British Cycling today said it is working to "evolve" the U23 road programme for next year, confirming fears reported over the past week that talented young riders of the future may see their opportunities cut to compete for Great Britain on the road at some of the most prestigous age-group races.
Riders have traditionally been able to compete under the national team banner at races such as Paris–Roubaix Juniors, Nations' Cup events and the Tour de l'Avenir, with the Yates brothers, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Tom Pidcock just some of the riders to have represented Great Britain at the week-long stage race in recent years, often viewed as a key indicator of future Grand Tour contenders.
However, in news first reported by U23 Cycling Zone, followed up by the RadioCycling podcast, rumours emerged that British Cycling and the Great Britain Cycling Team would be cutting its road programme for U23s from 2024, head coach Matt Brammeier admitting "we just can't afford it anymore".
Today, British Cycling has confirmed to road.cc that change is coming, Tom Stanton, Head of Great Britain Cycling Team Performance Pathways, saying the programme will "evolve [...] in response to the changing sporting landscape, and move to a model that forges stronger relationships with pro teams to effectively develop our country's best riders both on the road and on the track".
Stanton also acknowledged the "incredibly challenging financial landscape" facing British Cycling, RadioCycling's Chris Marshall-Bell reporting that the programme costs between £120,000 and £150,000 per year to run, with riders also expected to soon to stay at hotels for specific training blocks rather than in Manchester houses rented by British Cycling, another cost-cutting measure.
And while British Cycling insists it will continue to send British riders to the UEC Under-23 European Road Championships and UCI Road World Championships, there are concerns some will see their racing opportunities cut.
At last week's Nations' Cup Orlen event, two of the five stages were won by British riders, race wins that were facilitated by Great Britain's presence at the race. It is also unlikely the UCI will be thrilled at a major, well-funded nation removing its presence from many of the calendar's most prestigious U23 races.
The Great Britain team's presence at future editions of the Tour of Britain is also believed to be in doubt.
Head coach Matt Brammeier told RadioCycling's podcast: "The money we get is all spent on winning medals at the Olympics and the worlds, which is our UK Sport target and determines how much money the programme gets and what we can do.
"So, I'm sure everyone knows the medals on the track are more controllable, there are more of them and there's a higher percentage change of winning them which is why the majority of the focus goes there as well as a lot of other events. With the road we're in the position where we just can't afford it anymore."
Brammeier's colleague Stanton then today told road.cc: "The proposed framework aligns with what we are already seeing across other nations, to positive effect, and the work we have done to support our men's and women's Podium Endurance Programme riders to explore extended road programmes with domestic and pro teams.
"While we are still working through the final details of the 2023/24 programme, we expect to continue to send British riders to the UEC Under-23 European Road Championships and UCI Road World Championships, and will confirm additional race opportunities in due course. Our Junior Academy programme will be unaffected by the changes.
"Along with many other national governing bodies, British Cycling is facing an incredibly challenging financial landscape which is impacting all areas of our work. However, we remain as committed as ever to supporting the development of talented bike riders across the disciplines, providing them with the best possible platform for successful careers riding for Great Britain, professional teams, and at the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.