Testing Relationships

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

CTT/SC Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Other Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gist Of It

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

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


Fixing time trials

We’re in for a tumultuous few years in cycle racing in Scotland, misconceptions will be addressed, talents who may have previously slipped through will be recognised & more importantly, we’ll be getting our heads kicked in by first year juniors from now on. The balance of power is going to change, moving away from super strong veterans, it will take 4 to 5 years, buts it’s already happening, even in your local time trial.

Back when I were a lad…

I wrote a piece on an event called the Corrieri Classic (promoted by Stirling Bike Club), not because I’m particularly interested in imperial standard distance flat time trials, I wrote the piece because these types of events are about to become more important in the Scottish cycling scene. Much more important than the ’25’, which was perceived as the blue riband event in time trialling by the older generation & the myth perpetuated by 80’s & 90’s Cycling Weekly (The Comic).

It used to be, you joined a club & somebody asked you “what’s your time for a ten?”, if you looked at all ‘handy’. It was assumed you had ridden a 10 mile time trial, and that you’d have a time, from that they would size you up for a pasting on the road or avoid “putting a wheel on you” during a ride if you were too fast. All this based on a time, from unknown weather conditions on an unknown course, hardly a scientific appraisal of somebody’s ability. If you consider some former top Scottish road riders from the 90’s, such as the Johnstone Wheelers ex members Brian Smith & Drew Wilson, ask them what their time for a ten is, I doubt they would even have ridden one, it had by that point become irrelevant to the higher achievers’ in Scottish racing.

These days, time trials are very rarely visited by the majority of road & track riders, time trialing had traditionally been part of your arsenal for road racing in particular, anybody with any ambition on the road competed in time trials, they were directly relating to long solo breaks and also great training. But due to advances in aerodynamics and different bikes being used in time trials, largely from everybody realising the time gain of tri-bars from the 1989 Tour de France, where Greg LeMond used aero advances to overturn a  50 second deficit on Laurent Fignon in the final time trial, into an 8 second advantage on GC. Plus arguably even earlier from riders like Francesco Moser who took aerodynamics to an extreme, time trialling was steadily becoming a different sport. This is more evident in Scotland & the rest of the UK than anywhere else, since the early 90’s ‘The Comic’ was filled with pictures of riders racing on extreme positions, away from traditional drop bars and often riding small front wheels on the now banned ‘Lo-Pro’ bikes (now its current fashion is reporting on sportives), this reduced the crossover effect, it wasn’t a traditional road position and aero cost money. Time trialling lost its relevance to other forms of racing when the bikes changed in the early 90’s, this is going to change over time, especially for the shorter tests.

The road back

The Scottish track scene has been dominated for a number of years by some incredible sprint talents, developed almost solely through Meadowbank & ‘The City’ who have a special talent for identifying talented riders and giving them a pathway to greatness (The 2012 Scottish Keirin Championships looked like a club championship, all six riders in the final were City of Edinburgh!). There have been a few notable endurance talents developed along the way through the same route, along with some British medals, but generally, they’ve been creating top class sprinters for a very long time.

We now have a method of identifying promising endurance talents too, namely, the Glasgow Track League. As with most track leagues across the UK, it’s currently not particularly well promoted or advertised, but if you scour the results on the Scottish Cycling website, you’ll see some very interesting names pop up. I went to have a look one evening, aside from the eternal youth and competitiveness of veteran riders like Graham McGarrity who were getting stuck in, the most aggressive displays were from the younger riders, they were knocking lumps out of each other and nobody else was capable of testing themselves to these extents. They also have a very classy measurement system, if James McCallum & Evan Oliphant were to both turn up at track league, you can expect fireworks, the young guys are out to prove a point by the looks of it. So Gus Gillies, Mark Stewart, David Whitehall, Greg Brown, etc, etc, you guys are the catalyst to create something very special.

What’s the point?

So this gets me to the actual point, the crossover between disciplines and why it’s more important these days. Classy pursuiters & regular track riders like Silas Goldsworthy & Ben Peacock, are now exchanging punches at a ’10’, with another regular convert to track league & potential pursuiter Alan Thomson also in the mix. It turned out that Goldsworthy recorded a 21:06, with Peacock & Thomson tied in 2nd with 21:21. The local ’10’ can easily become a testing ground for better bike positions & used to help train muscle adaptation to a new, more-aero position. How does this work?

Let’s get on with the assumptions….

Well (sorry, going to get all technical now), consider power outputs. The riders are all different sizes & shapes, so we’ll take a simplistic viewpoint on this and ‘pretend’ that they all weigh about 75kg & that they are all similar body shapes.

Let’s assume it takes 340 watts of power to ride the course in 21:06 (45.5 kmh). If that same rider was to ride the same course, in the same conditions in 21:21 (45.0 kmh), then they would have to produce 328 watts of power. So for the 2nd placed riders to beat the first placed rider, we can deduce that they would either have to train to produce between 3% to 4% more power to get on terms or not require to produce that extra power through better aerodynamics. Now here’s the important bit, it’s probably much easier to reduce the aerodynamic drag requirement by 12 watts to also get on terms. So as you can see, the margins of difference are very small, with those slight changes actually making all the difference. It’s puts into perspective Team Sky’s much mocked ‘marginal gains’ philosophy, which accumulates very small percentage gains and changes them into race winning gains by acquiring hundreds of them. So we can also deduce that even in the reality of an early morning Sunday ’10’, these technicalities & attention to detail could make the difference between winning & losing, even in a club ’10’.

Take this into consideration. Would some work on some random details, like your tri-bar position, taping your number down, riding removable valves in your deep section rim & taping the holes, making sure your aero helmet fin is flat to your back, spending your money on the best front wheel you can afford rather than the disc rear wheel that looks better but turns in turbulent air, would this all add up to a 3% gain, that’s up to you to decide. There are also some truly shocking un-aero aero positions out there too, everybody should stick a mirror next to their turbo trainer just once and see what we all see in those ghastly photos, you’ll be shocked too, you don’t look like Tejay Van Garderen.

What does this mean?

A local ’10’ could become a less expensive testing ground for ambitious amateur pursuit riders looking to tweak their aero advantage against other riders in a similar position. We could see a big revival in the quality of fields in time trial events, with one of the effects of an indoor velodrome (as in other regions where one has been acquired), will be evident across other disciplines, with younger competitive riders also taking part. So consider £10 time trial entry versus several hundred £ to hire an indoor velodrome, you’ll see the smart £10 being spent on developing aero advances and riders getting to a level where they can compete without having to fork out cash on venue hire, while riding the same bike they pursuit on, with a front brake attached. Fixed gear is going to get more popular again in your local ’10’.