Spokey Dokey League

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If you think you know better than Dave Brailsford, if nobody ever listens to your team selection choices, this is your chance to prove yourself. Sign up (it’s free) at Velogames.com, choose your team & enter the Spokey Dokey Mini League Code 30191854 to join.

How It Works

You have 100 credits to build your team, each rider has a value, going from Chris Froome who’ll cost you 26 credits, right down to Scrabble expert Xabier Zandio on 4 points. You get points for stage placings, each of the jerseys, , team assistance, overall positions after each stage & final GC.

I’ll devise some kind of suitably rubbish prize for the winner, as long as you live in the UK & I don’t have to post it far far away. But you will get regular updates during the Tour on who’s doing well in the league, as my team likely fade & wilter & fight to stay off the bottom rung. Happy picking & get it sorted before the Tour starts on Saturday!

 

 

Scottish Road Race Leagues (Implementation)

Nobody said this was going to be easy, but with a good bit of cooperation & some help from the Scottish Cycling RDO’s (Regional Development Officers) we can get interested clubs together to make some progress. I’m also not saying the ideas I have are in any way perfect, but in a vacuum of any other published ideas on how we can get a road race league system up & running, I thought it was relevant to the times to get some ideas out there. So maybe what would work in practice requires some tweaking, so I’ll summarise what is in the following linked posts.

You can find them all under the Race Development page.

Local Leagues (Entry League)

Local Leagues (Advanced League)

National Leagues (Elite League) (not complete, yet…)

Why this way?

The benefits of running things in this manner (as far as I see) are as follows:

A defined league structure, designed to:

  • Encourage promotion of league events by clubs & reward that with guaranteed entries to an allocated number of club riders.
    • Resulting in more events at the correct level.
    • Resulting in riders joining race promoting clubs who are taking an active part in supporting Scottish cycle sport.
  • Racing in more clearly defined levels to allow easier progression.
  • No more ‘wasted points’ in events, where higher category riders were scooping up points, with some events barely having any points allocated. Hence the race licence rule, you need a licence that allows you to accrue licence points to enter these leagues, otherwise we’ll get day licence riders scooping up points instead.
  • Club rankings only in ‘Entry‘ & ‘Advanced‘ leagues allows a variety of good things to take place (individual ranking published would damage this)
    • Riders who upgrade their category will be moved up a league, their points are added to their club’s ranking & there isn’t an incentive to hang on, so they are not left in a lower category, taking points that could be allocated to others. We need as many points allocated as possible to progress riders.
    • The club will feel it’s wise to encourage new riders to take the allocated club places in races, ensuring a steady flow of novice riders into the ‘Entry‘ league. This removes the ‘ringers’ from that league, who hang on & become, as somebody commented on a forum, “King of the Gringo’s”. A genuine novice league results in no such thing, the winning club will have a significant number of riders upgrading & a likewise in new riders coming through, otherwise they won’t accrue points, the ‘Entry League’ winning club will be a club to join for development & progression.

Points Allocation

You’ll see that I’ve allowed a crossover of junior & female riders in the events, to allow riders with higher aspirations to compete up a level, whether for training or ability, this can only help them progress too.

The ‘Entry League‘ events would be classified as Regional C+, would be 4th category male entry & as British Cycling guidelines a max time of 90 minutes. So if we assume we’ve got a bunch engine in there who can ride at that speed on the front, I’d say limit these to 60km. Women of any category can ride these according to the BC guide, so to avoid 2nd category women being forced to race against 2nd category men in the Advanced League, these should be open to 2nd & 3rd category women (I have a later blog on Women’s events, so hold fire for 4th category women’s racing on that). The British cycling guidance on this is quite open on the C+ category of races, so it looks like it’s one that can be ‘tailored’ to suit.

Entry League Summary:

  • British Cycling Event Classification: Regional C+ (max 60km)
  • Open to: Male 4th category, female 2nd & 3rd category, junior 3rd & 4th category.
  • Points to first 10 riders as follows: 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1.
  • Race licence required for riders to enter, to ensure all licence points are allocated.
  • No individual league standing prizes, or any individual standing published. Overall league club standings only published, but prizes in each event allocated as normal.

The ‘Advanced League‘ events would be classified as Regional A, male entrants would be 2nd & 3rd categories (4th are allowed in the rules, but to make the league work, I’d suggest we don’t include them, unless in areas where filling the field is an issue). Female riders of all categories can be included.

Advanced League Summary:

  • British Cycling Event Classification: Regional A (Minimum 80km)
  • Open to: Male 2nd & 3rd category, female Elite, 1st & 2nd category, junior 1st, 2nd & 3rd category.
  • Points to first 15 riders as follows: 30, 25, 21, 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
  • Race licence required for riders to enter, to ensure all licence points are allocated.
  • No individual league standing prizes, or any individual standing published. Overall league club standings only published, but prizes in each event allocated as normal.

Notes:

    • To upgrade to 3rd category, a 4th category rider requires 10 licence points in one season.
    • To upgrade to 2nd category, a 3rd category riders requires 40 licence points as a 3rd cat (So going from 4th to 2nd in one year, you need 10 to get 3rd cat licence, then another 40 to get your 2nd cat licence).
    • To upgrade to 1st category, a 2nd category rider requires 200 licence points as a 2nd cat.

The Theoretical League

So to see how this works in practice, I’ll define this using a theoretical example of a league comprising 12 clubs, each allocated 5 riders in a 60 field, each club promoting one race per season. I’ll ignore the Elite league in this for now, as riders in that are beyond the development phase & one of the purposes of the league system is to try & get enough riders with points to fill that league with E/1/2 riders.

So with 12 clubs, our theoretical league is split equally (it may not be this way in practice, but that’s up to the league, and demand). Each club has access to both the ‘Entry League’ & the ‘Advanced League’ by promoting an event. So in our theoretical league, each club has five 4th category riders (plus a load of novice riders pondering racing) & five 2nd or 3rd category riders. The 6 ‘Entry League’ events will create one 3rd category rider out of each race winner, with 10 points, we than have an additional 37 points allocated from 2nd to 10 places in each race, that’s 222 points across the 6 races, enough to promote an additional 22 category riders to 3rd category. If we multiply that up, across Scotland with 6 similar leagues running, we have 36 race winners guaranteed promotion to 3rd cat & theoretically 132 others (it may be 1/3 to 1/2 that number in practice, due to various licence points being allocated to various riders).

It all adds up, the theoretical ‘Advanced League’ has similar stats, with a whopping 165 licence point allocate in each event, that’s 990 across our theoretical ‘Advanced League’. Enough to allow a very good number of Scottish former 3rd category riders into 2nd cat licences & access the ‘Elite League’.

Remember that all these points are being allocated to riders who are part of hard-working clubs who promote events, otherwise they wouldn’t gain entry to the league system, or have their club listed on the club rankings. You’ve got to be in it to win it.

So what does it require

We need the following:

  • Geographically local clubs, for ‘Entry League’ events who can field enough riders for a minimum 30 rider field (see the ‘Entry League’ blog for costings). I’m thinking especially places like the West Coast away from cities could benefit, currently places like Fort William, Oban, Mull etc have clubs, but Argyll is all covered by WOSCA, which is of little use to them. They could form a mini league & can probably attract riders from further afield if required, there’s no minimum number of events, it doesn’t have to be a huge league, it can start small.
  • Scottish Cycling can help by bringing their Regional Development Officers on board & forming introductions, these leagues don’t need to be formed in regimented regional groups, but ideally geographically local leagues. That way they can expand & contract, divide & join as required, without any definitions, leagues can work cross-boundary, we may not even require a shake up in the regions/centres.
  • Action before the 2014 calendar is put together, this involves more than anything else, some communication between clubs. You don’t need approval by anybody to run a league, you need cooperation. It would be great to have Scottish Cycling involved in something, whether or not they choose these ideas, they can be an active part in a new regional league system.
  • You need one person in each league who can put a spreadsheet together, if you like, I can draw one up & provide an easy club points scoring system, where you just fill in results. This will provide results, then it would be good to have your own blog area where you put results, doesn’t have to be slick, these WordPress blogs (like this one) are very easy to use, and they are free.

This blog will be getting updated as a thoughts form, this is draft 1

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Local Leagues (Advanced League)

The initial blog ‘Local Leagues (Entry League)‘ dealt with the initial league structure, feeding riders into the higher league structures & allowing them a better chance to progress. In this next rung, we have a league that doubles as a transition area, where progressing riders, riders with some experience & riders who find competing with Elite riders impossible can race together. This is mid-league, the ‘club racers’ area for 2nd & 3rd category riders.

Rider & Club Progression

The ‘Entry League’ was based on a club ranking system, not ranking individual riders, the ‘Advanced League’ works in the same manner, to avoid riders being held back from progressing into the Elite league. Another reason for keeping this league ranked by ‘club only’ is to enhance the contribution cycling clubs make to the sport. Inside cycling clubs there’s a wealth of experience & active volunteers, if we encourage riders to remain within the club structure at 2nd & 3rd (& 4th for the Entry League) category level (ambitious 2nd cats can race in Elite League) then we have these clubs promoting events in the Entry & Advanced Leagues, which will be filled with riders from those promoting clubs. The clubs benefit by holding onto experienced riders who can encourage & develop new riders, before they advance to the point where racing squads could be operating effectively, at the E/1/2 category level. Once again if we include individual rankings in this area, we stifle one of the main reasons for having the league, to progress the sport. Let me explain….

There’s been some debate on forums regarding riders without basic group skills, whether or not this is more true these days, or simply down to a larger number of riders now wanting to compete, isn’t particularly important. What is important is that we recognise that standards can be improved, resulting in a race series which not only encourages skill development during events, but also outside the actual events. A proper club structure can teach these skills, up to now there has existed a certain element in some ‘old school’ clubs to drop the newcomer, resulting in little or no group skills for these unfortunate victims & perhaps turning away exactly the type of people we should be encouraging. This is obviously an extreme example, but it is possible to completely turn that idea around, by having a bit of pride in your club’s standing in a regional road race league. Then an incentive exists for the experienced riders to get some satisfaction from teaching group skills to their club’s new riders, who will be fed into the ‘Entry League’ to score points for your club, then eventually moving onto the Advanced League which also maintains the important club rankings. Everybody benefits, your club benefits, the race scene benefits, this is why I’m championing the cause for club rankings & absolutely no individual rankings in the ‘Entry League’ & ‘Advanced League’, or lower, middle, whatever you’d like to call them. Otherwise we’re encouraging riders to compete on a lower level than their abilities once they upgrade. The Elite league is a different matter, but we’ll get to that in the later blog.

Categories

Currently we have lots of lower category events, but then there’s a huge jump in ability to compete in most other events, the Elite riders can generally enter them & our newly qualified 3rd category riders can get a rude awakening to the demands of cycling at a high level. We need to provide a lower step up in order to reach the higher step. You can potentially have a new first season racer, a strong rider, starts as 4th category rider, gains 10 points over two or three races & then gains a 3rd cat licence. Before he knows it, his next race has James McCallum, Evan Oliphant & Gary hand in it, he gets a kicking & really can’t see how he’ll make that jump, or if he ever can. A league system with the elements I’m proposing, based on club rankings, goes some way to address these issues. It allows riders to progress to 4th to 2nd category level within a club system, the riders who wish to race at 3rd category level are encouraged to stay within a cycling club that promotes events, they’ll need to ensure access to the ‘Entry’ & the ‘Advanced’ leagues.

Events

We’re going to assume that most of these mid-level events already exist in good numbers, these could be adapted to conform to the league. I’m going to explain more in the ‘Implementation’ blog later, about how I’d see the league work, what administration it requires & what timescales we need. The league can be built not just in one race season, but over 2 to 3, otherwise there’s going to be a lot of upheavals, the only way it can work is to make sure there’s a plan in place, which allows expansion over time.

League Points Allocations (sorry, forgot about this 1st draft)

As with the ‘Entry League’ events, we’ll be allocating 15 riders points towards the league, so that we can place them without photo finish, using the method in the previous blog, the system is different in this one though. You’ll see that there are more points awarded than the ‘Entry League’, but not significantly more in away from the top placings. The reason for this is that we can publish ‘Entry League’ & ‘Advanced League’ club ranking separately, or as a combined, so the higher category races need a higher points score, but not too much to avoid clubs paying attention to the ‘Entry League’. I hope/imagine that the ‘Advanced League’ could initiate some team riding to gain club points, so we have to allow a bigger bonus for a win, otherwise you may get club riders trying to grab top 10 places, where they could have worked together for a win. This is designed to encourage attacking & glory, rather than safe sitting in for points. Here’s an example of how it could work. Remember, in this league, we’re trying to promote fast racing, so the points reflect this.

  • League Points: Top 15 riders.
  • Points Allocation (Placings): 40, 30, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6.
  • Points Allocation (mid-race prime): 5, 4, 3.
  • Most aggressive rider: 5.
  • Riders finishing: 2.

Jump to the ‘RACE DEVELOPMENT‘ page for the full list of blogs relating to developing road racing in Scotland.

My ideas for a road race league, will promote club membership.

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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…..