Testing Relationships

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A very interesting post has appeared on the Scottish Cycling website regarding time trialling & the emergence of CTT in Scotland HERE. I had expressed my opinion in ‘Calendar Conundrum‘ that CTT in Scotland may be a blessing in disguise for Scottish Cycling, that would allow them to focus more on road & track, but they now appear to be defending & reinforcing their future position as the host of time trials in Scotland. A bit of healthy competition & new ideas into the sport, with a minor scrap between promoting bodies can only be good for time triallists in Scotland, it’ll result in better (or more) events & a bit more focus on what they want, whichever way it ends up going.

CTT/SC Relationship

Perhaps the initially most interesting part of the Scottish Cycling update is about their relationship with CTT, in particular, the removal of it with no correspondence. But when you look into it, it’s perhaps not interesting at all.

“We had hoped for dialogue and some sort of collaboration with CTT, however, despite numerous attempts it has not been forthcoming. We will continue to seek clarity but what we know is that CTT have exercised their right to terminate the long-standing agreement between themselves and Scottish Cycling but have given no background or detail as to what they believe the implications now are for Scottish riders wanting to ride events in England and Wales or riders from South of the border entering events in Scotland.”
Read more at https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland/article/20160226-scottish-cycling-news-Scottish-Cycling-and-Time-Trialling-in-Scotland-0#g1LmxHmOswCYCYUB.99

The two points made are probably pretty irrelevant to most competitors, one being no access to CTT BAR tables for SC time trials & the other being that Gold & Silver BC members will have to pay a surcharge to ride events in England.

Not many people are really all that interested in BAR competitions these days, so it affects a tiny number of riders who compete in time trials. With a quick glance, I find zero men or women riding for Scottish clubs listed on the 2015 BBAR tables, see for yourself HERE, so it’s unlikely anybody really cares about that point.

As for riding events down south, for CTT events it’s the club being registered that matters, not individual membership. So we can reasonably assume that any clubs who sign up to CTT Scotland will be the ones with most riders being interested in time trials, who are more likely to travel down south. Even if your club isn’t registered, you can simply join another one that is 2nd claim & ride events down south that way. Again, it’s all pretty irrelevant.

All in all, the lack of an agreement between Scottish Cycling & Cycling Time Trials holds almost zero consequence to anybody, I’m not really sure SC should be bothering too much.

Levies

I’ve been banging on about levies for a while, so this was quite refreshing to see that Scottish Cycling are at least paying a little attention to it, although I’d still like an answer on why we pay more than people in the rest of the UK (see my 2103 post ‘Would You Like To Go Large?‘ for more on this, although numbers are slightly different now).

As a reference, CTT levies are £2 per rider as far as I can see, while SC levies are £3.95 per rider, unless it’ a mid-week TT series, where it’s £2.60 per rider. I’ve not actually seen the breakdown from SC on this before, but only £1.50 goes towards BC insurance, the rest is apportioned to whichever of the 5 regions the event was registered with (bizarrely, it could be held in a different region, which many events are, such as the Tour of the Trossachs, held in ‘East & Central Region’, by a ‘West Region’ club), or to ‘development of cycling’, such as equipment, commissaires etc. Scotland CTT is a volunteer organisation, while SC has paid members of staff, so a difference in price is expected, but we also expect a bit more in the terms of service if we pay more. As CTT Scotland is only just beginning, it’s impossible to determine if that’s the case, we’ll have to look again at the end of the year.

Other Issues

Scottish Cycling list some other issues that they see as relevant, I’ll briefly go through these.

Annual Calendar Compilation: SC point out that they provide a coordinated calendar. Had it been the previous few years, where the event calendar has been abysmal, with it being published once the season had started, they wouldn’t have had a point. With the active work being done by SC’s Regional Development Officers in the last half on 2015, this has been rectified in 2016. So now it’s valid, as I can see only 5 CTT Scotland events on the CTT website as 26/2/16, four 10 mile TT’s up to June & the Boomerang 2-up in August, so I assume plenty are missing? I also see that there’s not much info, apart from some Facebook posts on CTT Scotland. Again, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this, as they’re completely new & are organised via committee, always an area of stalling & delays in any organisation. A simple (and free) WordPress blog could list events & information, to make it more visible, I’m sure that’ll come.

National TT Championships: The point SC in making here is that they arrange the calendar to accommodate championship events throughout the season, working with race organisers. It’s pretty well-known that it’s relatively easy to find an organiser for the ’10’, the rest get increasingly harder as the distance increases & the interest reduces. The hill climb, is perhaps one that has had more interest than it used to. My opinion on the number of historical & poorly supported time trial championships is well documented, so I’ll leave this up to you to decide if it’s important, I assume it’s a very personal thing for most people.

Course Risk Assessments: This has changed in 2016, there is a greater involvement in helping to complete these, with organisers being assisted by the SC RDO’s. I can’t really comment on it, as I’ve not been involved in it this year, but in the past risk assessments are a genuine pain in the race organisers posterior. So this may be a real benefit, not just for convenience, but perhaps to make sure the race organiser doesn’t get themselves in bother by omitting a danger, spreading the blame perhaps.

Officials Appointments & Training: There are more trained officials required for an SC event, I’m really unaware of what’s currently required for CTT, so I’ll not comment, for now.

TT Course Recording: As far as I’m aware, the CTT events are going to be using the same courses as SC ones, so essentially CTT is piggy-backing off historical SCU courses. It could also be argued that it was volunteers who measured these courses anyway, so possibly another non-issue.

Legislation Compliance: This one has some significant implications. In CTT events elsewhere in UK helmets that comply with a safety standard are not required (except for some younger age groups), so this could be an important point if CTT Scotland are wanting to be seen as a modern race organisation. Not requiring helmet use would set them apart form all other sports in Scotland that use bikes, would also make the TT side of the sport look backward is relation to other sports & could cause some insurance issues & a potential conflict with Police Scotland who don’t see this issue arising in any other sports that use bikes, in racing or participation. I’m completely unaware if this issue has been addressed, I hope it has before any events take place.

Event Management System: The British Cycling system does appear to work reasonably well, but CTT Scotland events could use resources such as EntryCentral for an online entry system, so it’s not really a big issue.

National BAR Table: As I’ve said in previous blogs, nobodies really particularly bothered about this, presumably apart from the person who wins the average of average competition.

The Gist Of It

I’m all for a bit of healthy competition, something did need done in order to push Scottish Cycling into some decisions on this. I think we’ll maybe see SC reduce levies a little to be more competitive from 2017 onwards, but not by very much. As far as I can see CTT Scotland are currently mainly interested in running events on the ‘fast’ but busy Westferry course, whether that expands to other courses & distances during the year remains to be seen, hopefully it will. The big ‘but’ is that I can’t really see CTTS moving away from ‘fast’ imperial distance courses (you know I don’t like these if you’ve been reading my blog for a while), so it does open up an opportunity for SC to perhaps look at diversifying their side of time trialling to other demographics (as I’ve also discussed at length previously).

Perhaps we can have two distinctly different sets of TT’s running alongside each other for a while. The old-fashioned standard distance events which are getting squeezed due to traffic, then the more ‘road’ orientated events on quite more interesting courses, which would encourage a crossover of riders from sportive & perhaps wouldn’t put parents off allowing their kids to race on a semi-motorway. Either way both organisations are going to have to look at their current ‘model’ & taking a good hard look at a sustainable future for time trialling, whoever does this well will be the long-term winner in controlling TT’s in Scotland.

 

Spokey’s New Year Message

Embed from Getty ImagesThis isn’t so much a message to readers, but more of a statement of intent for 2015, outlining which path this blog is going to take in the next wee while. Living in Scotland during the incredible events of 2014 & witnessing the public’s re-engagement with politics (where almost nobody now thinks a Barnett Consequential is the aftermath of a dodgy haircut), maybe we can also channel that engagement into a healthy debate on sports governance & developing forward-thinking ideas? In 2015 SpokeyDokeyBlog is going to be all about pushing the sport forward, right from grass-roots level & how that affects the tiers above, feeding your governing body with your good ideas & working out where the hell the UCI rollercoaster is heading. As things have progressed, I see where I can modify my ideas, so I’ll be rewriting the development blogs too. Alongside that I’ve got a busy year with Hour Record attempts, the Scottish calendar & I’ve got a fair bit of product aero calculations up my sleeve mid-year. I’m also going to try & get to more events, aside from local ones, a return to the Kuipke Velodrome in Ghent would be lovely (photo above is a reminder).

Defining ‘Our’ Job

What’s important to consider, is that bodies like ‘Scottish Cycling’ & ‘British Cycling’ are chiefly administrators, they exist to carry out the tasks that are given to them, not the tasks they don’t know about. That role is controlled by the sports structure we have in place, as explained in ‘Sport V Funding‘. In the past when our governing bodies were run by unpaid passionate volunteers on a shoestring budget, ideas may have existed, but couldn’t be implemented due to budget constraints. In the modern-day what we can’t expect employees having carried out their contracted duties, to spend some time coming up with innovative ideas to develop our sport. That’s not an admin task, it’s our job to do that, we’re the people on the ground, running clubs & events, coaching, out on our bikes & developing master plans to help our sport.

Perhaps myself & many others had unrealistic expectations in recent years, our governing bodies are never going to be ideas based organisations without outside input or a dynamic gung-ho insider willing to rock the boat, as briefly happened in British cycling a few years ago. For us lot, this means it’s now time to get engaged & pass those ideas on, our governing bodies need people like us to pass on those ideas & show them how they could work in practice. We need to make it easy for them, we need to push them in the correct direction by providing plans & showing them how they can be implemented in an economical & constructive manner with the minimum resources, preferably the resources that already exist. It is the time of austerity after all, in order to progress sport in those times, we need to get smart & we need to get active. In Scottish Cycling’s case, the RDO’s (Regional Development Officers) appear to be getting much more involved & the right people are moving into the job, if you get correspondence from them, pass it onto your club mates, you never know who might have an opinion, they require as much feedback as possible. As I’ve said in the past, I’m quite willing for organisations to adopt & adapt any ideas printed on this blog & never acknowledge where they came from, it’s about developing the sport in the best way possible with the resources we have, that includes any ideas that are fed to me by other like-minded folks out there.

It’s fair to say I’ve had differences of opinion with Scottish Cycling, but I feel in every occasion when I’ve highlighted something I’m not particularly happy about, I’ve also highlighted a solution rather than just ranting as is so often seen on forums. After political & sporting events calming down a little (especially for us in Scotland), I’m guessing all will be as-it-is until at least 2018, i.e. Scottish Cycling using British Cycling insurance to run events in Scotland & the UCI remaining the World Governing body (unless they do something incredibly stupid & illegal).

In our own localities, the administrators & the sporting volunteers need to form a better bond, for the volunteers that means getting involved. The dire turnout at the Scottish Cycling AGM compared to days-gone-by, consisted of predominantly the same OAP’s who have been turning up for the last decade & have changed nothing (apologies to those outside that group who turned up, potentially the future facilitators of change). On the plus side, it has to be said that the youth side of the sport looks like it’s very far ahead of the mainstream thinking, with clubs & individuals helping young riders gather the required skills & know-how to become bike riders.

The Final Word

Those who voice forward thinking ideas or try to move things forward are often labels as activists. These individuals have a tendency to become the disgruntled ones who stop turning up at meetings & remove themselves from the process, clubs are littered with former willing volunteers simply became ‘scunnered’ with SCU & Scottish Cycling over the years. I’d like to see an effort to win these people back. For the administrators it means it’s time to be open & accepting that somebody has a good idea, not treating each passionate ‘activist’ as a direct threat. Once ‘the establishment’ chooses to listen to an ‘activist’ (whether in politics or in sport), that person (or group) generally becomes part of the solution to the problem, not the problem itself. In that way you solve the underlying problem the ‘activist’ is unhappy about, but as a bonus you also solve the ‘activist’ problem. Bingo!

Lets move things forward, put your ideas directly to Scottish Cycling, send them an email, write a blog. The initiative has to come from the governing body to actually listen, without that there’s little indication that they see either a need for change, or the impetus to do anything about it. If you stand still in any business you go backwards, that’s obvious is sport more than anything else, and not just in athlete performance. Become bothersome in 2015, it might make all the difference.

 

El Presidente

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This Saturday sees a very strange event, not just the normal abnormality of a Scottish Cycling AGM, but it also includes a contest, we actually have more than one candidate for SC President!

For many years, the tradition for each bearer of the President’s role is to attempt to get rid of it, to suggest they stand down, only to get mocked & persuaded to continue for “just one more year”. Jock Shaw was the master of this, even suggesting at one AGM that he would stand down if the calendar wasn’t published on time, yes, the SC calendar which has never been published on time (he didn’t stand down, when the expected turn of events repeated itself).

The SC President’s role is a tough one, more so in the current climate, where you’re expected to fill a voluntary role alongside the salaried SC executive(s). You have to love the sport to take on a role like that, plus you may realise that you’ve set yourself up, put yourself in the firing line of the (normally) irate membership to take a pop at. The SC executive(s) don’t bat an eyelid at criticism, see the Governance Review for evidence of that, many of the potential fixes to the issues highlighted in that have maybe been talked about, but not necessarily actioned. The President will take some of the heat for that from the membership, even though it wasn’t their doing, but this is how our sport works, minor squabbling with those who’ll listen & ignoring those who don’t appear to care. It should be the other way about?

The major issue with the President’s role is that it may not actually carry much weight in real terms, no matter how hard el Presidente tries to make a difference. As I’ve pointed out in Sport V Funding, the sport is no longer volunteer or membership led, its guidance comes from funding, not experience & knowledge of cycling. I’ve drifted in & out of caring about who is SC president the last two weeks, but having swathered, considered sending them all questions or open twitter questioning, I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever wins the vote on Saturday has a huge opportunity.

The opportunity is to find a way to allow the knowledgable people back into influential positions, where the executive(s) will listen to them & not discount them. The trick is to reach a point where everybody benefits, where the funding is secure, a new direction can be found which leads to a development plan which ticks the funding boxes & appeases the masses of disgruntled cyclists, club members & volunteers, who feel more like a number than a person. This is a huge opportunity for change, for the better, for everybody.

The Candidates

So lets look at who we’ve got, fortunately the Edinburgh Road Club have posted some of the propaganda material on their website, so I’ll link to that.

Kathy Gilchrist – PDF Link HERE

Alasdair MacLennan – PFD Link HERE

Richard Davison – Blog Link HERE

We have some historic info on the candidates there, plus Davison has a couple of pages of blogs, which are quite interesting, especially the one referencing what may have been going on within the board to stop certain board-members standing, worth a read before you vote. Obviously, I like a blog approach (especially as this blog gets a mention), but the more traditional flyer type info still has its place, it’s all valid campaigning. I didn’t link the absolutely blatant propaganda flyer sent to clubs from one candidate, a “look who my pals are” which could have been straight from Pat McQuaid, a bad move in the current climate, regardless of intention.

The Jist Of It

From this blogs point of view, what we’re looking for is somebody who will stand up for sport & force change. The change we’re after isn’t one-sided, compromises have to be made, but it’s gone too far in the way of funding, while forgetting about the sport. For Scottish Cycling to become the strong organisation we all want, the sport has to start taking centre stage again, but in a manner in which we can demonstrate growth & development can occur in line with funding targets. This will re-engage the people with passion for the sport, freeing up their hard-earned spare time, to be given back to the sport the volunteers love to support. Lets elect a candidate who’s willing to take a stand, you’ve got a great choice there, I’m still undecided, choice forces stronger opinions & it looks like they’ve all upped their game. Choose wisely & hopefully we’ll have a better, happier & more sport orientated governing body in the very near future.

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Sport V Funding

There’s a void developing between what we see as grass-roots sport & how the sport is ‘managed’. The majority of the funding required to run a sport’s governing body in this day & age does not come from the people taking part in the sport directly, but through taxes raised across the population & distributed by an additional bureaucratic tier of agencies like Sport Scotland.

Why is it so expensive

There was a time when a body such as the SCU (the Scottish Cyclists Union, as it was known) was run from a small portakabin, balanced presumably on some borrowed bricks, outside Meadowbank Velodrome. The AGM was based on a more parochial system, what happened outside Scotland didn’t really matter & how our riders performed on the international stage wasn’t particularly important. Significant Scottish performances were welcomed, but they were generally as a result of some single-minded & dedicated individuals & their small band of helpers, rather than anything that the SCU had implemented through funding riders. There were some Scottish team trips, but in those days the facilitators of those journeys were not paid employees, they were volunteers, borrowing some badly fitting crash damaged jerseys, the infamous SCU Volvo or the luxurious Renault 21 ‘Savanna’ on a trip ‘abroad’ (mostly Ireland or England) & often taking holidays from work to help the talent get to big events. So in essence, the hopes & dreams of riders were resting on the goodwill of the few, the unsung hero’s of the time. You could say that things were simpler then, but these journeys were greatly appreciated by the riders, they are very rare these days, other than for youth riders.

Roll on a few years & things have changed dramatically, the SCU has become a limited company called Scottish Cycling, it has 20 something full-time employees (26, I think, if anybody can confirm) & the majority of its funding comes from Sport Scotland. If you consider the paltry funds that come from race levies, where SC only keep a fraction of the approx £3.95 from each senior race entry, the bulk of which goes to British Cycling for insurance & admin, then there’s not much going into the pot to cover salaries. For a very inaccurate example, if there’s 30 race weekends a year, with 300 riders racing each weekend & £1 goes to SC (it’s much less than that), then that’s just £9k a year, funds for a sport’s governing body cannot be raised from affordable race entry fees, it won’t even fund one employee.

Why so many employees?

Cycle sport isn’t what it used to be, we were secretly (i.e. out of sight from non-cycling club members) excited by the occasional individual endeavours admired only by those ‘in the know’ & the top performances more or less ignored by the non-cycling media, in fact in Scotland we were even ignored by that offshoot of the mainstream British press. We’d try to tell our non-cycling friends about this, but they were still trying to comprehend how cycling was a sport at all, wasn’t it just for old beardy guys? It’s all very different now, cycling has moved into an enviable position relative to other sports. It’s the UK’s most successful Olympic sport & therefore is central to the plan, that plan being to keep the masses happy by showing that Britain is good at stuff, creating a happy feeling amongst the populus & turning sporting success into a handy sidetrack from the economy, scandals, jobs & your general feeling of wellbeing in tough economic times. Cycling is now part of the political solution.

This leads to a different type of structure to the ‘funding targeted’, progressive & successful sports in the UK, cycling being high up on this list. Progress is now all based on targets, boxes ticked, strategies, stakeholders, CPI’s, KPI’s, political correctness, inclusiveness, all planned by civil servants somewhere administering what they perceive as the politically correct interpretation of how a sport should be run. They need to do this to tick their own boxes, after all, this is taxpayers money & it needs to be spent in a clear, traceable & transparent manner. Unfortunately all this checking & document creation requires additional manpower (and much increased expense), so the extra funding can easily be spent on spreadsheet creators, powerpoint sliders & justification of the spend, cycling has now become part of ‘the cooncil’, due to its success!

Ticking Boxes

So what do we have so far? We have funding for successful Olympic sports, directed through the government, fed through Sport Scotland & distributed amongst the sports federations who have completed a 4 year plan. Or organisations which have accidentally become a governing body for a successful sport in which they have strolled into via another bodies success & expertise in planning & organisation. This is exactly what has happened with Scottish Cycling, the success of British Cycling & their Olympic programme while the SCU was run out of a portakabin has thrown SC into something they are only just coming to terms with handling. This was not the fault of the SCU, but more a reaction to the introduction of lottery funding, which was directed at the UK’s governing body for cycling, originally the BCF (British Cycling Federation), but now BC (British Cycling), this changed it from a volunteer run organisation, into a governing body run by paid employees.

With SC, the time they have been trying to get to the point BC is currently at is much shorter, in both time & financial terms, the structure & leadership isn’t there yet, as described better than I can manage by their own official report on Scottish Cycling’s business, it’s not pretty & it’s HERE. It really is worth another read before you go to the SC AGM.

They are trying, but it’s a tricky road, troubled by attempting to keep everybody happy, but as we all know, you can’t keep all the the people happy, all of the time. This all results in a series of Sport Scotland identified roles which are required to ‘tick the boxes’ to meet their funding criteria in all the selected sports, in order to get this funding, the individual sports federations need to tick the boxes, whether or not they help their sport, the boxes need ticked.

Ringfencing

There’s plenty of good work going on at SC, from what I can see from the outside, the RDO’s are doing some great work, especially with youth development. The problem with funding is that it’s ring-fenced, so it needs to be directed, documented & recorded as having been spent on a specific area, in order to tick a specific box. This is where the previous incarnation of the SCU can be looked at, it used to be a club focussed organisation, with a huge input from volunteers, those with the most input are now not volunteers, but often staff, who have limited knowledge of the sport they work in, possibly because the cycle of ring-fencing means that they don’t access the sport at the grass-roots level, getting them out there isn’t part of the funding.

The criteria for employment in the sport now doesn’t relate to your expertise in knowing anything about that specific sport, but again, it’s about ticking boxes, the correct qualifications, the correct experience in things non cycling, but little or no requirement to know anything about the intricacies of how cycling actually works, internationally or locally. This is not the fault of the individuals, they likely have the talent, drive & enthusiasm to perform well in the job at hand. It’s more the fault of the system, the one in which SC has to fit into, due to box ticking & ring-fencing from further up the chain. So we’re drawn into a very distant decision-making process, of which each organisation that processes the funds adds their own boxes to tick, ending with the remaining funds being spent on actual sport, but in a very controlled & inflexible way. I actually have quite a lot of sympathy for SC on this, a large amount of the decision-making isn’t under their control in any way. But this brings us to ‘the membership’…..

The Membership

No matter how you look at it, the current plan to change the ‘Centre’ setup, and change it to five ‘Regions’, while reducing the club input in each of these regions to six individuals, voted by all the clubs in the region to represent them, is dissolving the input of the general cycling membership. It removes them from the equation, outnumbered by bureaucrats & box tickers, the focus is moving away from the club structure, by stealth. While this may be good for continued funding, without the interference of those pesky cyclists involved in cycling, it isn’t good for the backbone of the sport.

The majority of the army of volunteers, who give up their time for free, to provide coaching, races & events for cycling, are from cycling clubs. This is an often overlooked element, which can potentially lead to disaster if ignored. It seems that one aspect of SC’s performance is based on how many British Cycling members live in Scotland. We know a huge amount of these riders take out BC membership simply for the insurance benefits, we know a huge amount of the BC members are not in clubs & have no intention of furthering the sport by volunteering. So we can also deduce that having a large number of BC members on the books is a bit a false target, you’d be as well counting the increase in commuters on Princes Street over the years to get just as good an indication how many people are cycling these days. Simple number counting is not an indicator of how the sport will develop, but it is easy to count, so it’s used by those who don’t really ‘get it’.

Club membership is the key, that’s the target that needs addressed, then turning those club members into British Cycling members, encouraging them to sign up, as many clubs do. The difference between club members & individuals who join BC is huge, club members are much more likely to get involved in the running of the sport, they are much more likely to be volunteers, being in a club allows you access to the knowledge & structure of cycling, of events, of racing, group riding, skills. A rider on their own has little access to this world, they take the insurance & perhaps don’t even know there is a club in their town or village. Part of this is about clubs learning to be better at publicising themselves, but part of it is also down to governing bodies encouraging club membership & not just dwelling on increased BC membership stats, many of which don’t even know clubs exist & will never become an actual part of the sport.

Is there a solution?

Necessity demands that the successful sports become politicised, in order to gather the required funding, SC pales into insignificance on this front compared to the ever-increasing pace of the derny that is British Cycling. With its long time president now in charge of the UCI, it picks up talent & drops others, while still getting faster & moving higher up the banking. So like it or not, our sport is largely guided by the political bandwagon, focussed on producing happiness by creating national pride with sporting success. We are on a derny too, but have the ability to get some benefit from the slipsteam from the BC one, but not having the same momentum or support, we are required to ride more efficiently, staying closer to the black line, SC needs to run lean to get on level terms, it needs to get smarter.

As far as BC is concerned, SC is one of their regions, but run outside much of their control, we’d assume it’s seen as the wayward son or daughter which doesn’t behave quite as they’d like. BC is often criticised for ignoring domestic racing & clubs, but you can’t deny that their formula works very well for successfully targeting sports funding, but could an organisation such as Scottish Cycling continue to tap into the British Cycling resource while exploring a different route, developing clubs. Plenty of clubs & volunteers have been getting the impression that they’re an annoyance to SC, with a little effort, this perception could be turned around.

As I’ve said before, clubs are the catalyst for producing willing volunteers, members outside the club system rarely contribute, but a focus on numbers or BC member riders, rather than active BC members is a false statistic. In an example scenario, we could have 100,000 riders, all going out by themselves & using BC membership for insurance purposes, then 1000 riders who are members of clubs & are also BC members. Ask yourself from which group the majority of the people who give up their time to help run the sport would come from. Clubs need help, clubs need developed & clubs are the key to a progressive sport, supporting them will unlock many opportunities for SC to show that they are directing resources to the areas that their funders are asking.

The Jist Of It

Governing bodies need to return to gathering input from the people they serve, while balancing the needs of their funding stream. It’s tricky, but there is a danger that these bodies can start to become so disjointed from their original aims that they no longer serve the sport, other than the very top-tier. It’s a dangerous tactic to take, it can result in a complete collapse of the volunteer network & the good will of those volunteers. We’re all well aware that our levies & affiliations don’t pay the wages, but we have valid input & ideas, which should be listened to, dissolving those ideas in a new regional structure is only adding to the complexity of volunteers getting involved in meetings with trained speakers with no knowledge of sport. Volunteers help the sport, they don’t necessarily put their points across well in a room full of suits. As at least one of the SC Presidential candidates stated, there is a need for the membership to have a forum to speak their thoughts, I’ll be gathering each potential presidents thoughts before the AGM & see who will support the needs of the membership the best, which invariably will result in suiting the sport the best.

LINKS……..

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

A guide to joining a cycling club.

I’m on Twitter HERE

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You can email me directly on the ‘ABOUT‘ link above.

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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Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew (Part1)

Following the recent ‘Strategic & Governance Review’ of Scottish Cycling by ‘Renaissance & Company’, a strategic management consultancy, we finally have some idea what exactly is going on inside SC, along with some much-needed answers. In this blog & the following parts of ‘Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew’, I’ll be tackling the tricky questions that arise & look at some ideas of how things can be moved forward. In some of my previous posts, you’ll have seen that sometimes I’m echoing the widespread frustration in the sport with regards to SC (historically SCU), this review now shows some light at the end of the tunnel. If Scottish Cycling do not take on board what has been said, act on it in an open manner & listen to the membership, they will cease to exist in the not too distant future. Our sport needs a strong governing body in what could be potentially a massive growth period, across all cycling, not just the traditional road & track scene, we need solutions looking into the future. I’d like to commend Scottish Cycling on implementing the review & making it available for public consumption (although it’s not exactly easy to find on the website, an initial worry about transparency is brought about by this, although I can see why they wouldn’t want every visitor to read it).

Before continuing, I’d advise you read or skim through the review, keep it open on another browser tab & refer to it if needed.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL REPORT

Who Wrote The Review?

I don’t know exactly where the pressure to commission this came from, perhaps Sport Scotland who fund the majority of SC’s activities, but the management consultancy chosen, Renaissance & Company, are an ideal choice having dealt with many sports governing bodies in the past. They specialise in helping sports bodies, HERE & HERE are some links to sporting bodies they have worked with previously. We can have faith that what has been said by them is credible, they’ve seen plenty other sporting governing bodies & they know how they work, or should work.

What the Review Said?

It’s probably beneficial to read it yourself, but the findings are quite scathing, possibly to those who’ve dealt with SC regularly, there are no surprises whatsoever. I’ll not dwell too much on these, looking more towards the future, we all know there have been mistakes & issues, some will feel vindicated, so a short paragraph resume of some of these is valid, here we go..

The report recognises that cycling is complex, supporting various disciplines. SC displays plenty of logo’s of other organisations they have a relationship with, but it says these relationships do not actually exist (British Cycling, Cycling Scotland etc). Middle aged men interested in road racing dominate the membership, the membership don’t know what SC does. It’s an unhappy place to work, they lack effective leadership & there is no master plan!

Please read the report linked further up the page if you want the full story, it’s quite grim regarding what they found.

Solutions

The report flags up a number of solutions, they start on page 9, under section 3, if you’re following the review, skip to that part now.

The first area they look at is ‘Reforming the Business of Scottish Cycling‘, with the following key areas:

  • Strong Participation
  • Excellent Competitions & Events
  • Scotland Winning
  • Excellent Communities of Cycle Sport
  • Effective Leadership, Service & Governance
  • Working in Real Partnership

For increasing participation, we’re seeing that a plan is recommended (we’ll be seeing a lot of this, there currently are no plans), along with an executive in charge of this area. It seems that currently there is no strategy aimed at this, the membership demographics need a serious overhaul, if it continues as a middle-aged man’s domain, then the progress we require in order to develop cycling will not transpire. It will stay as the same old, same old, with an ever ageing emphasis on veteran racing & APR’s, this isn’t the future & whether you like it or not (I assume if you’re reading this, the chances are that you are a middle-aged man, based on the review findings) things are going to change, dramatically.

So how do we change the demographic? There isn’t going to be any kind of exodus of middle-aged men, the Mamils will stay, only we’ll add everybody else into the mix. The report states that SC has only 7000 official members, of the estimated 200,000 regular cyclist in Scotland, the reason that they are not members is likely that they believe SC does nothing for them, or they have no idea that SC exists. Basically SC do not currently provide the service they should in the modern world, they are outdated & stuck in the past, it needs to change, some won’t like it, but cycling is changing & if we (you, your club, your governing body) don’t change, you won’t have a governing body left to cling onto. What everybody outside of the progressive areas of our sport in Scotland (youth development & coaching etc) is that change is inevitable, cycling has got much bigger, we need a strong governing body to look after it and guide it, this review sets out a plan to achieve that.

I’m slightly uneasy with the review comments about events, the calendar stuff is great, but it appears to suggest that it’s OK for SC to organise events. This has gone very badly for the UCI, putting them in direct competition with established race organisers & seemingly using UCI anti-doping funding from pro teams rumoured to fund events in China, these events run by a company funded by the UCI but run by their controversial figurehead, Pat McQuaid & family. Governing bodies shouldn’t be running events other than their championships, it creates competition between the governing body & others, in Scotland’s case, between SC & clubs. There have been moves by groups of clubs to run a track league at Glasgow, but this was stopped for some reason. It’s hard to work out how clubs could raise the funds to block book expensive track time, while its common knowledge that SC are still negotiating their hourly track rate & haven’t actually paid for any yet. We’re not going to get any progressive race organisers getting a look in with that kind of set up.

The calendar does need to be completely demolished & rebuilt, as the report says, it’s got far too clogged up with ‘traditional dates’, if we want a modern sport this needs categorised, with championship events given priority & the other events slotted in around them. I can see some conflict with clubs & organisers over this, but if the clubs have valid reasons for when their event should be on they need to put that across, “it’s always been on that date” isn’t a valid reason, everybody has to accept change.

There’s plenty of solutions involving ‘regions‘, this would involve a complete rethink regarding the ‘centres‘. For some information on how out of balance these are, I wrote a blog on a potential regional road race league system a while ago, ‘Out of Our League‘. The old ‘centres’ simply don’t work as they should, finding ‘less-mature’ club representatives to go along to these would help, but many of the people who actually have any spare time to travel to these meetings still think 6 speed down tube friction levers are state-of-the-art. The regions need to be split evenly into areas with a similar amount of clubs, with a similar projected growth & the meetings need to be modernised. We are in the bizarre situation that some regions cover such a vast area that it’s impossible to get everybody to turn up. Why would somebody from Shetland travel to Aberdeenshire for a ‘centre meeting’, or somebody from Oban visit Glasgow, it’s just not practical. There’s really very little need to actually meet in person, if big business can carry out meetings by Skype, it’s absurd that you can’t decide who’s running your regional ’10’ champs by the same manner, it’s not exactly tricky, you can all sit at home and have a meeting, even on the train, time to move things forward, if you’re shy just do voice meeting rather than video. That’s the only way you can have effective meetings over the geographic distance of the 4 to 6 regions the review advises. The harsh reality of this, is that if you don’t have a computer, you’re not going to be a productive part of a sport trying to modernise & rebuild, you’re also not reading this, so I’ve not offended anybody!

What’s in Part 2?

So that’s the Part 1 basic overview on where we’re going with this over the first part of the review, we need a new SC, a modern sporting governing body with progressive clubs & a strong regional structure, a completely rebuilt calendar.That’s probably enough for Part 1, in Part 2 we’ll start getting into the nitty gritty, looking in depth at where the growth is coming from & there are also some problems with lobbing all the disciplines together where you ‘get a bit muddy’, those are where the real participation growth is coming from, so they need a little more individual attention than that. SC have to be very careful that they don’t change winning formats that are actually attracting their new target demographics.

I can see this drifting into 4 or 5 blogs, we’ve still got to look at how to grow each discipline, bmx, road, sportives, track, cross country mtb, downhill mtb & cross! We’ve only just scraped the surface, I’ll let you read the review yourself before I release Part 2.

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…..

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.

Calm Before the Storm, or is it?

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

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

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

Scottish Calendar 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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