Breaking the Paradox : Womens Racing

Over the last few years we’ve seen a good number of very strong Scottish women racing on the road, performing overseas & with the best British riders in the UK races. But there’s a gulf between these athletes & the new female athletes taking the first steps on the cycling ladder, it’s sometimes a daunting task, with a lot less riders competing in Scotland than in men’s racing.

The Event Paradox : Races for all means races for none

We have some top class female athletes, we have a huge potential number of novice racers, the difference in current ability between these two groups is quite massive, we have very few riders in between. The beginner & intermediate riders know that they can’t compete against the Breast Cancer Care Team riders, in fact they might not even be in the bunch in the first few km’s, which discourages them from even entering. If you consider the same in the men’s racing, with club riders upset with James McCallum & Evan Oliphant turning up, imagine a whole team of them plus other riders who are competing at an elite level, it’s much tougher for female 3rd or 4th category riders than it is for the men, especially when the fields are also smaller.

The problem is that we don’t have the required quantity of female riders in Scotland to hold two events, one for the riders wanting to compete at the top-level & one for the majority of the others, who just want to race & don’t have the time to train to that level. If you look at forums, twitter & Facebook around the time of a Scottish Women’s championship, or any other event where all categories of women are invited, you’ll see some irate organisers trying to just get a decent size field that makes it viable to run the race. I’d surmise that if the racing was split, we’d get a lot more new riders willing to enter, perhaps ones who tried racing once & got a pasting from our elite athletes, they would have a more competitive event for them to ride. But this leaves us with the top-level, potentially a sparse area with a few very talented athletes.

Women & Juniors

There used to be a flourishing junior race series in Scotland, predominantly men, shorter distances than the senior riders were competing over, but numbers dropped & it disappeared. We also have the same problem with elite level women’s racing in Scotland, we don’t have the riders to make a series viable, but if we combine a growing number of junior riders & our top women riders, could we provide a small race series & a combined Scottish championship event to kick-start both at the same time? Start it next year with 3 or 4 events, with two separate categories, then combine the women & junior road race championship too, making it more attractive for an organiser to hold, providing them with a potential 80 rider field rather than scraping about to find enough riders to just break even.

I’d suggest that elite female athletes are of similar ability to our top junior riders (but I’m aware we’ll see some outstanding male juniors who can win senior events). It seems a better solution to me than vets & women together, we can easily field full veteran events, there are loads racing, but we find it hard to field separate junior & women’s events, lets see this as an opportunity & put them together. If we can make this work, hopefully they’ll outgrow each other over the next few seasons & there will be separate events in the near future. Sorry for not coming up with anything radical here, but I think the solution is pretty simple.

Obviously the British calendar has to be looked at here, choosing dates for events away from both the British Junior series & the British Womens series, but these are published relatively early, so it shouldn’t be a problem. We could hopefully also encourage organisers to run more events in these UK series.

Lower Categories

With the top-level women dealt with, leaving them to knock lumps out of our junior men, they’re then not knocking lumps out of out the lower category women & we can start looking at providing racing that meets the needs of the grass-roots & intermediate levels. This is the area where again, we’re hoping that Scottish Cycling can get involved. I think it will make a huge difference to new riders to not have to compete with the best women in Scotland in their first race, which up to now, has maybe been a bit of a turn-off to competing again, it’s not nice to get a pummeling in your first ever event.

There have been a few women’s specific coaching sessions about the country, we need more of these, to teach bunch skills & give the confidence to take part in an event. Then the initial races during the season could be APR’s (Australian Pursuit Races, riders off in handicapped groups, smaller less ‘scary’ groups for the beginner than 60 to 80 strong bunches. One idea could be to put at least one experienced lady in each APR group, to keep things in order & encourage groups to work correctly, part race, part basic racing course, I’m sure we’d get some volunteers for this. After that we can move onto bunch racing later in the season, once everybody is confident that they will be ok in a larger group. So I’d suggest the following…

  • Early season (but not when it’s icy, March & April): Coached group riding sessions in each region, well publicised & hopefully with lots of info going to clubs to encourage riders to attend.
  • Early to Mid-Season (May & June) : APR type events, with riders getting used to a competitive race situation, but one experienced rider in each group.
  • Mid to Late Season (July onwards) : Bunch racing.

With a format like this, running each year we can likely progress a great number of women over the next few years, but it’s not going to be a quick fix, it will take time. Lots of these ideas have been tried before, there’s nothing new in this blog, but it needs to be joined up, to provide a structure to becoming a racer, to make it as easy as possible with the initial coached support & then helpful advice within the APR’s, before moving onto larger bunches. The key part is to have the top-level riders racing away from the newcomers, to encourage everybody else.

The main worry organisers have with women’s racing, is to get the ‘critical mass’ of riders to make an event viable, with a structure, organisers knowing how many riders are going through the coached sessions & onto APR’s, there’s a much better chance of events being promoted. So communication is key to this.

Future Information & Updates

If you want all the latest info, there’s a great blog/website called Filles a Velo, which has a list of all the events such as track schools, rider academy and other ladies events which are already is existence. Click the link & bookmark it, it will list any developments.

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For road race league & time trial ideas, see the ‘RACE DEVELOPMENT‘ link above. There is some inclusion of women’s racing in these leagues too.

National Leagues (Elite League)

[I’d advise to first read the other post from Race Development before this one, so you know where we are. Accessed from the menu or link]

If we can stimulate the lower categories to develop regionally via the ‘Entry League‘ & ‘Advanced League‘ models, to produce higher category riders & instigate a bit of basic team riding, then we’re well on the way to developing a successful ‘Elite League’ across Scotland. The main difference with this league is not just the higher categories that compete, but that this will be a true National League, with the lower ones existing regionally & feeding higher ability riders into a competitive environment. Essentially, the lower league’s identify & nurture the talent, the ‘Elite League’ brings all the talented riders together to compete together, further raising the standard of Scottish racing. This is the only league where individual rankings will work, we can also assume that this is where the racing teams will play a part, they can’t really operate in the lower leagues as they would have to run events, so it raises the level where these teams compete & allows clubs to develop & hang onto riders for longer.

Structure

We don’t currently have enough Elite, 1st & 2nd category riders to fill regularly fill an 80 rider race field in Scotland. If the lower league models work correctly, this shouldn’t be an issue in two to three years, we should have plenty (have a look at the ‘Implementation’ blog for an idea on how many licence points will be allocated). So we have a solution immediately, to start all leagues in year one. The solution is simple, open the ‘Elite’ league to 3rd category riders, on the understanding that once there becomes a critical mass of E/1/2 riders that will change & 3rd category riders will be excluded. The ‘Elite League’ events should have the support of the one Scottish Cycling photo finish team & a full complement of NEG riders (National Escort Group moto marshalls). These should be placed as the premier road events in Scotland, but with that comes a higher cost, and a higher standard, to put across a good image for the sport & attract sponsors, this is our showcase for road cycling.

So far we have:

  • Year 1: Open to E/1/2/3 categories, with all E/1/2 riders being given a start, regardless of their residence (we’re not doing regional bias in this, we’re going for the best quality field, talented 3rd category riders have more opportunities to upgrade via the two lower leagues).
  • Year 2: Open to E/1/2/3 categories. Hopefully a much larger number of 2nd category riders have progressed through the lower leagues from Scottish clubs who promote events.
  • Year 3 (and onwards): Open to E/1/2 categories. We should have enough higher category riders by this point to remove admittance to 3rd cat riders. This will allow a higher BC ranking event, allocating more points to qualify our riders for BC Premier Calendar events (Star Trophy to the old timers)

Which Events and who will run them?

At the top of a three-tier league structure, with the other leagues designed to feed this one, we can let our big events flourish. The Scottish Classics can have a solid location, where they are guaranteed entries & in no danger of being removed from the calendar, alongside that, we can add fast, new events on manageable circuits. This is where Scotland can get innovative, there are individuals & clubs who want to run events of this type, they need encouragement & support, we could even revive some fallen classics. Away from the Classics, we still need to develop modern, fast, competitive racing, we need events without the massive hills to aid rider (and team) development, this league is for the future more than it is for anything else, we need to teach our young talent how to race, not just how to win races in Scotland, we need to start looking further afield.

There’s going to be a prestige attached to this league, so I’m very sure that initially there will be a bit of scepticism in year one, but once the higher category riders start getting processed through, we should have a good road race structure to build our talent on. The main point of running a league structure, is that each league compliments the others, the ‘Entry League’ directs new talent into the system & feeds both the higher leagues. A rider can start the season in the lower league & end in the highest league, with the club rankings in the lower leagues there is no incentive to try to hang about, it’s all about moving onwards & upwards.

Trophies & Points

We need a trophy for this one, it’s essential, not a memorial trophy or anything like that, this needs to have its own trophy, something that defines it. A trophy does not have to be named the same as the league, the league name may change.

I’m not going to go into detail on the points allocation for this, or the race format, everybody knows what they’re doing with this, it’s much more important to define things in the lower leagues to aid development. The purpose of this is to provide a high level of road racing in Scotland & as a stepping stone to a higher level outside Scotland. Certain riders often dominate road racing in Scotland, so adding a non monetary & non medal prize is going to be a huge carrot. What if we have a Scottish team riding big events again, maybe a team in the Ras, what if the winner of the Scottish RR Champs & the winner of the Elite League were offered a place on that team. For riders with ambition, riding a big event is a much bigger prize than a trophy & some money, it would ensure the league is hotly contested.

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

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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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Postman Pat’s Bad Mail

I wasn’t going to comment on this unless it became public knowledge, I saw the letter yesterday and was hoping it would blow over and a clarification of a clarification was going to be issued. Unfortunately it’s not, the resulting chaos is one that could affect the development of the sport and avoid riders joining their UCI recognised national cycling federation, for us in Scotland, that’s essentially Scottish Cycling, but as I’ve explained before it’s really British Cycling who issue the licences.

CyclingNews are carrying a story on it here.

The Letter, in full, from Pat McQuaid to US Cycling President.

Dear President,

It has recently come to our attention that some National Federations are experiencing difficulties in the interpretation and application of the rules relating to “forbidden races”, namely Articles 1.2.019,

1.2.020 and 1.2.021 of the UCI Regulations.

With this in mind, we would like to provide the following clarification which we hope you will find useful. Article 1.2.019 of the UCI Regulations states:

“No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.

A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country.”

The objective of this regulation is to protect the hard work and resources you pour into the development of your events at national level. It allows for a federative structure, something which is inherent in organized sport and which is essential to being a part of the Olympic movement.

Of course the regulation also allows the UCI, in line with its mission as an international federation, to guarantee uniform regulation.

Article 1.2.019 applies to all license holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs.

The second paragraph of Article 1.2.019 affords each national federation the facility to grant a special exception for specific races or events taking place in its territory.

Special races or events are understood to be cycle events which are not registered on the national calendar of the country’s federation or on the UCI international calendar. This generally concerns events that are occasional and which do not recur, most often organized by persons or entities who do not belong to the world of organized sport. For example, an event may be organized by an association that does not have a link to the National Federation, such as a race specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students or perhaps as part of a national multisport event.

With the exception of these special cases, the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organized by a person or entity who regularly organizes cycling events.

CH 1860 Aigle I Switzerland
Q)+41 24 468 58 11 fax +41 24 468 58 12
http://www.uci.ch

The objective of Article 1.2.019 is that exemptions should only be granted in exceptional cases.

Licenseholders who participate in a “forbidden race” make themselves liable not only to sanctions by their National Federation, as scheduled by Article 1.2.021 of the UCI regulations, but also run the risk of not having sufficient insurance cover in the event of an accident.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please accept our kindest regards,

Pat McQuaid

President

What it means to us

I was hoping for a clarification, because this has very far-reaching implications in Scotland. Consider all the sportive events which are not on the BC calendar, any TLI events, some grass track events etc, they would all represent cycle events that could carry sanctions for riders who also have a UCI licence (you can see on your licence it has a UCI number, you have a UCI licence). It’s even worse for our friends down south, who have all time trials out with UCI governance!

This kind of draconian attitude is going to put riders off from a normal progression of sportive rider, to club rider, to racer. If sanctions are implemented here, then we’ll have no riders coming through into the sport from unsanctioned sportives, of which there are many, they would lose the ability to go back and ride those events if they took out a racing licence and were fined & sanctioned as a result. It looks like the UCI are trying to reduce their market, by excluding all but the current club riders, either that or Pat McQuaid is a complete idiot. I’ll go with the latter.

UPDATE:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/uci-postpone-enforcement-of-rule-1-2-019

Carry on camping

It’s coming up for training camp season, the time of the year that the riders who’ve been on vitamin D supplements since ‘that week in July’ that they last got some sun shining on their skin decide to go abroad, with a bike. We/they decide to visit hot southern coasts & islands in search of a ‘fast looking’ tan or possibly some decent form for the upcoming season. The realities are often different, too many pizza’s at Tolo’s, too many post ride bieres, and too many colds brought back home after a pile of time on the bike and a weakened immune system, can lead to putting on weight & getting ill. But do it right and the training camp is an incredibly useful & enjoyable tool towards a great season, do it wrong and you’ll be in your bed & off work for a couple of weeks on your return, it’s often down to your own choices.

Training camp types

On your pre-season training camp, you’ll either be going there with friends, clubmates (possibly not all your friends), complete strangers on an organised training camp (with possibly a cycling celebrity host), or a mix of all of these. Here are some of the individuals you’ll encounter in the sunshine.

#1: The ‘pro’ wannabe. This rider tends to be slightly overweight (sometimes more than slightly), has full pro team kit in unflattering white for their body type, talks like they’re a top sprinter (which excuses their lacklustre climbing) & thinks they’re a big hit with the ladies/waitresses/barmaids. They tend to go on training camps for different reasons from the other types, and rarely go with a big group of people they know. This is part of the plan, so that their heroic riding, demon descending & general all round pro-like training camp performance can be talked about in the same terms as an angler talks about how big their fish was. Often the tales will be vastly exaggerated on return to the cold north lands & without any viable witnesses, the tales of bravado will be boosted again at next years training camp, and so it continues, only with a new full set of next years white pro team kit. These individuals rarely perform very well, so if you’re looking for an easy day choose a bunch of these guys to go out with, easily spotted by immaculate kit & pro level bikes under the UCI weight limit, even though they’re all carrying at least 15kg excess body weight.

#2: Ageing lager meister. This guy enjoys himself, he’s generally an older gent, but there are some younger early ageing guys who drift into this category their 30’s, so ‘ageing’ isn’t a true definition. You’ll spot these guys easily, first you’ll see either an immaculate classic Colnago sitting outside a pub, either that or a pristine & beautiful ‘retro’ steel race bike. Very close-by will be a fella sitting with a €1 pint, a big smile on his face and will always give you a welcoming nod if you’re in bike gear. He’ll be wearing either brand new club kit, or very old club kit, but definitely nothing in between, he keeps that for under his winter tops, it’s a nostalgia & modern-day thing, the new stuff he’s wearing will be hidden for a few years soon, only to reappear in a sunny bar with a sea-view somewhere overseas. He’ll meet up with other similar types for a ride, all with skinny arms & legs, but a few spare tubs in their midriff, out for a nice sedate pace in the sun, only to return later to another watering hole. They return home with a cyclist’s tan lines from mostly sitting in bike gear at the pub, stories of riding the bike each day to tell the wife & spread the embarrassing stories about what happened to the newbie on his first training camp with seasoned clubmen.

#3: Wide eyed newbie. The fate of this type really depends on what company they keep on the training camp, it could be any of the other types, so if you’re new to cycling choose wisely. This guide will help you identify what you want to do with your time off work & who you will associate yourself with. Most newbies will be talked into the training camp by others for a purpose, either to genuinely help them progress and get some form as the club’s early season secret weapon, to have somebody to ‘drop’ on the training rides, or as a good wheel to sit on. So make sure you ease yourself into the training camp and don’t choose the hardest ride on the first day, it’ll likely ruin the rest of your week. Gravitate towards the faster rides and the days pass, but a complete pummeling on day one will make your week a disaster. Beware of the seasoned clubmen (type #6), they’ve been riding & drinking for years, so treat the evenings as the training rides, ease yourself into the night stages.

#4: The Racer. There are large numbers who take their hard-earned holiday from work very seriously indeed, they are solely here to get absolutely pummelled on the bike and get some serious training in the bank. This group will tend to be the most multinational training ride at the camp, with some serious kudos to be earned & routes including the local major climbs. If you want a very hard ride, with no let up and often no stop, go with these guys, but take plenty of water & food, it’ll be a while before you stop. The racer won’t often be seen at the local bar in the evening, although may make a brief appearance a couple of nights to appear to be social, but will quickly scamper away to bed & will make sure that he rooms with another of his type.

#5: The Triantelope. Famed for an inability to handle a bicycle, they leap from their bicycles like antelopes in the Serengeti, hence the name. The value of the bikes the triantelopes ride will often compare with type #1, but these riders are much fitter. But beware of the bunches, especially if ‘silly bars’ are being used, it’s a recipe for disaster. There is a reason for the poor bike handling though, remember they do three sports, you likely just do one, the technicalities of the transition from cycling to running means that a different position is adopted, so saddles are flung very far forward (way beyond UCI regs) and more weight is focussed ahead of the front wheel, not ideal for unknown mountain descents on a far away island, or close bunch riding. You’re best advised to stay away from this group at the training camp, they tend to ride alone most of the time at home, so bunch etiquette is almost completely unknown to them, you’d probably get a good workout but it’s not really worth the risk, it’s a different sport, leave them to their own quirks & oddities, we have plenty of our own.

#6: The Clubman. This one is your ‘true’ training camp type, they know the score, they’ve done it before, they can hang onto the fast guys and give a pasting to the slow guys, they’ll pick & choose which group they ride with & generally get more out of a week away than most of the other types. Most training camp aficionado’s will eventually gravitate towards #6 (apart from #5), while #2 is an even more experienced form of this type, he’s gravitated past #6 into #2. The clubman will also enjoy a couple of good evening visit to the local watering holes while you’re away, while treating the daily rides as serious training & the rest of the camp as their annual warm weather social event with riders they’ve literally known since they were teenagers. If you’re a newbie & you get in with a good group of clubmen, they’ll open up a number of opportunities for rides to you, provide evening entertainment and cement yourself into the bizarre world of bike culture in a week-long crash course (this bit not literally).

Survival Techniques

The training camp is going to be very demanding, so there are a few things you need to bear in mind and keep under control, especially if you’re not used to riding every single day for a week or two.

  • Before packing your bike, make sure it works correctly, the bike you take may have been put away all winter, it needs a road ride to make sure everything works & nothing is broken from last year. Do this at least 2 weeks before you leave, not the night before, so you’ve got as chance to get your local bike shop to fix it.
  • Pack your bike properly, a damaged bike on arrival is your worst nightmare, that’s what you’re here to do, so use all means you can to make sure your bike arrives in one piece and survives the onslaught from the worst of baggage handlers.
  • Chamois cream – Get yourself some & use it from day 1, smear your chamois with it, you’ll sweat much more in the heat & you’re also likely to be sitting having a coffee after a ride for some time before getting changed, the ideal environment for germs to grow.
  • Clean your kit – Never wear undergarments that have been worn the day before without a wash, again this is just common sense, your hotel will be able to wash clothes for you or use the sink in your room with a non-bio cleaner you bought at home.
  • Sun Cream – This goes without saying, don’t come back looking like a lobster, you live in a cold damp place & if your skin has ever seen any sun, it’s not seen it since last summer. You need to make sure you never forget to put it on, it will ruin your training camp if you forget, so even if it’s overcast, wear sun cream.
  • Drink lots & lots of water, on the bike, after a ride, just keep drinking water. If you’re doing any post ride pub visits, it becomes even more vital to rehydrate after a ride.
  • Eat as soon as you can after a ride, it’ll help you recover for the next days training.
  • Check your bike before each ride, check your tyres especially, locate the local bike shop on day 1, if there are any mechanical disasters you’ll need to know where this place is.
  • Don’t assume it’s all going to be sunshine, prepare for showery days and for it being cold at the top of hills. It’s tempting to just take shorts & short sleeves, but check the forecasts and make sure you can get out every day no matter the weather.
  • Above all be self-sufficient, you’re in a foreign country, so take a multi tool, spare tubes & a map so you know where you are and how to get back to your digs, as long as you get home every night you’ll be fine.

Conclusion

The training camp isn’t something to be worried about if you’re prepared for it, get some winter training in before you go and you’ll be fit & ready for a big increase in training load. The key to it is enjoying yourself, this isn’t meant to be purgatory, it’s a week away where you’re main focus is doing something you really enjoy, riding your bike. If the rides are too much, choose an easier group, but make sure you get out every day, you’ve earned this holiday, make the most of it.

Where would we be without the UCI?

There’s an unfortunate dilemma unfolding in the hierarchy of global cycling, the UCI appear to have dug themselves into a massive hole regarding possible protectionism or treachery at some level regarding that cheating American guy who’s proved that “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” (I’m not going to delve into this, or dwell on his name, as he needs no further publicity, no matter from how small a readership, but you must all know the story by now). Some say the future of the UCI itself is in jeopardy & it could be removed as the entity that controls cycling, with no obvious replacement organisation ready to go, this could cause massive problems worldwide in cycle sport, jobs & businesses. This all seems like a million wheel revolutions away from our little sport, in our little country, but all may not be as it seems and a collapse of the UCI may result in an unexpected collapse of domestic racing & a cycling power struggle within each country.

First some definitions…..

IOC: The International Olympic Committee, it governs all Olympic sports and holds a massive influence over each sports governing body. Former Mars confectionary sales manager Hein Verbruggen was president of the UCI between 1991 & 2005, but the Dutchman now holds the role of honorary member of the IOC. He was implicated by the BBC in 2008 with regards to $3million ‘expenses payments’ by Japanese race officials, which sources told the BBC were for including the keirin in the Games, Verbruggen denied the claims. In 2010 he was accused by Floyd Landis of taking a $100,000 bribe to make a certain riders positive test go away, Verbruggen denied this. He is also quoted as saying “There is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”

UCI: The Union Cycliste Internationale is the governing body recognised by the IOC as the one that controls cycling. It creates the international rules regarding racing, bikes, positions etc. They also issue licences to the various levels of UCI registered teams, the various UCI events and have a dubious reputation as being incredibly undemocratic & change rules to suit their mood on the day, ruining riders careers, established events futures & teams abilities to continue to exist. Pat McQuaid is the current president, banned from the Olympics for life as a rider, for racing in South Africa under a false name during apartheid, McQuaid was seen issuing medals at the 2012 London Olympics. He’s seen, rightly or wrongly, as Hein Verbruggen’s puppet, and the two are very closely linked.

BC: British Cycling is the UK’s governing body for cycling, it has representatives at the UCI table and can vote on UCI matters. It has a chequered past, and is the result of an amalgamation of several different national cycling governing bodies after a turbulent past involving who controlled cycling in the UK. They’ve grown a lot in the last few years after some alleged corruption was exposed by Tony Doyle and the organisation had to be rebuilt from the bottom up. It now prides itself in the vision of the GB track team, with the likes of Peter Keen, Chris Boardman & currently Dave Brailsford all being key people in it’s rise to the top. Brian Cookson is the current president and has been there right through the rebuild, he is a member of the British Olympic Association executive committee & the UCI Management Committee. Cookson has been one of the recent people speaking out about change within the UCI, he also attends UCI meetings as a representative for BC.

SC: Scottish Cycling currently exists as a limited company, it was formerly the SCU (Scottish Cyclists Union), BC consider it a region of their cycling umbrella, but SC consider themselves as a national governing body. Their race licences, rider & race insurances, coaching structure & part of their ability to raise funds are controlled by BC, so a slightly inconsistent & occasionally strained relationship exists between BC & SC. They have zero influence internationally outside of the Commonwealth Games once every 4 years, apart from their presence on the BC national council, which can decide how to vote on UCI matters, just like other BC ‘regions’.

So as far as the chain of command goes, the UCI are affiliated to the IOC, BC are affiliated to the UCI & SC are affiliated to BC, no matter how people don’t like the latter affiliation, it’s the current situation with Scotland still part of the UK.

Where we currently stand

As far as racing goes in Scotland, most of it is covered by UCI rules, there’s a different situation south of the border, where time trials are governed by CTT (formerly RTTC) who exist outside BC and don’t represent an international governing body. There are also a small amount of TLI (The League International) events in Scotland, which is another cycling governing body, not nearly as widespread as the UCI, but it is not recognised by the IOC or the UCI, so has little or no influence in cycling globally. So the UCI is the primary racing body for Scotland, much more so than in the rest of the UK, so we’re more affected than others if anything happens.

No UCI, what happens first?

If the UCI completely collapsed, where would racing in Scotland be left? Check your racing licence, you have a UCI number on it, which shows you race under UCI rules, so if there’s no UCI, there’s no UCI rules, these govern the sport, without the rules & a way to implement them it’s a different sport. The affiliations I listed above would also fall apart, all national governing bodies immediately lose their direct link to the IOC, so no National teams in the Olympics for cycling, in fact no cycling in the Olympics at all.

What we’d likely see is yet another massive power struggle internationally for the control of cycling, this could go on for some time, with different factions waiting in the wings to form groups with others to create something attractive to the IOC and to all the national governing bodies, a tricky & costly task, possibly an impossible one. There’s always power struggles going on for TV rights, but this one would be particularly ugly, as there really is everything to play for if there’s no UCI.

Who’s affected?

No doubt races can be run in Scotland without the UCI, but expect everything in complete disarray for at least a season. A new insurance agreement to run races on the public highway would be needed by a vastly changed BC, this may take some time and would allow the opportunity for TLI to step in, but TLI rely on BC to deal with authorities in an official manner to some extent, so don’t expect that to run too smoothly. With no internationally recognised governing body controlling racing & dealing with politicians who want to see themselves next to Olympic cycling stars, with there being no cycling in the Olympics, expect the motor car lobby to get involved, to try to remove those pesky cyclists from the road once & for all. But we may have to rely on SC to start dealing with all this if the link to BC goes as if there’s no world championships or cycling in the Olympics, then BC don’t require to keep their tricky relationship with SC, you’d expect this to rapidly splinter. Consider the effect this would have on our sport in our country, it would again become an underground sport hidden away from the public, the exact opposite of it’s current direction.

Your young riders will lose most opportunities to compete on an international stage, so there will be a lack of progression & cycling as a popular national sport will start to decline. Outwith the IOC & presumably WADA, dope controls will be non existent in cycling and further tarnish it’s image as a drug ridden sport.

Remember that teams & races pay the UCI for licences, so we could see the teams going bust and races lost, regardless of who takes over, if it’s not the UCI that money is lost forever.

Obviously, this is all the worst case, but if any sport suddenly loses it’s international governing body it’s going be in a huge mess.

What will really happen?

We all probably would like to see the UCI to fall apart, for our own vindictive pleasures, Pat McQuaid being publicly humiliated, Verbruggen dismissed from sport for good. But this would be catastrophic for cycling everywhere, we need to keep the UCI in some form, hopefully it can continue in a more democratic and transparent manner, if it doesn’t, then we all suffer the consequences.

I don’t believe for a minute that the UCI will actually cease to exist, it’ll be reborn with a few notable names missing and an ethical charter in place, until the next time. A crucial part of virtually all global sports organisations citing themselves in Switzerland is due to the laws regarding ‘non profit’ organisations and the legal ramifications of existing anywhere else but Switzerland. The Swiss have lighter laws for scrutiny of these types of organisations, along with some hefty tax exemptions for sports federations, so it’s no surprise that 47 sports bodies are based here, including the IOC, UCI, FIFA & many other well known sports organisations.

So don’t panic, there’s going to be a big bun fight over the next few months, then things will calm down once the current problems are fully dealt with and publically revealed. But don’t hope for the UCI to go away, organisations of all sizes rely on each other these days and it won’t take much for the house of cards to tumble, take banking as a prime example. So sometimes it’s better the devil you know, clean him up, make him transparent, give him a new voice & mandate, the alternative is even less palatable than change.