Scottish Weekly Roundup 22/4/14

James McCallum ponders some off-road action in the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic this weekend

Real racing has started when the Drummond Trophy kicks off, a race which always attracts a quality field & plenty of riders from outside Scotland. The 2014 edition was won by a rider who Rouleur Magazine carried a fascinating feature on recently, Dave Clarke (issue 41 if you’re looking). He just edged out Peter Murdoch in a 2 man sprint, an absolutely fantastic result from the experienced Scotsman, the Paisley Velo rider looks like he’s on to a fantastic season if this result is anything to go by, there are no fluke top placings in ‘The Drummond’.

Other News

We have an interesting interview from a winners of an early season Scottish road race, provided by the eclectic & sometimes quirky Veloveritas website (I don’t think they liked me calling them mainstream last time, so I hope that’s a fitting description?). I’ve also picked you out a few other wee gems from recent weeks too, always well worth a read.

Event Results

This Weeks Top Blogs

Some great blogs from young riders, well worth a read this week.

Race Previews

The Cheshire Classic & the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic take place this weekend down south, both with protagonists from north of the border.

The Cheshire Classic is an established top women’s event in the UK, featuring world champions like Jo Rowsell, Laura Trott, Sarah Storey & Katie Archibald. Archibald is a rider who never fails to perform & looks to be loving her racing, so we really have no idea what to expect from her this weekend, it’s likely going to be very good, personally or for her team. It really does seem like Scottish women’s cycling is exploding with rising talents & experienced riders, with Louise Borthwick, Jen Taylor, Jane Barr & Eileen Roe all taking part, it’s Commonwealth Games year & a good result in a race like this could secure a spot in Glasgow 2014.

In the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, we have classy road riders Evan Oliphant, Michael Nicholson, David Lines, James McCallum & a Scotland team taking part in the UCI race. In the national team we have Grant Ferguson, fresh from a podium in an under 23 World Cup MTB event & Kenta Gallagher (winner of a cross-country eliminator World Cup). There’s the rapidly improving talent Mark Stewart (I’m tipping this guy for the top in the next few years), track star turned road star Phil Trodden & MTB riders Gareth Montgomery & Iain Paton. Both these MTB riders having placed very highly in recent events, Paton a top 20 in the World Cup & Montgomery who has been quietly knocking up the Commonwealth qualifying rides recently. In this event which requires some serious off road abilities as it’s held partly on farm tracks, the Scottish team in this composition could perform very well, don’t underestimate the MTB riders, most of them have plenty experience of road racing & have been riding in UCI level competition this year.

*Update* Spokes Racing Team   have five riders in the junior CiCLE Classic this weekend, biggest hopes lie with the current in-form rider Stuart Balfour, supported by  a strong team of Lewis Grieve, Fraser Martin, Ben Forsyth and Hector Lancaster.

(If you have a race preview for a Scottish event, send it & I’ll link it)

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Beyond Categories

During my ‘Scottish Olympic Cycling Team‘ blog I touched on a possible solution to the issue of licences & race categorisation, without the stranglehold of the British Cycling system. If Scottish Cycling operated its own category system, to work better so riders don’t have to travel large distances to race against a full field of similar abilities, we may end up with something resembling the following ideas. It’s unlikely to be acceptable as long as we’re considered a region of British Cycling (by BC we are anyway), but if things change, the structure of road cycling in Scotland could be drastically overhauled, even introducing some very modern aspects tuned to the digital age.

The Current System

In Scotland, we use the British Cycling race categories for road & track, these are Elite, 1st Category, 2nd Category, 3rd Category & 4th Category. The requirements to gain a licence at each end of the scale are very different, a vast sum of points are required to gain an Elite licence, while any new rider will be awarded a 4th category licence, if they’ve not held a higher licence in the past. (Although this only applies to riders who were previously registered on BC’s electronic system it appears. So anybody who was for example, a 1st category rider in the old paper hand-marked system, can exist as a ringer on their return & race with the beginners, even if they rode the Olympics.)

Races are also categorised, I’ll not go into that in detail, but you can only enter certain races depending on what licence category you hold. Each category of event holds a different amount of points, with a different amount of placings being awarded points. You get the idea, it’s probably over complicated for what we need to develop cycle sport correctly & inclusively in Scotland.

Everybody In It Together

A radical alternative to the kind of system that we currently employ, could be removing the category system as we currently recognise it, while running the majority of events as handicapped races. You’ll probably recognise these as being called APR’s (Australian Pursuit Races) in our current race calendar. In these events riders are set off in perceived ability groups (often ranging from 8 to 15 riders in each group), with the first group given a few minutes on the ‘scratch’ group at the back. The ‘scratch’ contains all the fastest riders, whose aim is to create a situation where they are able to win the race, swallowing up all the groups ahead of them before they run out of tarmac.

If most races were run as APR’s, we’d achieve a number of positive effects on our race calendar…..

  • Inclusiveness: No matter what your ability, you can have a group of riders of similar ability to race with (until those a bit faster catch you obviously). Unlike today’s racing, if you’re not capable of holding a bunch with potential ‘ringers’ in it, you’re not going to develop much further.
  • Race Skills: Handicapped racing allows riders to experience working in a group, straight away. Rather than hanging onto the tail of a bunch, they immediately start developing race skills, ‘wheeling about’ with their peers in the attempt to stay away from the hounds behind.
  • Smaller Bunches: The issues that are often discussed, of riders suddenly being cast in an 80 rider field, with little experience of riding in a group & the resulting carnage, could be avoided to some extent. In their first race, the rookie rider will learn some ‘race-craft’ within a small group of no more than 15 riders, steepening the learning curve. It’s much easier to discover how races work in this kind of environment, than it is while being thrown in at the deep-end & attempting to manoeuvre yourself around a large bunch. We can help develop actual race skills at a faster rate in this environment, it’s less intimidating & it gets you involved in a race from the outset. They may end up in an 80 rider field at some point during the event, but at least they’ll have some experience by that point in a race.
  • Fell Like You’re Racing: I’d prefer to develop racers, than develop hangers-on. By encouraging riders to start their first event in what seems like a competitive situation, with several minutes on the likely race winners, can only encourage a competitive mindset. Even the first group in an APR can feel like a breakaway in a race, you are forced to cooperate with your peers, learning how to work together, a skill which some never learn, lets teach it straight away, even if it under a little duress.
  • Full Fields In Any Region: If everybody can race in a handicapped event, even the most sparsely populated areas can surely muster up a decent sized field, without the restrictions applied by the BC category system to who can enter.
  • Less Travelling/More Racing: Currently our fastest riders have to travel huge distances to find a race that their elevated licence category will allow them to race in. We can develop not just our beginner & ‘club’ riders with a predominantly handicapped race season, but we can also provide events that our top riders can take part in, without the ‘label’ of spoiling events for ordinary working folk. Riders of all abilities need events, if there’s a solution to allow everybody to race together, perhaps we should take it.

Championships

I’m not suggesting we do away with the current format of races altogether, there’s still very much a place for these events. National, regional championships & an ‘Elite’ series of events could be run as mass start, which is where your riders would gain their recognition to race elsewhere, they would have a national ranking from these events. My suggestion is that all other events would be handicapped.

Structure

As with all current APR’s, the seeding of groups relies heavily on a riders honesty & their enthusiasm to provide the race organiser with their full palmarès. Sometimes somebody will get into an early group they perhaps take the win with a little devious-ness. With an increase in APR style events, it would be plainly obvious who’s not playing the game correctly. So it may be wise to introduce a system where there are a set number of groups in every event. If every event had 5 groups plus what would be considered ‘Elite’ riders (and volunteer Elite’s), and if that format was carried across all races, then it would be reasonable to assume that an organiser could recognise which group a rider should be in, if their previous start groups & finish positions were required on their entry form.

The time between each group will initially be a bit ‘hit & miss’ I presume. But offering ‘primes’ early on in the events will encourage those riders in the front groups to get involved, even if the organiser decides he’d/she’d prefer a high-profile winner, by manipulating the groups as such. Races within races can sort these kinds of issues, a season long calendar of APR events could open up a few new ideas, even of the ‘scratch’ riders win the full distance event. We could even go as far as introducing the fastest Strava segments during the event, helping everybody get something out of the race is important & worthwhile.

The Gist Of It

The current race category system doesn’t work in Scotland, we need to start thinking about an alternative. Unfortunately it’s unlikely to happen under the current structure, if we were able to drop the BC category system, or be forced to drop it due to becoming independent, it may result in the rapid progress of riders & events. I’d expect a handicapped race calendar would stimulate local events, encourage beginners, provide hard training for the top riders looking to perform in big events, and also raise the status of the championship & series events which would be the only ‘exotic’ mass start races.

There’s plenty of ways our race calendar could be stimulated, this is just one that we can start discussing, I’ve already highlighted a few idea using the current system, but I think this is better. The discussion has to be started, the current system doesn’t operate as it should to develop the sport, not in Scotland or anywhere else in the UK. Maybe we should provide a situation where all riders can get involved in one event, providing a focal point in each region for all riders to get together, beginners, elites, juniors, this way we can promote our sport in an inclusive & positive manner. Perhaps even encouraging riders off the dual carriageways & into proper racing, where we provide a group & level that any rider can feel competitive in, would save them a lot of money in disc wheels & funny handlebars. Let’s develop some racers.

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Scottish Weekly Roundup 14/4/14

Rhona Callander proved victorious in the Scottish Power Youth Tour of Scotland, Grant Ferguson performing on the world stage, Neil Fachie a double world champion & posting a ridiculously fantastic kilo time & Evan Oliphant winning a stage of the Tour of the Reservoir, a successful week for Scottish riders. (links posted below).

Other News

In Italy Neil Fachie, paired with Peter Mitchell won the Para Cycling Track World Championships Sprint & Kilo. An incredible time was posted in the kilo time trial, under one minute, with a 59.460, a significant improvement over Fachie’s performance at the London Olympics paired with Barney Storey. Huge potential for Glasgow 2014 medals there, especially if recently Scottish domiciled Peter Mitchell is eligible to ride, I’ll have to check that out, but otherwise we still have that rapid MacLean chap. Full results HERE.

Grant Ferguson has continued his ride to the top with an impressive podium in the UCI U23 Mountain bike world cup in South Africa. A truly world-class ride & perhaps one of the finest performances seen by a UK rider in this level of MTB competition. More info HERE.

Evan Oliphant took a major win in the Tour of the Reservoir stage 2. A repeat of his 2013 victory in the same event, which led to him securing the season long Premier Calendar title. More info HERE.

Event Results

Scottish Power Youth Tour of Scotland:

This Weeks Top Blogs

Top reads this week are from Gabriella Nordin, reported by the Drum-up blog, racing in the Tour of Battenkil, I race I’m sure I used to read about as part of the US race scene in ‘Winning’ magazine many moons ago. We also have injuries in Spain for Craig Wallace from the Braveheart Cycling Fund

Get Well Soon

Laura Cluxton, the tandem sprinter from Scotland sustained a fractured collarbone during a training crash in Mallorca four weeks ago, just after achieving the Commonwealth F200 qualification time. We wish her all the best & hope she’s getting on the turbo as early as possible, I’m also hoping to get some more info on Laura & her progress so far with experienced Para Cycling pilot Fiona Duncan in the next week. (Was going to add it to this, but I’ll be doing a larger feature on Commonwealth tandem racing very soon, the Worlds looked fantastic)

Read Craig Wallace’s blog above for his account of a crash & injuries, get well soon Craig & hopefully the trip back home for recovery went as painless as possible.

Kenta Gallacher was knocked unconcious during the Mountain bike world cup at the weekend, never good to hear this kind of thing, wishing the huge talent a speedy recovery.

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Bend It Like Clancy

We all know that the GB sprint riders were running very narrow handlebars, all with the aim of reducing the aerodynamic drag required to beat the competition. As time has passed, more & more endurance track riders & now more road riders are switching to narrower bars, to benefit from the improved aerodynamics. If we ignore the outliers, like Christopher Horner, we are seeing a trend amongst road riders, narrow bars are becoming the norm.

Choice

When choosing bars in your local bike shop, it used to be done with a mirror. You picked up some of the various bars available, including the obligatory Cinelli ones that were your standard bar & stem combo, with your hands in the hook of the bars, you then checked to see if it looked ok in the mirror, which meant that you arms went more or less in a straight line, parallel with each other. That was more or less it, apart from choosing standard or deep drop. Now we have such a huge variety that fit probably isn’t the primary selling point anymore, bling may be the biggest factor. I’ve ranted before about aero profiled handlebars being a bit unhelpful sometimes, they do compromise fit, so choose bars carefully. In the present & future, aerodynamics of the rider, and not necessarily the aerodynamics of the component will be the prime selling point for riders with a competitive mind.

 Fast Eddie

If you want the definitive example of an endurance rider with wee-boys-bars, it’s Ed Clancy. He’s a big lad, he normally has to turn his shoulders to get in most doorways, he bruises his driving instructors face trying to squeeze himself into a Ford Fiesta, but he still manages to ride incredibly narrow handlebars. It doesn’t appear to affect his breathing too much, but the gains must be quite large for him to go this narrow. If a rider with these broad shoulders can ride bars that narrow, you can reasonably assume that most of us would be fine on bars a bit narrower without any ill effects.

Photo Analysis

I’ve recently been studying riders over various events, looking at riders likely to have been involved in some wind tunnel testing. It does seem that many professional road riders, especially climbers are still riding bars which an endurance track rider may now consider far too wide. It appears that there may be a glaringly obvious reason for this, climbing position.

When the riders are climbing on ‘the tops’, their hands are closer together than they are on the hoods or the drops. So for climbers, having that wider portion of the tops of the bars available may ‘feel’ better, but is it? Looking at the photo above, we can see that with the two hand positions, the upper arms are in almost identical positions, leaving the chest just as open in both cases. So perhaps having a narrower bar won’t really make too much difference to a riders ability to breath properly while climbing. Perhaps we compensate by simply moving our arms.

Our own Brian Smith used to prefer bars with less of a straight portion, which began to bend forwards much earlier than regular bars. This may lead us to conclude that it helped angle his arms in a direction that opened his chest up during climbing. Could this be the way to go for modern narrow bars, a change in shape to allow improved aerodynamics & encourage a more open chest climbing position? Would be interesting to hear Brian’s comments on bar width & shape on this.

The Gist Of It

There’s more to come on this, I’ve got myself a set of narrower bars than I normally ride & I’m going to be testing them on some climbs. We may find out that it makes no difference, we may find a higher heart rate relative to power, or it may cause some muscular pain which could be remedied by some simple gym work. The narrower bars may work better on headwind climbs, we really don’t know. I can’t find a single study to show if there are all round benefits or detrimental effects to wee-boys-bars away from the drop bar position. Handling issues seem baseless too, as most can negotiate quite tricky corners while on tri-bars after a little practice. Based on what the pro’s are doing, apart from old man Chris Horner, there’s got to be something in it.

 

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Scottish Weekly Roundup 7/4/14

The big domestic event this week is the Scottish Power Youth Tour of Scotland, for which I’ve got a separate blog. It’s still ongoing, running from Sunday to Wednesday, but we have results from the first two days. It’s already sprung up a major contender for ‘SpokeyDokeyBlog Rider of the Month‘. In the initial criterium stage, Scottish youth rider Rhona Callander (a rider for Wallace Warriors/Stirling BC & in the Youth Tour as part of the ‘Mid-Scotland’ team) lapped the field in the Perth City Centre Criterium. To put this performance in perspective, she was riding against the best riders the UK has in her age group, of which we can assume there will be future Olympic stars. Very much a classy performance & the epitome of the #attackingApril twitter hashtag described in the previous blog ‘On The Attack‘. It’s also been suggested that on last weeks Stirling chaingang, Rhona was knocking lumps out of some grown men, a talent that deserves some recognition.

Other News

I missed some national MTB results last week, so apologies to those concerned. Part of the Commonwealth qualifications were met by several riders. Lee Craigie, Jessie Roberts & Kerrie Macphee have all met part of the Commonwealth qualification standards by finishing 2nd, 3rd & 4th (respectively) in round 1 of the British Cycling Elite Cross-Country Series. Belgian champion Githa Michiels took the win, followed by the trio of Scots talent. Gareth Montgomerie was also placed highly in the mens event, just outside the top 10, so looks like another Scot coming into some form.

Ellie Richardson also hit the qualifying time for the 500m on the track, putting herself into contention for a place in Glasgow 2014. It also sounds like we could get some qualifiers soon in the mens pursuit, with Mark Stewart getting very close to the world-class qualifying time. Very keen to find out what’s happening with the sprinters, not much info coming out there.

Event Results

Scottish Power Youth Tour of Scotland:

Scottish Cycling have some good reports on the above links for all stages. Remaining stages & reports in next weeks roundup.

This Weeks Top Blogs

Top reads this week are from the Claire’s, a race win for Martin & a superb 8th place in Gent Wevelgem for Thomas, top British rider too, very much a top ride.

Get Well Soon

Pleased to hear that Charlene Joiner & Rab Wardell are both improving from last week. But I’ll also give a special mention to Martin Lonie for his perseverance, the Scottish champion (and every commissaires favourite) has been  giving us frequent updates on social media as to how high he can lift his arm, after a devastating track league crash a few weeks ago. Get well soon Martin, high five!

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