Track Cycling’s Strange Quirk

Embed from Getty ImagesAs you watch this Sundays Hour Record attempt by Bradley Wiggins, bear in mind that no part of him, or any static part of his bike has actually travelled the Hour Record distance he sets. It’s a quirk of riding on a velodrome compared to riding on the road, science gets involved & messes things up, during a quiet period of any hour attempt you can bore your family with this info, perfect cycling nerd territory. A long-legged rider has an inbuilt benefit from this, here’s why….

The Banking Effect

Let’s take a hypothetical vertical wall of death you may have seen motorbikes using as an example. This wall of death has Brad Wiggins cycling round it, but it’s quite a small diameter wall of death, so his head is sitting exactly at the centre of rotation. Even though he’s having to ride at 55kmh to keep going on this vertical wall, his head isn’t really going anywhere, he barely feels any wind there at all, it’s just rotating on the spot, causing little or no aerodynamic drag. The only point travelling at 55kmh is the point his tyre touches the wall of death. So Brad’s body or bike frame isn’t actually travelling at 55kmh, the fastest static point of his bike is his bottom bracket, which is travelling less distance than his bike computer would tell him.

A track rider, banked over on a velodrome experiences a similar, but not quite so dramatic effect. The riders body travels at a slower speed on the bankings than a computer measuring wheel rotations would indicate. Consequently, if an accurate GPS unit was affixed to the handlebars it would also read less distance & a slower speed in the bankings than the timekeepers would tell you, there’s nowhere on a bike you could fit a GPS unit that would record the exact track distance covered.

There’s aerodynamic consequences from the banking effect, Brad’s body will be causing more aerodynamic drag on the straight than it does on the bankings. His body’s air speed is slower in the bankings than on the straights, even though his track speed is the same. So as a rider gets taller, their effective body speed reduces on the bankings. It also makes wheel choice & even bottom bracket shape are more important than it originally seemed, as that as close to the point of consistently maximum speed as you can get, that point travels fastest for longest in the Hour Record.

‘Analytic Cycling’ Study

The excellent ‘Analytic Cycling‘ website, contains a wealth of information for cycling geeks, they’ve done a study using the geometry of the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Australia. The test is based on a flying 200m time trial effort, so our distance are not based on a full lap, but include a full banking & one partial banking, so our reduction in distance the centre of gravity travels per lap is more than shown here.

The model they generate shows that even though the track distance is 200m (199.99m), the distance the centre of gravity travels is about 3m less (196.7m) at a pace equivalent to a 14.166 second over 200m. This also shows that there’s a 0.3 second advantage gained on their baseline model, caused by the leaning affect & the riders centre of gravity not travelling as far as the track distance. In the next test the speed is increased & we find that the distance the centre of gravity travels reduces again, as the rider leans in more, essentially cutting the corner yet again. The final test shows that a rider sitting 200mm higher on the bike, with longer legs, also reduces the time for the 200m based on the same power & reduces the distance travelled even further.

So in summary, a taller rider (or one with longer legs to be precise) travels less distance each lap than a shorter rider, they benefit from the leaning effect of the banking, it reduces their time for the same power output. If the additional wind resistance from the longer legs can be minimised, a taller rider (such as Wiggins) has a distinct advantage. It also means that the faster you go, the more benefit you get from this reduced travel effect, which may slightly counter the huge increases in wind resistance you get from increased velocity, anything is a bonus.

The Gist Of It

This is a bit of fun for cycling nerds, but it does show a measurable improvement in speed. Those with the analytic tools to make these estimations correctly have perhaps identified an ideal body type for a pursuit/hour-record rider. But not just on the aero characteristics they display on the road, but from how their body type translates to track cycling. It may be the case that similar to rowing, a certain size of athlete is particularly gifted at these very specific disciplines in cycling. I’m pretty sure British Cycling have got this sorted already, those team pursuit riders look very similar indeed. It looks like Brad’s centre of gravity travels approx 5m less per lap than his track speed, which would mean in a 55 km Brad only travels 53.9km, while if he rode 55km in a straight line on the road, his body would also travel 55km. I was always told “you’ll go quicker on the track than anywhere else”, this may have been true, due to the reduced distance & work required caused by the banking. All this does is explain a strange quirk of track cycling, which the cycling geek may like, others, well, they stopped reading a long time ago.

 

199 Laps (pt6)

Embed from Getty ImagesUnfortunately, for the most interested followers of this series of Hour Record blogs, under the ‘199 Laps’ banner, I’m not even making up the Brad Wiggins attempt date this time round, he’s done it for me this time!

For those just tuning in, completing 199 laps of a 250m track will break the current revised UCI Hour Record, which is just under 50km, hence the title. The big guns in mens time trialling, Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara & Wiggins can all easily extend this by quite a way if they made an attempt. To add to the UCI’s story, it seems they’re not going to allow anybody who is not participating in the UCI’s bio-passport programme a chance to have a go at the record. UK time trialling ace Matt Bottrill enquired about this, but was told he could attempt a masters record, but not the actual ratified UCI Hour record.

June 2015

William Fotheringham secured the latest information during an interview with the Guardian this week. Wiggins has pencilled in late June, the interview is HERE. The smart money is on Brad going to go for this at London, not only because he’s from there originally (well, some argue we could say he was originally Belgian), but it’s also the correct shape of 250m track for this kind of record. Much more of a bowl than a track like Glasgow, London has shorter straights & shallower bends, allowing a smoother transition for the endurance records.

Wiggins is also targeting Paris-Roubaix again, I suspect this will see him confirming that he’s never riding a grand tour again. We know he’s considering adding some muscle mass, which will benefit him on the track & on the pavé. But this will compromise his climbing ability & any mountain domestique duties that he may have been lined up for, essentially ruling him out of a Tour squad, unless Froome thinks Brad is now too ‘Hulk Hogan’ to try to unseat him as leader. In the world of Wiggins, nothing is really written in stone, everything can & probably will change before June.

Who Else?

Cancellara was quite keen on the Merckx style record, before they introduced the revised rules on aero equipment. We’ve not heard a peep from Tony Martin, but as I’ve said before, it may take a little more track work to his incredibly effective brute-force style to convert that to a smooth track technique.

I’d also be surprised if another lesser known World-Tour rider doesn’t have a go before June. With full aero equipment & maybe a little track pedigree, I’m sure pretty much any rider from one of the top teams could reach 50km in an hour with aerodynamic equipment, until one of the specialists blows it out of the water. This is a huge opportunity for somebody to put their name in the record books, now that Wiggo has set a date, the deadline is drawn to have a go before it becomes an impossible task. I’m thinking especially of the large amount of Aussies & Kiwi’s with vast track experience, but we also have a rider like Phinney, who could potentially devote some time to this project as part of his recuperation & set a very competitive distance. Don’t rule out other experienced track riders on the bio-passport programme (Michael Morkov?) during a winter Six Day, a flagging event could provide their local star with an opportunity to break a prestigious record, while also selling a few more tickets to the locals in the process. I find it highly unlikely that nobody will make an attempt before June, it’s just too lucrative an opportunity to miss for rider, Six Day, or even one of the Revolution meetings to include an Hour Record attempt, even if it only stands for a short period of time. Is there currently any publicly accessible way in which we can see any riders who have signed up & funded their own bio-passport programme, if they’re not in the top-tier of teams?

The Gist Of It

It’s fairly secure Wiggins will go for the Hour Record in 2015, the question is, who will go for it first? I suspect Martin & Cancellara will not consider an attempt before June, they would have to devote far too much time to that one goal. It’s likely they’ll see what Brad can do, then secretly test to see it their own attempt is a possibility. This would upset a resurgence in the Hour Record, I can only hope that Brad leaves a little in the tank. If the record is absolutely shelved in June we may not see another attempt for a decade, but at least we would have a Tour champion holding it. Ideally, I’d like to see some more hour battles in the near future, not a record knocked completely out of the park, Brad, don’t go quite full gas, please.

Exploding the b-Omnium

Embed from Getty Images

The UCI have overhauled the Omnium rules, the points system has gone topsy-turvy & there is large weighting towards the Points Race, which will now be run as the final event. It’s a relatively new event to major championships, although familiar to domestic riders in most track cycling nations, so we did expect a bit of jiggery pokery, but this is quite radical. Here’s how it’ll affect the event.

The Changes

The UCI have altered the scoring system, points allocation & weighted events, the full list of amendments can be found HERE.

In Omniums up to this point the winner of each event was awarded 1 point, 2nd place got 2 points, 3rd place 3 points & so on. All six events had the same allocation so if you won all the events you got an unbeatable perfect score of 6 points. The winner had the lowest total score when the individual points for the events were added together. Things are quite different from 20th June 2014.

The modified rules are as follows. We still have six events, run in the following revised order. Scratch Race, Individual Pursuit, Elimination (Devil), Time Trial (500m or kilo), Flying Lap, then finally the Points Race. For the first five events, the points allocation is as follows: 1st 40 pts, 2nd 38 pts, 3rd 36 pts, 4th 34 pts, 5th 32 pts, 6th 30 pts etc. From 21st down each rider gets 1 point. So the rider with the highest points total now wins, a major change in the Omnium’s culture.

This is the major event change, the 6th & final event (Points Race) has it’s event points allocation for each rider added to the score from the previous five events. So to give you an idea of how many points could be amassed in the final event, the 2012 Olympic Omnium’s points race had the top three with 79, 59 & 55 points each, the last placed rider had negative 40 points, from losing laps. This means that the riders with a Points Race total above zero will have those points added to their total from the previous five omnium events, any with points below zero will have those deducted from their total. The Points Race has become the key event in the Omnium.

What This Means

The UCI have been slowly removing endurance events from the track programme, the Omnium should have been left as an event for those riders, but sprinters have been able to gather points from the Flying Lap, Time Trial & the Scratch Race (by good positioning & waiting for the sprint). This will redress the balance & re-establish it as an endurance riders event, repeated sprints & taking laps are not the domain of a sprint athlete.

With the result now depending on a very good Points Race, it’s addressed the issue of the reducing opportunity for road/track crossover. The team pursuit has even become an event which favours a sprint orientated rider, such is the pace & duration of the efforts required, it’s also a very specialised event with much time being required to focus on it away from road racing.

Some were worried that the new rules would not favour a rider such as Laura Trott, but Hilary Evans (@OlympicStatman on twitter) calculated the totals from the last Olympics under these rules, Trott still would still have won by 1 point, with 208 points! This format could produce a thrilling finale to the Omnium, with riders fighting for every point in the last event, it’ll certainly be exciting from a spectators point of view.

The Future

I’d like to see this as the beginning of a revamp for the track events at major championships & World Cups. The removal of the 500m, Kilo & Pursuit was a great loss of traditional staple events for track riders, I’d like to see those return & to make an additional change to the Omnium bike rules to make a differentiation. I’d like to see the Omnium raced on one bike, with no tri-bars allowed in the timed events. With the focus now on the final endurance event & riders requiring less time training on a pursuit bike in a velodrome, it could open up the opportunity for more road stars to get involved. We’re really talking about road sprinter types, not the Grand Tour GC contenders, anything that could encourage them to the track could raise the profile & the status of an event like the Omnium.

So I’m suggesting re-introducing the Kilo, this time for both men & women (no 500m TT), plus the Individual Pursuit & then changing the Omnium bike rules to a standard track bike for all events. Would be interesting to hear what everybody thinks of that.

The Gist Of It

Track racing can benefit hugely from having recognisable names from the road scene present, I think the changes to the Omnium format are good for the sport, it creates a very exciting finale to the series & makes the Omnium more attractive to road riders. It could be an opportunity for female road racers to find another means to earn some sponsorship money by riding track too, if there’s not the same specialisation required on a pursuit bike, it could be possible.

The revised rules will also favour racers, rather than wattage slaves, you can’t win a points race by riding to a certain wattage, you require track-craft, tactics & a racing brain. Personally, I look forward to it all coming down to the final sprint on the final lap, it should be thrilling. I still don’t like those bloody handlebar boxed in the Devil, can we not do something about those UCI?

Pista Delivery

chrishoyvelodrome

We’ve had over a year of the wonderful new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the facility has already had a major impact on the sport of cycling in Scotland. It’s succeeded in helping to develop our young talent & has been the catalyst for some very interesting clubs to appear on the scene. Track cycling, and cycling in general is on the up, the previously barren winter cycle race scene in Scotland is now incredibly rich, dominated by a hugely vibrant & well supported cyclo-cross race scene, plus track league’s & commercial events at our new indoor track cycling venue.

Facilities

Cyclo-cross has one major advantage for winter participation, you can find great courses all over the country. This is the big downside to track cycling, it requires a very expensive venue for year-round use, which if we look around the world, are mainly built for Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games or other major events. An expensive facility requires a mixture of funding & political will, along with the much vaunted ‘legacy’ aspect, it needs the full package.

Another big issue is accessibility, a velodrome can’t be moved, we have a situation where we now need more than one indoor track in Scotland. More opportunities obviously exist for riders who live close to the centre point of training, coaching & facilities, while other talents from further away maybe never get the chance to develop at the same rate, or perhaps never even visit the venue. For some time, there has been talk of a replacement indoor track for Meadowbank, or another indoor velodrome within the University of Highlands & Islands in Inverness, these are completely unconfirmed & currently unfunded ideas, but could make track racing one of Scotland’s most successful & popular sports, with regional centres & the focal point of the Commonwealth Arena with its spectator seating & big event capabilities. If only Aberdeen Council realised that the whole Union Terrace Gardens debate could be fixed by filling it with a 250m indoor velodrome, it kind of looks like it would fit in there nicely to me & provide a great sporting legacy at a fraction of the cost of some ideas.

Public Perception

Like it or not, track cycling helped all this cycling popularity take place, in a way that other more internationally recognised areas of cycle sport couldn’t, by grabbing the attention of an uninformed British public. They were programmed to understand the transferable complexities of sports like Track & Field or F1, those viewing skills transferred ideally to track cycling for the general public, they came to understand it. The public are only now coming to terms with road racing, but I still wonder why downhill mountain bike racing hasn’t grabbed a much wider UK audience, viewers know all about those transferable sporting complexities from watching Ski Sunday for years, it’s made for TV (we’ll not go into how Graeme Obree’s position was as a direct result of watching Ski Sunday just yet).

Having a velodrome makes a big difference, it provides a centre piece for a sport like no other cycling venue can, as happened in Manchester. It can create it’s only mini centre of industry, with coaching, governance, racing, training, sports medicine, anti-doping, all under one roof, then expands into not just a track cycling facility, Manchester also now houses an indoor bmx track. We can safely say, that without the Manchester Velodrome there wouldn’t be a succesful British Cycling presence at the Worlds & Olympics, leading to no team Sky & still no British Tour de France win, we’d still have our ‘mavericks’, but there wouldn’t be the strength in-depth & guaranteed medals at every major track event. Imagine a scene that never had Hoy, Wiggins, Cav or Pendleton, the successful use of a venue led to all these riders competing at their best on the world stage, it led to high level sponsorship & the popularity of cycling to the masses in the UK. We’d all still be considered more of a bunch of oddballs & the car driving masses would view us in even less esteem than they currently do, without the figures of Hoy & Wiggins to cloud their judgement.

Users

Glasgow’s Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is still in the development phase, with the Commonwealth Games taking understandable preference, take London for example, it’s still not open to the public after the 2012 Olympics & never was before, so we’re quite lucky really. There was initially a big question mark over public usage, with absolutely no previous data available for this specific type of facility in Scotland, the resulting demand was massive & perhaps unexpected by the authorities. The UK cycling boom was only just beginning when plans for this velodrome were written, so nobody really expected how it would take off, unless you were a cyclist & had seen the effect at Manchester, you knew all too well.

The accreditation slots were getting booked in crazy numbers, vastly more than expected, by most accounts the systems in place couldn’t handle it. By now it’s smoothed out a bit more & thousands of riders have gone through an accreditation process, to either get a taster of track racing or continue on through the accreditation to become a ‘qualified’ track rider, allowed to ride in competitive events  take part in open training sessions.

If you want to get involved, you can register for accreditation HERE. But calling the velodrome is also advised, as sometimes you’ll need to speak to somebody to get a slot.

Interesting Clubs

Traditionally, the Scottish track scene has been dominated by the ‘City’, the all-powerful City of Edinburgh Racing Club. They were also a major power & influence on the whole UK track scene, virtually every successful Scottish rider wore a white, black & blue skinsuit at some point. Their roster has included Olympic, World, Commonwealth & UK champions, to name a few you may have heard of, Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Jason Queely, James McCallum, Kate Cullen, Anthony ‘Jocko’ Stirrat, Charline Joiner, Jenny Davis, Peter Jacques, John Paul, Marco Librizzi, Bruce Croall etc. The club currently contains one of the biggest cycling talents Scotland may have ever seen, Katie Archibald (although we expect her to move to the Wiggle Honda team or similar in 2014), the current European Team Pursuit champion & looking like a potential world champion in 2014, possibly in more than one event. Their domination was centred around having the facility at Meadowbank available to them & having the support & drive to push themselves forward, without that they would never have reached those levels, let alone even existed. Another example of a facility shaping destiny, where would we be if Chris Hoy had taken up rowing instead if he didn’t have Meadowbank to train on?

We now have some opposition to that domination, we have some new clubs popping up, which can only improve the race scene for the better. It may mean that Scottish medals are now well out of the reach of the ‘clubman’, with well supported specific race clubs using more advanced coaching & securing track time, things will be getting faster & faster.

We have the ‘Glasgow Life Track Cycling Team’ making waves in the UK scene too. They came about in a conversation between Kevin Stewart & Jake Lovatt, Stewart being a young rider previously on British Cycling’s Olympic Development Programme & ex ‘City’ rider, Lovatt the Cycling Development Officer for Glasgow Life, also a cyclist & a coach. The motive, ‘find the next Chris Hoy’! A focus specifically on track sprint events, looking to identify & develop that talent, now leads them to progress the setup for 2014 with additional under 16-23 aged riders & a search for sponsorship to allow some travel to events outside the UK. This group of riders could really be ones to watch in the coming years, especially if track time is more available to them. A rider to watch is Jonathan Biggin, who putting out world-class ‘man-one’ times for the Team Sprint, remember that name, you may be hearing a lot more of it in the future, along with some of their other riders who are looking at Commonwealth selection.

Paisley Velo are another club making waves in the Scottish track scene. This one is a little different to those above, as it also caters for normal club riders alongside its star riders like Ben Peacock, with riders racing in all the categories at track league. ‘Big Ben’ is a pursuit specialist, after realising his talent in the Scottish time trialling scene, he’s quite wisely switched his focus to 4000m, I’ll be writing a separate blog on the Scottish riders who could meet the world-class qualification time for the Commonwealth Games, of which Peacock is one. They announced on twitter that a new signing is David Daniell, who you may have seen on TV in a GB skinsuit, posting kilo times almost on par with Sir Chris Hoy himself.

The Racers are a track cycling development team (@The_Racers on twitter), with a constant presence at the new velodrome. The experienced Allister Watson is at the centre of this, having helped developed riders such as Katie Archibald in the very recent past, we can expect plenty of fast young riders to come from this setup. Gavin Murty suddenly appeared & took a bronze medal in a highly competitive Scottish pursuit championship this year, so we’re not going to just see sprinters. Plenty of these riders have been involved in other sports, so don’t be surprised if there’s some sudden top performances from crossover athletes.

This is just a snapshot, the tip of the iceberg, but for those outside of track, you’re probably unaware of what’s going on. I’m not ignoring the vast amount of youth riders racing, I’ll be profiling them at a later point, lots going on.

The Jist Of It

A well-managed & supported venue with a development programme & governing body support can have a major impact on any sport in the country. The Chris Hoy velodrome is in its infancy, but the rider development opportunities have appeared from some clubs, those who have made a decisive effort & implement a plan of action. It’s a really exciting place to be, if we can secure some other indoor ‘training-type’ velodromes around Scotland in the next few years, we can gather talent & expertise in track cycling, as we’ve seen in the past, once the facilities are in place, the talent gets its chance.

The next few years are going to be incredible for the sport, which will feed into other disciplines in cycling. A big shiny venue helps the entire sport in time, not just track cycling, embrace it & have a go. The Pista has been delivered, a few years ago you had to eat it outdoors, now it’s consumed inside & the crust is absolutely stuffed.

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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.

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.