National Leagues (Elite League)

[I’d advise to first read the other post from Race Development before this one, so you know where we are. Accessed from the menu or link]

If we can stimulate the lower categories to develop regionally via the ‘Entry League‘ & ‘Advanced League‘ models, to produce higher category riders & instigate a bit of basic team riding, then we’re well on the way to developing a successful ‘Elite League’ across Scotland. The main difference with this league is not just the higher categories that compete, but that this will be a true National League, with the lower ones existing regionally & feeding higher ability riders into a competitive environment. Essentially, the lower league’s identify & nurture the talent, the ‘Elite League’ brings all the talented riders together to compete together, further raising the standard of Scottish racing. This is the only league where individual rankings will work, we can also assume that this is where the racing teams will play a part, they can’t really operate in the lower leagues as they would have to run events, so it raises the level where these teams compete & allows clubs to develop & hang onto riders for longer.


We don’t currently have enough Elite, 1st & 2nd category riders to fill regularly fill an 80 rider race field in Scotland. If the lower league models work correctly, this shouldn’t be an issue in two to three years, we should have plenty (have a look at the ‘Implementation’ blog for an idea on how many licence points will be allocated). So we have a solution immediately, to start all leagues in year one. The solution is simple, open the ‘Elite’ league to 3rd category riders, on the understanding that once there becomes a critical mass of E/1/2 riders that will change & 3rd category riders will be excluded. The ‘Elite League’ events should have the support of the one Scottish Cycling photo finish team & a full complement of NEG riders (National Escort Group moto marshalls). These should be placed as the premier road events in Scotland, but with that comes a higher cost, and a higher standard, to put across a good image for the sport & attract sponsors, this is our showcase for road cycling.

So far we have:

  • Year 1: Open to E/1/2/3 categories, with all E/1/2 riders being given a start, regardless of their residence (we’re not doing regional bias in this, we’re going for the best quality field, talented 3rd category riders have more opportunities to upgrade via the two lower leagues).
  • Year 2: Open to E/1/2/3 categories. Hopefully a much larger number of 2nd category riders have progressed through the lower leagues from Scottish clubs who promote events.
  • Year 3 (and onwards): Open to E/1/2 categories. We should have enough higher category riders by this point to remove admittance to 3rd cat riders. This will allow a higher BC ranking event, allocating more points to qualify our riders for BC Premier Calendar events (Star Trophy to the old timers)

Which Events and who will run them?

At the top of a three-tier league structure, with the other leagues designed to feed this one, we can let our big events flourish. The Scottish Classics can have a solid location, where they are guaranteed entries & in no danger of being removed from the calendar, alongside that, we can add fast, new events on manageable circuits. This is where Scotland can get innovative, there are individuals & clubs who want to run events of this type, they need encouragement & support, we could even revive some fallen classics. Away from the Classics, we still need to develop modern, fast, competitive racing, we need events without the massive hills to aid rider (and team) development, this league is for the future more than it is for anything else, we need to teach our young talent how to race, not just how to win races in Scotland, we need to start looking further afield.

There’s going to be a prestige attached to this league, so I’m very sure that initially there will be a bit of scepticism in year one, but once the higher category riders start getting processed through, we should have a good road race structure to build our talent on. The main point of running a league structure, is that each league compliments the others, the ‘Entry League’ directs new talent into the system & feeds both the higher leagues. A rider can start the season in the lower league & end in the highest league, with the club rankings in the lower leagues there is no incentive to try to hang about, it’s all about moving onwards & upwards.

Trophies & Points

We need a trophy for this one, it’s essential, not a memorial trophy or anything like that, this needs to have its own trophy, something that defines it. A trophy does not have to be named the same as the league, the league name may change.

I’m not going to go into detail on the points allocation for this, or the race format, everybody knows what they’re doing with this, it’s much more important to define things in the lower leagues to aid development. The purpose of this is to provide a high level of road racing in Scotland & as a stepping stone to a higher level outside Scotland. Certain riders often dominate road racing in Scotland, so adding a non monetary & non medal prize is going to be a huge carrot. What if we have a Scottish team riding big events again, maybe a team in the Ras, what if the winner of the Scottish RR Champs & the winner of the Elite League were offered a place on that team. For riders with ambition, riding a big event is a much bigger prize than a trophy & some money, it would ensure the league is hotly contested.

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

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Very Long Cycles

Normally, the year before a Commonwealth Games in Scotland has a bit more of a competitive feel to the top end of the domestic racing scene than the other 3 years, with riders hoping to gain selection for their country in the following years Commonwealth Games, which this time starts at home, in Glasgow. Usually in the actual year of the Games things calm down as selection by this point is more or less decided, this year it feels even more competitive than the usual build-up, there’s a fair buzz and the racing has barely even started.
The Commonwealth-Cycle V The Olympic-Cycle

We often hear Dave Brailsford, head honcho of Team GB & Team Sky always talking about ‘The Olympic Cycle’, this highlights why Team GB get their funding, the National Lottery funds them primarily just for getting Olympic Medals. This results in a public feel-good-factor and keeps the public happy once every four years, everybody glad that our country is once again performing on an international stage, it makes us feel important & it brings everybody together against a common enemy, i.e. everybody else. Olympic performance has a measurable effect on the psyche of a nation, every government holds Olympic success in high esteem for this reason, it takes the pressure off other pressing (or embarrassing) matters and calls for unity behind a nation, while putting sportsmen & women on a pedestal while politicians skulk around in the half-light, knowing fine well that any scandals will be minimised while the Olympics are underway. So for whatever untoward reasons those in power may have to keep us happy, we do benefit from that ‘Olympic Feeling’, we do feel better, we do unite for Team GB, even the most nationalist minded Scots can be seen shouting at Laura Trott in a Devil, we love it.
The Commonwealth Games is inevitably on a lower rung than the Olympics, but to those nations in the UK outside of the one with the largest population base (who often look on Team GB as Team England anyway), it gives everybody else a chance to have some international representation in their favourite sports from athletes who often don’t get the chance to perform on a world-class stage. We have very few sports where Scotland is represented in world championship type competitions, mainly due to some sporting governing bodies which somehow have escaped being amalgamated into a GB or UK bodies. Some minority ones that come to mind are a successful curling team which regularly performs on an international stage but competes as GB in the Winter Olympics, Cricket, Darts, and a lowly ranked football team which brings more misery than rapture.
The above explains some of the reasons for a major difference between the priorities some riders have in these two very different Olympic & Commonwealth Cycles. For riders involved in the Olympic Cycle & the GB Team, the Commonwealths will be just one stepping stone along the way to Olympic selection, from a British Cycling coaching point of view it’s likely seen as an inconvenient blip in Olympic preparation, which could absorb a huge amount of limited funding for little reward towards the main goal, Olympic medals. Olympic places are qualified by World Championships & World Cups on the track, so to look at it from a British Cycling perspective & removing all emotion, the Commonwealths are not important other than perhaps a guide to see what the Aussies are up to (as far as the management go, the riders probably have different views).

Can we perform with home-grown talent?

A Commonwealth cycle is therefore a much lower funded endeavour all round, with the chance than the home nations can come up with comparable preparation & support for some of the athletes who just missed out on Team GB selection for a multitude of reasons, injury, career, family, location, luck etc, these individuals can take a step up and prove themselves on a slightly more level playing field. I’m not saying that the Commonwealth Scottish cyclists have coaching, equipment & medical support that is equal to that of riders in a final year in an Olympic cycle, but there is definitely more chance of competing against the might of a UK funded professional squad, which has other priorities,. These types of performances don’t go unnoticed internationally, so there really is everything to play for from our homegrown talents, riders like James McCallum have used a Commonwealth medal (bronze medal with Cav taking Gold) as a stepping stone to a career as a professional cyclist, previously he was working as a nurse while training, a huge undertaking. This example really shows the possibilities that talented & driven riders, along with some high quality coaching & support from unsung workhorses like Scottish Cycling’s performance coach Graeme Herd can allow our riders to transform into high performers at the Commonwealth Games.

Who are all these talented & driven riders?

The normal Scottish culture is to assume that our riders have as much chance of success in the Commonwealth Games as the Panda’s in Edinburgh Zoo have of mating. I intend to break that idea you’re fighting to believe by showing you who’s performing or preparing to perform at Glasgow 2014. The talent pool in Scotland has always been there, it really looks like we’ll be sending a very strong squad in all disciplines to Glasgow next year, with current developments we should be in an even better position in 2018.

I’ll try to do a series or blogs on the different disciplines, but with the blossoming Breast Cancer Care women’s team harvesting some of the best road talent in Scotland, mountain biking brimming with riders such as Lee Craigie, Katy Winton, Gareth Montgomerie, Rab Wardell, Kenta Gallacher, Dave Henderson, Grant Ferguson & Rob Friel, track racing progressing at an incredible rate with the new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome & mens road talent placed in top British UCI registered teams, things will be very competitive during 2013.

There’s no doubt that some riders will appear throughout the coming season, we have the talent, we have a written pathway for how to gain selection, it’s a good year to be blogging. I’m a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games, seemingly I already have a job allocated, so hopefully I’ll also be there to give an inside & anonymous look at how the Games are progressing.