Embed from Getty ImagesThis new blog series is starting out with a few key issues that effect the development of the sport in Scotland (potentially the same issues as elsewhere) & will grow & expand into other blogs, but all will be linked here. I’m very open to receiving ideas & printing them too, even if I don’t agree with them. I’ll start off on two subjects, cyclo-cross & time-trialling, both of which have very different issues, but both could suffer losses to other governing bodies if not looked after correctly.
Cyclo-cross has blossomed, it’s now the most inclusive discipline in Scottish cycle sport, with hundreds of riders at each race meeting pinning a number on & having fun throughout the winter. This huge success is down to individuals, clubs & Scottish Cyclocross managing to join it all together in a progressive manner. Series events have to meet a required standard & as a result, the events provide great racing & an excellent environment for all ages to compete. Cyclo-cross also has the advantage that road racing does not, that you don’t have to meet a high minimum ability level or you’re dropped & out of the race, in ‘cross you just get lapped (several times for some), but you keep racing & continue to battle with those around you of similar ability. I’ve been to a few, but not turned a pedal in anger at them for a long time, but even I’m getting interested in giving it a go.
Having said all that, ‘cross has reached this level through pure bloody-mindedness, by people who had a vision for where it could go in Scotland. It didn’t do this as a result of help from the governing body, some would say that this lack of support actually caused cyclo-cross harm, while others may suggest that removing itself from ScottishCycling/BritishCycling (apart from race insurance & commissaires) has allowed it to develop in a productive manner, without outside influence. There may be a couple of reasons for this lack of interest, funding & tradition. Cyclo-cross is not an Olympic sport, so the British Cycling plan doesn’t pay it any notice as there are no medals available, for them it could as well be bicycle polo or cycle speedway.
This funding attitude may have rolled down into Scottish Cycling, but it’s a rather shortsighted approach, with one glaringly obvious reason, Scotland doesn’t have an Olympic team (yet). We’re not chasing Olympic medals, we should be chasing event & rider development. Cyclo-cross isn’t a stand alone niche discipline, on the international scene we find road & MTB riders take part in ‘cross, so it seems like a missed opportunity to not look to an accessible sport like ‘cross & use it to feed into other disciplines. If all you’re interested in is sending riders to the GB squad for Olympic disciplines, perhaps cyclo-cross is going to work as a talent feeder into both road & mountain biking to identify those riders at an early stage, so it’s well worth looking if the primary focus is medals in other disciplines.
If Scottish Cyclocross want assistance, now is probably the time for Scottish Cycling to start offering some help, otherwise they could lose this valuable side of the sport to another governing body, TLI. The League International already have some ‘cross races in Scotland, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see more shift across in the next couple of years. With the recent success of ‘cross in Scotland especially amongst youth riders, is it really wise to ignore it when there’s a UCI World championship in the discipline? Those young riders could be taking part in non UCI recognised events & although of great ability, could never gain the licence points to enter UCI races down south & then move on to races on the continent.
I’ve written a fair bit about the future of time-trialling in the past, read ‘Comparing the Incomparable‘, ‘A Demographic Time Trial‘ & ‘Fixing Time Trials‘ for more info. There’s one huge issue with this discipline, it can be done much cheaper outside British Cycling insurance. Event levies in CTT events (Cycling Time Trials) are £2 per rider, in Scottish Cycling time trials they are £3.95 per rider. The CTT events are often held on very busy roads, but provide a very similar insurance cover. The problem is that BC (British Cycling) insurance is designed to cover bunched road racing on open roads, it goes beyond the requirement needed for time-trialling, so it could be done a lot cheaper. (British Cycling provide cover for only a handful of time trials in England, virtually all time trialling south of the border is run by CTT)
This could go one of three ways, allowing another organisation to step in & undercut administration & entry fees, Scottish Cycling deciding to arrange their own insurance, or the status quo.
- An organisation like TLI, or one of the groups running sportives who are used to dealing with insurance issues could step in & take over time trialling in Scotland with only a little organisation & some friendly chats. I’m quite surprised it’s not been done already actually. It would also remove the need for riders to conform to the UCI bike & position rulings, making it an oddball sport internationally, but it would keep some people happy. It would obviously create a war, as Scottish Cycling like to see money flow through their organisation, regardless of whether or not it funds anything, they need to be seen to raise funds & there are plenty of time trials & riders each paying the £3.95 levy to SC every year. There is that tricky UCI rule, where they may try to place a ban on riders taking part in non UCI events, but that would fall at the first hurdle if anybody decided to test it legally. For amateurs that ruling would hold the same weight as SC telling somebody they can’t play non UCI regulated darts, they can’t regulate what you do in your spare time, pressing the issue would likely wipe them out if a well funded individual took offence. So this is a viable alternative & there really isn’t a lot SC could do about it if it was well organised, it’s really up to them to provide an alternative.
- Scottish Cycling could relatively easily set up their own event insurance for time trialling. By the example of CTT, they could do it for half the cost of their current British Cycling insurance. As a sweetener to those vocal riders who don’t want to conform to UCI rules & result in the binning of their current bike, they needn’t run it under the rules & it could be out with the UCI rules of the affiliated body of British Cycling. So equipment rules could be waived but I’d suggest they should still stick to the position rules, the CTT ones allow the sport to drift quite far away from international sporting regulations. Maintaining the UCI position rules would help the development of young talent to & from track & into international careers, rather than allowing them to sit in triathlon style positions & then having a difficult change in order to take part in UCI recognised competition. This would allow SC to retain the time trialling side of the sport, but also address the issues raised by the membership regarding rules. Otherwise they may lose it in the near future by not providing value for money, which they are aware of, or if not, they will be now.
- The status-quo isn’t going to work in the long run, as I said before somebody will eventually get round to taking it over & there are plenty of voices of dissent out there on this subject. SC can’t really sit on this one forever, they can start work on No.2 (above) any time they like.