Cross Pathway

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Looking back to the rise of British Cycling’s international success, they cleverly targeted a relatively underfunded area of cycle sport, threw all their eggs in the ‘track’ basket & gained multiple medals on the world stage as a result. This focus on track racing eventually made this area of cycle sport harder for ‘Team GB’ to win medals once everybody else started to catch up, but they reaped the rewards before others also invested heavily after seeing how big an impact the UK made. Many other nations now also see it as a pathway, it gets more resources (although nowhere near mens road cycling) & track racing is now a different sport after the nineties & noughties. There are still some potential opportunities in different area of cycle sport for some smaller forward-thinking national governing bodies, with smaller budgets to make a similar impact on a smaller scale, but get great results & help their riders progress through an alternative pathway.

Cross Niche

So lets look at the options for Scottish Cycling, currently the primary performance path being pursued is to feed the British Cycling Olympic development team, which generally focusses on Olympic disciplines of track & mountain biking, with those riders feeding into the road programme. This is looking very good so far, with some Scottish stars emerging & plenty of young talented Scottish riders performing at a very high level to secure places in the development teams.

Perhaps there’s another route we could be considering in addition to the above, it may involve directing some resources away from ring-fenced ‘Olympic’ disciplines, onto the spectator-friendly format of cyclo-cross, it may even attract some sponsors if handled correctly. Scotland is ideal for pursuing this niche, we have crappy weather, plenty of poorly surfaced tracks, mud, a park in almost every village & town & our public like drinking beer while watching sport. But more importantly for sports development, the fundamentals are already in place, a highly motivated, idea-rich & well organised group of clubs & individuals who are growing the sport & promoting cyclo-cross events all winter (and now a summer league is planned).

Scottish Cycling haven’t exactly jumped on the bandwagon here, Scottish CycloCross have sorted themselves out quite impressively. They now provide regular race opportunities for the broadest demographic to be found in Scottish cycle sport, all compressed into one-day events suitable for the whole family. As spectator cycle events go, it also can’t be beaten, warm velodrome spectator opportunities with any atmosphere are few & far between at Glasgow, the thrill of seeing folks suffering & covered in mud while you can quite legally shout abuse at them is likely going to be a winner, once the wider public realise what’s going on.

The Gist Of It

I’m absolutely no expert in cyclo-cross (my lack of knowledge on ‘cross tub fitting strategy displaying my off-road knowledge deficit to full effect on twitter), so the issue is really between the stakeholders in their self-engineered highly successful discipline, and the governing body. Whether these two can, or want, to come to any agreement is up to them. The benefits to cyclo-cross could be better funding & a higher profile, while for Scottish Cycling they could find talent to push towards their Olympic disciplines, so both win. Cyclo-Cross being a bigger sport may start a slow progression towards Scottish riders being more successful on the international stage, there’s no reason a popular & flourishing sport can’t create a number of world-class riders, we just need it to get the recognition it deserves, to attract the talent & allow them to progress.

Cross can offer huge opportunities within the sport itself, or from the riders that will emerge & transfer into other disciplines. If we want to find the riders of the future, we need something that’s fun, easy to access & doesn’t require a huge investment in facilities, but with a little more support from the governing body, who I think are missing a trick here. As far as I can see, there’s nothing better than cyclo-cross for Scotland to look at developing.

Note: @owenp on twitter is now hosting some Scottish cycling podcasts, well worth a listen, the first couple deal specifically with cyclo-cross. It’s available on his website & i-tunes, search on your pod catcher for ‘The Drum Up Scottish cycling podcast’.




  1. There is definitely untapped potential in cyclocross. However I can’t see there being much interest from those in the SCX community in helping to find the next mtb or road star. This is the only interest the governing body currently has and its effect is felt already. We need less not more of that attitude from Scottish Cycling. Any uptake in further volunteer hours and headaches would need to be for the benefit of cyclocross and not a promise of side-benefits for it.

  2. I initially misinterpreted this post to be about creating world class Scottish cyclocross riders. On a second reading its obvious that isn’t the case.

    Cyclocross is already a pathway for riders into SC and BC programs as its something that youths take part in in addition to youth series road racing and SXC. But it will always play second fiddle to track in the winter especially as that allows the bodies responsible to evaluate them in an equal setting. There are a finite number of places available, there is no real advantage to a rider to focus on cross compared to attending the weekend track sessions.

    So the question is what are you(we, everyone involved) wanting cyclocross to develop into and is it something more than the great participation sport that it is right now? Because otherwise would require a lot of change that many people might not be happy with

    p.s. The best cyclosport to get kids involved in is and always will be BMX racing

  3. I think you’ve both got me wrong. I was putting out the idea that accessing taxpayers funding for cyclo-cross could only be done by working with SC in some way, as that funding is (wrongly in my opinion) only directed at the Olympic sports, which doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
    I know I didn’t go into this in detail, had no idea how many readers this blog would get, it was only half an hour of pondering, so probably needs much more detail. So I’ll try to expand…

    I initially started thinking about this after reading that a UK national cyclo cross event couldn’t come to Scotland due to the lack of visibility of Scottish riders heading south. So an initial funding stream could be simply to help send riders of each category to the UK events to address that issue, with the possibility of securing a major UK event. In addition money could be spent on sending riders to the Euro races, possibly not the big UCI ones for our top riders, where they might not get much of a race before getting ‘pulled’, but certainly the ‘B’ type events. Also young riders getting the chance to race abroad too.
    Now the big elephant in the room is having these riders taken away onto the BC Olympic programmes. That shouldn’t be up to us, that should be up to the rider to decide. But consider that if you’ve provided an opportunity for riders to travel, to get noticed by teams, there’s the possibility that some may choose the ‘cross path. If you look at the UK pro mens road teams, a huge amount of those riders are ex BC plan riders. That system spits out a lot of talented riders, so even if they don’t immediately choose ‘cross, they’ll have that good association with it & may return after a year on ‘The Plan’, complete with some additional training knowledge & life skills.
    SC taking over cycle-cross isn’t really what I had in mind, I think it’s thrived away from SC involvement. The problem is that the state only recognises the official governing bodies, so if ‘cross does want that kind of funding, it will have to get some agreement in some form, but that’s up to ‘cross to agree on. Both can benefit from this, if it’s a case of money to take riders & support team to Belgium of down south, I’m reasonably sure ‘cross can find the suitable people to volunteer to do that, I don’t think it should be SC staff doing that kind of job.

    So I wasn’t suggesting a system where ‘cross gets shafted, I was suggesting something where SC get the excuse to help fund something that benefits everybody, rather than the current situation that excludes all other disciplines. We all know that’s not the best, or only way to develop talent.

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