Out of our League

Road racing in Scotland, there’s obviously something wrong with the system, so how do we change things for the better and give the calendar a good kick-start for 2014?

By all accounts, 2013 doesn’t see a major road series in Scotland, we’ve recently had the Super6 Series, which supported by Scottish Power Renewables had proved incredibly popular, but massively oversubscribed, especially in the ‘B’ races for lower category riders. One of the problems wth the Super6 was that there were an equal number of races for lower category riders as there were for higher category riders, being held on the same day by one organiser, a big ask in most cases. As the current situation, there were a vast number more lower category riders than higher category riders in Scotland, so by logic they need more races to satisfy the demand. The top riders also need regular races to be able to compete equally with riders across the rest of the UK & beyond, so how do we go about fixing this and fill a calendar for all riders? Here’s an idea, I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s a step in the right direction, a two tiered road race league system, incorporating lower level ‘club leagues’ in each region, with regular higher level racing in each region too. I just put this together after reading a thread on the Braveheart forum, but there were some good contributions (some very bad, so I’ll not link to it), so something similar could work. The way I’ve been thinking about it is how to ensure that the demand for racing is met for all categories, more events are organised, riders can progress & there’s a level of fairness. With this way of thinking there is always going to be a bit of give & take with what riders want, it’s almost impossible to give riders their own perfect road race league, so read the following while considering yourself open to some compromise.

The Basics

We have Tier 1 & Tier 2 events all across Scotland, Tier 1 is Club-Versus-Club racing, no individual categories listed in any way (that would ruin it, read on to see why), Tier 2 is top-level racing with the league based on individual riders, not teams. Having easy to organise 3rd & 4th category road races in Tier 1 is vital, these will incorporate the biggest volume of league events and need to be possible for any club to organise. There are 8 Scottish ‘Centres’ or regions affiliated to Scottish Cycling, each of these holds a good number of clubs & teams (See Below).
The inherent rider problem with the Super6 series was that once riders who started out as 4th cats got enough points by winning a Super6 B race, they could ride that B series all year, meaning that their licence points were unallocated if they took a top 10 position. This ended up being the eventual outcome, with the top 10 dominated by upgraded riders, meaning a serious lack of licence point progression for the next best riders and not many points ever being allocated in the B league. There is a solution to this situation, it’s almost too simple, don’t allocate an individual winner to the B league, allocate a leading club/team. In this manner a club can choose who rides the event, it doesn’t matter when the rider who would have been leading the series gains too many licence points to take part, he moves up to Tier 2, the national level elite races. You replace your rider with another from your ranks, based on a riders-per-club allocation.

The Centres (or Regions)

  • Aberdeen and District : Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Shetland.
  • Ayrshire and Dumfries : Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire & South Ayrshire.
  • Dundee and District : Dundee, Angus, Perthshire and Kinross.
  • East of Scotland : Edinburgh, Borders, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian.
  • Fife : Fife
  • Mid Scotland : Clackmannan, Falkirk, Stirling, North Lanarkshire except the former District of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, South Lanarkshire except the former District of East Kilbride and the areas formerly included in the City of Glasgow District.
  • North of Scotland : Highland, Moray, Orkney and Western Isles.
  • West of Scotland : Glasgow, Argyll and Bute, Dumbarton and Clydebank, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, the parts of South Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire not included in the area of Mid Scotland C.A.

Tier 1: How it works

8 Regions (or Centres) currently exist as above, all eight could have their very own Tier 1 Road Race league. If there’s only a handful of clubs in one region while several times more in another, it’s maybe time for Scottish Cycling to look again at what areas come under each region, could be time for a major shake-up.
Each club in the region runs one Tier 1 race (or one of a smaller number of Tier 2 races), 16 clubs in a region gives 16 races throughout the year. They don’t have to follow the same format, you can include the majority as road races and include one or two criteriums.
If your club runs a race it allows your club to gain allocated club placings in league events, so if there are 16 promoting clubs in your region, in an 80 rider field each club gets 5 guaranteed places, if all the clubs don’t take their allocated slots then they are put out to other clubs in your region, if still not taken, then offered out to other clubs out with your region. Only riders from promoting clubs are allocated league points.
Entries close 2 weeks before race, this gives the organiser time to gather each clubs entries and the club to decide who rides if they’ve entered more than their allocated number, start list posted with a week to go. Your club official will let you know who’s riding, so you’ll know earlier than the start sheet release day.
League points are based on licence points allocation for each event, riders get licence points to help them move up a category, clubs get league points, regardless of who in the club scored them. This would allow clubs to run races without the need for photo finish, top ten would do in most of these, unless there are lots of no promoting club riders in the top 10, where you’d need to allocate league points to the first 10 promoting club riders.

Tier 1 races can be a mixture of British Cycling categorisations, so you can have the following included in Tier 1:

  • Regional C+ events (4th category only): Perhaps make these 50% of each regions Tier 1 events. Regional C+ races are supposed to be run over a minimum time of 30mins & a maximum time of 90 minutes. Licence points are allocated to the first 10 riders, 10 points to the winner.
  • Regional B events (3rd & 4th category riders): Maximum distance is 90km’s. Points allocated to first 10 riders, 15 points to the winner.
  • Regional A events (2nd, 3rd & 4th category riders): Perhaps one or two of these events in each Tier 1 league, to allow progression. Minimum distance 80km. Points allocated to first 15 riders, 30 points to the winner.

Tier 2: How it works

This is the Elite, 1st & 2nd category level, there are currently not enough riders to fill this in Scotland, so initially these should also be open to 3rd category riders until the number of higher ranked riders increases from points gained in Tier 1.
Best to go for individual league winners in Tier 2.
If your club or team does not promote a Tier 1 or Tier 2 event, you’ll be behind the club riders who are a member of a club who promoted and event.
In order to raise the standard of these events, provide organisers with the necessary media attention to attract sponsors, you can allocate up to 5 Elite rider slots if there is no Premier Calendar, British Road Race Champs, or any other major event where the Elites should be riding, we can’t make these an easy points grabber while they avoid the big guns down south. This will be at organisers discretion.
Tier 2 races could be a club organised event or a joint promotion by each region, with regions having to run at least two Tier 2 events each year. This would provide 16 top-level races, some of which already exist in one form or another, but could easily be included in a league, guaranteeing entries to downtrodden organisers. So a place for the Scottish classics can exist, along with some new events on the calendar.

These would have to be all National B events in the first instance, to allow 3rd cats to ride, with a minimum distance of 120km & points allocated to 20th position & 60 points to the winner.

The benefits of a league

  • Local riders get local races, travelling to the other end of the country is a bit of a drag, so this helps new and less committed riders get involved in racing.
  • We get more events promoted, to get into the league you need to run a race, if your club doesn’t run one, they’ll have to, or you as the racer may have to in order to get a race season. Essentially 16 events open to E/1/2 riders across Scotland, then (assuming an average of 16 clubs per centre, could be a lot more?) an additional 112 races for lower categories across Scotland, run in a simple format and not requiring resources like photo finish & NEG outriders. This would satisfy demand and provide events for the massive influx of riders we now have, they’d also need to join a club to compete in this league. We’re therefore looking at 14 low-key events per year & two top level-events per year, hopefully we have the commissaires to do it, but we currently have road races from the end of February to the end of September, that’s 32 weekends, it’s just one race every 2 weeks in each region.
  • More people involved in cycle sport promotion in Scotland, through the need to race and club bragging rights, you all want that regional club trophy don’t you?
  • Riders have a development path. Once you gain enough points in Tier 1 and can’t race in it anymore, you progress to Tier 2, where you step up a mark and race against better riders. If you’ve progressed it probably means you’re committed and happy to travel to events. You also gain licence points, so you can enter bigger races, this is the stumbling block in Scotland right now, more licence points means less races.
  • All the existing races can slot into either Tier 1 or Tier 2. We just require more events, but with the reasons above as  an impetus to get more events.
    Riders will have a need to join cycling clubs, if they don’t they’ll not get rides in league races. This will improve the general skill level, clubs will want their riders to do well for the league position, skills will be passed on, we need this to happen, this way might just work.
  • We initiate a top-level road race league, with riders more willing to stay loyal to the club that helped developed their talent until they become Elite, where they can progress to a UCI registered team rather than change clubs every year.

The down sides, and some solutions to those

  • The biggest clubs don’t get a bigger allocation, unless in the rules you allow them to promote more than one race in the league. This could work by the bigger clubs running one Tier 1 race & one Tier 2 race, getting themselves effectively double the allocation. Dividing allocation by the number of races promoted in each Tier 1 league. But it would be prudent to cap the club allocation to 10 riders per club, any more than that and it’s stifling a league.
  • Very small clubs can’t organise an event and get riders in races. Some very small clubs are particularly good at running events, even some major events, so this argument doesn’t really hold up, but does rely on individuals willing to give up lots of time. So one solution could be to allow clubs who jointly promote an event to share their allocation.

What will this take?

It’ll take a commitment from clubs, but perhaps more troublesome will be an agreement between Scottish Cycling, the regional centres & all the other interested parties to get this off the ground. If we can pull it together, the result is incredible, genuine Club-Versus-Club racing, rider progression, more events for the mass of riders and top-level racing returning in an organised manner all across Scotland. These types of road race leagues run all across the UK, would be great if Scottish Cycling took on something like this (please steal it if you think it’s a good idea, I’ll not mention it), there’s nothing new to it really, tried and tested, just would work a little differently in Scotland due the ‘Centres’ and the geographical problems. I await the flak in the comments, plus hopefully some good ideas, fire away…..

7 Responses

  1. “Regional B events (3rd & 4th category riders): Minimum distance is 90km’s.”

    Is that a typo? 90 seems a bit long.

    Sorry to start with a neg, just spotted this and wanted to post. Goo thoughts, I’m still reading thorough all of them.

  2. Ok proper comment now. Much as I love road racing (and it is my first love in cycling), and I recognize the need for more events, I can’t help seeing obstacles rather than opportunity.

    •organizing. It’s hard for clubs to get the volunteers to put a race on, ours (SBC) is massive and we still had to ditch 1 event in 2013 due to lack of manpower.

    •the open road. It just gets harder to put events on on public roads. I have racked my brains for a suitable short RR circuit near Stirling and am coming up with blanks. Either you are hitting dangerous main roads or are dealing with potholed back roads. The police aren’t too keen either.

    •I’ve been racing 4 seasons and am still a 4th cat. Maybe that proves your point but I’m starting to think that road racing is perhaps more for ‘proper athletes’ and closed circuit, track or cross racing is for me.

    Heaven forbid I go back to sportives though!

    Still this is well thought through and in principle would be great. There’s no question more races are needed. How do they do it in Belgium? Any aspects of format we can take from there?

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