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.

 

 

Young Guns

It’s a tough challenge to replace somebody of the stature, charm & medal-count of Chris Hoy, but it looks like Scotland’s young track riders have risen to the challenge & are slowly rising onto the international stage, some with a big bang. For those who follow the sport closely, some may be well-known to you, for those with a passing interest in track cycling, it may be a welcome surprise to see what’s on the horizon.

The Well Knowns

Embed from Getty ImagesTop of the list is Katie Archibald, whether or not her ever-changing hair colour has elevated her profile, it’s her results which really do the talking. Having been part of the all-conquering GB Team Pursuit squad, she’s now branching out on her own. In a very short space of time the Scottish star has risen from British Junior Individual Pursuit Champion in 2012, to World & European Team Pursuit Champion in 2014 & just last week made a significant step by taking the European Individual Pursuit title. Katie can only get better, she’s just 20 years old & looks able to turn her hand to any endurance events on the track (e.g. Bronze in the Commonwealth Games Points Race at Glasgow 2014). Road events are the obvious next step after mastering the track bunch races, with a 5th place at Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games Time Trial, then fading in the final lap of the road race, a little experience is likely to make these position numbers much smaller in the future. Not even the shackles of the British Cycling system has broken Archibald, her individuality shines through & looking at all the world-class female endurance riders they have, most look to be static at a very high level, not getting much quicker & not getting slower. Archibald on the other hand is noticeably improving & learning every time we see her compete. European, World & likely soon Olympic Champion Katie Archibald is one of the brightest sports stars of either sex that Scotland has produced, the British public or Katie herself haven’t quite come to terms with how far this star is likely rise as a sporting icon & positive role model once we get to Rio.

Embed from Getty ImagesCallum Skinner has been smouldering under the radar of most cycling fans for a couple of years now, the 22 year old is now looking like he’s up to cooking temperature & the man most likely to inherit the titles that Chris Hoy made his own in the track sprint events. Skinner, who is still on the Olympic Development Programme beat all the riders on the full Team GB on their stealthy Team GB super-bikes, the Scot on his stock ‘Development’ Pinarello track bike. He won three individual events at the British Championships, the Sprint, Keirin, Kilometre Time Trial & took the Team Sprint with two Team GB Olympic riders, the British Championships require a world-class performance to win them. He followed this up by taking the European Kilo title last week, which strangely was held in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. To make things even more unusual for the Europe’s Elite track riders, the 333m track is outdoors & bumpy, very unlike their usual wind-less & indoors 250m tracks. Skinner however recorded a time 1:02.399, I’d be surprised if this isn’t an outdoor Kilo record at sea level (if he’d recorded this time at the British Championships, he’d still have won gold, which shows how fast he’s going in any conditions, on any track). Again, a rising Olympic star looking to Rio 2016.

Both these riders have been chosen to represent UK at the November 8-9th World Cup event in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Not-So Well Knowns

Embed from Getty ImagesBritish Points champion Mark Stewart is another rapid improver, as I said above, to win a British title now requires a world-class ride, Stewart has likely sent shock waves though the established endurance stars with this gold medal. He took part in the Commonwealth Games for Scotland & was a surprise entry for the Individual Pursuit, he’s already 6 seconds quicker than his time from Glasgow 2014! Stewart is newly enrolled on the 2014/2015 intake to British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme, rapid improvement is not just expected, it’s required to stay on this programme, he proven himself a winner of a technical event, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a Scot in the GB Team Pursuit team at the 2015/2016 World Cup track season. You can read his interview with Veloveritas HERE.

Others I’m hoping to see step up are riders like Jonathan Mitchell & Jonathan Biggin in the sprint events, then Phil Trodden & Charline Joiner in endurance events. The last two probably are not exactly considered teenagers anymore, but Trodden appears to be rapidly improving, with 5th place in the British Scratch championship & Joiner has a new lease of life after breaking her back & fighting back to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I also wouldn’t write off Rigmar Racers from producing some surprises in 2015, they seem to be gathering even more experience & developing a talent for producing champions, will be interesting to see what young talent they have coming through.

Special Mentions

I was waiting to hear which Scottish riders had been enrolled on the new British Cycling Olympic Development Apprentice Programme (ODA), which invites the most talented youth riders into the machine. I saw on the GlasgowRiderz site that two riders have been invited, Ellie Park & Lewis Stewart. Both have some impressive palmarés, a youth rider taking silver in the recent Scottish Junior Sprint Championship caught my eye. Lewis Stewart was allowed dispensation to race-up into the junior event, where he was only beaten by British junior silver medal winner Jack Carlin, another rising sprint talent to keep an eye on (Lewis may have been allowed to ‘gear-up’, but regardless, it’s still very impressive). It’s always important to take note of a name for the future, one who performs against high quality opposition of a different age category, duly noted.

Good luck to all our up & coming riders, I know I’ve missed loads, sorry to those, but I’ll keep a close eye on the riders filtering through & performing well.

 

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

Would you like to go large?

There’s been some debate on Twitter regarding the increased affiliation fees for clubs north of the border, compared to those in England. The main difference is that Scottish Cycling (SC) are affiliated to British Cycling (BC). BC arrange the race & rider insurances, so they control the sport if Scotland wishes to use the rider & race category, coaching, insurance, development, Go-Ride (etc) structure.

We can take a look to see how prices compare for the same product across the UK.

The Facts

Scottish Cycling Affiliations:

  • Small Club (less than 21 BC members): £75
  • Large Club (21 or more BC members): £140
  • Commercial Club (named after a business or website): £230
  • School/Youth Only Club: £30
  • Sponsor Fee (for first 4 club sponsors only): £65

British Cycling Affiliations:

  • Standard Club/Team: £88
  • Commercial Named Club/Team: £175
  • School Club (including liability insurance): £35
  • School Club (without liability insurance): £10
  • Sponsor Fee (for first 4 club sponsors only): £62

Welsh Cycling:

Same costs as British Cycling.

Going Large?

There does look to be a fair slice added to the costs for SC member clubs over BC member clubs, or Welsh clubs who have a similar setup to SC. But what do we get for the additional costs & are there situations where a club would be better off with the SC pricing structure?

Some examples…

Less than 21 BC member clubs:

  • Club with no sponsors & less than 21 BC members would pay £75 in Scotland, compared to £88 in BC areas. A saving of £13 in Scotland.
  • Club with 1 sponsor & less than 21 BC members would pay £75 + £65 = £140 in Scotland. £88 + £62 = £150 in BC areas. A saving of £10 in Scotland.
  • Club with 2 sponsors & less than 21 BC members would pay £75 + £130 = £205 in Scotland. £88 + £124 = £212 in BC areas. A saving of £8 in Scotland.
  • Club with 3 sponsors & less than 21 BC members would pay £75 + £195 = £270 in Scotland. £88 + £186 = £274 in BC areas. A saving of £4 in Scotland.
  • Club with 4 or more sponsors & less than 21 BC members would pay £75 + £260 = £335 in Scotland. £88 + £248 = £336 in BC areas. An additional cost of £1 in Scotland.

Clubs with 21 or more BC members:

  • Club with no sponsors & 21 or more BC members would pay £140 in Scotland, compared to £88 in BC areas. An additional cost of £52 in Scotland.
  • Club with 1 sponsor & 21 or more BC members would pay £140 + £65 = £205 in Scotland. £88 + £62 = £150 in BC areas. An additional cost of £55 in Scotland.
  • Club with 2 sponsors & 21 or more BC members would pay £140 + £130 = £270 in Scotland. £88 + £124 = £212 in BC areas. An additional cost of £58 in Scotland.
  • Club with 3 sponsors & 21 or more BC members would pay £140 + £195 = £335 in Scotland. £88 + £186 = £274 in BC areas. An additional cost of £61 in Scotland.
  • Club with 4 or more sponsors & 21 or more BC members would pay £140 + £260 = £400 in Scotland. £88 + £248 = £336 in BC areas. An additional cost of £64 in Scotland.

Event Levies

While we’re on the subject, there is also a premium charged in Scottish events in the form of levies. Most road races carry a £3.95 levie per rider in Scotland, while BC charge £3. This equates to an additional cost of £57 in a 60 rider event, or £76 in an 80 rider field. Quite what this additional cost is for is anybody’s guess, but it may have something to do with the money being distributed to the ‘Centres’. It all adds to the cost of running an event, which isn’t ideal for organisers & clubs wanting to promote races, especially when it’s very hard to see what additional service that cost provides.

The Jist Of It

If you are a small club, you’ll pay slightly less, or very close to what BC area clubs pay. But if you have more than 21 BC memberships in your club, then you’ll lose out considerably. It also costs more to run events in Scotland, not a good situation to be in when ‘participation’ is an often trumpeted word by SC, we pay a significantly higher percentage cost per rider for the same insurance cover.

This provides a disincentive for clubs to promote British Cycling membership to their riders, a very strange situation, surely it should be around the other way? So if you’re in a larger club, or you are interested in promoting BC membership to your club members who do not currently have it, along with the insurance & other benefits it carries, it’s worth dropping Scottish Cycling a line to see why this is. I really don’t understand it & hadn’t really realised until it was mentioned on Twitter. Perhaps somebody at SC can provide some explanation, but at first glance it looks like we’re going large but getting the same size fries & a big empty space at the top of our drink carton. Over to you SC…..

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Scottish Classics

teacakeThe Scottish Road Racing scene changes significantly every year, races come & go, others seem to have been with us forever. But very few of the multitude of past & present road races are universally accepted as having the ‘Scottish Classic’ label attached to them. It’s probably about time to take a fresh look at some possible reasons why we’re losing these races & what we can do to create races for the modern era, with a sustainable format & room for growth, a true ‘Future Classic’.

Past Classics

I asked a question on Twitter & Facebook, “Which races do you consider to be the Scottish Road Classics, now, and in the past?”

The responses were particularly interesting, most riders viewed the races which influenced them in their ‘form-years’, not necessarily the ones that stood the test of time. A few events were brought up time & again, but if we asked a group of riders of varying ages to name the top 5 Scottish Classic road races, we’d probably end up with a very heated debate, potentially a fight. It appears that we personally determine a ‘Classic’, its predominantly an opinion formed from a generational perspective.

With the small amount of spectators at domestic events, you probably have to be there to experience them, it follows that if you’re there, you’re probably a rider in that particular era, so you’re going to inevitably choose races you actually rode in. Event officials have experienced many events over decades, so in theory may have a better perspective of the answer to the question, but our ‘Classic’ definition isn’t formed from an onlookers point of view, it’s from the battle within the race & how that felt, win or lose. We need think about how we define what we mean by describing a road race as a ‘Scottish Classic’.

Races that cropped up a few times, were the now defunct Glasgow-Dunoon, The Girvan, Tour of the Kingdom, Inverness-Elgin, Tour of Clydeside, while The Drummond Trophy, Davie Bell & Sam Robinson are classics that still exist. This is by no means the full list, just a handful that were mentioned, so don’t go sending me any letters.

Classic Definitions

One particular repeated characteristic of a ‘Scottish Classic’ is distance, with the 100 mile barrier being mentioned a few times as helping a race become a classic, but distance alone is no measure of monumental status. Over the years the distance of most races has reduced, racing is faster, but potentially less of the endurance test it was for the previous generation of racers. I’m not convinced that distance can define a true future Scottish classic.

Another is ‘point-to-point’, with these events being another example of a classic format. These used to make up a significant part of the calendar, but are now absent. Constraints of crossing regional borders, police permissions, marshalling & the logistics of getting riders back to the start likely stop these taking place. I have suggested a Tour of Scotland in a previous blog, this may be the only viable option for point-to-point racing these days, included within a stage race.

Sporting importance is another key characteristic of a ‘Scottish Classic’, the Girvan & Tour of the Kingdom attracted some of the UK’s finest riders, allowing our home-grown talent to compete on our roads against the best riders we could find in the British Isles. The ability of races to attract a top quality field is important for definition, at the very minimum they have to be open to Elite category riders.

Essentially, a ‘Scottish Classic’ is a completely different beastie to a classic defined in Europe. Continental Classics are seen as culturally significant, part of a country’s sporting mindset, so comparing those with ours isn’t where I’m looking. We need to redefine what we are actually expecting from these events in Scotland.

Sad Loss

There’s many reasons our events disappear, we can probably condense these down to a few simple points.

Manpower is required to run big events, if you consider how clubs have changed over the years, you can imagine that there are a lot fewer individuals likely to give up as much as their time as in previous years. Many club members don’t just cycle, they’re involved in all sorts of sport & non-sport clubs, they have added time committed to their offspring’s growing leisure & social commitments too. Standing at the side of the road all day probably isn’t seen as a good use of time, by them or their families. Race design has to be set against that backdrop, you have to make the time commitment appropriate to the modern way of life. A very long race which demands more manpower (our 100-mile-plus old-time ‘Classic’) would gather a handful of willing helpers, while a morning only event would allow most club people to help out, it doesn’t infringe on their child collection time or Sunday roast dinner. Obviously, unless you can pay your helpers something for their time.

The rise of veteran racing over the years has probably had a detrimental effect on the availability of individuals who would previously have taken over the reigns of club  ‘race organiser’. Rather than being clubmen, there are huge amounts of riders now racing into their 60’s, or later. Don’t get me wrong, the old boys staying at a level of fitness that embarrasses riders half their age is a good thing, I’m just pointing out that this cultural change has also contributed to the lack of experienced riders willing to design races which could meet the ‘Classic’ tag. These riders have the knowhow, potentially the organisation skills from the workplace, and the vision to construct a race of a very high standard, it’s just they they’re all still racing & giving the young men a pasting!

Complications & bureaucracy like risk assessments, insurance, permissions, booking equipment & HQ’s, race convoys & the task which carries most hearsay & negativity, the marshalling, all help to put people off running an event, or increasing the status of their current event. This is all very understandable, it can seem like a daunting task for the newcomer, but often the perception is worse than the reality if the club is supportive, if the club treats the organiser like a leper as soon as they take the job on, well, that’s a different kettle of fish……

Tradition can be a killer for an event, but can also be its saviour, especially in the case of memorial events. If we look at some of our remaining ‘Classics’, they have potentially endured due to a name being attached to them. This can create a commitment from people who may have known the individual on the trophy, by helping to find an organiser or taking an active role themselves. Either way, it creates an emotional attachment to a race, it allows it to endure. In one way a memorial race will struggle to develop beyond a certain point, the title may prevent this by removing the possibility of naming it after that big name sponsor you’ve finally found, or associating its name with a region or council who are willing to fund a major event. So it’s a double-edged sword, a memorial event probably allows endurance, but can impede development. A tricky situation which has to be handled well.

Money. The bigger the event, the bigger the pot of cash that’s required. A Premier Calendar event requires a significant prize fund & has to carry a Temporary Traffic Regulation order as a minimum. The minimum prize fund is currently £2000, which has dropped from a higher sum very recently, you can’t get this from entry fees alone, so to run these types of events you need some cash from sponsorship. Finding this money year after year is a big issue, the Girvan had to move from its traditional location, to Dumfries & become the Tour DoonHame in order to secure regional support. Events can grow to a certain size, attain our coveted & emotional ‘Scottish Classic’ status, then disappear due to funding. For the organisers who’ve made their event reach a certain level, then lose some funding, it’s often not in their nature to drop their event a level & to feel like they’ve taken a step back, so the events disappear. Big events require funding, but more importantly they require a driven team of people, if the funding is reduced through no fault of these people, then it’s understandable that their drive may diminish.

Modern Classics

So we’re looking at our future classic races having some features which help to cement their position on the calendar & hold a place in the racers heart, as a battle worth winning at the top of the domestic race scene. We need these events to have some of the following characteristics.

Prestige: The ability to attract all the top riders from Scotland, or even better, from the whole of the UK. This in turn attracts the much-needed publicity that attracts sponsorship & website or press coverage beyond the live audience.

Sustainability: A model in place which can secure an event for a number of years, whether this is from regional or local council support, a long-term sponsor, or a committed group of individuals who are determined to run the event for a number of years.

Innovation: The organisers of the event need to plan ahead. If you want to create a classic, you need to either have a very good idea, incredible organisational abilities, local support, or all these! Remember that most events on our calendar never attain the ‘Scottish Classic’ status, it requires a plan or incredibly good luck, only one of these can be chosen.

I’d define the 2013 British Road Race as the ultimate Scottish Classic, it will transform into the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2014, imagine if it continued beyond that? We’d have a pro-level race on a set course, those who witnessed it will discount the various shouts of “it didn’t go over the Crow Road” & such other nonsense. This event was compelling to watch from the side of the road & captured the imagination of the public in vast numbers, it will be even more popular in 2014. As close as we can get to a true continental classic race.

The Jist Of It

We only need a few sustainable & resilient ‘Scottish Classics’, not every event can be a Tunnocks Teacake or Wafer, we also need Rich Tea & Hob Nobs, there’s a place for all events. By experimenting with race formats & moving away from standard events, we can hopefully find our resilient events with the capacity for growth, capable of moving road racing forward by providing headline events which attract the top riders.

What we really need is a well thought out & carefully planned calendar, with a wide cross-section of events, which will allow space for the top-level events to flourish. I attempted to provide a structure to that in a new Road Race League system under the Race Development topic. This in turn would provide the platform for new organisers with fresh ideas to step up & perhaps provide the Classics we all desire at the top rung of the domestic road race scene, along with encouraging our current organisers to continue with their sterling work.

An enduring Scottish Classic for the 21st Century is going to be quite different to the races we enjoyed in the last century. We need to take a step back in Obree-style & redesign them from the ground up, forgetting what we understood them to be in last century. It’s an excellent opportunity to spend some time having a good think about over the winter, who knows what you’ll come up with.

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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.

A Demographic Time Trial

If time trialling continues in the format that currently exists in Scotland (and the rest of the UK), predominantly older men competing, using busy, main & trunk, or dual carriageway roads, it will eventually create its own demise. If we start changing things now & re-invent time trialling, Scotland could have one of the most vibrant, relevant & modern time trialing scenes of anywhere in the world. Making it feel safe, accessable, & relevant to youth, junior, under 23 & female riders is going to have a much wider appeal. Resulting in a younger demographic & the removal of the time trialling stereotype among other disciplines, that of the fat old man of cycling, stuck in his ways & entrenched with out of date ideas. This blog is going to upset a few people (it maybe has already), but if we need to change cycling for the better we need to take an honest look at exactly what we’re dealing with, Scottish (and UK) time trialling has to change the most, but its the discipline where that change is going to be hardest fought.

Where are we now?

We have Scottish senior individual time trial championships at 10miles, 25miles, 50miles, 100miles (If anybody considered it in any way relevant & organised one in Scotland, we’d have a 12 Hour championship too). Along with that there are the much more ‘future friendly‘ championships of the Hill Climb & the Team Time Trial, I’m going go leave those alone for now, I think they are sustainable.

Unless you’re in total denial, you will know for a fact that we have lost a great number of time trial courses over the last 25 years. If you consider that the prerequisites when choosing these courses are that they have to be fast, i.e. high traffic flow, good surface, as flat as possible. Then you consider that we live in Scotland, which isn’t exactly renowned for being all that flat, or having that many great surfaced roads, you can see that the English time trial model isn’t really something we should have adopted all those years ago.

Demographically, time trialling is mostly middle-aged & old men, there are a few bright young stars taking part, but they are few & far between, almost everybody has a ‘V’ next to their name. This isn’t the environment that attracts new riders, perhaps some people start watching time trials at le Tour & get inspired, but the reality is quite different, nobody watching, buzzed by fast-moving traffic & having to negotiate a roundabout by moving into the outside lane in front of 70mph vehicles, a different sport from that we see on the TV.

Imagine the scenario, a 14-year-old youth rider wants to get into cycling because he sees Bradley Wiggins looking incredibly fast in a time trial, his parents encourage him to “join a club” and they look on in horror as his first event is on the Westferry Course, which is essentially a continuation of the M8 Motorway, after club riders were telling him he’d do a fast time, as if that was more important than relevant performance against his peers. That’s one kid lost to the sport & a very bad reputation spread among other parents about what cycling is all about (I’ve seen a letter from a very angry parent regarding a very similar situation, I had to deal with this as a club secretary & I agreed with everything the parent said). We need to change this, we’re not acting responsibly if we try to seek out these courses, we require a very much more realistic approach in order to help time trialling flourish & become relevant again.

When you look at how many of these longer courses are left to use compared to a few years ago, if we don’t address the issue now, we’ll be 10 years down the line & wishing we had set up an alternative modern approach, rather than trying to do it in a mad panic.

What could we do? : The ’10’

The ’10’ is a much easier event to keep, it’s also relevant to road & track riders too, it’s roughly the length of a ’20 minute test’ which many riders use to estimate their functional threshold (I prefer a ramp test), so it’s very relevant to anybody training scientifically with power. There are lots more choices for suitable courses, finding 10 miles of flat road is much easier than 25, 50, or 100 miles.

What could we do? : The ’25’, ’50’ & ‘Olympic’ style TT’s

If we look at placings on the ’25’ & ’50’ especially, we can probably predict who is going to win the other by looking at the results, both are physiologically very similar. If you look at who wins what is called the Scottish Time Trial Championship (or Olympic Time Trial Championship), the podium of that looks very similar too. So we have three events of a very similar physiological ability, that seems a bit odd to me, so why don’t we just have one, the one that can be held on our lovely Scottish roads away from heavy traffic? We can let the veterans have their own ’25’ title if it’s really necessary, but the rest of the sport has to move on & stop hanging onto the old imperial view of what time trialling is, otherwise just keeping irrelevant championships to appease the dinosaurs is going to be detrimental overall. (There’s an argument to allow the dinosaurs to do their own thing, as CTT/RTTC down south & let the sport modernise & progress without them)

So, given a free rein, I wouldn’t intend keeping the 25 or 50 mile time trial championships, replacing them both with the more manageable ‘Olympic’ style course of a similar distance (this will have every dinosaur reading this boiling by now, if you hadn’t realised you are one until now, this is your wake up call). This is much more relevant to something like a Tour TT, a Worlds TT, the things people see on TV, we can set them in stunning countryside, the Meldons & Trossachs are recent good examples of this. It also helps us find the talented riders at these events, rather than the ones who had the best day, or were brave/stupid enough to ride as close to the passing traffic as possible.

Where are we now? : The ‘100’

I would have other plans for the ‘100’, it’s popularity is on the decline, but in reality it could be one of the most popular events if we think a little differently. People travel from far & wide to ride Sportive’s on our wonderful roads, they could ride the Scottish 100 mile championship time trial on similar roads, we could have hundreds of riders taking part over a day. Riding 100 miles is a huge challenge to many riders, I think this could revive the distance, numbers are way down in its current format (see below). We either radically change it or watch it disappear very soon, like the 12 Hour has, the 100 in the flat-road format IS next to go, then the 50 if nothing changes. So lets change things now, we’ll be upsetting 20 or 30 riders by choosing a scenic 100 route, we may be delighting hundreds. There are lots of routes which require very few marshalls, we have the roads, people want a challenge, riders can say they’ve ridden a Scottish championship, what’s not to like? Organisers could even get creative & run it as a point to point event & put some buses on the next day, keeping riders in the area & developing good community relations with councils, hundreds of people staying in the finish town having achieved a 100 mile goal, the B&B’s, guest houses & pubs would be full. Cycling doesn’t have to be anti-social & early in the morning, it can be part of a community event & part of helping tourist areas survive out of their regular season, extending it by a week on either side. Glasgow to Oban? Aberdeen to Aviemore? Ullapool to Skye? If we start thinking away from ‘fast’ & ‘flat’, suddenly our least marketable time trial distance becomes very marketable.

  • 2009 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 29
  • 2010 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 27
  • 2011 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 24
  • 2012 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: Can only find 10 finishers listed!

Whatever last years finishers may actually be, this event is obviously dying, without a drastic change in format it WILL go the same way as the 12 Hour, I can’t see it lasting another two years as it is.

Recommendations

So here’s my potentially unpopular recommendations, but I know many agree that change is required, the resistance to change from the dinosaurs will be incredible, bitter I expect, but it requires radical change or there won’t be time trialling in the near future. It’s up to you to put your ideas forward, publish them, send them to SC, do whatever, but get your ideas out there or time trialling will collapse in the next few years.

Senior Championships

  • 10 Miles: Keep this event as it is, but get a bit more creative about choosing safe courses, they don’t need to be traffic assisted, it’s placing that count in a championship, times are irrelevant.
  • 25 Miles: No requirement to keep this event. Was once ‘blue-riband’, is now a broken rich tea biscuit.
  • Olympic Time Trial: Keep, a distance of between 40km to 60km, but cannot be run on standard distance non-sporting courses.
  • 50 Miles: No requirement to keep this event.
  • 100 Miles: Keep the event, but radically change it, use a Sportive style scenic 100 mile course, one which people will want to ride in large numbers, this is what Scotland does best.
  • Hill Climb: Keep this event.
  • Team Time Trial: Keep this event.

Youth  & Junior Championships

  • 10 Miles: Keep this event.
  • + 2000m (Youth) & 3000m (Junior) road time trial. This allows the riders without access to a track to measure themselves against other riders without having to learn to ride the track, we could identify a lot of talent from the Highlands in this manner, a ’10’ may not show how good they are at pursuiting.

The ‘New’ Time Trialling

The above is a series of ideas about what could happen to an ageing race scene with a few changes. But it will require an appetite for change, which could be the major stumbling block, as those clubs with a high interest only in  time trialling are generally the least progressive & modern of the clubs we have in Scotland. Many clubs have plenty of time trialling interest, but also have others regularly competing in different disciplines, these are a totally different case, I’d go as far as calling multi discipline clubs ‘vibrant’. The resistance to change is less likely to come from there.

I can see this post causing some debate & some old school feedback/ranting. But without change, the loss of courses will continue as traffic volume increases. We will have to deal with it at some point, it’s best to have that plan now, implement some of it & prepare ourselves to welcome some of the new riders into an area of the sport which should be assessable to all, not just old guys on five grand bikes. Time trialling isn’t dead, it just needs a younger & more diverse audience, the current format cannot achieve that, a bit of creative thinking & some changes certainly can make it a huge & forward-looking area of our sport. We’re in a demographic time trial in this discipline, we need a new course.

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Medals for Pedals?

We know where & when the Scottish Scratch Championships will be held, due to the organiser informing us last week. But where are the rest of them?It’s time to look at which events are confirmed & have a date on the calendar.

Let me know if I’ve missed any, you can’t filter the calendar by Scottish Championships, so my eyes may have crossed over and missed some while I was searching.

Confirmed Events

Here’s what I’ve got so far confirmed from the published calendar….

  • 14th April: Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 12th May: ’10’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 19th May : Womens Road Race Championships & Scottish Road Race Championships (rr)
  • 2nd June: Junior Road Race Championships (rr)
  • 9th June: ’25’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 30th June: ’50’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 13th/14th July: Downhill Championships (mtb)
  • 1st September: Cross Country Championships (mtb)
  • 7th September: Scratch Championships (track)
  • 22nd September: Youth TT Championships (tt)

What’s Missing?

As far as I can see, we’re missing the following….

Road Racing:

  • Youth Road Race Championship
  • Veterans Road Race Championship
  • Criterium

Time Trialling:

  • ‘100’ TT
  • 12 Hour TT
  • Team Time Trial
  • Hill Climb

Track:

  • Sprint
  • Individual Pursuit
  • Team Sprint
  • Kilometre Time Trial
  • Junior Sprint
  • Junior Pursuit
  • Womens Pursuit
  • Womens 500m Time Trial
  • Keirin
  • Womens Keirin

Youth Track:

Lots, including sprint, madison, points, pursuit etc  for different age groups.

Undoubtably Scottish Cyclo Cross will be well organised & have their champs sorted out.

What’s going on?

It’s hard to tell what the problem with championships in 2013 is, but in the absence of an official championship calendar (that I could find anyway, I had a good look), it looks like the championship events have not been allocated. Now this could be down to a handful of reasons, perhaps nobody came forward to host these events, but if that’s the case there’s barely been a word about it, not much publicity at all to encourage clubs or bodies to get involved (again, not that I’ve seen, but open to being proven wrong). It could be the way the calendar works now, that you have to enter your own event on it after getting it approved through Scottish Cycling & British Cycling (if anybody knows the official method for this let me know please, I couldn’t find that either!).

So we have to draw the conclusion that Scottish Cycling must be running these, at least the track events, similar to last year. I think we can all agree, it would be nice to know, why the secrecy, it just creates distrust, please tell us what’s going on.

That’s 2 blogs in a row on Scottish championships & I’m more confused than ever, I think I’ll choose something more logical next time, this stuff just isn’t helping the sport.

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.

Postman Pat’s Bad Mail

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

CyclingNews are carrying a story on it here.

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

Dear President,

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

1.2.020 and 1.2.021 of the UCI Regulations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat McQuaid

President

What it means to us

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

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

UPDATE:

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

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.

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).

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.

Curiouser & Curiouser

Continuing on from my initial blog, particularly the road racing part of it, I’ve been forwarded a very interesting email that was sent to past & present road race organisers by the National Events Officer for Scottish Cycling, plus a draft calendar in there too, looks like it’s been widely distributed, so seems logical it’s ok to comment on it.

It looks like there is no national road race series in 2013, which is a shame, as I said before it doesn’t need jerseys and a sponsor, but is a nice thing to have, something to aim for and provide progression. Aberdeenshire appears to have an evening road race series, along with the Ingliston Criterium series too. An exciting addition to the calendar is the appearance of the British Road Race Championships on Sunday 23rd June, in Glasgow. The showdown for who wears the British bands in the Tour de France will be fought out, presumably on some circuits of Glasgow City Centre, on the course used for the Commonwealth Games in 2014? Lets hope so, Cav & Fenn from OPQS, Wiggo & Geraint Thomas (along with all the rest) in a super strong Sky squad, BMC’s Blyth & Cummings, this is going to be one hell of a race, especially with the profile cycling now has, will certainly beat the previous years events in the middle of nowhere, although the southerners may still consider this the middle of nowhere. A great event for Glasgow to host.

We also have the British Mountain Bike Championships at the Cathkin Braes on the 21st of July, so this looks like a bit of joined-up thinking from Glasgow City Council, this is another event well worth a visit, reports say the course is really good, with some knowledgable experts/riders in there helping to design it and sort any problems. But as my previous blog, I’m learning about the MTB scene, but would be keen to comment further once I’ve a better understanding.

Back to the Scottish calendar, there’s an attached file with notes. It throws up some surprising details, an inner working of what’s going on at Scottish Cycling towers (or SCU as some of us prefer to call it). The first surprising thing (I’m not sure they meant to release this, rather than asking the organiser first) is that they intend to ask the organiser of a women’s only event to move their event to the same date that a women’s only coaching day is being held. Now, this must surely be a mistake, as why would you clash a training day, presumably designed to prepare female riders for that event? Removes the point in having the training day to some extent, can I find another women’s only event on the calendar, just one or two! Surely these women only events don’t have to be held on the same day.

Next, we don’t have any secured organiser for the Scottish Road Race Championships, an event which has been getting some positive attention in recent years, it could be the biggest domestic event on the Scottish calendar if it was getting pushed & supported.

Apart from that, there’s seems to be some striking gaps in the calendar, scrolling down the organisers names, there appear to be a few notable ones missing, possibly everybody has retired or taken a break all at once, unlikely, so leads me to believe this is an incomplete calendar which wasn’t supposed to be distributed so widely. The notes also look incomplete, a little bit odd & haphazard for an organisation with so many paid members of staff to make sure everything is correct, it doesn’t instill confidence in what’s going to happen in the future. Didn’t we get this all sorted out reasonably easily with one full time member of staff and two volunteers in a portakabin in Edinburgh? But I’ve taken my eye off the Scottish scene to some extent in the last few years, so this may be normal procedure at this time of year these days, but I’m hoping to be back with a vengeance this coming year, might even help out in some races & pin a number on my back if I can get rid of this belly over the winter.

The State of Cycle Racing in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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