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“We don’t even have half a field”: Another British bike race cancelled due to “big downturn” in entries – as local cyclists blame early payment system and rising fees; Geraint Thomas slams “bonkers” Lefevere; Coach AI Alex Dowsett + more on the live blog

After watching his team lose the live blog derby at the weekend (that’s Manchester United v Fulham, in case you were wondering), Ryan Mallon’s back with your Tuesday helping of cycling news and views – while trying to avoid eye contact with Dan…

SUMMARY

27 February 2024, 09:07
2024 Betty Pharoah Memorial Races cancelled (Cardiff Ajax CC)
“We don’t even have half a field”: Another British bike race cancelled due to “big downturn” in entries – as local cyclists blame early payment system and rising fees

The road racing season may only be underway, but it seems like every new week ushers in another piece of bad news for the domestic British domestic scene.

Because, while hope remains for the swift return of the Tours of Britain this year (especially after a four-day women’s stage race popped up on the UCI calendar last week) below that elite level races are continuing to struggle in the face of some pretty desperate financial and logistical headwinds.

> Four-day Women’s WorldTour stage race appears on UCI calendar after British Cycling commits to planning event

Yesterday, Cardiff Ajax CC announced that its well-respected early season National B race, the Betty Pharoah Memorial – which for 2024 was hoping to feature its inaugural women’s race – has been cancelled, after entries closed on Sunday with fewer than half of the spaces for both events filled.

“It’s with deep disappointment that I’ve had to make the decision to cancel this year’s race,” Rob Warren, organiser of the Cowbridge-based race (won by a certain Geraint Thomas as a junior way back in 2004), wrote on social media yesterday.

“It’s a difficult decision and not one that any event organiser wants to make. I’ve had conversation with BC race officials, NEG, and Reg Pharoah, whose late wife the race is in memory of. Sadly we’re all in agreement that this is the right call.

“A lot of time and energy has already gone in to organising this year’s race from me personally and other stakeholders, but that’s not been enough.”

He continued: “The reasons that lead to this decision are numerous but the main two are entries and costs. We don’t even have half a field in either of the races. The anticipated costs of staging the event are around £5k. With current entries we’re not even covering half of that.

“If we ignore the finances we simply don’t have enough entries to make the race viable as a sporting challenge or to ensure the safety of riders.

“We’ll strive to find an answer to this big downturn in entry. A few years ago at this time I was sending the dreaded declined entry email to over 150 riders. If we can make changes to make the race viable, e.g. date, format, or another element, we will, and we’ll try again.”

In the wake of the Betty Pharoah Memorial’s cancellation, local racing site the British Continental tweeted that another race organiser had told them that changes to British Cycling’s entry system – namely the need for riders to pay up front for a spot, and only receiving a refund if their entry is declined due to the race being oversubscribed – have led to entries dropping across the country.

“Payment leaving the riders bank the day they enter and getting a refund if they don’t get in rather than the money leaving if they get selected,” the organiser reportedly told the site, who noted that the change “means that riders are forced to enter races late as they cannot afford to enter multiple races in advance, which in turn creates huge uncertainty and worry for organisers”.

However, Cardiff Ajax CC replied to British Cycling, writing: “That is one factor for sure but I’m told that’s due to financial regulations and not BC’s choice.”

> "Unfortunately you can't control every idiot on the road": Road race organiser frustrated as cyclists almost hit by "inconsiderate" Uber driver

So, how do we solve a problem like early payments putting riders off entering races? While some have speculated that racers could simply register an interest in an event, or put down a deposit, before paying in full closer to the time, others noted that any lack of financial commitment will do little to give organisers – already buckling under an increasing monetary strain – the necessary reassurance that their race can go ahead safely.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago Team Spectra Racing general manager Gina Ball noted on Twitter that the rising entry fees of National A races – with some hitting £50 plus admin fees – were hindering cycling’s accessibility in the UK.

Last week, road.cc spoke with British Cycling, who told us that rising fees were a necessary, and unfortunate, consequence of the increasing difficulties of holding a bike race in the UK, and that the governing body was working on making racing affordable for both organisers and competitors.

We’re hoping to have a more in-depth discussion with British Cycling over the coming days on the future of the domestic scene, along with Britain’s national tours, so stay tuned for that…

27 February 2024, 16:54
Julian Alaphilippe (Zac Williams/SWpix)
“You do cycling for yourself, you have to be happy,” Julian Alaphilippe tells Geraint Thomas, as 2018 Tour winner slams Patrick Lefevere’s “bonkers” criticism of French star, and jokes he thinks Soudal Quick-Step boss was “maybe drunk”

Just when you thought the whole Patrick Lefevere and Julian Alaphilippe drinking comments story was done and dusted, after the Soudal Quick-Step boss clumsily tried to row back on his controversial criticism of the Frenchman’s lifestyle by putting it all down to a ropey translation, Geraint Thomas has only gone and released a podcast interview with the buccaneering Alaphilippe.

The duo’s chat was recorded before Lefevere’s comments began to dominate the pro cycling agenda, however, so aren’t covered during the interview, though Thomas described the situation as “bonkers” in his intro to the episode.

> "As always, my Dutch is not always well understood": Patrick Lefevere claims Alaphilippe criticism was misunderstood

“To be fair, I’ve got a lot of respect for Patrick. What he’s done over the years with Quick-Step [is] unbelievable: the results they’ve got, the results they’ve had, the way they ride, it’s incredible the team and the success they’ve had, so so much respect for him,” the 2018 Tour de France winner said.

“But recently with these sorts of outbursts, it’s just a bit weird. For a team boss with so much history and respect from people to just sort of… losing the plot in public, basically isn’t it, it’s mental. With Sam Bennett he had this thing and now Alaphilippe.

“As a rider, I feel sorry for my fellow riders, you know? I know Sam well, less well than Julian, but it’s just crazy the situation, it shouldn’t be done in public. Whatever his thoughts like that, just deal with it behind closed doors.

“I thought [Lefevere] was drunk, mate, to be honest. Maybe he was, I don’t know,” Thomas joked.

Patrick Lefevere (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

On a related note, during the podcast itself, Alaphilippe emphasised his ambition to avoid being pigeonholed as a cyclist or listening too much to external opinion, and that racing flamboyantly, rather than sticking to a regimented GC-oriented style, was key to being “happy”.

“You do cycling for yourself,” he told Thomas. “You don’t do it for the expectation of the public. I am also realistic about my capacities, so I just try to do the best version of myself.

“You have to be happy. Cycling is a hard sport and you don’t have to follow what they say is good for you. I know what is good for me.”

Meanwhile, Thomas – tongue firmly in cheek as always – took the opportunity to ‘blame’ Alaphilippe and his barnstorming time trial performance in Pau during the 2019 Tour de France for the Welshman failing to secure his second Tour title that year.

Tour de France 2019 Alaphilippe TT Specialized Shiv copyright CyclingImages.jpg

Alaphilippe’s remarkable ride in the yellow jersey during the 27km TT won him the stage ahead of Thomas, preventing the Ineos leader from taking the race lead and thus ensuring that his entire team – including eventual race winner Egan Bernal – would work solely for him for the remainder of the Tour.

“It’s your fault I didn’t win that Tour,” Thomas said. “If I’d won the TT, Egan would’ve had to work for me.”

Let it go G, let it go…

27 February 2024, 16:18
Laurenz Rex, 2024 Le Samyn (Discovery+)
Not again! Laurenz Rex survives early celebration scare to take first pro win at Le Samyn

What is with these youngsters and their seemingly insatiable desire to raise their arms metres before the line, risking a lifetime (or maybe a season) of memes at their expense in the process?

After Tobias Johannessen’s ill-fated celebration on Mont Faron at the Classic Var two weeks ago, one that had, rather bizarrely, already begun to wind down as Lenny Martinez nipped past to nick the victory on the actual finish line, Intermarché-Wanty’s promising classics rider Laurenz Rex almost – almost – followed the Norwegian into the hall of premature celebration infamy at today’s Le Samyn.

After a chaotic finale punctuated by a plethora of speculative attacks, an Arnaud De Lie scream fest, and a group-splitting crash, 24-year-old Rex powered through the middle on the drag to the line at Dour, blasting his way past Jenthe Biermans and Rasmus Tiller, and lifting his arms to celebrate his first ever professional victory.

Until he noticed António Morgado on his right-hand side, that is.

The 20-year-old UAE Team Emirates sprinter – a silver medallist in the U23 worlds road race in Glasgow last year, also searching for his debut pro win – lunged towards the line just as Rex’s hands left the bars, the Belgian dropping them quicker than a child caught with a forbidden chocolate bar when he spotted the surging Portuguese in his peripheral vision.

After a long, anxious wait, the tension and potential embarrassment in his face writ large by the lingering glare of a fairly invasive cameraman, Rex was eventually confirmed as the winner, a result itself confirming the 24-year-old’s penchant for cobbles following his ninth at Paris-Roubaix last season.

I’m just not sure he’ll be hanging the photo of his debut pro win in his house, however. He won’t be doing that again, anyway…

27 February 2024, 15:51
Police force that prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports now taking action in 97% of cyclist submissions

Last spring, West Midlands Police came in for criticism after it emerged that the force had prosecuted just one driver from 286 videos of alleged close passes submitted by cyclists.

Turn the clock forward 10 months and the force’s latest Operation Snap figures reveal the stark increase in third-party video footage leading to police action, with a third of cyclists’ reports in January 2024 leading to a motorist receiving a fixed-penalty notice – and 97 per cent of cyclists’ reports being actioned in some way.

Close pass operation

Read more: > Police force that prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports now taking action in 97% of cyclist submissions 

27 February 2024, 15:25
When the bull sees red: Fuming Arnaud De Lie rages at team car after race-ending crash in Le Samyn race convoy

I suppose he’s not called ‘the Bull of Lescheret’ for nothing, as Arnaud De Lie, the hot favourite at Le Samyn, launched a blistering verbal attack at his Lotto Dstny DS after a bizarre crash ended any realistic hopes of victory at the Belgian semi-classic.

The 21-year-old was chasing back on through the convoy of race vehicles after suffering a mechanical with around 30km to go when, after fidgeting with his race computer, he slid out on a corner, hitting the deck hard.

With the victory disappearing up the road as he waited for his second spare bike, De Lie took the opportunity to lash out – for whatever reason – at his Lotto Dstny DS (who, to be fair, gave back as good as he got), a very public show of frustration befitting the fast finisher’s bovine nickname.

After turning the Belgian air blue, De Lie jumped back on his third bike in as many kilometres, launching a forlorn chase before pulling the pin as the race entered its final lap, heading straight to the team bus in the kind of strop that would make 2009-era Mark Cavendish proud.

We may only be three races into classic season, but I’m already loving the drama.

27 February 2024, 14:48
Tour de Lunsar, Sierra Leone (Oscar Scarsbrook)
Sierra Leone’s Tour de Lunsar launches crowdfunding bid to secure race’s survival

Spot the theme for today’s live blog…

The Tour de Lunsar, Sierra Leone’s biggest bike race, has launched a crowdfunding appeal to ensure that its tenth edition goes ahead as planned this year.

Established by bike shop owner Abdul Karim Kamara in 2013, when just ten riders took to the start line on bikes donated by a US-based charity, the Tour de Lunsar has since become West Africa’s most important cycling event and a launching pad for aspiring pro riders in Sierra Leone, while its women’s race is set to feature a second day in 2024, making it one of the few women’s stage races on the continent.

Tour de Lunsar, Sierra Leone (Matt Grayson)

(Credit: Matt Grayson)

However, the race – like so many across the world at the moment – faces an uncertain future after title sponsor Science in Sport withdrew its backing, prompting the organisers to launch a GoFundMe page to raise the £15,000 now missing from its coffers.

Almost £11,700 has already been raised, while an auction – which includes some tasty race-worn and signed jerseys and skinsuits from Giro stage winner Chad Haga, cult icon and Olympic gold medallist Mieke Kröger, and Tour de France Femmes rider Antri Christoforou – is taking place until Thursday lunchtime to top up that amount.

Anyone looking to support the race can also buy some high-quality photographs taken at the race in recent years, highlighting its “vibrancy and stripped back nature”.

The GoFundMe page, eBay auction, and photographs can be accessed by clicking on the relevant links.

27 February 2024, 14:19
From secretive Shimano’s special shoes and “the toughest road tyre for the harshest road conditions” to a bottle cage designed to hold a can of Coke (yes, really), here’s what we spotted at this week’s iceBike show
27 February 2024, 13:59
Tadej dials in his TT position – from the car passenger seat

Tadej Pogačar’s attempt to knock Jonas Vingegaard off his perch by improving his time trialling is, ahem, going well, judging by the ever-facetious Slovenian’s latest Instagram post:

Tadej Pogačar TT position (Instagram)

Well, I suppose that’s one way to do it, Tadej.

And looking at Vingegaard’s form at O Gran Camiño, it may be the only way to beat the dominant Dane at the Tour (although I could soon be eating my words if Pog blows everyone away on season debut at Strade Bianche this Saturday. Which could easily happen, of course, it is Pogačar after all).

27 February 2024, 13:28
Vittoria Guazzini powers to breakaway win at Le Samyn after tense finale

Round one of Tuesday’s treacherous cobbled action at Le Samyn this afternoon saw FDJ-Suez’s Vittoria Guazzini comfortably dispatch her fellow escapees on the drag to the line in Dour, after a nail-biting finale which saw the peloton come within five seconds of catching the breakaway.

Over some sodden cobbled roads and in the company of Fenix-Deceuninck’s Christina Schweinberger and the unfortunate 19-year-old Wilma Aintila (who crashed out of the pursuit on a particularly slippery section), the tactically astute Guazzini, a third-place finisher at the last two editions of the Belgian semi-classic, bridged across from the bunch in the closing stages to the original break of Anniina Ahtosalo, Karlijn Swinkels, and Anneke Dijkstra.

Along with her role in catching the break, Guazzini’s victory owes much to Schweinberger’s decision to keep the pressure on in the final kilometre as the bunch breathed down their necks, affording the Italian a relative armchair ride to the sprint, where she cooly powered away for the fourth pro victory of her career ahead of Finnish champion Ahtosalo, as the strong Schweinberger settled for third.

27 February 2024, 12:56
Sustrans Swansea NCN
Sustrans calls for “ageing and under-resourced” National Cycle Network to be protected for future generations, as new report reveals health, well-being, and economic benefits of network

A new report from the Welsh branch of Sustrans has highlighted the mental and physical benefits, as well as the economic ones, of the country’s National Cycle Network, as the charity’s director called on the Welsh government and local authorities to be “proactive” and invest in protecting the network of cycle and shared-use routes for future generations.

According to Sustrans Cymru’s latest report, ‘Walk, Wheel, and Thrive: Well-being and the National Cycle Network’, almost 60 per cent of Wales’ population lives within a mile of the NCN, which runs through all 22 of the country’s local authority areas.

A UK-wide survey found that 83 per cent of cyclists, wheelers, and walkers said that using the NCN improves their overall satisfaction with life, while 70 per cent said they use the network to improve their well-being.

According to the report, physical activity on the network is also estimated to have prevented around 600,000 sick days, while local businesses across the UK benefit to the tune of around £1.7 billion from the National Cycle Network’s users.

However, the report also noted that, despite these benefits, the network is coming under increasing strain.

Landslip on National Cycle Route (Pembrokeshire County Council)

The ever-increasing impact of extreme weather, for example, can potentially lead to some routes shutting down completely, with flood and landslips “severing” communities and leading to high repair costs.

The report notes that in Wisemans Bridge, Pembrokeshire, a section of National Cycle Route 4 is completely closed following a major landslip, while in Conwy, the Dulas Bridge requires replacement beams following recent flooding damage.

“An ageing and under-resourced Network can’t serve the needs of the future, so we need to be proactive and invest in prevention now before it’s too late,” Christine Boston, Director of Sustrans Cymru, said in a statement today.

“If we don’t protect the Network now, then we will lose all the social, cultural, environmental, and economic benefits which are so important for the people of Wales. 

“We’re working positively with Welsh Government and local authorities across the country to protect, improve, and ensure the National Cycle Network continues to serve the people of Wales, but there’s an urgency here to make sure we don’t lose what it provides.”

27 February 2024, 12:26
Cyclists and red lights: A different take

I’m not sure we’ll hear about this one in the Daily Telegraph… 

27 February 2024, 11:58
2024 Tour of Sicily set to take place in… checks notes… Abruzzo

It’s not just British bike races that are currently feeling the pinch, of course.

Reports emerging from the picturesque ball at the end of Italy’s foot this week have revealed that the Giro di Sicilia, one of the cycling calendar’s most aesthetically pleasing races, will not go ahead in 2024, due to a lack of funds.

The four-day race was revived in 2019 following a 42-year absence and has been won since by Brandon McNulty, home hero Vincenzo Nibali, Damiano Caruso, and Alexey Lutsenko, serving as a useful mid-April tune-up for the big Giro the following month.

But the Sicilian Regional Assembly’s sport and tourism spokesperson, Elvira Amata, confirmed to the local press this week that the council could not give assurances to organisers RCS that they could stump up the €1m required to host the race, which had previously been financed by extra-regional and European funds, leading to its cancellation.

However, with Giro organisers RCS keen to hold on to a plum spot in the calendar, rumours have emerged that the race could simply be packed up and moved to Abruzzo, the region east of Rome that is home to the Apennine mountains and a common stop on the Corsa Rosa’s itinerary.

The Giro di Sicilia is dead, long live the Giro d’Abruzzo (reportedly, anyway). If only it were always that easy…

27 February 2024, 11:47
“Poorly maintained and neglected infrastructure discourages people from using active travel”

A cycling campaign group in Cardiff has raised “real concern” about the state of some of the city’s cycle lanes, with flooding causing safety and accessibility issues for users. The situation is so bad that some local cyclists have reported being unable to use infrastructure for multiple weeks, their path blocked by a “minor lake” and huge puddles.

“You can’t see what is underneath,” one local cyclist said. “It could be that there is glass there, it could be that there is a pothole there, it could be that there is a brick there that causes you to fall off, and for particularly elderly cyclists and children it could cause significant injuries. They are a safety issue.”

Flooded cycle lane (Cardiff Cycle City/Twitter)

Read more: > Cycling group’s “real concern” over “minor lake” and huge puddles on city cycle lanes

27 February 2024, 11:15
Remco Evenepoel wins 2023 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
‘Classic’ Belgian NIMBYism: 17 municipalities in Wallonia oppose Liège-Bastogne-Liège sportive, as Belgian Cycling chairman says “cycling on public roads is problematic”

Just when you thought NIMBYism was a peculiarly British tradition, one confined to certain spots of the UK where residents froth at their inability to access their local Tesco by Range Rover during one annual hour-long stint to allow a cycle sportive to pass by, think again.

In Belgium, one of cycling’s spiritual homes, 17 local Walloon municipalities have indicated that they will refuse to allow April’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège sportive to pass through their areas.

“Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a classic that is known all over the world and in which everyone dreams of one day participating,” Belgian Cycling’s chair Tom Van Damme told Sudinfo this week.

“The recreationists come from everywhere. The municipalities involved refuse passage because safety is no longer guaranteed above 500 participants and cleanliness in the municipalities is jeopardised.”

Lizzie Deignan, 2023 Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Meanwhile, Van Damme believes that any type of cycling on public roads – from racing and sportives to training or commuting – is “problematic”, thanks to increased motor traffic in towns and cities, and suggests encouraging off-road pursuits such as gravel and cyclocross is key to ensuring young people continue to follow in the wheel tracks of the likes of Philippe Gilbert.

“Cycling on public roads is problematic. Traffic in Belgium is becoming increasingly busy, there are more obstacles on the streets,” he says.

“It is gradually becoming complicated to take a route from point A to point B. It is almost impossible to cross certain village centres. You live in the centre of Antwerp, Liège, or Charleroi and you see your child leaving for training. You're not sure if he/she will come home.

“I understand that parents are afraid and therefore register their child for another sport. Cycling is a very demanding sport that can quickly become daunting. The solution involves creating safe closed courses.

“We want to revive youth competitions in all categories, so we need to reassure participants and their parents. Another asset to attract young people is through gravel racing. It offers everyone the opportunity to come with the bicycle of their choice, ride competitively or as a tourist and not be bothered by traffic. This formula is a hit in Australia and Scandinavia because it is the expression of freedom, fun, and safety.”

2023 Fleche Wallone - Tadej Pogacar (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

When it comes to WorldTour-level racing, Van Damme also told the Walloon newspaper that more of the sport’s biggest classics should incorporate contained, close circuits, in a similar manner to Flèche Wallonne and the Tour of Flanders’ finishing laps, a set-up that has reaped not only safety and organisational benefits, but financial ones too.

“For other Monuments such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Paris-Roubaix, or Milan-San Remo, it is much less possible given the nature of the race [to organise circuits]. But every year I insist that the semi-classics, such as Dwars door Vlaanderen or the Flèche Wallonne, optimise their circuits.

“That of the Brabantse Pijl, for example, is beautiful. I can also easily imagine a Grand Prix of Wallonia with four climbs of the Citadel of Namur. Four loops of 50 kilometres, for example. This solution has only advantages: lower costs, better security, and numerous commercial opportunities linked to marketing and VIP events.”

27 February 2024, 10:42
Alex Dowsett body fairing National 10-mile TT (screenshot YouTube/Alex Dowsett)
Coach AI Alex Dowsett: Former Hour Record holder joins forces with AI company to offer “budget-friendly” online cycling coaching

‘You’re absolutely flying this season, what happened over the winter?’

‘Well, I started being coached by Alex Dowsett.’

‘What, the six-time British time trial champion, former Hour record holder, two-time Giro d’Italia stage winner Alex Dowsett?’

‘Yep. Well, actually no – it’s his AI-generated virtual coaching assistant Hugo. But still…’

Now, I’m not sure you’ll ever hear that exact conversation floating around your local National B race over the next few months, but Alex Dowsett certainly hopes you will, after the former Sky and Movistar rider’s Thighs Club online coaching platform partnered with Humango AI to “offer budget-friendly, AI-powered fitness coaching for cyclists of all abilities”.

Yes, we’re into the realm of AI cycling coaching now, and we all have to accept it.

> Rouvy revamped! Now with AI, new routes and easier navigation, we take a look at what's changed

According to the press release sent to us, Humango is a digital training platform that “provides fully customised workout plans using advanced artificial intelligence”, thanks to the ‘work’ of Hugo, Humango’s (creepy robot computer) virtual coaching assistant, who apparently “sits at the core of an AI engine that analyses performance metrics, scheduling, preferences, and feedback to generate optimised, adaptive training plans in real-time”.

Cheers Hugo. Now please stop controlling the lights in my house.

2023 Alex Dowsett Nopinz - 1

Will the real Alex Dowsett please stand up?

So basically, ‘Hugo’ uses the data from your apps and training devices to adjust your schedule, like a real-life coach, but as Humango points out, at a “fraction of the cost of human coaching”.

But at what wider societal cost, Hugo?

Starting at around £30, you’ll get your custom AI-generated coaching plans, plus access to Thighs Club’s online community.

“The single hardest barrier to reduce the cost of personalised coaching that I’ve been trying to work out how to change is time,” Dowsett said in a statement, that was probably not AI-generated (probably, maybe).

Dowsett Hour (YouTube)

“I’d coach everyone for free if I could, but I simply cannot give the care I expect from myself to everyone all the time. This is why the cost of a personal coach is high in any walk of life; because it’s ultimately the cost of having someone, an expert's time.

“The easier part of coaching is actually setting the training and periodisation. The hard part, and the part that is most rewarding for athlete and coach is the relationship; working with someone to turn the tide on bad form, overcoming injuries/difficulties, encouraging them back on the bike after a stint away from it, race day strategy, inspiring them to reduce training in periods of fatigue, and to be there with them on race day when the goal is achieved.

“We're expecting Humango, an AI coach, to assist us at Thighs Club Coaching in being able to care for more people, more intensively at a lower cost to everyone.”

Well, at least this live blog will never be AI-generated. Promise…

27 February 2024, 10:40
It’s beginning to look a lot like spring (and lovely wet cobbles)

After all the excitement of Opening Weekend (UAE Tour, what UAE Tour?), are you ready for some bonus Tuesday Belgian bike racing entertainment, courtesy of the gloriously wet cobbled roads of Le Samyn?

Le Samyn may not quite be the Hell of the North, but I reckon that picture should come with some kind of work computer warning…

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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34 comments

Avatar
Old Crank | 1 month ago
0 likes

If you think cycling entry fees are steep, look at tri fees....

That doesn't help much I know. 

Perhaps you could talk to a couple of event managers and see what the costs are to stage an event of different sizes. Have a semi formal untimed group event, a smaller event, perhaps a TT. and a larger one that requires timer, timing systems, officials and the lot. Plus advertising for the event.

In the US many larger events have to have police presence. (Cops aren't cheap.) Take away a lane of traffic for a period of time and the costs go up. Event insurance, even with signed disclaimers adda to to the cost. Any fees for national organizations for sponsorship. A brief accounting of the costs might help. 

I don't know the practice in England but many events also have some kind of goody bag from sponsors and many times a commemerative t-shirt. Also adding to the cost. 

Avatar
mitsky | 1 month ago
3 likes

Whilst WMP have gone in a positive direction it seems that the Met police have gone the other way.
I used to have about 75% or more of my reports actioned with an NIP.
That was prior to 2022.
Since then, for identically comparable incidents I'd be lucky to get 10% of them actioned.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to mitsky | 1 month ago
0 likes

The MET police used to be good (ish). I agree, now they just send a standard, noncommittal reply and if you chase it up they either ignore it or get snarky. 

Avatar
brooksby | 1 month ago
3 likes

Quote:

a bottle cage designed to hold a can of Coke 

But would you want to open that can of coke, given the state of British roads? 

Avatar
Matthew Acton-Varian replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
3 likes

Save it for the Tour podium

Avatar
don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

No need to watch Le Semyn now, saved me a couple of hours, cheers guys!

Avatar
The Industrial ... | 1 month ago
6 likes

I organise a Regional A races, have done for about 8 years. Both our races were oversubscribed, but in the last 2 or 3 years, the numbers have been falling away. 

I tihnk this is partly due to compression in Categories, with decent 4th Cats struggling to get points and 3rd Cat being a parking place for very handy riders, so even younger, newly promoted riders are hitting a wall, getting tired of their legs being ripped off and buggering off to go gravel riding. 

More likely, is the sheer cost. We charge £27, and for that, I need at least 70 riders just to cover the costs. NEG are fantastic, they barely charge us, but once we add in Accredited Marshalls, which can be £500 in mileage, British Cycling Levies, first aid, hall hire, prize money and misc we are reaching £1,500. 

I also find that even if the race is launched 4 months prior, it seems that we limp towards 25 riders, with the rest piling in during the week before. That's a big stress, because I have to make a judgement call as to whether to go ahead and lose money, or cancel and yet another long standing, well regarded race hits the skids. 

I have had push back at the £27 charged, and that has only just increased from the £25 we charged for several years. 

Avatar
Backladder replied to The Industrial Biscuit | 1 month ago
2 likes

Firstly, let me thank you for your efforts in promoting races, without people like you we would have no events to enter.

Although you are trying to hold down prices I remember paying £5  to enter an event when I first started racing and that is 45 years ago, general prices have gone up much more than race prices over that period and with the recent high inflation over the last couple of years it would seem to me that £50 is more like an equivalent price to when I started. Riders will always complain about the price but they need to recognise that they are not professional yet and need to pay for their sport. When I started out a decent race bike including custom built frame could be had for around £250, how many of today's racers are using bikes worth less than £2500, that shows what inflation is doing to prices and racers should realize this.

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john_smith replied to Backladder | 1 month ago
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I think you get a lot more bike for £2500 now than you would have got for £250 though. I too can remember when you enter a race for a £5, and £50 seems a huge amount to me.

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fwhite181 replied to Backladder | 1 month ago
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A quick run with an inflation calculator (see BoE's for a good example) suggests that £5 45 years ago would only be ~£20 today. So it seems likely that the cost of running races has significantly outstripped general inflation. I guess H&S/Marshalls/mileage etc have all gone up a lot in addition to the general increase in staffing required to keep even a rolling road-block functional with traffic nowadays. 

If £250 really got you a custom built frame, you were quids in back then! You can barely by any frames for less than £7-800 nowadays because OEM only want to sell full bikes!

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Backladder replied to fwhite181 | 1 month ago
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fwhite181 wrote:

A quick run with an inflation calculator (see BoE's for a good example) suggests that £5 45 years ago would only be ~£20 today. So it seems likely that the cost of running races has significantly outstripped general inflation. I guess H&S/Marshalls/mileage etc have all gone up a lot in addition to the general increase in staffing required to keep even a rolling road-block functional with traffic nowadays. 

An RPI comparison between Feb 1979 and Feb 2024 shows an increase of over 7 times, not quite my 10 times but it would still support a race price of £35 and that is without considering the extra features that are expected today, we rarely had motorcycle outriders to block junctions and even changing rooms/showers were rare.

fwhite181 wrote:

If £250 really got you a custom built frame, you were quids in back then! You can barely by any frames for less than £7-800 nowadays because OEM only want to sell full bikes!

The Reynolds 531DB frame was £100, and the extra £150 got you a lot of quality components including Campag record hubs, Mavic rims, Sun tour superbe gears, TTT bars and stem. All in all it was much closer to what the pro riders used at that time than most today. Standard way to get a race bike in those days was to get a frame from a builder you liked and build it yourself with components you wanted/could afford, I would love to still be able to do that today but as you say frames are priced ridiculously compared with a full build.

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mallardz replied to The Industrial Biscuit | 1 month ago
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Could pricing entry at £30 with early entry discount at £25 help to get riders to commit and reduce complaints?

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Clem Fandango | 1 month ago
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Aaaahh.  Cycling is again problematic. Because cars.

Standard (Liege).

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to Clem Fandango | 1 month ago
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"..This formula is a hit in Australia and Scandinavia because it is the expression of freedom, fun, and safety.”

what freedom is there ?  Freedom is getting on your bike and riding it.  It's not freedom to have to travel somewhere so you can ride a bike because as sure as sh*t stinks and God made little green apples, there isn't going to be a gravel track within easy reach of most peoples neighbourhoods.

Fun - if your idea of fun is driving somewhere so you can ride your bike.

Safety ?  for whom - ah - the cyclists of course.  It's cheaper to corral them than it is to educate, train, monitor and enforce safety rules on all those nice car drivers.

Certainly a prime example of the Peter Principle if Tom Van Damme really is the chair of Belgian Cycling..

 

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brooksby replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 1 month ago
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Mr Hoopdriver wrote:

… as sure as sh*t stinks and God made little green apples,

You think God made apples?  That's so cute 

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Daveyraveygravey | 1 month ago
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Whilst I'm sad for Sicily, I'm glad (hopefully) for Abruzzo...

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to Daveyraveygravey | 1 month ago
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Abruzzo, like Le Marche, (just north) are relatively 'undiscovered' parts of Italy. Italy, apart from the Po valley is very rocky and mountainous - so the scenery is spectacular even 100s of kilometres from the Alps. 

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ITK2012 | 1 month ago
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It would be interesting to see if the were a correlation between the rise in platforms like Zwift and the decline in participation in non-elite level races. I have no idea where I'd find the numbers though.

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Miller replied to ITK2012 | 1 month ago
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Possibly there is. I do see a clear zwift effect in some ways. I live near an outdoor velodrome that runs evening road bike sessions in winter. Attendance is well down on what it used to be.

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Rendel Harris replied to Miller | 1 month ago
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On the other hand I know anecdotally (friends of friends) of a couple of people who were fairly casual cyclists before they got Zwift and enjoyed the racing on there so much that they joined clubs and now race TTs (as well as still racing on Zwift).

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
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Exactly. It's never clear cut. I much prefer riding outside when possible, even in prolonged rain (the right kit makes it more than bearable) but there are times when (especially with the state of UK roads) that it's no longer safe. So many rural roads are flooding more than ever, the pothole epidemic seems to be worsening all the time, and overnight conditions always leave the thinnest layer of frost and ice that can cause unrideable conditions.

Also modern life is so time crunching the faff of putting on winter kit to ride outdoors and making sure you leave enough time to wash your bike down afterwards leaves little time for a meaningful ride.

For me, if I want a hour ride of an evening, but by the time I've put the kids to bed, done stuff around the house and what not it's already 9pm and if I try to go outdoors in wet conditions, it will be at least 9:20 by the time I even head out the door. Then am I really going to want to start washing my bike at 10:30 when I get back? Whereas I can be on the trainer in less than 10 minutes, and a quick flannel wash afterwards means I'm in bed by that time.

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Mybike replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 1 month ago
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So aTV screen over fresh air l I thought cycling was to take you outside away from the TV or whatever you want to call that screen

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D.Railleur replied to ITK2012 | 1 month ago
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ITK2012 wrote:

It would be interesting to see if the were a correlation between the rise in platforms like Zwift and the decline in participation in non-elite level races. I have no idea where I'd find the numbers though.

 

During the first lockdown, I got used to racing on Zwift, cos there were no races, really fell in love with it. All my outdoor riding was just that, again I loved it. Just nice bike rides. A reminder of why I started cycling all those years ago.  Now I race all through winter on Zwift (Sept - May), in team events (WTRL ZRL), the solo Zwift monthly racing series and solo time trials. In the summer I just enjoy riding my bike. It's brilliant. I look back on my racing and think what a waste of time and money it all was. All that getting up early, driving for a few hours to race for 40 mins in a crit race, 25 minutes in a 10TT or a couple of hours in a road race. When the race was over, I was tired, often cold, wet, miserable and miles away from home. With Zwift there's none of that. When the race is over, you're already at home, 30 seconds away from a cup of tea and a hot shower. It's win win with Zwift. All my racing for 130 quid a year, no bad weather, no travelling and the whole summer to just ride my bike. 

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ITK2012 replied to D.Railleur | 1 month ago
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I can definitely see the attraction. I spent enough years getting up at stupid o'clock at the weekends, travelling somewhere far away, then sitting in the cold/wind/rain waiting for a race to start, racing, hoping that I might be able to find somewhere to get changed into something warm, more standing about in the cold/wind/rain waiting for everyone else to finish and then travelling back home. You could almost waste a whole weekend on one short race.

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tomjacques82 | 1 month ago
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The BC fees and costs of putting on an amateur race are just too high for event organizers. Combine that with the amount of red tape around organizing races these days and it makes it very prohibitive.

5 years ago there were road races every week during the season - now there are just a handful a season.

What races are left are on purpose-built courses which gets a bit dull.

There are however increasing amounts of races that use alternative organisations to British cycling.  

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Secret_squirrel replied to tomjacques82 | 1 month ago
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Petrol snorting BC not looking after Grassroots cycling?  Say it aint so?

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Miller | 1 month ago
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Sportives cost even more, looks like £50+ is the going rate now. I'm not necessarily saying that's a rip-off, more just a sign of the times.

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ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
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Is it just me or is BC facing an identity crisis? The success of delivering the super world champs last year, with good results from its athletes, a promising year ahead with a focus on the Olympic events. But at the same time, below international level elite racing, there is growing discontent, with increasing costs and seemingly less in return for the money.
I can't find any figures, but it would interesting to know how membership numbers are changing year on year. My instinctual guess would be static, maybe slightly rising commuter level membership but much greater losses in lower level racing membership.

Edit: Thanks folks, so the increase in everyday people getting out on bikes is increasing cycling UK's base level membership numbers and BC must be losing subscriptions hand over fist across the board

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stonojnr replied to ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
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I think they're down across the piece, for two reasons.

Firstly they don't shout loudly about how great the numbers of members are anymore.

Secondly the whole declining membership revenues thing was what pushed them down the path to Shell sponsorship, which ended up costing them even more members.

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Secret_squirrel replied to ROOTminus1 | 1 month ago
1 like

Massively down at the commuter level coz they dont give a shit about us, and are sponsored by Shell unlike say Cycling UK....

Plus the "dont ride on queens funeral" debacle.

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