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British Cycling follows UCI’s lead and scraps junior gears

The Dutch and Belgian cycling federations, however, have opted to retain the restrictions, due to fears that junior riders will be “overloaded”

Anyone who has ever raced as a junior, especially against older opposition, will know the feeling of helplessness as the group drifts away on a long, fast section while you fruitlessly spin that 52x14 into oblivion. But from today, teenage racers across Britain can breathe a sigh of relief – or at least close that pesky gap a bit quicker – as British Cycling has removed all gear restrictions for juniors taking part in road and circuit races.

The move sees the governing body fall in line with the UCI, which amended its rulebook back in June to allow juniors to race on unrestricted gears from the start of the 2023 season. Previously, according to the UCI’s regulations, the “maximum gear ratio authorised is that which gives a distance covered per pedal revolution of 7.93 metres”.

The long-held and rather arcane gearing restrictions, put in place to cap the speed of junior races as well as preventing growing teenagers from potentially blowing up their knees by churning a massive gear in the style of Bert Grabsch, were scrapped by the UCI in a decision that the world governing body said was “based on the limited availability of equipment needed for Junior gearing in addition to medical evidence that no longer supports the current restrictions”.

Following the UCI’s decision, the new measures were then discussed and signed off by British Cycling’s road commission and technical commission, with the British Cycling Board approving the regulation change last month.

While changes to British Cycling’s technical regulations are usually introduced on 1 March, the national governing body moved the implementation of the new rule forward to 1 January, in order to align with the UCI and to “prevent riders from needing to make changes to equipment mid-season”.

As a result of the change, commissaires will no longer be required to perform gear checks at junior events, though restricted regulations remain in place for youth (U16) riders.

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While British Cycling, along with Cycling Ireland, have followed the UCI’s example in scrapping junior gears, some European federations have opted out of the rule change.

Sticky Bottle reports that the Dutch and Belgian federations have come to a joint agreement to retain junior gears for local and national races, citing the impact of bigger gears on youngsters’ bodies and the apparent dangers associated with what they believe will be the resultant higher speeds of non-restricted junior races.

The Royal Dutch Cycling Union (KNWU) said in a statement: “Safety in the peloton is very important to us. This also includes that youth riders can develop without overloading their body as they grow.

“In addition, by releasing the resistance, it is possible that speeds in competitions for juniors will be higher, which can lead to dangerous situations. Both cases could lead to increased drop-out among youth cyclists.

“Since many Dutch cyclists also compete in Belgium, and vice versa, the KWBW [Belgian cycling] and KNWU have decided to apply the same rules regarding the resistance for juniors. In the coming year, the Belgian cycling federation will conduct a thorough study into the possible adjustment and coordination of the various gears. The KNWU will join the evaluation and will reconsider the decision regarding the maximum resistance before 2024.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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