends Life Women’s Tour, Sergeant Duncan Street.
Can you tell us more about what your role is here at the Women’s Tour?
I’m a Police Sergeant with West Yorkshire Police. I have the national role of looking after what’s called the Central Escort Group. That’s a group of 28 police motorcyclists that are brought from all the forces around the country who have experience of marshalling and running cycle races. We deploy along with two support vehicles and we run ahead of the race and enforce a rolling road closure. We have assistance from a separate set of marshals on motorcycles called the National Escort Group who look after all the hazards and support us with junctions and visibility as the race progresses.
How many Police officers are involved?
From the Central Escort Group, we always run with 28 bikes, 2 cars in which there are five police officers, two drivers, a spare driver, a staff officer and myself. Then its up to the individual police forces that host either the starts or the finishes as to what police support they put into it. There may be areas where we require additional support either through paid marshals or through police community support officers, just to provide a presence and enable a footprint at either the start or the finish.
What other cycle races are your team involved in?
We work with the SweetSpot organisation for this race, the Tour of Britain, and we will also be involved in this years Tour de France Grand Depart which is where I’m working at the moment in West Yorkshire. We’ll also be looking at the RideLondon event, and there will be some of the officers who are involved in this who will be at classics and the city races as well.
Watching the Central Escort Group in action is like watching a well oiled machine. Do the officers have specific skills or training?
All the motorcyclists that come to us are experienced police motorcyclists. We try to run a small percentage of new riders on each race that we can bring in so that we’ve always got a pool of people to choose from. The central escort group has been up and running from around 2007 and the vast majority of motorcyclists have been on it in some way since then, though obviously we loose people now and then through retirement, promotion or posting to other jobs within the police. My predecessor had run it from 2007 and I’ve taken on the mantle from this year.
What do the officers who are in the Central Escort Group feel about their jobs?
They certainly enjoy coming across to this race! This is the nice side of policing, when you can get involved in an event that has a very high profile nationally, and hopefully will put the police service in a good light. We’re assisting in the running of a highly successful international sporting event, and it’s quite prestigious to be asked to come across and assist on it.
You and your team have been on the front line through the race, and had the chance to see the crowds. How do they compare to other bike races the team has worked on?
This is my first event, though I have been to some of the other events as an observer. But from speaking to the riders who’ve been on similar events before, the actual coverage, in terms of the press coverage and the people who have turned out to watch the event, has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s probably comparative to the men’s tour, and I think it has taken some people by surprise. We are thoroughly pleased with what we’ve achieved in this inaugural ladies event.
Are you rooting for anyone in particular?
I can’t say anything about that! I’ve got to be impartial. But I think my driver has an opinion?
Driver: 'Elisa Longo Borghini!'