Beyond Categories

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

The Current System

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

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

Everybody In It Together

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

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

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

Championships

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

Structure

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

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

The Gist Of It

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

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

Local Leagues (Entry League)

I wrote a blog titles ‘Out of Our League’ back in January, it deserves a rewrite & a bit more thought put into it, especially with the likelihood that things will change regarding how the Regions are set out in the future. Lets take a fresh look & see what we could end up with, it will take some upheavals & can’t be fully implemented in a year, but a plan is required in order to help road racing prosper again. I’ll do another blog for the advanced & elite leagues too, advanced could operate in year one & include 2/3 cat racing, with the elite league forming in year 2. The Elite league would be the only one that focussed on individual rankings, as it can’t be affected by riders moving up a category & out of the league.

So in 2015 we’d have  the following:

  • Regional Entry League : Club League Rankings Only. (Open to 4th category riders)
  • Regional Advanced League: Club League Rankings Only. (Open to 2nd & 3rd category riders)
  • National Elite League : Individual & Club/Team Rankings. (Open to Elite, 1st & 2nd category riders)

The initial two leagues should provide enough points to feed the Elite league with 2nd category riders for year two.

We can start out modestly, with maybe 4 to 6 races in each region, perhaps many of these races already exist, so just need combined into a league format by agreement with other clubs. The idea is that club based rankings will encourage clubs to ‘push’ new riders into taking part in a race, to stick a number on their back so that their club can gain league ranking points as their established racers move up categories, leaving a a void & points to be grabbed.

Pre-Requisites (Regional Entry League)

As far as I see it, we need to make this easy for organisers & riders, it’s vital to make the league races as simple as possible to run & make the races as simple as possible to enter.

  • Start the events from mid-March at the earliest, we don’t want to put new riders off by having their events cancelled due to ice & snow, let’s make this less likely. (It is Scotland, so this will reduce risk, road racing in February in Scotland, isn’t good for the sport’s development)
  • Keep bunches limited to 60 riders for safety reasons, we’re dealing with new riders here, not promoting events for licence dodgers & ‘ringers’.
  • League points to first 15 riders, with emphasis on a ‘win’ & top placings. Points allocated as follows, starting from first place. 25, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5. With 1 point allocated to each rider who finished the event, to promote participation for beginners, who’s initial aim is simply to finish, they can also aid their club’s points tally by scoring a point.
  • Under no circumstances will an individual rider ranking be listed, only club listings will be published. This will remove the ‘problem’ of riders upgrading but ‘hogging’ the points system, resulting in the strongest riders removing all these points from being allocated. It blighted the lower league of the Super6 series.
  • Clubs will have to run an event to gain league entry, if clubs are very small (not big & lazy), they can team together to run an event to gain entry, but they won’t get double the rider allocation, they’ll have to share that.

You need a league administrator, somebody who can work excel, & stick the results on something like this, a blog, it’s really easy & quick to do, if you can type, you can run a simple blog, no technical knowledge required.

League Structure (Regional Entry League)

This should involve between 6 & 12 different clubs, who can work together to promote a series of events for their riders. Where there’s geographical problems, there should be around 6 clubs who could travel to an event.

  • Six to twelve clubs form each league, minimum 30 riders in an event in order to help events at least break even. (see below)
  • Member clubs offered at least 5 places in each event. Spaces left after allocation are open to other league club members first, on a fair basis, any left after that are open to non-league riders.
  • Any riders who have gained enough points before the event to move into a category not included in the league event, will not start the event. This ensures all licence points awarded in the event will be allocated to eligible riders.

Event Costs

You can access a vast number of forms on the Scottish Cycling website, on the page linked HERE. You’ll see that a Regional C+ Event (an event open to 4th category riders with points for the first 10 riders) will cost £10 Registration fee, plus £12 Regional registration fee to get it on the calendar. The levies payable to SC are £3.95 per rider (there’s also £2.60 per rider listed for a Regional C League, but those events don’t carry BC points, so ‘pointless’ for our needs, unless SC know a ‘get around’). So for a field of 60 riders, we’re already at £22 + (60 X £3.95), that’s £259 so far. Add on HQ & changing room hire at between £50 to £100 (lets say £75), photo-finish at £100 per event, 4 NEG riders at approx £75 each, depending on where they’re coming from & you’re up to a bill so far of £734, with no prize money yet. That’s how much it costs to run an event these days with what riders have to expect, photo-finish for their placing (almost obligatory for league points) & NEG to keep things safe. So each rider’s paying out £12.90 of their entry fee just for the running of the event. I’ll list it below, along with the scary scenario of only 30 riders, then you’ll see why organisers panic if they’re getting a low number of entries near to closing date.

Example Costings for a 60 rider road race.

  • Event Registration £10
  • Regional Registration £12
  • Levies £237
  • HQ/Changing £75
  • Photo-finish £100
  • NEG X 4 £300
  • First Aid £40

TOTAL £774

Running costs per rider £12.90 (60 rider field) [This isn’t entry fee, this is how much of your entry fee can’t be considered for anything else by the organiser, he/she has plenty of good things they can spend this on apart from prize money]

So if you want any prize money, a £15 entry fee isn’t really a possibility these days, you’re going to have to pay a bit more if you want all that.

Example Costings for a 30 rider road race.

  • Event Registration £10
  • Regional Registration £12
  • Levies £118.50
  • HQ/Changing £75
  • Photo-finish £100
  • NEG X 4 £300
  • First Aid £40

TOTAL £655.50

Running costs per rider £21.85 (30 rider field)

As you can see, a 30 rider race with all this isn’t going to work, riders won’t want to pay upwards of £25 to race in a low-level event will they? Once you add in catering, petrol, signage, flags, numbers, prizes, etc, you’re looking at an expensive event. Realistically, photo-finish & NED are only likely to be at one event a weekend, if the regions are all running league events, you’ll not have access to these anyway, so under the next heading I’ll propose how we get round this.

Running Simple Events

As you can see above, we need a simple, cheap & easy to run event for the league races. I’d propose the following as one option, there’s probably plenty of others you can think of too to remove expense.

  • NEG? Reasonably short circuits (5km to 15km?), with 3 or 4 easy to marshal corners, removing the need for moto NEG riders policing the course. Get your O.S. maps out & start planning, you’ll surely come up with something locally, get creative.
  • Photo-finish? A home-made photo finish system also requires a bit of ingenuity, lots of clubs all over the UK are doing it already, I did it in the late 90’s with some basic equipment & placed 40 riders in a bunch sprint (after a while & some moaning, obviously). You’ll need the following, some still cameras that take multiple quick shots (most do this), 2 sets of step ladders, a couple of video cameras you can review on 2 laptops. The tallest stepladder has a guy/girl with a video camera, this faces the finish line looking at the riders bums as they cross the line, this way you get their numbers. Another video camera takes the riders as they cross the line from the front/side. Then you have various still cameras snapping away. Once the event finishes, run into a car & plug-in a video camera to each laptop, you can then review the footage, get the numbers first & work out placings from video & still. Only two people in the car & a bouncer outside to stop every rider asking where they finished.
  • Catering? Simple, tell riders to bring their own, removes a burden & frees up people to do other jobs for you, this will upset the old timers, but these races are not aimed at them, new riders don’t expect catering. If they’ve competed in sportives, running events, triathlons, they’ll expect to buy or bring their own.

Ok, so we’ve removed some expense & manpower, what do the costings look like now?

Example Costings for a 60 rider road race.

  • Event Registration £10
  • Regional Registration £12
  • Levies £237
  • HQ/Changing £75
  • Photo-finish n/a
  • NEG X 4 n/a
  • First Aid £40

TOTAL £374

Running costs per rider £6.23 (60 rider field)

Example Costings for a 30 rider road race.

  • Event Registration £10
  • Regional Registration £12
  • Levies £118.50
  • HQ/Changing £75
  • Photo-finish n/a
  • NEG X 4 n/a
  • First Aid £

TOTAL £215.50

Running costs per rider £8.52 (30 rider field)

As you can see, we’ve made a 30 rider field a viable option with some ingenuity & a £15 entry fee, which may even allow for some prizes & other expenses paid out, maybe some put aside for club race equipment (car signs, numbers, signs, flags etc). I’d keep using St Andrews Ambulance or similar for your first aid, as its good value & finding somebody willing to do that job is often tricky, especially as nobody will really want to do it, a lot less bother to get somebody else in to do it for you.

How Many People to run one of these?

We’re assuming your a club with at least 4 riders wanting to take part in the league, so we’re guessing there’s at least 15 to 20 of you in the club, that’s plenty to run an event, some much smaller clubs run great events with only a handful of members, they use & borrow resources very well, you can too.

Let’s consider you’ve found a decent circuit as above, with 4 corners that need marshalled. The minimum you’ll need at each corner is 2 marshalls, so we’ll stick with that, 8 marshalls in total. Sign on closes normally around 15 minutes before the start, so your two sign-on table people are also marshalls on the nearest corner to the HQ, still at 9 people so far, including you. You’ll need a race convoy, normally a commissaire won’t want the organiser driving in the convoy, so you’ll need two lead cars, two cars to drive commissaires & a first aid car, as it’s a simple event, I’d miss out a race service & broom wagon all together, unless a club offers to do neutral service. The league is based on club rankings, so you should have plenty of points scorers left if somebody punctures.

The people you need to take photo’s & video footage at the finish is probably the easiest thing to get volunteers for, they’ll only get ‘landed’ with being at the finish & seeing the action, so it’s a nice job. You should also be there will a phone that records your voice and you can say what you see, who’s crossing the line first, 2nd, 3rd etc.

  • Organiser: 1
  • Marshalls : 8
  • Lead car drivers & car : 2
  • Commissaire drivers & car : 2
  • First aid driver : 1
  • Camera/photo finish : 4

TOTAL : 18 people.

Can you get this small number of people together? If you can, you can run an event.

In Conclusion

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan to revive road racing in Scotland, it would involve some co-operation & talking, but surely even small to medium clubs can organise one event & gain entry to their regional league. There are great leagues starting up now, the South West Cycling Project & the WOSCA league have proved very popular & successful, they need minor alterations to form the basis for the first two regional leagues that can feed into a future national league, providing riders with higher category licences into the system & improve the standard, participation & competition in Scottish road racing. Can we do it? If so, please steal these ideas, or any elements of it you think might work for you.

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

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Calm Before the Storm, or is it?

We’ve seemingly had storms for months, but now is the metaphoric calm before the cycling storm re-ignites itself for the 2013 season.

The pre-season time has arrived. All to come very soon, damaged ego’s, lies & innuendo, ancient rivalries, psychological warfare, and that’s just in the training bunches, let battle commence and roll on to the first skirmish of 2013. But hold on, when is this first skirmish, where’s the calendar gone, there’s no Girvan/TourDoonHame, there’s no road race series, where will we see the initial battle between the big names of Scottish road racing.

So lets take a look at what’s on the calendar so far at the beginning of the year (ignoring TT’s in this one)……

Scottish Calendar 2013

On Saturday 9th March, we have our first road race, a closed circuit event on the circuit behind the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. I’ve raced on tight circuits before, I’ve heard folks saying they can’t race on this type of thing, “for kids”, but it’s racing, possibly a different type, more like a series of sprints and cornering skills, but very useful stuff. Perhaps it doesn’t have the elegance of racing in spectacular scenery & historic climbs, but this is pure racing, especially useful for less experienced riders who need to brush up on bunch skills, if you’re going to learn anywhere, you’re going to learn here, where being at the head of the field is crucial. Expect crashes, expect whoever wins these to do particularly well this year, could even be worth watching!

Sunday 10th March sees the incredibly hard-working & compact Loudoun Road Club hosting yet another event, the Drumclog APR (Australian Pursuit Race, handicapped groups are set off, slowest first, fastest last, so involves plenty of deceit & treachery with race form), this is open to 3rd & 4th Cat riders, which usually means it’ll be massively oversubscribed, as without the top riders, the biggest kicking will be from perpetual 3rd cats, returning 4th cats and emerging talents. Expect lies about training, complaints about groups, an unheard of rider appearing from nowhere and ‘The Bundy’ claiming they had a hand in creating this new rider (mainly with the intent to wind up other bunches, a necessary part of Scottish cycling banter).

We then have to wait until Sunday 24th March for the next road event, it’s the old traditional start to the season (going back a long way), the Glasgow Nightingale Lake APR. In previous years it’s not used the Lake road due to its condition, it usually throws up a good event, fast roads, leading to crosswind roads, leading to bad roads, it’s even has a section called ‘Flanders’, so a bit of everything. I mentioned in my initial post that this was the same date as the womens training event, but this looks to have changed now, so somebody saw some sense. But the entry doesn’t show the women’s Lake APR event is on yet, we’ll see what happens here.

On the 31st March, we have a women’s only APR in Aberdeen, but as far as March goes, that’s it, no other road events!!

I’m having to look into April for a chance to see the top roadmen in action, it looks like the classic Drummond Trophy on 21st April is our first chance. I’ll not call this disastrous for now, but it’s certainly disappointing. The loss of any road race series looks to have had a huge detrimental effect on the Scottish road race scene. Surely ‘Scottish Cycling’, with all their paid staff are supposed to be at the helm here, but it looks like supporting road racing has perhaps gone out the window, all it would have taken would have been a low-key road race series, basically putting together a points table, no need for jerseys or glitz, is there not somebody there capable of working excel?

Do I feel a little let down? It certainly doesn’t look particularly healthy. The expected calm before the storm isn’t a storm at all, it’s a lacklustre early season road race scene (not suggesting those events on are lacklustre, just the total amount of events), we can expect plenty of border raids by our top riders, otherwise there’s nothing for them to do in Scotland until late season, we had road races in February the last few years.

Looks like the bunches will be running until the end of March, the blazers will be getting a few more lies in & the winter racers won’t even get a chance to perform one respectable result before they crack and reappear next December.

The State of Cycle Racing in Scotland

I’ll begin this blog with a good honest look at how cycle racing in Scotland is progressing with regards to the ever changing road racing scene, the slow demise of ‘traditional’ time trialling, then the massive upsurge of interest in cyclo-cross & track racing. I’ll not go into the sportive scene, but may comment occasionally if it affects racing in some way. I currently don’t have a clue about MTB racing in Scotland, but hopefully I’ll find out and include it in this blog.

Road Racing
Just a few years ago, there was the introduction of a Super6 Series, sponsored by Scottish Power Renewables, previous to that we’ve had various incarnations of a Scottish race series, a Grand Prix series, a development series, none of which have really captured the imagination of the Scottish cycling community. But the Super6 was different, it was a fresh approach to racing, two events on the same short circuit, on the same day, one for higher category riders (A Series), the other race for 4th cats & women (B Series). There lies a problem with this, you need to find willing organisers, volunteers willing to take on a mighty task, with the added complication of trying to get your race helpers (marshalls, drivers, caterers etc) to give up a whole day of their time, races are run by clubs and usually spearheaded by one individual in that club who becomes the local leper as he/she tries to gather help for the event they all agreed to run. The Super6 events proved hugely popular, full fields for the first couple of years, until the format became diluted, with organisers unwilling to run two events & then issues with 4th cat riders not progressing, as riders who started the series as 4th cat riders, then gained enough licence points (*see note 1) to gain a 3rd cat licence could still enter the ‘B series’ and took the majority of the points placings, so the remaining 4th cat riders found it hard to progress. The Super6 is all but dead now, it seems Scottish Cycling no longer had the support of their series sponsor and it may have been left to fend for itself, but hard to see how pulling a few events together and issuing a points table requires a sponsor, it could have been done in an informal manner without winners jerseys.
Otherwise there are some interesting things going on in road racing across Scotland, we come down to the work of some volunteers again, the photo finish operators & the NEG (National Escort Group) have made a huge difference over the last few years. Not only in providing a professional looking public face, with a proper finish area and official looking motorcycle escorts for a race, but also in race safety and the now, all important placings down to the last rider. Everybody likes to see exactly where they placed these days, especially the ex sportive riders who are used to timing chips and thousands of riders getting individual placings and timings. Organisers who can’t get hold of photo finish or can’t afford it for their event (£100), tend to get a public roasting by uninformed riders, desperate for their performance to be registered on social media or the melting pot known as the Braveheart Forum.
There are also unconfirmed rumours that the 2013 British Road Race Championships will be held in Glasgow, on the circuit being used for the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2014. Additional rumours suggest this involves traversing the Clyde using part of the Kingston Bridge, involving closing off some lanes of the M8. So if this does go ahead next year, it looks like Glasgow City Council are taking their cycling very seriously, the logistics for this ‘test event’ are huge, but imagine Wiggins, Cav, Froome etc, racing through Glasgow in front of big crowds, this could be an incredible event.

Time Trialling
Where do we start, the obvious ‘old man’ of cycle race progress in Scotland, an outdated BAR competition (*see note 2) with very few entrants, the continuous scrabble to keep events on so called ‘fast’ courses, flat busy roads, often dual carriageways, often with roundabouts, not where you’d normally enjoy riding your bike, then the aero arms race, making time trialling at a level where you want to be competitive a very costly area of cycling to get into.
So how can time trialling compete with things like track cycling, which involves racing from 10 years upwards, an entry level bike capable of winning races at £400, in it’s current state, no parent in their right mind would want to send their children into the time trialling world, so it needs to evolve and it needs to do it quickly. Time trialling can become a huge sport again, with a few simple changes.
Scotland is absolutely jam packed with what we’d call ‘Sporting Courses’, there are also an abundance of riders with road bikes, who want to compete, again crossover from the jam packed sportive market. So why not provide events for these guys, without pointy hats, without disc wheels, without specific time trial bikes, put them on at a suitable date in the few weeks before a big local sportive, include part of the sportive course, they can test their form for their big event. Surely this is where the future of time trialling really lies, is it worth putting off the inevitable any longer?
The best thing about the current TT scene are the recent additions of some excellent hill climbs, promoted and run in a spectator friendly manner, notably the ‘Kingscavil  Hill Climb’ & the ‘Up the Kirk Hill Climb’, promoted by West Lothian Clarion & Stirling Bike Club respectively. Both closed roads, both with commentary, both a great event to ride & watch, both with more spectators in each than watch an entire time trial season, these kinds of events are the future, and the saviour of time trialling. We still have some great ‘sporting’ events, like the Trossachs & the Meldons, which are in the format which would attract many new riders if marketed to the right group of cyclists, ideal events for non aero kit, maybe we should go all UCI and ban aero kit from a few events and see what happens?

Winter: The new Summer
It seems that there’s more folks out there racing in Scotland during winter than in summer, everything is changing and it’s no bad thing, so let’s see how this happened….
Cyclo cross has become a massive winter sport, with the Scottish Cyclo Cross Association promoting their area of the sport incredibly well with an army of enthusiastic & willing volunteers & up to 250 riders participating in each meeting across the different categories. There is also huge youth participation in this branch of the sport (although some of the parental contributions have been unwelcome over recent weeks), supporting events across Scotland in large numbers. If you go and watch one of these, you’ll feel a whole lot better about the future of cycle racing in Scotland, we’ve been lacking in youth & junior riders for as long as I can remember, providing events like these is the catalyst cycling has been looking for and develops skills required in all other aspects of the sport. You’ll also notice a big crossover, there’s road riders, track riders, mountain bikers, single speed riders, all coming together in one event, all very good to see, cyclo cross looks like a proper cycling community meeting.
Our new winter pursuit in Scottish cycle racing is track racing, the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome now provides a focus for the sport & one of the best track venues in the world, here in Scotland. Glasgow Life who run the venue have been gobsmacked by the interest, they still have thousands of bookings for accreditation to get through, so it looks like the booking system wasn’t prepared for the demand, but things should calm down into the new year and more track time will become available. The track league has been oversubscribed too, plenty of youth riders there too, even some spectators turning up on a Wednesday night, so club racing is on-going every week now. The venue hosted a round of the World Cup in November, which was a huge success, before that there was the Scottish Championships, including the Braveheart Thunderdrome meeting & in February there is a round of the spectator friendly Revolution series. It’s all going on and in 2013 we have the World Junior Track Championships to look forward to, followed by the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
The main media focus is obviously going to be on the velodrome, after the huge success of the London Olympics, Chris Hoy being a national hero and the short attention spans required by any uninformed public, track cycling looks to be in a very enviable position, if the ‘Manchester Effect’ produced several Olympic & World champions, we’re hoping the ‘Glasgow Effect’ will create some medals & rainbow bands in the not too distant future.

Conclusion
The Scottish cycle race scene is generally healthy, there are plenty of youth riders flowing in, but it needs modernisation & lacks structure in a few key areas, i.e. Road racing & time trialling.

*Note1: The first 10 placings were awarding British Cycling licence points, 10 for first, 9 for second and so on. You could upgrade to 3rd category by gaining 10 point in one season, allowing you to ride a wider variety of races and progress in the sport by riding against stronger competition. By allowing 3rd cat riders to take part in a 4th category race, those places taken by the 3rd cat riders had no points allocated, but nobody else further down the rankings could get them either, so you could potentially have no points awarded to anybody in these events if the first 10 riders were 3rd category riders who were racing for points in the B series. So combining a race series, with a race category entry system is complicated and problematic.
*Note2: B.A.R. stands for Best All Rounder. In time trialling it refers to time trials of 50miles, 100miles & 12hours, you take the average speed of each ride, then you take an average of those averages and apparently you get a winner. Bear in mind there are no 12 hour events in Scotland anymore, so riders have to travel down south to any remaining 12 hour events that still exist, yet it’s still a Scottish championship. More riders record times for the ‘Middle Distance BAR’, which is over 25mile, 50 mile & 100mile time trials, but there’s limited interest in this as it becomes more and more difficult to find suitable courses & riders have to travel a long way. It’s likely Scotland will have no 100 mile TT very soon either, while the most popular distance of these flat TT’s, the 10 mile time trial is not included in any BAR table. Hence the need for non standard distance, non flat TT’s, of which we have an abundance of courses.