A Hypothetical Nation At The ‘Worlds’

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In the midst of a political no-mans-land, with huge uncertainties over Brexit, membership of the EU & another potential Scottish independence referendum. What would that mean for a sport’s governing body, flung into a new phase of sudden responsibility, having to deal with licences, governance, memberships, insurance, online entry & websites, among many other things? If things really kick off politically, Scotland could be placing a team in the World Championships even as early as 2018, so for a bit of controversial fun, the following is a rundown of how many riders a new nation joining the UCI would be allocated, and the allocation a potentially lowly ranked country such as Scotland would be able to field in the UCI World Road Race Championships.

UCI rider allocation at the Worlds

Road Race – Women Elite (Likely rider allocation – 3)

  • Top 5 UCI ranked nations – 7 Riders
  • 6th to 15th UCI ranked nations – 6 Riders
  • 16th to 20th UCI ranked nations – 5 Riders
  • All other ranked & non-ranked nations – 3 Riders

Road Race – Women Junior (Likely rider allocation – 4 Riders)

  • Top 5 ranked Junior Nation’s Cup nations – 5 Riders
  • All other ranked & non-ranked nations – 4 Riders

Road Race – Men Elite (Likely rider allocation – 1 Rider)

*Max team allocation is 9, through any means. See LINK for more details.

  • Top 10 UCI World Ranked Nations – 9 Riders (see other caveats on link, which may reduce this number through individual riders not ranked in top 300, or allow them to get it back up to 9 though the continental rankings)
  • Top ranked nation in UCI Africa Tour – 6 Riders
  • 2nd & 3rd ranked nations in UCI Africa Tour – 3 Riders
  • 1st & 2nd ranked nations in UCI America Tour – 6 Riders
  • 3rd, 4th & 5th ranked nations in UCI America Tour – 3 Riders
  • Top ranked nation in UCI Asia Tour – 6 Riders
  • 2nd, 3rd & 4th ranked nation in UCI Asia Tour – 3 Riders
  • Top 6 ranked nations in UCI Europe Tour – 6 Riders
  • 7th to 14th ranked nations in UCI Europe Tour – 3 Riders
  • Top nation in UCI Oceania Tour – 3 riders

If not otherwise qualified through above, a nation can enter riders through the following UCI individual rankings:

A nation whose top ranked rider in the top 100 – 3 Riders

A nation whose top ranked rider is between 101st & 300th – 2 Riders

A nation whose top ranked rider is between 301st & 600th – 1 Rider (Andy Fenn, currently scraping in there at 593rd!)

If not otherwise qualified through above, a nation can enter riders through the following UCI Continental individual rankings:

  • A rider in top 10 of UCI Africa Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 25 of UCI America Tour -1 Rider
  • A rider in top 10 of UCI Asia Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 250 of UCI Europe Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 5 of UCI Oceania Tour – 1 Rider

Road Race – Men Under 23 (Likely allocation – 1 Rider)

  • Top nation UCI U23 classification in Africa Tour – 5 Riders
  • 2nd nation UCI U23 classification in Africa Tour – 4 Riders
  • 3rd to 5th nations UCI U23 classification in Africa Tour – 3 riders
  • 1st to 3rd nations UCI U23 classification in America Tour – 5 Riders
  • 4th to 6th nations UCI U23 classification in America Tour – 4 Riders
  • 7th to 10th nations UCI U23 classification in America Tour – 3 Riders
  • 1st & 2nd nations UCI U23 classification in Asia Tour – 5 Riders
  • 3rd & 4th nations UCI U23 classification in Asia Tour – 4 Riders
  • 5th to 7th nations UCI U23 classification in Asia Tour – 3 Riders
  • 1st to 15th nations UCI U23 classification in Europe Tour – 5 Riders
  • 16th to 20th nations UCI U23 classification in Europe Tour – 4 Riders
  • 21st to 27th nations UCI U23 classification in Europe Tour – 3 Riders
  • 1st nation UCI U23 classification in Oceania Tour – 5 Riders
  • 2nd nation UCI U23 classification in Oceania Tour – 3 Riders

If not otherwise qualified through above, a nation can enter riders through the following UCI Continental individual Elite (not U23) rankings:

  • A rider in top 60 of UCI Africa Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 200 of UCI America Tour -1 Rider
  • A rider in top 150 of UCI Asia Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 400 of UCI Europe Tour – 1 Rider
  • A rider in top 20 of UCI Oceania Tour – 1 Rider
  • If a nation is included in final classification of the UCI Nations’ Cup U23, but that nation is not yet qualified – 3 Riders

Road Race – Men Junior (Likely rider allocation – 3 Riders)

  • Top 10 ranked Junior Nation’s Cup nations – 6 Riders
  • 11th to 15th ranked Junior Nation’s Cup nations – 5 riders
  • 16th to 20th ranked Junior Nation’s Cup nations – 4 riders
  • All other ranked & non-ranked nations – 3 Riders

The Gist Of It

A new UCI recognised cycling nation, such as Scotland, suddenly appearing at the UCI World Championships, in a hypothetical 2016 (as that’s all we’ve got requirements for), could field the following….

  • Elite Womens Road Race – 3 Riders
  • Elite Mens Road Race – 1 Rider
  • Under 23 Womens Road Race – 4 Riders
  • Under 23 Mens Road Race – 1 Rider
  • Junior Womens Road Race – 4 Riders
  • Junior Mens Road Race – 3 Riders

What you can see from that, is that other than men’s elite racing, Scotland could get some very good representation & some incredible opportunities for riders such as Eileen Roe & Katy Archibald to take part in the Worlds Road Race, supported by high quality riders such as Charline Joiner. We have a number of talented juniors competing under the Spokes RT banner, could that be morphed into a national junior development squad? On the men’s side, there could be riders with Scottish ‘heritage’, attempting to gain worlds representation, such as Max Sciandri did with the UK team. If one of them was in the top 300, it would increase that allocation too.

Of course, it’s all hypothetical, but gives a very interesting look into the workings of the UCI rider allocation system, and the status & value that they, wrongly or rightly apply to the different continents. The carrot of competition at the worlds could boost many riders aspirations, perhaps grow some dreams, you really never know.

100% Time Trialling

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I’ve blogged about time trialling before, about the reduction in availability of what are deemed ‘suitable’ courses & the sustainability of sticking to the outdated model of standard distance, relatively flat courses. There are other ways of looking at measuring performance & progress in time trialling, than just looking at times at set distances, we could use a new method to modernise this side of the sport & open it up to appeal to a larger demographic than just some old guys with money for expensive funny bikes. Here’s one idea.

The % Method

Is there a way of measuring your performance & improvement across a season, on any length of course, on any terrain, against the best rider in the event?

I’m going to suggest that there really is, all it requires is an additional column in the event results. If a chump like me can easily create this extra column in Excel (I’ve just tried), it’s likely that it can easily become a standard template that organisers can record the times on, if so desired.

If riders times were displayed as a percentage of the winners time, there’s a multitude of uses we could put this information to, here’s just a few….

  • At the top of the table, the leading riders can get an idea of how form is improving or otherwise as they get closer to championship dates. If their % gap on their rivals in increasing, the training is going well, but if it’s closing, it’s time to look at improving. This can be measured not in seconds over the same distance, but in all distances in %, which allows direct comparison without taking into consideration the changes made by weather, courses & distance.
  • Any rider, in any position, can see how they’re improving relative to their closest rivals, club mates, or random benchmarks, irrespective of the course or weather.
  • If you change an aero setup or your training, a sudden increase or decrease in % against your rivals may indicate how good (or bad) the new setup or training is, regardless of the distance of the event.
  • Rapidly improving riders can be easily & quickly identified across a season or just a few weeks, a shortening of % and how it relates to not just winners, but various riders in the event will be very easy to spot, no matter where in the results the rider currently lies.

The Effect

If the riders target moves away from aiming for specific times over specific distances, then having results recorded as a percentage of winners time can help us move away from set distance courses.

We could use the type of roads cyclists generally choose to ride on, more suitable roads for cycling, we could remove the necessity to measure the courses to be exactly 10 or 25 miles, we could pick a course anywhere & retain a comparative measurement to performance against any other course. The focus could switch to reducing your % loss to the winner, or a comparison % loss to your ‘rivals’, be they club mates, enemies, chain gang buddies etc.

So if this was adopted to be included in the results, you can compare performances across various events, on different terrain, different weather, all year-long. You can see much easier which courses suit you better, or where you need to improve. Chasing specific times on different days, even on the same course can be a losing strategy sometimes. If conditions are bad & all times are slower, you may be upset with your recorded time, but in reality, your % loss to the winner may be less, you may actually have performed better in relative terms than the ‘float day’.

Technicalities

If we’re going to do this, it may require a little thought on how to go about it, plus exactly what you need to stick into your Excel sheet. We also don’t want to get tied up too many decimal points, 2 will suffice as I’ll show in my example below.

To keep things simple, if somebody won a ’25’ in exactly 50 minutes, that’s 3000 seconds. The minimum gap we see on results is 1 second, that’s approx 0.03% of the winners time, so 2 decimal places will be fine for every time trial up to around 3 times the winners time. So unless you’re riding one of the incredibly few 100 mile TT’s in Scotland, and your gap to somebody else is less than a second, this will work for every other TT, than that one.

As an example, here’s my revised finish sheet for the first five riders in my theoretical ’25’.

TT_percentages

Max Tester won the event, he gets 0% allocated to him, as all winners of events do. Two minutes down was Chanty McMuffin, his % difference was 4% down on the winner (2 minutes, i.e. 120 seconds, divided by winners 3000 seconds, all multiplied by 100 to give a percentage). As we can see, Marjorie Gains was only one second down, her % loss was 4.03%, so each second is accounted for with just the two decimal places being included in the results. As we go down the results, 5 minutes equates to a 10% loss on the 50 minutes of the winner. Then we have the hour specialist, doing as he does best & riding for exactly one hour, but losing 10 minutes, which is 20%.

The formula you’d enter into the Excel file starting at cell B2 if it was laid out the same would be as follows. Then you just copy it down the page, the $ sign means those cells remain tagged to the winners time, while all others will change. Remember to format the cells as a percentage & restrict it to 2 decimal places.

=(((E2*3600)+(F2*60)+G2)-(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2))/(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2)

Conclusion

In every event, we’ll have varying times, one second will have a different % value depending on the winners times. This allows a comparison, not against time, but against performance relative to the winner, which gives a very different perspective. This also allows every single competitor to compare themselves across different events, different weather conditions on the same course etc. A whole new way of thinking about things.

There must surely be multiple ways in which time trialling can be modernised, this is just one. It may remove the perceived need for standard distance courses, it may initially just allow riders to compare performances against other riders on the same course, but in different conditions. It could allow riders to see how their form is coming on as a season progresses, but if things remain the same, courses will continue to disappear & time trialling will become a forgotten discipline.

Event Strategy

Embed from Getty ImagesI’ve pondered various ideas in the past, on how the event structure in Scotland can benefit riders development & the sport in general. It seems that very little has been done on forming an event structure in sufficient time before the season begins, and while I applaud the introduction of a women’s road series, there are some clashes with the British women’s road race series, which was released months before the Scottish series was announced. I can accept that in Scotland, clubs often don’t register events in plenty of time, so let’s be clear that I’m not solely apportioning blame to Scottish Cycling. If things as basic as looking up the British Cycling website are happening, we obviously need some changes, here’s some of my thoughts.

Event Registration

One problem we have is that events are registered intermittently, some clubs are very quick, others not so.  Events seem to pop up throughout the year, whether this is an issue with finding an organiser, or that folks don’t understand the need to get events registered quickly, I’m not sure, but this needs fixed in order to allow proper event planning. What I’d propose (although I expect we’ll have a few people get all angry about it) is to have a tiered event registration fee. If we set a date for registering road events, say 31st January (what’s anybody else doing in January anyway), then very publicly state that any events registered after that will incur an additional £50 event registration fee, I’m very sure that the majority would be registered with Scottish Cycling by that date. Obviously, the method for doing this would have to be stated quite clearly, plus this isn’t necessarily a club being tied down to a certain date at this point, just stating that they will be running an event & then the calendar can be formed in a much better manner. We had a few milder winters where road events started creeping into the dates as early as the end of February, lets knock this on the head, road races before mid March are going to be horrible affairs, it’s freezing now & it’s May! I’m excluding time trials from this additional registration fee, the national championships are generally on set dates & the others really don’t interfere with the road calendar too much. The £50 additional fee is for making the calendar construction better for everybody, it’s not a stealth tax, in an ideal world no clubs would have to pay it. So all it takes is a club meeting in January 2016, decide your organiser & your race (which you probably already know), register it & you’re not going to incur any more charges. If you can’t even organise a visit to the pub in January with your mates, you’re probably not going to run a decent event anyway.

Specific Annual Dates

We need a coherent list of specific dates for road events in Scotland. Resources are limited, so in order to plan things correctly, we first have to know what is possible, it’s incredibly tricky to have photo finish & moto marshalls at two local national events at one time. So lets spread them out, this also lets riders know very early what they’re training for, even before events get registered, which in the age where many more riders have coaches or training plans, this is crucial for cycling to follow the modernisation of sport & training. We can have slots allocated for all the national road series, track championships etc, we can issue that list in November 2015, training plans can be set accordingly, venues provisionally booked before anything else takes precedent. It’s up to Scottish Cycling to encourage organisers to fill those slots, then build the other events around those major events. We could have some attention paid to the following points  (some of which have been done in the past):

  • Mens & Womens series could be run on the same day, on the same course, sharing manpower, in some circumstances, but not all. Or we could even have 2 different local clubs running each event, sharing marshalls across the events, but depends on the organisers, it shouldn’t be forced onto anybody. (get together & talk with others clubs if you have some ideas)
  • If photo finish & NEG are required, make sure events are not on same day of weekend.
  • When setting these dates, avoid school holidays (across Scotland, not just central belt holidays), big red areas in the SC spreadsheet to help them sort out officials & clubs sort out helpers easier. If folks want to organise in the red areas, that’s up to them.
  • Once we have a coherent structure (which may take a couple of years in reality, as ideas develop) these dates should be relatively continuous from year-to-year. That provides an inbuilt structure & we’re not re-inventing the wheel every February, it should make things much simpler in the future if there’s an annual structure in place.
  • Run the Scottish road race championships on the same day as the British regional championships, as was done for a few years. Currently the Scottish championships clash with a round of the British womens road race series. To avoid any conflicts & get the best & most prestigious field, it’s best to avoid any team loyalty & avoid all potential clashes with major UK events, the only weekend to ensure that is the weekend the regional championships are run. It’s bad enough filling a womens road race field in Scotland, but scheduling it on the same day as a round of a major UK series is going to cause problems for the organiser & potentially the riders. The same goes for all events, the British Cycling major event calendar comes out very early, it’s easy to check.

The Regional Plan

This is where things get tricky, this bit requires cooperation & a fair bit of planning, which is usually where things fall apart in cycling, but it can be done.

I’ve mooted the idea of progressive regional & national leagues in the past, some of which exist in some manner & are quite successful. The ideas are correct, but there need to be some tweaks applied, in order to balance the events against a category system which looks like it’s here to stay, but which doesn’t really work very well in Scotland.

  • Regional Club Series: There are many more 4th category riders in Scotland than there are any others, so there need to be events provided for these riders. I think the biggest mistake that has been made with these events in the past is that the series is based on individual standings, this simply does not work. The riders who win each event, gain a 3rd category licence, but they have a high individual series standing, so have been allowed to ride all the series events. This has the effect of having riders of a higher category than the event is meant for taking all the points. The current 4th cats looking to move up are locked out of upgrading their category, the points are not awarded to the riders who have been upgraded. The lower category series placings should only ever be listed as team only. It can’t work productively any other way. This allows the winning & high-placed riders to move onto other events & race against higher category riders, developing their talent. While the club losing these riders to the higher category events will feel the need to replace them with other riders, opening up a feeding system, riders getting encouraged to enter actual races, currently there’s little incentive, if we want riders to pin a number on their back, we need something like this. Teams from each region would be allocated a certain number of riders in each event & if we’re producing too many 3rd cat riders, then later events could be open to 3rd & 4th category riders, but definitely not the early season ones, there’s an idea in the national series (below) to counter that.
  • National Series: We don’t currently have enough riders in each region to fill E/1/2/3 events, so these events would have to form a national series. although they don’t provide licence points, I’d like to see this series being mixed up with a small number of early season APR’s, with groups being set solely on race category. Then add in some of the major road races, you’ll have a series with a bit of a chance for a talented 3rd cat to be fighting for the overall early in the season. That’s the kind of thing that can spur a rider onto greater things, even if they’re out of the running later on in the season. There’s been little or no innovation in the structure of the national race series recently, it’s been more of an afterthought if we’re all honest about it. Some people are not even aware there is one, such is the low-key nature of it, maybe we need a bit of controversy to get people talking about it again?

The above series ideas would provide each region with a grass-roots champion cycling club every season, this would be based on their ability to develop riders new to racing & feed them into a race structure. We’d also have a platform for our higher category riders to develop. I’d almost be tempted to plan national series to deliberately clash with some of the premier calendar type events down south, to stop negative racing (riders waiting for the big name to attack) & making the playing field a little more level to encourage riders to enter & know they’ll not be destroyed by a pro in the first 20km. It disadvantages a few riders, but may work better for the sport in general.

In Summary

  • Check needed regarding the British Cycling major events calendar for clashes.
  • Run any lower category race series as club ranking ONLY. Otherwise you’re compromising the structure of the series & removing many riders from getting licence points, counter productive to what everybody is trying to achieve.
  •  Charge clubs extra for registering events after 31st January, that should allow the calendar to be compiled.
  • Plan calendar around major events, try to establish an annual slot for these, then build the rest of the calendar around them. Not the other way around.

Calendar Conundrum

Embed from Getty ImagesOn the face of it, organising a racing season should be relatively simple, but things are never as easy as they seem from the outside. A mixture of misplaced nostalgia, defunct championships & “I want my ‘traditional’ race date” mentality create various issues across the road season in Scotland. It needs a total re-think, I’m keen on the ‘destroy & rebuild’ approach to fixing this annual issue once & for all, it’s really the only way to fix the major issues in a short space of time. A softy-softy approach may fix minor issues, but to truly change the season structure in Scotland, we need big change, all at once to clear up everything into a coherent event structure & not leave any untidy strands running in the background.

Time-Trial Championships

If the rumours are true, then the imminent introduction of a CTT type organisation in Scotland (Cycling Time Trials run all time trials down south), solely running time trials, it may be a huge blessing in disguise for Scottish Cycling. A tired format of fixed distance time trials could be rejuvenated under the control of a new set of people & ideas. I’ve suggested this before as one way in which Scottish time-trialling could go, maybe it’s going to finally happen, I welcome it if it does. It could recharge the discipline & help it come up with solutions to lost courses, defunct historical championships & perhaps an alternative to the pre-occupation with imperial fixed distances.

You could argue that British Cycling are able to focus much more on the side of road racing, track racing & mass participation, rather than catering for, what could we say, the older gent’s sport of flat, fixed distance time trials. Maybe Scottish Cycling would also benefit, I’ve pointed out before that race levies across all disciplines won’t even pay them anything like a full-time staff members salary, so it may free up some resources to concentrate on other disciplines, British Cycling seem to do ok without time-trials. Of course, a big fight with a new governing body will be counter-productive, a low-key relatively public disagreement to show their commitment to the sport would suffice, followed by a mutually beneficial agreement between the two organisations & we then have real progress in all disciplines.

The effect of a separate volunteer-run time-trial governing body (who have zero interest in becoming the UCI affiliated representative of cycling in Scotland), would be quite large in my opinion. It’s really shouldn’t be seen as competition by Scottish Cycling (although, we can imagine it may very well be treated as that), it really takes an admin role away from them, which in real terms may actually save some money. As in ‘Sport V Funding‘, the very approximate supposition of 300 riders per weekend racing for 30 weekends a year raises £3.95 in levies per rider, which looks on paper to be a healthy sum of over £35,000. But if we consider that the insurance is actually through British Cycling, who charge £3.00 for races down south, we can assume that SC are making £0.95 on each levy paid to them, which leaves a well below minimum wage salary of £8,550 to cover all admin across all disciplines, it’s not really enough. So losing time-trialling isn’t really going to break the bank, or un-tick any boxes in development funding, which isn’t really associated with time-trialling on busy roads, it’s more focussed on youth, track & closed circuit racing, a world away in sporting terms.

The removal of these championships from the Scottish Cycling medal list would free up plenty of difficult admin constraints in the road calendar. We have the ’10’, ’25’, ’50’, 100′, ‘Olympic TT’ & ‘Hill Climb’, all dominating a weekend where clashes with other major events are avoided. We can forget this issue if it’s not run by the same governing body, but I’m sure any huge clashes will be avoided, it opens the door to have road & time-trial major events or championships on the same weekend.

This also removes the Scottish Cycling problem of having to enforce UCI equipment rules on their time-trial events, a universally unpopular set of affairs in the time-trial community. Currently time trials in Scotland don’t actually conform to UCI rules, as non compliant bikes & positions are allowed, if these events were run by a non-UCI registered governing body, it no longer becomes a problem for SC. As BC & CTT do, the ‘Olympic’ style championship could be run concurrently, with riders from both sets of bodies competing against each other. It would simply be called the ‘Time Trial Championship’ by Scottish Cycling.

Key Events

So if we’ve got time trialling removed, it’s then much easier to organise a road & track calendar, it makes things much simpler. We can arrange things by choosing a set weekend for championships, with a bit of thought we can design a progressive & more importantly a consistent calendar, by getting it right first time.

The men’s & women’s road race championships appear to now have slotted into the gap in the Elite UK calendar taken up by the BC regional champs. While many would like to say, “but we’re not a region”, while I agree, I think that’s relatively irrelevant to the purpose of this slot in the calendar. It’s a weekend where there are no other top-level events across the UK, like Premier Calendar type events, so all our best riders should be free to ride the national championship, without any issues with teams wanting them to be elsewhere. It almost guarantees the top UK-based Scottish riders turn up, they’ve got no other events to ride. It also provides a substantial amount of points for our upcoming riders keen to take part in the British road race championships in June. These events should be seen primarily as a tool to provide opportunities for our riders to progress. Helping the top riders move onto bigger events, while allowing the aspirational riders to see where the benchmark of performance really is, they can race against the best Scottish riders & see how they compare, for riders with ambitions, this is very beneficial.

The track champs are also key to the Scottish calendar, in recent years they’ve been moved all over the place, some at short notice, which is far from ideal. Track riders, more than any other discipline tend to peak for specific events, this requires a plan set several months out from the event. We need this pinned down, but far enough away from the British champs to allow a 2nd peak to be built into the training to hit best form for both events. (Which is why I really can’t fathom the way athletics do selection, they tend to run ‘trials’ reasonably close to the key selection events. If the athletes were training correctly for the big event, you’d assume they’d be in a build phase during the ‘trials’. Which forces all the athletes to hit their best form too early, in order to gain selection.)

The Gist Of It

As I’ve said, Scottish Cycling losing time trials may not be a bad thing for all disciplines. It allows SC to focus on fewer disciplines, increasing their involvement in developing them. We could also see time-trialling develop outside the constraints of UCI rules & the cost to the rider drop (CTT charge £2 per rider, while SC charge £3.95, due to their insurance being broadly based on the more costly BC road race insurance).

The road & track calendar would become much less complicated, removing the need to allocate specific weekends to the vast number of disciplines that require individual treatment. It would be up to the new time-trial governing body to come up with new ideas to develop the sport, encourage younger riders to take part & generally revive what may become a dead-end as courses & traffic issues grow year-on-year.

What we need are consistent event dates every year, the calendar released as early as possible & some other major changes. These changes may not make some of the more old-school happy, but the days of certain events assuming that their date is protected should be gone. The event strategy has to step on some toes in order to work, but if somebody is unwilling to move, it’s unlikely they’re going to be one of the progressive types that the sport needs to push things forward.

This weekends Crit on the Campus, run by Stirling Bike Club is a prime example of how things should be, let’s design a calendar that encourages more of this type of inclusive, well planned & innovative event. We can be progressive, we can be inventive, but that requires a little destruction, a field needs plowed to allow the new seedlings to grow. It really all depends on whether or not those controlling our sport see the need to alter things & grasp opportunities, I really hope they do.

 

 

Scottish Commonwealth Games Cycling Medals

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The Medals

1970 – Brian Temple – Silver – 10 Miles Scratch Race

1986 – Eddie Alexander – Bronze – Sprint

2002 – Chris Hoy – Gold – Kilo

2002 – Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Marco Librizzi, Ross Edgar – Bronze – Team Sprint

2006 – Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Ross Edgar – Gold – Team Sprint

2006 – Ross Edgar – Silver – Sprint

2006 – Kate Cullen – Bronze – Points Race

2006 – Ross Edgar – Bronze – Keirin

2006 – Chris Hoy – Bronze – Kilo

2006 – James McCallum – Bronze – Scratch Race

2010 – David Millar – Gold – Time Trial

2010 – David Millar – Bronze – Road Race

2010 – Jenny Davis, Charline Joiner – Silver – Team Sprint

The Games

Here’s a brief resume of cycling events at the Commonwealths throughout the years, since they’ve been called the Commonwealth Games starting at Hamilton in 1930.

Hamilton, 1930:

No Cycling

London, England 1934:

Three track events were included, the time trial won by Australian Dunc Gray who now has a velodrome named after him, plus the 1000 yard sprint and a 10 mile scratch race. These were held at Fallowfield stadium in Manchester. No Scottish cycling medals.

Sydney, Australia 1938:

We had road & track events in this Games, with a road time trial won by Hennie Binneman of South Africa. The track events were dominated by Australia, winning gold & silver in both the time trial & 100 yard sprint, England took gold & silver in the 10 mile scratch. No Scottish cycling medals.

Auckland, New Zealand 1950:

The 4000m individual pursuit was included this time, along with the time trial, 1000m sprint, 10 mile scratch race & road race. Australia again dominating, with a possible 15 medals up for grabs, they won nine of them, with gold in four of the five events. No Scottish cycling medals.

Vancouver, Canada 1954:

Time trial, Sprint, Individual Pursuit & 10 mile Scratch race on the track, then the road road were contested at these Games. Equal first in the track time trial was awarded to Dick Ploog & Alfred Swift, both clocking 1:12. No Scottish cycling medals.

Cardiff, Wales 1958:

The format of track time trial, sprint, individual pursuit & scratch race continues, along with the road race. Notable in these games is silver in the individual pursuit to Tom Simpson of England. No Scottish cycling medals.

Perth, Australia 1962:

On the track, the time trial, sprint, individual pursuit & scratch race were contested, along with a road race. No Scottish cycling medals.

Kingston, Jamaica 1966:

Roger Gibbon of Trinidad & Tobago won both the track time trial & sprint, cycling commentator Hugh Porter (England) won the individual pursuit with teammate Ian Alsop winning the 10 mile scratch. The Isle of Man’s Peter Buckley won the road race, you may know his name from the British junior road race series trophy. No Scottish cycling medals.

Edinburgh, Scotland 1970:

With Scotland’s first Commonwealth medal, Brian Temple wins silver in the 10 Mile Scratch Race. Also included in these Games was the Tandem Sprint, along with track time trial, sprint, individual pursuit & road race. (The first Meadowbank Track League was also run in 1970 on this new 250m wooden track, it was organised by Alan Nisbet who also won it!). We’ve also got some notable names in here, it’s a star-studded line up, with medalists including Ian Hallam & Danny Clark.

Christchurch, New Zealand 1974:

A team pursuit is added to the format, with an expanding number of cycling events including track time trial, sprint, individual pursuit, 10 miles scratch, tandem sprint & road race. England’s Phil Griffiths, now a prolific team manager took silver in the road race, Geoff Cooke was in the tandem gold winning team, he;s still regularly seen coaching and riding masters events. No Scottish cycling medals.

Edmonton, Canada 1978:

This year really starts to throw some names I’ve seen in ‘The Comic’ in my youth, the same format introduced in 1974 is used in Edmonton. Medalists include Tony Doyle, Gordon Singleton, Gary & Shane Sutton, Phil Anderson. No Scottish cycling medals.

Brisbane, Australia 1982:

Into the modern era now, included is a 100km team time trial & no tandem sprinting, but we get more complete results on the internet from here on, so Scottish performances can be better monitored. Successful future continental pro’s Malcolm Elliot & Steve Bauer took gold & silver in the road race, but Australia are still dominating overall. Scotland’s Davy Whitehall has sneaked into the results, with and 8th place in the 4000m individual pursuit. No Scottish cycling medals.

Edinburgh, Scotland 1986:

Eddie Alexander stepped up and took a Bronze for Scotland at Meadowbank in the sprint. There’s an excellent article on him in Veloveritas HERE. Sprint legend Gary Neiwand took gold in the event. England’s Paul Curran won the road race and a youthful Chris Boardman was part of a bronze team pursuit squad.

Auckland, New Zealand 1990:

Australia & New Zealand battled out most of the gold medals in these Games, with Welsh lady Louise Jones winning the sprint with the introduction of female sprint & pursuit events. No Scottish cycling medals.

Victoria, Canada 1994:

Womens events expanded a little, with the points race added to the sprint & pursuit. Brad McGee & Stuart O’Grady of Australia had a very good Games, with McGee winning the pursuit, O’Grady the Scratch & both were part of the gold medal winning team pursuit squad, which recorded a reasonably ‘modern’ time of 4:10, another era is dawning, the battle between well-funded national track teams. No Scottish cycling medals.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1998:

A womens road race & time trial added to the format for these Games. Notable names are Bradley Wiggins & Colin Sturgess taking silver in the team pursuit, Jason Queally silver in the kilo & Michael Rogers winning the scratch race. No Scottish cycling medals.

Manchester, England 2002:

Chris Hoy triumphantly appears on the Commonwealth stage with a gold medal in the kilo, then teaming up with Craig MacLean Marco Librizzi & Ross Edgar for bronze in the team sprint (3 riders in each ride, but 4 can be used in different heats). A successful Games for cycling in Scotland, considering the serious lack of medals in the past.

We have a full Scottish team list available for the cycling events as follows. Caroline Alexander, Sally Ashbridge, Jo Cavill, Caroline Cook, Katrina Hair, Russell Anderson, Richard Chapman, Ross Edgar, Chris Hoy,Alistair Kay, Marco Librizzi, Craig MacLean, James McCallum, Jason MacIntyre, David Millar, Ross Muir, Michael Pooley, Alexander Ross & Duncan Urquhart. Although I think David Millar opted to snub the Games and rode a 2-up TT somewhere in France instead.

Melbourne, Australia 2006:

More Scottish success, with gold in the team sprint with Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean & Ross Edgar. Ross Edgar also took silver in the sprint, then a cluster of bronzes, with Kate Cullen in the points race, Ross Edgar in the Keirin, Chris Hoy in the kilo & James McCallum in the scratch race. A hugely successful Games for Scottish cycling, the best ever.

Squad list:

  • Alex Coutts – Road Race
  • Ross Edgar – Track Sprint Events
  • Chris Hoy – Track Sprint Events
  • Marco Librizzi – Track Sprint Events
  • Craig MacLean – Track Sprint Events
  • Gareth Montgomerie – Mountain Bike Cross Country
  • Evan Oliphant – Road Race
  • James Ouchterlony – Mountain Bike Cross Country
  • Duncan Urquhart – Road Race
  • Robert Wardell – Mountain Bike Cross Country

Women’s

  • Kate Cullen – Track Points Race and Road Race
  • Ruth McGavigan – Mountain Bike Cross Country
  • Katrina Hair

Delhi, India 2010:

Professional rider David Millar won the time trial for Scotland & took bronze in the road race, while Jenny Davis & Charline Joiner took silver in the team sprint, another very good Games, with medals in events Scotland hadn’t performed in before at Commonwealth Games.

Scotland were represented on the track by Ross Edgar, Andrew Fenn, James McCallum, Evan Oliphant, John Paul, Chris Pritchard, Callum Skinner, Kevin Stewart, Kate Cullen, Jenny Davis, Charline Joiner & Eileen Roe.

Here are the Scottish riders & results from 2010 in the road events.

Men
Event Cyclist(s) Time Rank
40 km Time Trial David Millar 1
Evan Oliphant 11
Andrew Fenn 14
167 km Road Race Ross Crebar DNF
Andrew Fenn 13
David Lines DNF
James McCallum DNF
David Millar 3
Evan Oliphant 21
Women
Event Cyclist(s) Time Rank
29 km Time Trial Pippa Handley 16
100 km Road Race Jane Barr 35
Kate Cullen 17
Anne Ewing 37
Pippa Handley 31
Eileen Roe 20
Claire Thomas 24

Glasgow, Scotland 2014

Riders selected by discipline as follows (some may be listed more than once if in multiple disciplines):

Mountain Bike (Women):

  • Kerry MacPhee
  • Lee Craigie
  • Jessica Roberts

Mountain Bike (Men):

  • Grant Ferguson
  • Kenta Gallagher
  • Gareth Montgomerie

Para Cycling (Women):

  • Laura Cluxton
  • Fiona Duncan (pilot)
  • Aileen McGlynn
  • Louise Haston (pilot)

Para Cycling (Men):

  • Neil Fachie
  • Craig McLean (pilot)

Track Sprint (Women)

  • Jenny Davis
  • Eleanor Richardson

Track Sprint (Men):

  • Jonathon Biggin
  • Bruce Croall
  • John Paul
  • Christopher Pritchard
  • Callum Skinner

Track Endurance (Women):

  • Katie Archibald
  • Charline Joiner
  • Eileen Roe
  • Anna Turvey

Track Endurance (Men):

  • James McCallum
  • Evan Oliphant
  • Alistair Rutherford
  • Mark Stewart

Road Race (Women):

  • Gemma Neill
  • Katie Archibald
  • Anne Ewing
  • Charline Joiner
  • Eileen Roe
  • Claire Thomas

Road Race (Men):

  • Jack Pullar
  • Andy Fenn
  • Grant Ferguson
  • James McCallum
  • David Millar
  • Evan Oliphant

Time Trial (Women):

  • Katie Archibald
  • Lucy Coldwell
  • Anna Turvey

Time Trial (Men):

  • Andy Fenn
  • David Millar

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.

Quali’s for the Comi’s – Track

* Post British Track Champs update coming in early October.

Commonwealth Games Qualification for the Scottish Cycling team, that subject littered with controversy, accusations, and now more relevant as it’s going to be in Glasgow, the home territory will surely create one hell of a fight. It’s quite early, but the coming season is very important, most of the qualification will be done in 2013, so it’s important that we know how riders qualify.

In this blog post, I’ll just limit it to the track squad, as I assume the road & mtb teams will be more difficult to predict, also it’s likely to be based on some extrapolation of UCI points for determining how many riders we actually get, so that’s for another day & further research.

Ok, first up, what are the Commonwealth Games track events we’re talking about…

Women:

  • Sprint
  • Para-Sport Sprint B Tandem
  • 500m Time Trial
  • Para-Sport 1000m Time Trial B Tandem
  • 3000m Individual Pursuit
  • 25km Points Race
  • 10km Scratch Race

Men:

  • Sprint
  • Para-Sport Sprint B Tandem
  • Team Sprint
  • 1000m Time Trial
  • Par-Sport 1000m Time Trial B Tandem
  • Keirin
  • 4000m Individual Pursuit
  • 4000m Team Pursuit
  • 40km Points Race
  • 20km Scratch Race

As you can see there’s some disparity in the events for each gender, very different to the Olympics these days, but possibly the reason is partly due to there being very few female track riders from outside the UK countries, Australia & Canada, but would be very nice to have more events, nothing we can do for 2014 but hopefully later Commonwealth Games will have a bit more equality.

What’s interesting here is that we have no omnium or madison, but the kilo, 500m TT, Scratch, Points & Pursuits are medal events in their own right, harking back to ‘the good old days’ of Olympic competition, which is rumoured to be returning.

So lets get down to the qualification process, Scottish Cycling have released a document detailing the requirements, you can download that from the link below.

Scottish Cycling Selection Policy

So the technicalities are that riders have to set the times on a UCI approved 250m velodrome, with a temperature correction set to 24 degrees (don’t ask me how you work that out, must be a BC thing). The timed events are based on the 2011 worlds podium averages, then a certain percentage is added on for each event, so we get the following qualification times required for each event.

Men (timed events):

  • Individual Pursuit: 4:30.396
  • Team Pursuit: 4:08.175
  • Sprint (200m): 10.394s
  • Kilo: 1:02.889
  • Team Sprint Man 1 (lap time): 17.901s
  • Team Sprint Man 2 (lap time): 13.529s
  • Team Sprint Man 3 (lap time): 13.95s

Men (Scratch & Points):

  • Flying Start 3000m: 3:28
  • Flying Start 500m: 30s

Women (timed events):

  • Individual Pursuit: 3:41.581
  • Sprint (200m): 11.465s
  • 500m TT: 35.127

Women (Scratch & Points):

  • Flying Start 2000m: 2:29
  • Flying Start 500m: 32.3s

The Para times are all to be confirmed, but we can be pretty sure who’s going to be riding those events already, for the woman we expect Aileen McGlynn piloted by Fiona Duncan, then the men with Neil Fachie piloted by Craig MacLean.

Who’s going to be within a shout for these places then, there’s a lot of emerging talent in sprinting with Callum Skinner & John Paul, these guys are very likely to appear as part of the team sprint squad, alongside Chris Hoy. It’s possible that Craig MacLean could line up for a Commonwealth Games without affecting his appearance as a tandem pilot, but unlikely as there will be some timing issues for the events, so I’ll go with my initial 3 for the team sprint places. I’m also going to go for Sir Chris as the number 1 rider in the Keirin & not riding the Sprint (we may be allowed more than one on Commonwealth Games), then Skinner & Paul taking the other places in Keirin & Sprint. The kilo could be interesting, the only rider who been posting times close to the qualification, is Bruce Croall, but we don’t yet know what the other sprinters can do in an event that BC don’t encourage them to ride. Or will Sir Chris attempt to finish his career with a gold medal in the event that initially made him famous, could be an exciting finale to a glittering career?

In the endurance events, could we have a couple of domestic riders capable of getting close to that pursuit qualification time if they specifically trained for it, Silas Goldsworthy & Ben Peacock? Silas got a tremendous 4th place in his first attempt at the British Pursuit champs this year, here’s his write up on Veloveritas. If Peacock can transform his TT speed into the very different high rpm required for a pursuit, he could be getting close too.

Then previous bronze medallist in the Scratch race, with that Cav boy winning the gold, James McCallum is likely to be challenging for a place in the points & scratch. I’ve just noticed the Ross Edgar has signed for a road team in 2013, the story is here on Velo UK. I think this is a cunning plan to contest the bunch races at the Commonwealth Games, he knows he’s not quite quick enough anymore to make the Team Sprint squad, so this could be a very smart move on his part, I expect to see him there, he can race bunch events, he’s regularly ridden in track leagues in the past. With the new indoor track, we don’t really know who is going to emerge, the 2013 Scottish Track Champs are likely to be a goldmine of talent, should be very exciting ot see who emerges. Unfortunately I doubt we’ll have a team pursuit team representing Scotland, the resources needed for that are huge just in track booking terms to be able to compete with the Aussies, ,Kiwi’s, English (basically the GB squad) and a likely strong team from Wales. So that needs another 4 years to develop.

As for the ladies, we have sprinter Jenny Davis, but nobody else who’s close to posting the qualification times required. Then in the bunch races theres Charline Joiner, Eileen Roe & Kayleigh Brogan, all very talented endurance riders who will surely be getting places in the Games at Glasgow. I think there’s a good chance of getting a medal with this group of riders, perhaps more likely than in the men’s endurance events? Again, there’s scope for some more talent to appear over the coming year with the Chris Hoy velodrome, so another interesting year ahead on the boards.

p.s. I apologise if I’ve missed anybody obvious in this, let me know and I’ll post some updates as time gets closer to selection.

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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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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Scratch & Sniff

If you follow any posts on Braveheart, there’s currently one where Martin Harris (one of Scotland’s champions in promotion of cycle racing & facilities) has stated that he will be running the Scottish Scratch Championships at Caird Park track in Dundee. It’s provoked some comments & there have been some tweets recently on same subject, some suggesting that with a world-class facility available, holding a Scottish Track Championship outdoors is about as welcome as a UKIP leader in an Edinburgh pub. So its probably best to provide a balanced view on this and try to deduce the reasons, benefits & disadvantages of holding championship events outside of the new indoor velodrome.

What’s happening..

From the onlookers point of view, last years Scottish track championships were in a bit of chaos, it was unknown whether the velodrome would be fully operational by the end of the season to run any events. As it turned out, most of the track championships were rained off & Glasgow hosted a large number of championship events indoors towards the end of the year once the track was functioning, alongside a Braveheart funding event.

This year we expected better, but the dates for national championships only appear to be getting allocated now, which is a little confusing, especially in the year before a Commonwealth Games, which is where the disorganisation & communication issues most people associate with Scottish Cycling rear their head for yet another year. Surely it’s not too hard to let riders know at the beginning of the year when they need to peak for events, there’s a lot of young riders out there who are training properly, they need to know when these events are on the calendar. Maybe next year eh?

So this leads us to the Scratch race, for those who don’t know, it’s a bunch race on the track, 15km long and the first rider over the line from the group on the leading lap is the winner. It’s a simple as it gets for track events, don’t lose a lap & win the sprint or ride away solo. But the good old internal politics of cycle racing in Scotland stop this being quite as simple as it should be. Caird Park has hosted this event for the past few years, right back to the late 80’s (I think, open to being corrected). Caird Park has recently been upgraded, with Martin Harris & his team raising a huge £320,000 to revive the track to better than its former glory, even removing the hedge & replacing it with a barrier, which removes some historical hedge tactics, it’s a vast improvement overall. Caird Park deserves support.

What about the ‘other’ facilities?

This leads us to the current situation, with an indoor velodrome & two outdoor facilities, the revamped 400m Caird Park & the outdoor wooden 250m track at Meadowbank. Track cycling in Scotland could go one of two ways:

Scenario 1: The Chris Hoy Velodrome gets all the events, all the support & the outdoor tracks become redundant.

Scenario 2: The outdoor tracks become ‘feeder’ facilities, developing talent & skills, promoting events & then filtering that developed talent towards major events at the indoor facility.

The latter scenario is how things should be working, but it’s hard to see that the support exists outside some very hard-working groups & individuals at both the outdoor facilities. They’ve been fighting for years to keep their facilities & talent development alive, essentially taking Scottish track racing to its current level before the glitzy showcase stadium we’ve all been dreaming about arrived. These people’s work shouldn’t be forgotten, or their input overlooked, Scottish Cycling could learn a lot by taking these groups & individuals opinions seriously.

Multiple tracks?

More needs to be done to utilise the outdoor facilities, these facilities need to generate some income & get used by the public, if they don’t we’ll lose them. With the popularity of cycling in the UK at an all time high, with track cycling having provided so many medals over so many recent Olympic Games, now shouldn’t be a hard time to devote some resources to making sure we keep these facilities running, they can benefit the indoor facility massively by providing talented riders to race on a bigger stage. They can also provide a much cheaper alternative for clubs to run track days & beginner sessions, they both have very different benefits. With Caird Park’s shallow banking, it can provide an ideal environment for new track riders who are afraid of steep banking & very young riders who can’t ride quick enough to stay up on the 250m tracks. Meadowbank has virtually the same dimensions as Glasgow, so everything you learn there is relevant to Glasgow (apart from the back straight head wind obviously). Both are ideal places to learn important skills & racecraft, both need to remain in operation & importantly, they can both still support events.

Demand for time at Glasgow is also huge, so without other facilities available there is a big danger of under supplying the enormous demand for track time, the amount of riders accredited is getting very large now, people want track riding. There’s also a danger in relying & focussing one discipline at one facility in Scotland, what if it was unusable for a few months or weeks, we’d have no Scottish track cycling, not supporting existing facilities is suicide. Remember that Manchester was shut for some time after some guy rode a mountain bike over its roof, hence the barbed wire on the concrete structure leading up to the roof now.

Where should championships be held?

We live in Scotland, it rains quite a bit, so holding major or prestigious events outdoors is going to be problematic, you can’t ride these tracks in the wet. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat an outdoor track meeting on a sunny day, there’s something magical about those rare days. So how do we allocate the events fairly?

We have the facility, so the important events need to be indoors, purely for reliability. If we’re to progress more riders onto the Olympic Development Programme, then we need reliable events on the calendar, our reality is that the weather dictates things on outdoor tracks. A situation like last year where multiple outdoor Scottish championship meetings are cancelled will make our sport look like a farce at such a critical time. Imagine sports reporters who have an interest in following cycling seeing championships cancelled due to weather when we have an indoor facility, it makes it look like we don’t care, so why should they be bothered reporting on our sport. Elite championship events need to be held on indoor tracks, but there are other options for the outdoor tracks. We can start developing very young riders on Caird Park, riders of 6 years old are racing on outdoor 400m tracks down south, perhaps we need to encourage championships from a very young age, or at least recognition, we can use Caird Park for this. It’s very hard for young youth riders to perform at all on a 250m track, they spend most of their effort just staying up if they are Youth C category, so a shallower track will allow them to develop race skills before they move onto steeper tracks once they move into Youth A & B age categories.

Meadowbank is still capable of holding great events, the Edinburgh Meadowbank GP is a good example, it even seems to get decent weather most years & attracts plenty of riders from outside Scotland. It can’t really be considered a development event though, it’s a well established stand alone event, it has its own prestige & that’s why it works. It’s very different to a Scottish championship, which requires to be held on a specific date so that riders can time their peak correctly & everybody can plan their season. Last year we had championship events cancelled in the summer and then held indoors very late in the year, what kind of message does that send to aspiring riders & sponsors, if we want rider aspiration & sponsors in our sport we need to put across the message that we can manage championship events in a logical manner. That involves allowing press to turn up without getting disappointed & sponsors to visit events without sitting in their car hoping the rain will go off. The sport has gone mainstream & we as a sport, need to start thinking about it mainstream, we’re no longer a minority sport that nobody is watching, it’s the UK’s most successful Olympic sport, we have a Tour de France winner & we even have multiple BBC Sports Personality victors, it’s in the public eye big time.

Conclusion

There’s plenty of scope to develop the existing outdoor tracks with a bit of support from the governing body, it looks like everything is currently being focussed on Glasgow. This approach is understandable, it’s the flagship facility, something we never thought we’d get, but the outdoor tracks can compliment that facility, they can feed riders from different parts of Scotland into track racing. There’s already great coaching at both Caird Park & Meadowbank, so it’s really important that some resources are also routed to those venues, otherwise there’s a danger of serious lack of vision on track racing overall in Scotland being cultivated. Those with knowledge need to be listened to by those without. Sometimes volunteers know a lot more about some things than those in paid positions, a smart employee would listen to those who are involved in the sport because they love the sport.

So there’s probably nothing untoward going on, but there could be a bit of disorganisation & hesitation in allocating these events, so it smells a little bit, but no worse than expected. We don’t need to run championship events outdoors, but we can all see why the Scratch is important to Caird Park, its suffering from a lack of resources and a championship event gives it prestige, we just need to make sure it gets it’s prestige in other ways after this year, in ways of support, there’s still plenty of time to get that all put in place for 2014.

If you want to book Caird Park or Meadowbank, follow the links below:

Meadowbank Velodrome, follow the link on the right of link page for booking forms.

Discovery Junior Cycling Club, use the contact button to get in touch with Martin.

Caledopers?

Such are the times, that I’ve noticed people are getting to my blog with a google search about doping in Scottish cycle races, so there’s obviously some interest in it, probably my Dr Leinders article has caused these links to my blog. I’ll put across my opinion on this, based on what I’ve seen & not seen over a good number of years.

Do we have a doping problem in Scotland?

With the growing number of professional riders very publically admitting doping, this does turn everybody’s thoughts to what might be happening at home, an understandable result of widespread professional doping for a long number of years. I’ve been involved in clubs, teams & racing for many years, including close contact with a large number of people who would likely be ‘in the know’, but as far as Scottish domestic racing goes, I’ve never heard anything worse than “he’s flying, must be on drugs”, often in a lighthearted manner. We did have a couple of very low-key positives in the 90’s, but other than that it’s almost unheard of in Scottish racing. But it’s easy to assume that there’s ‘nothing to see here, move along’ & dismiss all possibilities of our sport being tarnished, but can we be sure that there are no ‘bad apples’ in our local event?

I’d guess that there are some riders doing some things they’d prefer others not to know, but I’d also a guess that those riders are possibly not the ones you’d be thinking would be the likely culprits. Our ‘recent’ professional history of riders who would most definitely have been exposed to doped riders would point to people like Brian Smith, his October 2012 interview in the Mail really describes his decisions and the consequence of that, it’s worth a read, the culture was such that he refused drugs & it probably resulted in an end to his continental pro career. I’ve also talked to another former Scottish pro who had raced in Italy & was laughed at by local amateurs for not being ‘kitted up’. Our current prominent riders are not at a point where they don’t have an alternative career choice, if you think about those individuals, if they lose cycling they can still survive, (possibly on more money) do they really need to dope, I doubt it. This all tends to make me think that the doping culture in Scotland does not exist at the successful end of racing over at least the last 30 years at least, it leads me to believe something quite different.

A cultural problem?

Human-beings cheat, it’s part of how people operate, it permeates all society & we’re judged on the level of cheating that we employ. For most people’s cheating is very far outside what would be classed as real cheating in normal society, little white lies to make people feel better, driving slighlty over a speed limit etc, but some cheat in every aspect of their life for personal gain or many other reasons. Cycling is such an inclusive sport that your cycling club most likely includes people from all parts of society, we undoubtably have plenty of character types who would be prepared to cheat in cycling, but are they actually cheating in our sport?

What’s to gain?

There are shortcuts to everything, the value of those shortcuts really depends on your perspective & your morality. If you cheat in sport you’re doing very different things at different sporting levels, cheating in professional sport is removing somebody elses ability to earn money, taking people’s dreams away, while cheating in the lower levels of sport can often be attributed to an ego boost, a lack of perceived success in the rest of your life, but not financial gain.

In the US, there have been a large number of ‘Masters’ racers caught doping, these have been relatively wealthy individuals who don’t see cheating as a bad thing, perhaps the gym culture of drug use is also a key factor, they don’t actually see it as cheating. Most of us would agree that taking substances in order to enhance muscle growth, increase cell regeneration & blood manipulation is taking things a bit too far, but some see this as part of sport. The ‘vanity doping’ culture is likely already a very small part of sport in Scotland, there must surely be individuals who know how to acquire these drugs from a gym or a Chinese website and use them to cheat you out of placings.

Cheating in the cut throat world of professional cycling is something quite different, we can imagine the huge pressure on a rider, who giving up schooling & everything else in their lives at an early age comes to a crossroads, dope & keep their job, feed their family and get on with life, or try to get a job with no other experience of life in the real world, what would you do? For those riders they don’t see a choice, they have no other career choices, cycling is their life and their sole earning power, it’s almost inevitable that they’ve been taken advantage of in the past. We like to glamorize cycling, but to many riders who are not the stars, they are simply surviving, it’s their job, nothing else. We can possibly empathise to some extent with these riders, it’s still wrong, but we can understand their choices however much we despise them. Hopefully cycling has been given a wake up call and the forces that applied the pressure are slowly being removed, although many teams are still run by questionable individuals with no mechanism or seemingly no impetus to remove them from a position where they can exploit riders. But with rising professional earning, is this still really the case, can we assume that there are riders with would be ‘honourable’ reasons to dope, possibly not.

Conclusion

Without a widespread & hugely costly domestic testing regime there really isn’t much you can do about amateur doping, but it’s highly unlikely for this to become a major problem, just a few individuals who don’t respect themselves, you, or their sport. The riders at a higher level will get tested, with what looks like a much-needed & much better funded testing programme on the cards in the future. We can only go out there and do what we enjoy, that’s riding a bike, which on occasion is riding a bike really fast, don’t let any potential dopers worry you, they’re the real losers.

Links:

  • To check your medications, click HERE.
  • If you really suspect somebody, click HERE for the confidential hotline to UK Anti Doping, where you can voice your suspicions.

Carry on camping

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

Training camp types

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survival Techniques

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

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

Conclusion

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

Horseing Around

The recent revelations in the press regarding horse meat replacing 60% to 100% of the intended beef in Findus beef lasagne brings up some questions. There have been many so-called ‘contamination’ positive tests by athletes across all sports, who claim that they consumed a product that contained whatever banned substance they were caught for, could some of them be telling the truth?

Findus

If meat from a different species can turn up in foodstuffs sold in the major supermarkets, it means anything could turn up in virtually any processed food, including sports supplements. It suggests that the assumed quality controls that are there to protect us from consuming products that may contain toxic substances, or eating something dangerous, really don’t exist to the levels that we thought. Potentially Findus will not recover from this and will have to rebrand themselves quite rapidly in order to maintain their ability to sell any products, or it’s likely they’ll go out of business. This isn’t an issue with horse meat, this is eaten in many countries quite safely, but this is more an issue of where this meat came from and is it dangerous? I’ve read that some of the Irish horse meat from the previous scandal involved horses slaughtered due to race horse farms not being able to continue in the current economic climate. If that’s the case, and horse meat got into the food chain from breeders who were trying anything to make some money, surely that makes it highly likely they were resorting to doping horses in order to get results. Those horses then appeared as ‘beef’ in some products, containing all sorts of potentially banned substances & also another drug which is in use in some countries but should be banned as it’s dangerous to humans, it’s called ‘bute’ and any horses treated with it should never be allowed into the food chain, the BBC have story on it here.

Where does your sports supplement come from?

If you don’t know where your sports drink or any other ‘performance’ products you use come from, there’s no time like right now to find out. Otherwise you really have no idea what you are consuming. If you buy sports supplement from somebody on ebay, or anywhere else that could have a multitude of sources, is that really a wise thing to do. Sports supplements are big business, I’ve chatted to one British rider who was ‘popped’ and blamed a sports supplement, I actually believe this man about what happened to him and the ensuing legal problems that resulted from attempting to suggest a large company could have allowed their brand leading product to get ‘contaminated’. He gave up trying to prove this and took his ban rather than fight a corporation. How many pico-grammes of clenbuterol did Contador get caught for (I’m not suggesting anything regarding his guilt here), imagine if there’s as little control of sports supplements as there is in the processed meat industry, do you really know what you’re putting in your body, do you even read the label, could a tiny amount slip into your system and you get labelled a doper?

A solution

The obvious solution is not to use sports supplements, riders rode the Tour de France for 90 years before they needed energy gels or long polymer sports drinks. If you still want some kind of ‘energy’ product, why not make your own, there are plenty of online resources, like this one to find a recipe, just type these four words into google and you’ll find hundreds, home made sports drink. There have also been plenty of articles that suggest your protein rich recovery drink is much better replaced with good old chocolate milk, it contains the proteins & sugars necessary for recovery is quite a bit cheaper than commercial recovery drinks. So maybe it’s time to simplify things and get back to basics, humans have survived for millions of years with a much higher level of activity than we do now, they used what was around them, it seemed to work pretty well up to now, humans are everywhere. So ask yourself, does your sports supplement give you a noticeable advantage, next week try something you made yourself and see if you notice any difference at all, I didn’t, give it the one week challenge and see what you think, you may be surprised.

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…..

Surviving the winter

As bike riders, we obviously choose to ride bikes, but sometimes the weather dictates our choices and you need to maintain or improve that hard-earned fitness. So you’ve likely got one of those dreaded turbo trainers, or rollers, or both, here’s some tips on how to make winter training less horrific, but no matter what, it’s still going to be a little horrific.

Making a trainer easy to use

Once you look out the window and decide it not a day for cycling outside, try to make the turbo an easy option, so having things always ready is a smart move.

  • The best way to set up your turbo is in its own space, so you don’t have to remove it and then set it up every time you use it. If you’re already put off by the weather, setting up a turbo & bike in the living room while somebody else is watching the Coronation Street or Hollyoaks omnibus episodes is not ideal. So find a corner of a room, the garage, shed, anywhere you can leave it permanently set up. I’ve already blogged about ‘The other half of a racing cyclist’, not making a nuisance of yourself on a turbo trainer is an addition to that.
  • If you can gather the bits together, stick a ‘turbo bike’ on it. If your turbo has resistance settings on it, you really don’t need many gears at all, so ideally an old bike you can set up your normal position on is ideal, even down tube shifters isn’t an uncool thing to have on a specific turbo bike. Damaged frames, buckled front wheels, you name it, stick it all on this bike, it’s not going anywhere and it’s pretty hard to crash if something fails. Just make sure it’s got a straight back wheel, cranks & pedals, then you can both up the rest with old stems & bars, which you likely have lying about.
  • Have an alternative turbo session written down in case you wake up and weather is, well, Scottish. If you’re wishing you we’re out on the road and just intend to ‘jump on the turbo for an hour’, you’ll do 20 minutes max and go and do something else. Have a warm up and specific sessions planned out, on a bit of paper to replace a road ride, put these next to the turbo, you’ll only need 3 or 4 different ones. Maybe some
  • Take a bottle with you, not having a drink is another easy option to give up early.
  • Remember your other bits & pieces so you don’t have to go back inside to get them, pulse strap, towel, computer, pulse meter or Garmin.
  • Regularly spray every part of this bike with WD40, it’ll self destruct in no time if it’s full of sweat, it does need a bit of looking after, but nothing like as much as a bike you use on the salty winter roads. A non functional bike isn’t going to help your training or motivation.

Your trainer, what helps to make it ‘pleasant’

You don’t need a fancy turbo trainer, it just helps. But you can make even the most basic trainer more comfortable with a few additions.

  • A fan. Get yourself the biggest fan you can find, preferably with various speeds. Start it before you start riding so you don’t have to get off and switch it on, because that’s an ideal opportunity for you to go and have a cup of tea, stay on your bike at all costs.
  • TV, video, laptop, iPad, anything that you can watch TV on. Some people like to catch up on Homeland or some other series they’re watching if the session is easy, but once things get hard you’ll need videos of Tour mountain stages. There are also Sufferfest videos you can buy, which can guide you through a session, but ideally a computer with internet access is best, so you have an unlimited supply of online content, just make sure it’s long enough for your session, or in easy reach to play another video without getting off your bike, never get off your bike.
  • If there’s no access to videos, you might have to go for music, this is old school these days, but just be careful that it’s encouraging you to keep an appropriate cadence and isn’t de-motivating. Fast & upbeat is best.
  • A plan for your session. See this link for some ideas. Turbotraining.co.uk A short google search will find plenty for whatever your discipline is in cycling.
  • Get yourself old school John McEnroe sweat band or just wear a cycling cap, otherwise your eyes will be full of sweat pretty soon, it makes it a lot more pleasant, although you’ll look ridiculous with a sweatband, but happy.

Final thoughts

There really is no better place to be riding a bike than our lovely land on a nice day, with its hills, mountains, relatively quiet roads and the flora & fauna in abundance. Just remember that you need the rain to make the place look this good, so treat each rainy day session on the turbo as a countryside rejuvenation day. While you’re dripping all over the floor, the rain is dripping into the scenery that you love to ride your bike in, it’s keeping it that way, we need the rain.

(Disclaimer: Sweat will not make your wooden floor or carpet look better, clean that mess up once you’re finished).

The other half of a racing cyclist.

The partner of somebody involved in training & racing can sometimes feel like they’re playing second fiddle to a hobby and is often referred to as a ‘cycling widow’. It can be an occasional tricky situation, but managed correctly, it doesn’t have to be stressful, you’ve just got to see it from the other persons viewpoint sometimes, that means both of you! But often its a perception issue, your partners friends say that their fat, lazy, slob of a husband is always there, but that can mean they’re on the couch watching kickball, eating wotsits & drinking lager, while you are on your bike, keeping yourself in tip-top physical condition to make sure you’re there when you’re really needed.

Obviously, this is written from a slightly biased perspective, I’m a cyclist, as I cyclist I have also obviously attempted to encourage my partner to embrace cycling, it’s culture, it’s nuances, riding a bike for fun in all weathers, visiting ‘le Tour’ while on holiday, riding road bikes overseas in the sunshine, attempting a challenging bike touring holiday together. It’s all been done, as I expect most of you have tried, to lesser & greater success, my attempts have been relatively successful, there’s quite an in-depth knowledge of pro cycle racing imbedded in my partner now, her short-lived ‘club cycling’ enthusiasm drifted into club runs, perhaps the group we went out with were slightly lacking in skills and it didn’t quite feel safe enough, so todays rides are generally with me or occasionally solo rides very locally, i.e. local enough to walk home if there’s one of those punctures, a mechanical problem or a sudden change in weather.

Familiar phrases…

I’ve been around cyclists all my adult life, so I’m very familiar with hearing many of the various problems couples usually experience when there’s cycling involved, not necessarily from my own partner. I imagine it’s quite different to the type of anti-social problems that a wife would experience with a football enthusiast, so many of these are probably unique to cycling.

  • “There’s bikes everywhere!” This problem multiplies if you live in a flat or a house with little or no storage, but it’s going to happen every now and again, even if you have plenty of room and there’s a complaint about not being able to put the car in the garage (who puts cars in garages these days?). New partners probably don’t understand that you can’t just ride all year on one bike, partners who’ve known you for a while are starting to understand that you need a road bike, a training bike, a winter bike, a mountain bike, a cyclo-cross bike, a track bike, a time trial bike, a touring bike, commuting bike, plus spares, so you need to either invest in a smart storage solution or try to find bikes that will do a variety of jobs. For example, many modern ‘cross bikes come with a variety of bosses, so you can fit a rack, mudguards etc, and turn it into a multi use bike, but you’ll have to tell your partner that this will involve you spending more time dismantling & assembling bikes, so it’s a trade-off between cash & time spent on cycling.
  • “That bike cost how much?” A bike isn’t just a means of transport, it’s a thing of beauty, it’s a machine that’s not just functional, it has to ‘look right’ too. It has to look balanced and elegant when it’s just sitting there going nowhere, it’s more than a bike, it also transforms you into that fast, elegant & balanced athlete that you imagine you are when you step over that frame, it’s part of you. This kind of feeling doesn’t come with a pound shop budget, unless you already are that classy über talented cyclist that we all dream to be, then you can step over a Halfords special and look cool, most of us mortals need all the help we can get, that usually involves carbon frames, deep section wheels & a Campagnolo or other high-end groupset. So this may come to a small fortune, but lets face it, let your partner know they are maybe quite lucky you didn’t take up motor racing or spend the same amount of money for golf kit, although I’m sure golfers don’t have problems with partners.
  • “You out on that bike…. again?” Yes, you are, you’ve been doing this long before you met your partner in most cases, if not, and you’re a recent convert, then your partner has probably seen a massive difference in your physique, you’ll not have to convince anybody that it’s a good idea to do some more exercise. But don’t just leave and turn up at a random time in the future, you’ve got a pretty good idea of when you’ll be back, pass on that information, if you’re held up, text. You’ll find that a simple transfer in information can make all the difference and reduce stress for both of you in the future. If you’ve arranged to take the kids somewhere, make sure you’re back for that, some things are more important than cycling.
  • “You hate those meetings, why are you going?” Sometimes meetings related to cycling are a minor pitfall in your enjoyment of the sport, the more involved you get, the more likely you are to be ‘invited’ (forced) into going to something that could have been sorted by an email. The thing about cycling meetings, is that unless you’re well above personable age and don’t ride a bike anymore, you’re not going to enjoy it. They are often the older gents only remaining connection to cycling, so are hugely valued by them, but to those of a more modern era, or who have experienced computers in the workplace, you’ll find that they are unnecessary complication and hark back to the bad old days when the only means of formal communication was a letter. So don’t necessarily set out to avoid them, do your bit, but you can sort things out with the other ‘young upstarts’ before you go and get things agreed quicker, this will help speed up your trip back home. Try not to moan too much when you get home and it’ll not appear like the waste of time you think it is.
  • “It’s too dark/wet/icy to go out on your bike!” This is an attempt to create a safety issue regarding your cycling, but the opposing risks of heart disease, beer bellies, and premature ageing, mean that there’s a much bigger risk in not cycling. Lets face it, we live in Scotland, if we waited until it was daylight, it wasn’t raining, or the temperature had risen a little, do you think you’d ever go out? This isn’t really a valid argument for our country. So weigh up the health advantages of cycling, against the perceived risk factors, which are actually incredibly low in real terms, if the worst comes to the worst, get attached to that turbo trainer, if nothing else, it’ll make you more likely to choose cycling outside in future.

What if you didn’t cycle?

It really is a case of looking at the advantages & disadvantages of cycling, I’ll just run through a few.

In most cases it’s beneficial to both partners to have (at least) one who cycles. In most cases it’s the male who cycles, as cycling is still heavily weighted towards being a male sport. On average women live longer than men, so living a healthy active lifestyle involving a bike is going to even that up, you’re probably going to have more time together as a result, it’s up to yourselves to decide whether or not that’s a good thing.

An active parent provides a good role model to offspring. We see on telly programmes that the fat parents they like to show, often have fat children, who live sedentary lives and eat almost nothing but chicken/horse nuggets & chips, along with a diet soda, often while multi tasking, playing on a games console, or watching other fat role models on the telly. It’s a vicious circle, the rising obesity levels along with the projected obesity levels are quite shocking. You can easily teach your offspring that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t the one for them, if they see a parent actively involved in an athletic ability, they are more likely to get involved in an athletic ability.

Diet, where do we start, if one partner cycles, both partners have a healthy diet, in much the same way as if one partner diets, both partners have a restricted calorie intake (but we increase ours don’t we, we cycle for gods sake). As above, your whole family gets something from this, when you’re you read labels more & as long as it doesn’t become obsessive you eat less salt, sugar and other things that should be restricted for a healthy lifestyle. You learn to cook properly, you eat more vegetables, you drink less as you’ve got to be out the door early on Sunday morning. The need to cycle means you need a better & healthy diet.

Cycling forces non-mechanical individuals to become proficient in basic skills that they had no aptitude for previously. Imagine the scene, you’re out on a group ride, it’s raining and almost sub-zero, the new rider out with you punctures, you all wait and you want this fixed as soon as possible so you can get back on your way at the time you said you’d be home. It quickly becomes apparent that this new rider hasn’t even got the basic skills to take off his rear wheel, let along replace a tube efficiently. The group gets more and more annoyed, the new rider is suitably embarrassed and eventually allows the large-handed group hardman to do the job and get everybody moving. In 99% of cases, the new rider is so suitably embarrassed by this episode, that he goes away and doesn’t come back out until he can do the job himself in what he’s consider a reasonable time. This skill gives them more confidence and they start working on their own bike, changing parts & cables etc. But the initial prompt for these new skills was public embarrassment, there’s a lot to be said for what public embarrassment can do to change an individuals behaviour. This new-found skillset also leads to other enhanced skills, a greater confidence in how things work, which transfers itself across to ‘jobs around the house‘, so from a humbling experience out on the road, becomes an aptitude for DIY, it’s a well-known benefit of having a cycling partner.

Knowing people! There’s not many other sports that have such a wide variety of people involved in them, with cycling it’s going to be difficult to find somebody there who doesn’t either have a skill, or know somebody who has & can recommend them. Be it a bike friendly holiday venue, plasterer, car mechanic, electrician, plumber, welder, graphic designer, roofer, builder, medical advice, tree surgeon, etc, I’ve met all these highly skilled people in cycling clubs and that has benefitted myself & others around me. It’s also a case of you helping others with your skills & knowledge, the transfer of information, advice & access to talented people is huge in cycling. When I asked my wife what she thought about the best things about having a cycling husband, she said, “you’ve not got a big fat arse & you know all these people who can do all sorts of stuff”. Cycling expands your horizons beyond your comfort zone and allows you to meet some incredible people, just ask the guy you don’t know that well riding next to you on a group ride a few questions, I assure you you’ll be amazed!

Cycling is normal

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, cycling is normal,with the recent successes of British cyclist, everybody’s hero Chris Hoy, the vast numbers of people taking up cycling, it’s almost at a point where it’s acceptable. This has other results, everybody ends up knowing somebody who rides a bike as it rises in popularity, so they tend to take a greater regard of cyclist while they’re driving their cars, in case it’s their pal they’re acting dangerously towards. As cycling increases, so does cycling awareness, facilities for cycling, bike paths, etc. So get your partner involved, start out on traffic free cycle routes, there’s probably a Sustrans route near you. You can all enjoy cycling, just don’t keep it closed off from those around you and encourage everybody to have a go. The down sides are minimal, but there are many hugely positive aspects to it, so balance your life and keep riding your bike, it benefits everybody.

Where would we be without the UCI?

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

First some definitions…..

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

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

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

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

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

Where we currently stand

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

No UCI, what happens first?

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

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

Who’s affected?

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

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

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

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

What will really happen?

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

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

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

Your local bike shop, your wee pal.

Now is the time of year all those who’ve purchased from big bike retailers online will be getting a pile of emails every day, with news about January sales, massive savings, stock clearances etc, etc. I expect this is most of us, most of us have also tried to stop these emails, but it usually appears impossible to cancel your ‘subscription’ to the mails. An annoying but sometimes intriguing invitation to find some shiny bike bits you didn’t really want but at bargain prices (if somebody really did want them, they’d likely not be at those bargain prices). Drawing you into a slick marketing campaign, the bargains appear first, then pictures appear of other things you may like (based on your previous purchases or recent google searches, this isn’t accidental). Those other shiny bits you desire don’t have anything like the reductions you first saw, but you want those parts, you’re hooked and their plan has worked.

But spare a thought for your local bike shop at this time, they’re also trying to shift stock, without the money or audience to launch a slick marketing campaign, there’s nobody in the background when you walk in raising signs with components you might like, at massively reduced prices. They also don’t have the huge buying power that allows them to purchase bikes & components at super low prices (grey imports rear their heads here too), they don’t send you an email every day to try and part you with your hard earned money, in fact, if you’re a regular, it’s more than likely you’ll have a cup of tea put in your hand, maybe something’s not working properly and they’ll stick your bike on the stand to have a quick look at it for you. All part of the service, no pressure sales, real people selling products at sustainable prices, doing the best they can.

This is the reality of the modern day bike industry, small local bike shops dotted about the countryside, providing good knowledgable service, free information & advice on products, likely supporting your local bike club, offering discounts to loyal customers, this in stark contrast to a multinational online warehouse retailer with no after sales service, not even a phone number you can contact if you have a problem. We’ve all bought from the warehouse bike retailers, it’s essentially the same products, a bit cheaper, but as with a dying high street, where would you be without a bike shop you can go to for an emergency repair, a broken spoke etc. That’s essentially what you’re paying a little bit extra for, making sure that bike shop keeps paying the bills, keeps employing the staff (those guys that help you out when pay a visit, maybe slag you a bit too) and allows the owner to make a living, without those requirements nobody is going to run a bike shop, or any business, just to give you a convenient place to get your bike fixed.

So just a thought, support the local bike shops that provide the service you like, don’t support those that don’t, check with them before you make a big purchase, or any purchase, you might be surprised at what they can do for you. But don’t expect them to match exactly what your online warehouse is charging, you may get a ‘sigh’ and a blank stare, these guys are up against it every hour of every day, people telling them they can get this & that for this price here & there. You need your local bike shop & it needs you.

p.s. I don’t work for or in a local bike shop, I just like local bike shops, not just one, but all the good ones, they’re everywhere, try one.