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Keep racing on the roads. Please.

David McleanDavid Mclean Posts: 16
edited September 2012 in Amateur race
There is no doubt that British cycling is alive and well at the highest echelons of performance - Britons won the Tour, the world champs and pretty much the entire velodrome; there's also no doubt that British cycling is alive and kicking at the grass roots level too - membership has doubled since 2007. It makes sense to assume that all is well in between, too, right? Unfortunately not; BC is the governing body for beginner’s racing, Regional racing (2nd and 3rd cats), all levels of women's road racing, National level racing (Elites and 1st cats) and the semi professional/professional teams below Sky. All of these parts of the sport are in trouble - but particularly at the higher end.

What’s wrong with the in between then?

The problem with all that lies between the two extremes of the Sky rides and the Sky team is that not only is there a large and almost unbridgeable gap between the likes of Sky and the next best British teams but that the races for those teams are getting scarcer and scarcer in this country. In recent years more and more road races have had to retreat to closed circuits, Premier Calendar events have been cancelled and the racing calendar has fizzled out earlier and earlier in the season. The 2012 Premier Calendar has the fewest events (only 6) in the entire history of the series. Elite and 1st cat riders have been wrapping up their racing in August or early September. Riders for some of the UK Continental registered teams have been spotted preparing for the Tour of Britain on a diet mostly made up of 1 hour criteriums at Hog Hill!

The problem is with race organisation.

The bottom line is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to organise and run road races in the UK. Cycle teams, clubs, racers have developed, grown and moved onwards and upwards but the races themselves have gone backwards or at best remained static. This is due to a number of contributory reasons, some more important than others:

Here is why road races are in trouble whilst everything else is booming:
  1. Legislation: Every year that passes the law governing road races gets another year out of date, it was written in 1960 and no longer works. If you have a quick scan you will see that most of the road races we currently ride will violate one law or another: http://lvrc.org/documents/road_traffic_act_1960.pdf Everyone knows the rules are poor, including the rules themselves (read the last paragraph).
  2. The Police: The 1960 act gives a huge amount of power to the local police, who are able to place any constrictions they feel necessary on an organiser. They often don’t want the extra work or don’t understand what is required so the larger races never come to fruition. The Police’s job is to serve the public, not to quash the aspirations of an organiser with impractical and unnecessary rules. Ever wondered why the Tour of Britain has those big transfers and a strange patchwork of stages in certain counties? One reason the Tour of Britain goes where it does is because those are the areas with friendly police constables (another being not all regional.development committees are interested).
  3. Marshalling: did you know that all of those marshalls at your local road race don't have any legal powers to stop traffic? They are literally just standing there in a hi-viz vest, waving a flag in the street and hoping for the best. It's worked OK so far but it's hardly ideal, as a sport we are one RTA away from big legal problems and both literal and figurative nails in coffins. The volunteers at the Tour of Britain have no power to stop traffic either.
  4. Lack of organisers: There is a perception that a road race is immensely difficult and time consuming to put together. For your average National B or lower this is a misconception, there is plenty of help available from BC and other organisers if you look, often you can do it all on your own until the day of the race.
  5. Frustrated big race organisers: Once a race is up and running it's much easier to maintain, this is why it's so sad to see big events like Premier Calendars disappear, they are very difficult to get going again once lost. Organisation of these events is far more difficult than it should be because of the Police powers and 1960 act, these people have enough of an uphill battle gaining sponsorship and finding volunteers. For an idea of what a big race organiser is up against, read this interview with Peter Harrison, who organises a Premier Calendar and a Women's series event.
  6. Lack of volunteers: this is a perennial problem in all sports. The make-up of the teams to which road racers belong is changing; we used to be mainly club riders, now there are many more sponsored teams and riders (a symptom of growth). This is no bad thing by itself but there is perhaps a reduction in people willing to organise or help out at a race as a result. A culture of volunteering needs to re-emerge in road racing, especially amongst those in the sponsored teams. Elite road racers in particular need to pick up here, they benefit from the sport more than others, marshalling is something that everyone should do but elite riders in particular don't seem to bother with. You can ride out to a race and do it on your rest week, it's no biggy.
  7. Opening hours: Shops for a number of years have been open on Sundays, this means increased traffic (and more danger), earlier starts and shorter races.
What can I do to help?
  1. Write to your MP: The British public is in a unique mood at the moment, we seem to be unusually tolerant of cycling and cyclists thanks to success in the velodrome and Bradley Wiggins's tour win, not forgetting Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Armitstead. Now is the time to bring a final push for big reforms to the 1960 act. Write to your MP, also write to Julian Huppert, joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and tell him that it needs changing. You can also contact Julian on Twitter.
  2. Encourage British Cycling to act: A couple of years ago BC launched 'Keep Racing on the Roads' to tackle the first three things on my list. Here is the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-Racing-on-the-Roads/110888005595054. They appeared to be making progress for a while, sadly they haven't posted since June last year. What has happened? I don't know, I don't care. BC needs to take up the mantle once again with its stated aims. BC is letting us down, like their page, write on their page, email [email protected], make sure they know you are concerned that nothing is happening. Above all tell them to act now to save the Premier Calendar, it's in crisis.
  3. Marshal, Organise, Volunteer: Get stuck in, it is your duty to volunteer, yes, even if you get a free bike from your shop team, yes, even if you have more than 200pts on your license, yes, even if your cycle kit has more than 5 sponsors on it, the more you take from your sport the more you must give back.
  4. Spread the word: Spread this message as far as possible. BC must know that we are relying on them, everyone is relying on them, they need our support, let them know they have it and that you're doing your bit.
The standards that the world class performance programme have set and achieved for themselves need to be aspired to by the rest of the road racing community at large, that means by BC, by organisers and by the racers themselves as a long term goal. If we can have a Tour de France winner and a British registered Protour team why can't we have a racing calendar to match? It's a long term goal but for now we just need to stop it from disappearing altogether. Wouldn't it be sad if we measure the success of Britain's European pros in the context of an all but forgotten and empty domestic scene?

The UK racing scene is bursting at the seams for want of races, particularly at the top end. More and more sponsored teams are relying on getting exposure in the Premier Calendar, which every year shrinks a little bit more. It will only be a matter of time before it simply no longer makes sense to run a team with a UK sponsor wanting UK exposure, Sigma Sport aren't going to sell any bikes racing in Belgium.

We should aspire to having the Tour of Britain and Rutland Melton on the World Tour, we should have a phalanx of UCI .1 and .2 events, UCI women's events, 15-20 premier calendars a year and a similarly increased amount of National B and regional races. France has this, Belgium has this, Italy and Spain have this, our world champion and Tour winner don’t, doesn’t that seem strange? One of the continual criticisms of the current government is that their policies are fantastic, but only for the very few, the 1%, who benefit greatly whilst the majority suffer. It would be a pity if this were to be mirrored by road racing in the UK.

Thanks for reading, if you agree, please act - at the very least please share this message.

Posts

  • ProssPross Posts: 31,586
    Issue 3 isn't quite true (although it is in many areas). Some police forces offer an accreditted marshall scheme which enables marshalls to legally stop traffic. A good starting point would be for this to be rolled out nationwide as I think it is only Welsh forces and Essex that allow it. Despite this racing on the road is decreasing even here in Wales, I think a lot of this is actually down to the relative ease of hiring a motor racing circuit (or in other areas specific cycle circuits) compared to all the issues racing on the road requires.

    I'm thinking of organising a new race next year but problem number 6 is the big one for me - finding people in the club to ride on a Sunday can be hard enough, getting them to help out on a race is very difficult. Another issue is that I would like to find a new course to use, preferably something with a few hills, but finding a course where the roads are not too narrow or where you don't have to pass through a village choked with parked cars is near impossible and even if I do I would then need to do the risk assessment paperwork. I do have an idea that I am currently keeping to myself until I can check a few things out but hopefully at some point I will be able to get a proper road race sorted out on closed roads - doubt it will be next season though.

    One thing that is missing is the cost - the obstacles can be overcome but it can make races, particularly at the local club level, impractical.

    Good post though and nice to see someone fighting the corner for road racing as I am bored senseless with 20 races a year at motor racing circuits whilst we have maybe 10 on the roads (which always get full fields).
  • Thanks for replying Pross. please spread the word. I've already got a bit of a response from Julian Huppert on Twitter!

    I know about the accredited marshal scheme, I realise BC have made headway here but it needs to be pushed forward and rolled nationwide out as you say, what better time than now? They appear to have ground to a halt, we need to give them a nudge again.

    One of the rules in the 1960 act is a field limit of 80 riders - in some areas it gets restricted down to as low as 40. By allowing larger fields costs can be covered more easily in entry fees. Some courses are safe enough for far more than 80.
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    Pross wrote:
    I'm thinking of organising a new race next year but problem number 6 is the big one for me - finding people in the club to ride on a Sunday can be hard enough, getting them to help out on a race is very difficult. Another issue is that I would like to find a new course to use, preferably something with a few hills, but finding a course where the roads are not too narrow or where you don't have to pass through a village choked with parked cars is near impossible and even if I do I would then need to do the risk assessment paperwork. I do have an idea that I am currently keeping to myself until I can check a few things out but hopefully at some point I will be able to get a proper road race sorted out on closed roads - doubt it will be next season though.

    One thing that is missing is the cost - the obstacles can be overcome but it can make races, particularly at the local club level, impractical.

    Good post though and nice to see someone fighting the corner for road racing as I am bored senseless with 20 races a year at motor racing circuits whilst we have maybe 10 on the roads (which always get full fields).

    Pross, go for it. You may struggle for riders to go out with on a Sunday, but the thing I find about cycling clubs is that there are a lot of dormant members, who may not cycle any more or go to the club (most other sports they'd just stop being a member!). But if you organise a race they may come forward, especially if they used to race in the past.

    With regards to a course, speak to your local BC events team, they've probably got a few course that you may not be aware of that could be used.

    I'm in the process of organising my first race before the end of the season, which is on the open road. Gone straight in with an 80 rider field. The BC team have already done a risk assessment, I have to do another before the race in case there is anything new to be aware of. The BC team also provide a lot of the equipment needed to run the race, in fact pretty much everything needed to run a race. They also sort out the commissaires who are coming on the day, liaise with the police etc....

    My jobs have been promoting the race, organising the entries, doing all the back end paperwork, organising the volunteers and making sure that everyone and everything is where it should be.

    It's a reasonable amount of work, but if a numpty like me can manage it, then I'm sure most can. There's still time for things to go wrong, but so far so good (touch wood).

    David, what's your twitter name, I'll find your post and retweet it.
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    While I think about costs. I think we'll just about break even. If we as a club had to buy a full race kit before the race went ahead then we'd be at a fairly hefty loss - but then this could be recouped in future years. I wasn't really sure what to charge as an entry fee so I just put it at the same fee as most other races.

    I've already learnt a lot that I can put into use if I put a race on next year (so far nothing has put me off).
  • My twitter is - https://twitter.com/DavidMcleanCycl

    If anyone out there has connections with cycling weekly or any uk cycling websites please be my guest to reproduce this message or get in touch with me with a private message.
  • David, as a Regional race organiser, I agree with your post completely. I do think that it would be good for 'top' riders to be seen to be helping out, especially at Regional level events. To be fair, I know that in my region (East Midlands) e.g. the Raleigh team and others do help out at the mid-week Mallory races.

    In my opinion, the East Midlands as a whole has been crippled by the 'Race Team' phenomenon over the last few years and a general apathy of letting others get on with the sometimes stressful but surprisingly rewarding task of putting actual races on.

    Racers, if you can't remember the last time you stood on a junction with a red flag in your hand then you're part of the problem, not the solution.
  • This attitude needs to change, I am a pro with Meridiana Kamen in Italy but I am a second claim member of Cambridge CC - I shall always be in CCC. I do my bit, drive the following car at the local road race and so on, I think there is a perception that sponsored riders are entitled to take from the sport and not give back, this needs to change - they shouldn't necessarily have to move back to club teams to do this though.
  • ProssPross Posts: 31,586
    Thanks Hammerite. I have organised quite a few races in the past and even then I struggled to get sufficient help - everyone wants to ride rather than help. I know I would get enough to cover the race thanks to the NEG providing the marshalls and it is something I will be doing but the local courses are a bit boring these days - I might try to resurrect our old club race route though which had a decent climb.
  • liamgliamg Posts: 193
    One of the issues with the general lack of road races is that if your region only has 4-5 (or at most 10) road races per year, then it makes it very difficult to give up a race to marshall. If races were happening every weekend, then I suspect most riders wouldn't have any problem with marshalling a couple of races.

    This doesn't totally excuse riders from not giving anything back to the community, but you can see the problem. Its a vicious circle whereby the lack of races leads to a lack of marshals, which leads to a lack of races etc.
  • ProssPross Posts: 31,586
    This attitude needs to change, I am a pro with Meridiana Kamen in Italy but I am a second claim member of Cambridge CC - I shall always be in CCC. I do my bit, drive the following car at the local road race and so on, I think there is a perception that sponsored riders are entitled to take from the sport and not give back, this needs to change - they shouldn't necessarily have to move back to club teams to do this though.

    Definitely - I raised this a few months ago, my local races are getting dominated by small squads of sponsored riders but few of them are giving anything back.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,038
    I do the marshalling thing, so familiar with the standing in the cold on a junction bit...
    Those Sunday trading laws do generate a lot traffic that never before existed... but there is no way on this earth that there is a going back on that score.. a lot of local circuits to me are becoming less fit for purpose with each passing year.
    With the RTA 1960 ... on this before I start writing off to the House of Commons, can someone a bit more knowledgeable give a quick precis as to what actually needs to be changed in this Act?
    I suspect that a general 'something needs to be done' will not raise any interest amongst our MP brother/sisterhood.
  • HerbsmanHerbsman Posts: 2,029
    I'll help. I love this game. I take it for granted and I understand that playing it is not enough. So I will write to my MP and get onto British Cycling today.
    CAPTAIN BUCKFAST'S CYCLING TIPS - GUARANTEED TO WORK! 1 OUT OF 10 RACING CYCLISTS AGREE!
  • liamg wrote:
    One of the issues with the general lack of road races is that if your region only has 4-5 (or at most 10) road races per year, then it makes it very difficult to give up a race to marshall. If races were happening every weekend, then I suspect most riders wouldn't have any problem with marshalling a couple of races.

    This doesn't totally excuse riders from not giving anything back to the community, but you can see the problem. Its a vicious circle whereby the lack of races leads to a lack of marshals, which leads to a lack of races etc.

    Maybe they could organise a race then - that way they wouldn't have to miss any of the existing ones ?

    In what is largely a sport run by volunteers every club/team and individual involved in road racing should also be involved in organising road races.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • Herbsman wrote:
    I'll help. I love this game. I take it for granted and I understand that playing it is not enough. So I will write to my MP and get onto British Cycling today.
    Excellent news!

    JGSI: I deliberately didn't write about what needs to be changed, I suspect there is more than one way to do this and we can't all agree. This forum is a good place to suggest things and discuss it, also I believe it is BCs job to present a unified message on our behalf - we just don't know what it is, there is more than one accredited Marshall scheme on test but we don't know what has happened to them. I think the most urgent change concerns the ability to legally stop traffic, things have worked out OK for a long time but I reckon we've been lucky and when there finally is an incident chances are the law won't be on our side.
  • Some of you might be interested by this reply on Veloriders: http://www.veloriders.co.uk/phpBB2/view ... 30#1287430
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    Pross wrote:
    everyone wants to ride rather than help.

    I do recognise this bit! I've probably done around 20 races this year and only had club mate(s)in two of them, not many racers. So I put on a race hoping that a lot of the guys will help.... and I get 11 entries from clubmates for our own race (where were you all season?)

    Thankfully I've managed to get enough helpers together.

    and hopefully a load of those who entered this race keep it up for next season.
  • Here is another article about the Olympic games legacy wrt road racing: http://www.cadenceperformance.com/lets-talk-about-legacy/
  • i think one thing that would make a massive difference if we could get it would be more closed road races like in France Belgium etc once you have the permission to do that, you reduce costs by not having to pay for police and or NEG marshals and can have more racers therefore gaining more money through entry. But being England you would probably do well to do this as it is not ingrained into the society you will always get people moaning.

    Living in Guernsey we only have one club and every member over 18 does 5 duties a year, this allows us to have at least one but more often 2 races a week from march through to October with only about 200 members. It only costs £60 a year to enter, none of our races are BC affiliated however, something I would like to change even if it was just one weekends of racing a year.
  • re: the rise of racing teams (as opposed to traditional clubs) who want to race, but not put on races

    I could be wrong, but my understanding of how it works in my part of the world is that nearly all road races in Essex (and further out into East Anglia, possibly - I never go that far) are part of the ERRL and that you have to be a member of an affiliated club in order to race and your club can only be part of the league if it puts on at least one race per season. Also, I think the rule is that priority for entries is not done on the basis of points on your licence, but firstly to make sure that all clubs which enter riders are represented (so if the field is 60 and riders from 35 different clubs enter, all 35 clubs will have their best rider in (which may well be their only entrant, possibly someone without any points at all) and the remaining 25 places then go to clubs second best riders etc.). This seems an effective way to ensure that plenty of races are put on and that all sorts can get a ride (it also helps that Essex has accredited marshalls). I assume it's the same with the Surrey League and the SERRL?
  • Brian Cookson has responded to my post on the Veloriders forum - the discussion went in a different direction there. It was less about volunteering. Here is his reply: http://www.veloriders.co.uk/phpBB2/view ... 81#1287581
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    A side note for this topic however pertinent for road racing is that in road races the organisers rarely seem to be prepared for the event of a crash. It almost seems like cycling's dirty little secret that people crash in races. I've seen a lot of crashes recently (and been involved in one where I couldn't continue) and there never seems to be a first aider on hand, you always have to wait for an ambulance before any medical assistance is given.

    Cycling is a dangerous sport and I understand its a headache to put on a race and I appreciate people that give their time and effort to give us races, however, I feel more should be done to plan in the event of the crash and make sure adequate medical attention is on hand for a fast response for riders with serious injuries and it should be mandatory for at least one support vehicle to contain someone with a valid first aider certificate.

    Edit: before anyone mounts their high horse this is just my experience of this situation in a small number of races this year. Obviously some organisers will give more weight to this than others but BC guidelines (although I'm not familiar with them so please correct me if they are) should be in place to standardise the level of support when things go wrong.
  • mamba80mamba80 Posts: 5,032
    Thought it was a mandatory requirement? (for BC races) we ve always had to have a first aider in the race convey, though not always their own following car ie in Serv or Comms car.

    back to the topic - i believe it would help if the race entry fee was upped to say £20 or 25 for a RR, this would allow for payment to organisers and Marshalls for at the very least petrol expenses - i know folk wont like this but racers need to appreciate that fuel is on a never ending upward spiral as is BC levies that are now higher than ever, its harder to justify asking people to help when that help will leave them out of pocket, not to mention their time, its only fair to pay reasonable expenses.

    The issue we ve got (in the s/w) is not enough e1s for a nat b race to run on its own and not need a separate 3/4 to subsidise it and increased fees means we could offer more in the way of prizes for 2nds and 3rds in this cat of races, perhaps encouraging them to enter???? - it would also help if the e1s didnt ride so agressively at the very start of the race, leaving most 2nds and 3rds on their own, burned off, but i guess thats racing and would be impossible to control.
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    mamba80 wrote:
    Thought it was a mandatory requirement? (for BC races) we ve always had to have a first aider in the race convey, though not always their own following car ie in Serv or Comms car.

    Thanks mamba,

    As I said I'm not familiar with BC's polices on this. Its good to know it's mandatory.
  • mamba80 wrote:
    Thought it was a mandatory requirement? (for BC races) we ve always had to have a first aider in the race convey, though not always their own following car ie in Serv or Comms car.

    back to the topic - i believe it would help if the race entry fee was upped to say £20 or 25 for a RR, this would allow for payment to organisers and Marshalls for at the very least petrol expenses - i know folk wont like this but racers need to appreciate that fuel is on a never ending upward spiral as is BC levies that are now higher than ever, its harder to justify asking people to help when that help will leave them out of pocket, not to mention their time, its only fair to pay reasonable expenses.

    The issue we ve got (in the s/w) is not enough e1s for a nat b race to run on its own and not need a separate 3/4 to subsidise it and increased fees means we could offer more in the way of prizes for 2nds and 3rds in this cat of races, perhaps encouraging them to enter???? - it would also help if the e1s didnt ride so agressively at the very start of the race, leaving most 2nds and 3rds on their own, burned off, but i guess thats racing and would be impossible to control.

    This all comes back to the 1960 act which limits field sizes hugely and indiscriminately. Larger fields mean more entries and so you get more bang for your buck. If we were allowed fields of up to 120 riders (a number that many but certainly not all courses could handle) you could afford all the marshal's petrol plus have a couple of NEG motorbikes for safety (they make an enormous difference to controlling oncoming traffic). Bigger fields (perhaps counter-intuitively) means better safety, unfortunately the law prevents this right now.

    I've done amateur races in Italy with fields of over 200, cheap entries, all the age groupers/categories lumped together in one race (not strictly necessary) and enough marshals, motorcycle outriders and so on to safely manage it all, even on difficult courses.

    I understand what you're saying about Nat. B races, the category and points system as it currently stands doesn't work all that well, that's for another thread though I feel (I have a good idea on what to do...). My original post was intended mainly to help change the outdated law. Incidentally Brian Cookson, head of BC has said he will respond in the coming days to my original message (see the Veloriders thread: http://www.veloriders.co.uk/phpBB2/view ... 86#1287621).
  • Not sure about that - I think 80 is plenty in a lower category amateur race on open roads - for higher cat races mostly I think the problem is normally filling the field as it is rather than allowing more riders. I regularly ride LVRC and one of the things that makes them safer (apart from rider attitude) is that the bunch rarely exceeds 50-60 riders.

    Races should really be able to afford NEG even with a field of 70+, if money is an issue then the most obvious thing to do is stop giving out prize money.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • mamba80mamba80 Posts: 5,032
    Wow 200+ riders? closed roads? i d have thought the opposite would work better (in the uk) ie limit fields to 40 max (For regional races only and didnt 40 + 6 reserves used to be the norm? - with far less slower/traffic) - that could possibly open up more courses and with smaller fields, more new riders would be willing to have a go, meaning a bigger pool of volunteers/organisers so more races to cater for these new racers?

    maybe wishful thinking but at the moment we really do need more people involved in the sport - not just taking apart.
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    DavidJB as mamba said a first aider in the convoy is compulsory. Perhaps the problem could be that the first aider is the last car in the convoy, so it could be a few minutes until medical assistance is on hand. However, a first aider is just that, they usually can just make someone comfortable until they can get some professional medical assistance (if serious enough and needed). I have a first aid certificate, but I wouldn't want to do this at a race as I've hardly had to use it since I got the certificate, so I've got someone who offers a first aid service to do this.

    As for paying expenses. I've offered expenses for drivers in the convoy and will be claiming some myself. We should just about break even, but we're not in it for to turn a profit, the race just has to wash it's face.
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