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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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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Off Piste on the Alpe

Many question how a track rider can become a good mountain climber & take Alpine stages or do well in general classification, but this isn’t just confined to British riders, there was one notable performance in this years Tour by an ex track rider, I bring you Christophe Riblon.

The ‘Other’ Chris

This years stage to the Alpe d’Huez was a new experiment for the Tour, they chose to climb the famous mountain twice, utilising the questionable surface of Col de Saronne descent on the way. An AG2R rider, Christophe Riblon won on the day, after a long breakaway

In the year prior to the 2008 Olympics, there was a World Cup track meeting on the same velodrome to be used in Beijing, this event was attended by two British Tour de France notables, Mark Cavendish & Bradley Wiggins. They had gone all the way to China to test the track & gain qualification points for the Olympics, there were 3 British teams racing as a national team & two UCI registered teams, they wanted to do well. The T-Mobile riders (Rob Hayles & Geraint Thomas were riding in the British skinsuits) did a great ride, finishing 2nd, on the same lap to French duo Jerome Neuville & our climber, Christophe Riblon. Further down the placings, you can see the quality of the field, not what you’d call a soft race with riders like Loan Llaneras, Iljo Keisse, Alex Rasmussen, Michael Morkov, Greg Henderson & Hayden Roulston.

Riblon wasn’t a newcomer to the track, he’s performed at national & world-class level going back as far as 2002, where he was a silver medallist in the European Team Pursuit championships, silver in the 2003 French Points Race, silver in the 2008 World Points Race, silver in Worlds Madison in 2010, lots of silvers, a quality track rider. Meanwhile he was also doing very well in the mountains, with 2nd in GC at the 2005 Tour de l’Avenir, 2nd place in the mountains classification at the 2007 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, a 6th place in the 2009 Tour stage to Andorra Arcalis, 13th in that same Tour’s stage to Mont Ventoux, just 3 places behind his old Madison rival Wiggins. He can also time trial, he took 8th place in a 2009 Vuelta a Espana time trial won by Cancellara, losing less than a minute over 30km.

Up to 2010 he was doing well, but we can probably say this was his breakthrough year, another year where he mixed track with road. His palmares show a huge amount of top ten places, culminating with a win on stage 14 of the Tour de France to Ax-les Thermes, beating Menchov, Sanchez & little Schlecker into the 2nd, 3rd & 4th placings. He also secured a top 10 placing overall in the Dauphine, which included a 7th place on the Alpe d’Huez stage, in fine company yet again. I have to admit, before compiling this blog, I had no idea of the quality of Riblon, he’s achieved steady improvement over a number of years & I expect to see him continue this over the next couple of years.

Track to Road

We often hear that nobody can quite understand how UK track riders are able to transfer their abilities to road racing, especially in grand tours. It seems that if you’re good at track, then you can’t be good at stage racing by the ‘experts’, but lets look at this example of Riblon. He has won a couple of World track silver medals, I’d suggest that if France had the same level of support, coaching & resources in their national track squad as the UK did, Riblon would have won a lot more medals, perhaps some gold ones. If you think that’s not the case, then there’s the strange ‘logic’ (among some) that a less talented track rider will be a more talented road racer, so if the Britis riders were finishing 4th or 5th in the Olympic track events, then they can climb better, I’d don’t understand that ‘logic’.

I’d also suggest that Riblon was just as talented a track rider as any endurance rider on the British squad, as far as I know Riblon has no questions asked about him. If we put across a scenario where Riblon was not French, but rode for Britain, would he have the same questions raised about his track abilities transferring to the road?

The Big Question

My real question is, have many nations missed spotting some road talents by chasing track medal success & not giving chances to their successful riders to transfer to road racing, is there a big international talent pool about to surface, particularly in France? Riblon could easily have been missed & stuck to track racing, his Madison partner Jerome Neuville also have been a great road rider on the largest stage, but he remained predominantly on the track. Maybe France needs to take a good look at their under 23 track riders, who knows what’s lurking in there ready to take on the Tour & revive French cycling.

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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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The Brit Awards & Scots Metallurgy?

Tomorrow British Road Race Championships in Glasgow are gong to be incredibly tough, there’s a large number of world-class riders in both races. Our home-grown riders are going to have to pull off an extraordinary ride, plus have lots of luck on their sides to sneak near a podium. A circuit such as this, with plenty of crunch points, can mean that if there’s a group left at the finish with some of our home-grown riders in it, anything could happen. The men’s race is probably going to be an impossible task to podium for any domestic pro, but our riders can still pull off an incredible ride. The women’s race is likely to be more level, with the top riders not having such an extensive international calendar to ride, so the difference should be less.

The Ladies

Who are the Scots?

  • Jane Barr : Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team
  • Anne Ewing : Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team
  • Eileen Roe : Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team
  • Laura Murray : Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team
  • Katie Archibald : City of Edinburgh RC
  • Claire Martin : Edinburgh RC
  • Jennifer Taylor : Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers
  • Julie Erskine : Granite City RT
  • Charline Joiner : MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
  • Gemma Neill : Pedal Power RT
  • Anda-Jay Burgess : Sandy Wallace Cycles
  • Claire Thomas : Unattached

The Scots quartet from the Breast Cancer Care Team are all very strong riders, but as I’ve suggested on Twitter, I think Eileen Roe is going to thrive in the rainy & slippy conditions tomorrow. A strong cyclo-cross rider, skilled in many disciplines & able to handle a bike in slippery conditions, Belgian sprint finishes & icy cross races, she should be able to use less energy during the race to hold position, I’m tipping her for a great ride tomorrow, top Scot on this course, in these conditions. The full podium from the Scottish champs in May will be here, with champ Jennifer Taylor & Julie Erskine riding. I’ll be really interested to see how Katie Archibald gets on, she seems like a robust rider, but potentially lacking some road racing experience, this race should help, but she will be fast & able to handle pace changes, which this course will throw up relentlessly. Charlene Joiner is another to watch, she’s been improving her road racing recently from her track background, her turn of speed in the finish could surprise others, but she has to get there first. The race will be invaluable for next years Commonwealth Games for these riders, not just for the course, but also for experiencing racing in front of large crowds, which domestic based riders will rarely have seen.

The Gents

Who are the Scots?

  • Michael Nicolson : Doltcini Flanders
  • Alex Coutts : Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
  • Gary Hand : Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes.com
  • Robert Hassan : Ibaigane Opel
  • David Lines : MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling
  • Andrew Fenn : Omega-Pharma – Quickstep
  • James McCallum : Rapha Condor JLT
  • Scott McCrossan : Rock to Roll Cycles Ltd
  • Ross Edgar : Team IG – Sigma Sport
  • Evan Oliphant : Team Raleigh
  • Robert Wardell : Trek UK
  • *Update – Craig Adams : GJS Cruise Racing (added from reserve list)
  • *Update – Andrew Whitehall : Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers (added from reserve list)
  • *Update – Peter Hale : GJS Cruise Racing (added from reserve list)

We also have a few other Scots who you can also adopt, but could ride for other parts of the UK if they choose, so I’ll not label them if they perhaps don’t want labelled. Ali Rutherford (Wheelbase/Altura/MGD) has ridden the Commie Games for Scotland previously & was on the podium at the Scottish road champs last year, his dad Jimmy, may be known to many of you. David Millar (Garmin Sharp), Malta born with a Scottish father, lived as a toddler in Forres, a teenager in Hong Kong and then global jetsetter, will be fiercely named as a true Scotsman if he gets a podium. Our newly adopted Scotsman, but not quite officially yet as he’s not quite lived in Scotland long enough, is Ben Greenwood (Team Hope Factory Racing), the popular rider who recently rode on a Scottish national team at the Ras. Don’t be surprised if he’s quite rightly one of us in the Commonwealth Games next year.

It’s unlikely the Scots will ride as a team, they’re pretty much fragmented across a wide variety of teams of different standings, although you may find a few lone wolves clubbing together to try to get something out of the race. Recent Scottish champ Gary Hand is undoubtably in form, but part of a strong team, so he may be involved in getting a result for one of them, the same with the other Scottish champs podium riders James McCallum & David Lines. McCallum has been racing visibly up front in a large number of televised criterium races recently, so his form is there, but perhaps not had time to gain the endurance for an event of this length after running about the UK for the last few weeks. Uber talent Hassan is an unknown, he’s been racing in the Basque country, the prolonged climbing in those races may not be ideal preparation for this type of event. Oliphant & Nicholson could do great rides too, Oliphant always has form, but again is racing with an ambitious Raleigh Team who will be wanting a big result. Nicholson could be a surprise to many, his diet of racing in Belgium isn’t too dissimilar from the style of course here, he has no team commitments either, so one to watch. Rab Wardell, the mountain biker is a classy road rider too, he’s been riding the world MTB circuit, including World Cup events. So not to be sniffed at & if you look at the amount of top-level road riders who have come from that scene and started performing in Grant Tours & Classics, Wardell should have some form & his social media shows he’s been taking the course preparation quite seriously.

We have two riders from the top-level teams, Millar & Fenn, I’ve got a hunch on Fenn. His teammate Cavendish is riding, so if Cav can force 2 or 3 Sky riders to destroy themselves early on to try & remove Cav, then the race gets onto a more even footing & Sky’s strength is diminished. So don’t be surprised if Fenn is left on his own by half way & the Omega Pharma quick-Step boys will be having a smile. Millar is always good, but I really don’t think it’s the course for him, if there’s a chance he gets to ride the Tour, he’ll also be riding on the more cautious side.

As you know from Champing At The Brits, I’m tipping Yorkshireman Adam Blythe for the win, after suffering through the Giro & having a rider of the quality of Cummings in support.

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Champing at the Brits

On June 23rd 2013, they’re only going & shutting down Glasgow City Centre for what will be a fantastic event, the British Cycling Road Race Championships!

The Courses

Fellow Scottish blogger @owenp has put up some information regarding the course HERE. The road race will be held on a 14.2km city centre course, the men will race 13 laps, the women 8 laps. However, the time trial will not be city centre based, but instead held near Stewarton, at first thought this seems a huge contrast in priorities of RR v TT, but read on.

The main purpose of hosting this years British champs as far as Glasgow Life are concerned, is to provide a test run for the main event, the 2014 Commonwealth Games. So with the huge expense of shutting down a major city centre, it’s no surprise that they are doing if for one day only in 2013. They’ll get all the info they need for the Commonwealths from this, there’s no need to use it for the time trial too. Based on this I’d expect the Commonwealth Games time trial to also be city centre based, perhaps not using the short sharp inclines from the road race course, but you never know. I actually think this is a very good plan that’s been set out here, it shows a fair amount of forethought and to hold the British Road Race Championships on a city centre closed circuit is a bold statement of intent, have the champs ever even been run on fully closed roads before on mainland UK, I’m not sure they have since the Isle of Man a good few years ago.

RR Course map click HERE.

TT Course map click HERE.

On the above assumptions, I’m not going to dwell too much on the TT, but concentrate more on the showpiece event, the men’s road race. As you can see from the map, the race start & finish is in Glasgow Green, which has also hosted a stage finish of the Tour of Britain. There’s some use of the pedestrianized shopping areas, like Argyle Street & Buchanan Street, but not the pedestrianized section of Sauchiehall Street, it joins on the road section of that street for obvious reasons, the permanent location of some serious obstacles would take a bit of moving. This takes it right into the heart of the city, the most visited streets, the places everybody can recognise on TV, it will also show Glasgow’s huge shopping areas to all the TV viewers, don’t forget that this is also a huge marketing opportunity that has been taken full advantage of by the hosts. We travel up & over to the West End, with no major climbs, but certainly some strength sapping inclines which are repeated for several hours, this isn’t an easy city centre course, as any rider trying to hit the sequence of lights without them changing red on St Vincent Street will attest, it takes lots of watts, this race will be gunning it.

Through Kelvingrove Park & then up again to Glasgow University, we can expect this will also be showing Glasgow in a very good light, there will be some great shots from here. Through to Byres Road, where we can expect visitors & clubmen enjoying a bit of cafe culture & some nice pubs (get your club ‘day out’ organised, you’ve plenty of options on this course for a bevvy!). We then ride uphill yet again, to Gibson Street, down & up to Park Circus, more rolling roads until we hit Montrose Street, which is a very steep little climb, should become quite painful after a few laps. This is no easy circuit, it’s worthy of a Championship, calls from some quarters of it going up the Crow are misguided, that’s too far from the finish to make much of a difference, the pro’s go up that in the big ring and really wouldn’t impact race to the extent some think, it’s a Tour cat 4 or at best a low-level cat 3.

Riders & Teams

Sky are the obvious favourites, if they field a full complement of British riders, they’ll have Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Gerraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Josh Edmonson, Luke Rowe, Ben Swift, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, then they’ll be in an incredibly strong position. But with that strength comes responsibility, it will be deemed to be up to them to remove Mark Cavendish from the running, which isn’t going to be easy on a course like this, Cav can survive very well on short steep climbs. This will likely result in a very aggressive race, with Cav’s only Omega-Pharma Quick-Step team mate being Scotsman Andrew Fenn. Elsewhere in the top ranked UCI Pro Teams, we have BMC with Steve Cummings & my top tip for this race, Adam Blythe, Garmin has only David Millar & Movistar just Alex Dowsett. So a potential threat is going to come from some of the UCI Pro Continental teams, with Team Netapp Endura fielding Russell Downing, Jonny McEvoy, Eric Rowsell & Scott Thwaites. The mostly British based UCI Continental teams like Raleigh, Rapha etc, all have riders capable of pulling off a great result, but it will take a huge bit of luck to outmaneuver the European based riders, it’s highly likely the winner will come from a UCI Pro Team. My hunch on Blythe, is based on the nature of this course & the fact that he is a rider who just needs that one break, it’s going to happen somewhere & it could be in Glasgow, the nature of the course being technical can also suit his bike handling skills, I’m still going for him regardless of his recent bad luck in races. As far as Scottish riders go, old favourites Evan Oliphant & James McCallum will surely be going well and looking for opportunities (Oliphant has just won the first event in the UK road race series, the Premier Calendar), but don’t underestimate Michael Nicholson, this circuit should suit the kind of racing he’s used to in Belgium, I expect he’ll do an impressive ride.

All the teams will let Sky do the donkey work initially, at least that’s what should happen, so expect to see some domestic teams getting riders in a break early on and then seeing Sky rip it to pieces, but perhaps leaving themselves open to a late assault once their numbers are depleted. We can expect their particular skills to be based on riding flat-out for 40mins + on French mountains, so probably not ideally suited to a technical ‘jumpy’ race with plenty of corners and lots of short ascents. Watch all the other favourites sit back and let the super team take control, by the time you’re on your 4th pint, the action should be kicking off and you can stick your head out of the pub to see what’s happening. We’ll probably not see Wiggins & Froome taking to active a roll at the sharp end, fearing a mishap for the Tour de France, so their focus may be more towards their aggressive sprinter types, like Rowe & Swift. I expect to see hard man sprinters getting podium places, so take your pick, Blythe, Rowe, Swift, Downing, Fenn, etc, but I do expect Cav not to be there, I don’t know how they’ll do it, but failing to eject him from the selection is leaving only one possibility, it’ll be a fast race.

Conclusion

If you think this is a non event, miss it at your peril, there’s household names racing on our home streets. Whether or not your one of the ‘glorified criterium’ brigade, or other doubters, you really need to get yourself out on that course & support an event of this stature, it’s going to incredible to watch. I’ll be there, hopefully on a sunny day with a pint in my hand from a suitably good vantage point, if I manage to find one, there’s absolutely no way I’m publishing where it is. Some things we need to keep to ourselves & make sure there’s not too big a queue at the bar. Viva the Champs.

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…..