Wednesday, 8 November 2017

BRITISH CYCLING AGM: what next in their box of tricks?

British Cycling, famous as the UK’s top Olympic sport this Millennium, is desperate to restore its reputation tarnished by allegations of bullying and sexism which came to light 18 months ago.
In just over a week’s time, four months after springing that Extraordinary General Meeting on a sleeping membership on the final weekend of the Tour de France(!), they will take another step towards redemption when a new board of directors are elected at the agm at Crewe, Cheshire, on November 18.
But doubts remain that this will truly be a clean break with the past. A reliable source tells me there is the prospect that the “new” Board will remain under the control of a majority of previous Board members who were obliged to step down after their failure to manage the whole sorry episode which landed BC in the dog house in the first place.
Delegates are additionally concerned at the prospect that four new independent board members may bring undue government influence to bear on British Cycling at a cost to grass roots development as they establish policies to safeguard the welfare of elite riders and staff. 
For it was UK Sport who demanded these changes.
It is now four months since the controversial, hurriedly organised EGM in July sought National Council’s approval to make changes to the constitution, under threat of losing the £43 million Olympic funding if they did not bend the knee to their pay masters.
British Cycling was desperate to do as bid and after a lot of strife they got what they wanted and the vote was won.
But the orchestration of their campaign was breathless stuff. At the thought of possibly losing the vote, at the last minute they roped in Olympic hero Chris Hoy to make an emotive plea on their behalf.  It was masterful trick and it seemed to work.
But there was good news for the 10 England Regions when perhaps the most contentious issue of all was settled and National Council retained its democratic right to hold the balance of power.   The EGM granted an amendment, tabled by South East Region, to allow the England Regions a place on the new board.
The fact that the England Regions, comprising the largest membership of British Cycling, were not originally granted that place speaks volumes.  Scotland and Wales were represented. Why not England?
There had been a huge concern that without England having a place on the board, National Council, the voice of the grass roots, would effectively be silenced.
British Cycling without National Council would become like government without Parliament – Theresa May’s preference when taking decisions over Brexit - authoritarian.
Notwithstanding that the balance has been addressed, for some delegates British Cycling still needs to demonstrate the sport can continue to prosper, across all disciplines, for all members, and not just for the elite pursuing Olympic medals.
But in the light of a 37-page annual report which I understand makes scant reference to regional development, National Council may need more reassurance.
The new board is intended to form the basis of the new-look management structure demanded of all Olympic sports. They are all obliged to adopt UK Sport and Sport England’s new Code of Governance on condition of continuing to receive Olympic funding.
This code is to safeguard the health and welfare of athletes and staff, to nip in the bud any behavioural problems. Ours is not the only sport with a problem. Swimming is another.   In cycling’s case the new code has particular relevance to the allegations in the 2012 King report which revealed sexism and bullying allegations.
It made matters worse that the full contents of that report were kept from the board for some time and known only to two or three individuals at British Cycling, an issue which still remains to be cleared up.  
BC kept the whole thing quiet until compromised by a whistle-blower, Olympian Jane Varnish some 18 months ago, over her questionable dismissal from the Olympic squad.  It prompted other riders to come out in support, with their own issues.
It led to the Parliamentary Committee who looked into this affair to declare British Cycling unfit to govern. And while that may have vindicated, quite rightly, all who have been damaged by this affair, it was a hard blow to the morale of an organisation which has truly taken the sport to new heights these past two decades.
How to get back on track?
BC insist they have since addressed all of these issues!
It is to the make sure they do that UK Sport called for the changes in BC’s management structure that have caused such unrest. Many felt the changes called for went too far, too fast, and this is what drove Peter King and others, including former president and double world champion Tony Doyle to take a stand at the EGM in July.
King says of course all members want to see the Olympic success of British Cycling continue, but he is worried at what he sees is a huge disconnect between BC and the members. He is especially concerned that grass roots will be neglected as a consequence of the direction UK Sport is insisting upon.
For  it was King  - who coincidentally stepped in to rebuild the Federation in a big shake up 20 years ago, setting cycling on its revolutionary  medal winning course –  who argued for South East Region’s amendment to permit an England Region representative on the board.  
Subsequently, King has been nominated to become the England Regions board member and he hopes to influence others on the board to address the issues dearest to his heart.
This whole affair had witnessed heated exchanges both at the EGM and during the evening before, when in a move which disturbed many, British Cycling executives led by President Bob Howden, put delegates - already mandated by their Regions - under pressure to vote for the proposals because if they didn’t, BC would losing £43m funding and 225 jobs.  
No wonder that Doyle says he took a dim view of an email BC sent to National Councillors recently, warning against collusion… “To intentionally restrict the number of votes for other candidates and to gain a clear advantage in the voting process.”

The email pointed out … “such collusion is contrary to the spirit and intent of an election process ….”

Doyle wondered at the brass neck of this declaring that it is all very well to speak of  “spirit and intent” when BC employed questionable methods to  promote their agenda this year, both on the lead up to and on the eve of the EGM itself.

“Integrity and honesty was being ignored by BC and they forced their decision on the membership,” says Doyle.

Peter King for all his concerns remains optimistic, saying he is relieved that National Council will continue to hold management to account. 
“Yes, the ‘cycling family’ retains control,” he says.  “Of all the amendments I proposed this was the key one.  Out of a total of 12 on the board we will now have three directors nominated by the home countries and four elected by National Council.  There will be four independent appointed directors, one of whom will be the Chair, and the 12th director will be the CEO.” (Julie Harrington). 
The nominees are:
President: Rob Howden (seeking re-election, unopposed).
Chair: Jonathan Browning could be re-appointed.
Four non-executive directors (from the five nominated) –
Wendy Cull North West Region.

Graham  Elliott Eastern Region.

George Gilbert Eastern Region.

Dan Harris Central Region.

Richard Lodge West Midlands Region.

Marion Lauder – On-going appointment.
Alex Russell – On-going appointment.

Additionally, the following three nominations have been approved as non-executive directors:

Peter King, England Regions; Alasdair MacLennan Scottish Cyclists’ Union;

Nicholas Smith Welsh Cycling Union.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

£40k to save the Good Friday International Track Meet

Anyone got £35,000 to spare?

Can you stretch that to £40,000?

That’s what it will take to save the 115th edition of Britain’s most famous track meeting from being consigned to history. 

The Good Friday Meet, host to World and Olympic champions across the last century, “will not be held in 2018”,  it was announced last  week.

And yet promoter Graham Bristow, organiser since 1984, tells me he still has an option on booking the velodrome for Good Friday 2018.

If he can find a backer with £40,000 he can still put the event on, but time is moving on.

Otherwise, the SCCU simply can’t continue to incur the substantial losses of recent years.

It costs a few thousand to hire the track!

This is the longest running international track meeting in the land, the Southern Counties Cycling Union (SCCU) Good Friday meeting at London’s Lea Valley indoor track.

The event, established in 1903 and until a few years ago held at the outdoor track at Herne Hill in South London, has traditionally been funded by spectator receipts.

But the expense has outrun the income, and Bristow and the SCCU have pockets only so deep.

How ironic that this event be forced to close, with British cycling now the UK’s top Olympic sport. Britain has so many Olympic and World champions – Tour de France champions – all of them punching above their weight in the world’s biggest races.

It is especially ironic because at the Good Friday meeting, once considered the pinnacle of the British track racing calendar, National and local stars always got their chance alongside World and Olympic champions.

In fact, the Good Friday was for years ranked among the most important sporting events on the British calendar, always getting space in the quality national newspapers. The Press Agency (PA) would order copy from whoever was reporting the meeting for Cycling Weekly.

The website - - provides an illustrious list of  some of the world’s greatest track riders who have raced the Good Friday.  

They include, from France, Daniel Morelon, Florian Rousseau, Arnaud Tournant; from Germany, Michael Hubner, also Britain’s double hour record breaker and World pursuit champion, Graeme Obree. Also Tony Doyle, double Professional World pursuit champion, and Colin Sturgess, famed also for taking the World pursuit crown.  

National, World and Olympic champions include Germany’s Robert Forstermann, Christian Grassman, Lief Lampater and Nico Hesslich.
There was Australia's Stuart O'Grady Top home riders included Becky James, Jody Cundy, Sir Bradley Wiggins (Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton Andy Tennant and Ed Clancy, Jason Queally plus

Sean Yates and the King of British short-distance time trialling, Alf Engers.

Although the introduction of the indoor velodrome to Britain revolutionised how riders train and prepare, and have been key to Britain’s success this new Millennium,they came with a mixed blessing for outdoor track promoters like Bristow.

 “The Good Friday Meet suffered from the advent of 250m indoor velodromes, as the vast open spaces of Herne Hill appeared to be irrelevant to the development of the British Cycling squads who in earlier times would have attended.” explained Bristow, adding.  “Paradoxically there was never any problem with contracting foreign based stars to appear.”

For many top riders, Good Friday’s varied programme of events freed them from the pressure of conforming to the more rigid programme of the World Cup events, tailored as they are around Olympic qualifying races. 

And so released, they would delight the fans as they rose to the occasion in a medley of races, not just their particular disciplines.

But there was another problem for Bristow. Ironically, the transformation of Herne Hill from a rundown dilapidated facility to a fresh new

locally based community hub also created difficulties for the Meeting. 

The ongoing works rendered much of the site inaccessible to spectators and, with no end date in sight, the Meeting moved to the Lee Valley Velodrome in 2014.

The hope was that the event would return to its spiritual home.

But this was not be, Bristow told me.

“When the Herne Hill renovation was completed the committee considered returning to Herne Hill, but sadly, although it has new club house, the venue is no longer suitable for holding meetings with more than a few hundred spectators.  This, coupled with the ever present Easter weather uncertainties, means that such a return to South London is not an option.”

But times change, says Bristow wistfully. The huge rise in popularity of cycling has come with a twist. He reckons that many of today’s new fans who snap up the tickets come to only to see the Tour and Olympic celebrities and show little interest in the rest of the racing programme.

“They watch Wiggins race then disappear from the trackside.  Same when Hoy (both now retired) came on,  they’d come back in to watch him, then disappear again! They don’t appear to be interested in the racing itself.”

The Good Friday Meet has always been a big social occasion, where young and old acquaintances, fans and riders alike, renew friendships at the opening track meeting of the year.

Spectators were not only drawn by the promise of seeing both home and foreign internationals clash but also talented rising stars, both foreign and home grown, take on the names.  To thrill to the sound of big motors in the motor paced event, always a big draw.

And it would all come to the boil in the final event of the day, the Golden Wheel scratch race, a furiously paced bunched race carrying an eye watering £1000 first prize.

Tony Doyle, one of the Stars at the Good Friday International over the years, recalls some key moments for him.

“I first rode the Good Friday Track Meeting in 1975.  In the 10 minute pursuit I finished in 3rd place behind Alf Engers. I then rode & won the 10 minute Pursuit in 1978.

“In 1981 I rode a World Champions Revenge Match against Dutch rider Herman Ponsteen. I regularly rode the meeting during the 1980's and the meeting regularly featured many Pro Omniums with riders like Danny Clark and Stan Tourne. 

“In 1984 even Gary Wiggins (Bradley Wiggins’ father)  rode and I remember clearly meeting a young cheeky scoundrel, called Bradley.  I regularly used to get preview interviews with both Thames and BBC TV. I always got regular radio spots with Capital Radio and BBC.”

When the world’s best came for the Centenary Meeting

I still have my press pass from the biggest Herne Hill meeting of recent times, the SCCU’s Centenary Track Meeting on the 18th April, 2003.

It’s one of my valued souvenirs.

The place was packed out. British riders were beginning to make a big impact on the world scene.

This meeting boasted at least four current World champions, three of them British.

They was Chris Hoy, the World kilo and team sprint champion, his World team sprint champion teammate, Jamie Staff.

Chris Newton, World points champion; Sean Eadie, Australia’s World sprint champion.

There was Bradley Wiggins, a Herne Hill regular since he was eight years old, the 1997 junior world pursuit champion in his first season with a first division team, riding for the French outfit, Francaise Des Jeux. (A year later, Wiggo would stun us at the Athens Olympics, begin his march to greatness).

And there was multi-world medallist from Italy, stylish Roberto Chiappa,  another Good Friday regular.

Plus a host of talent to take them on. And it was a sunny, warm day, not a cloud in sight. A perfect day. Super racing. And fun, too, especially the celebration dinner that evening where I recall Wiggins the comic getting all tangled up in the coat hangers in the hotel lobby.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Dutch Heaven - UK Hell

ABOUT a month ago I was again reminded of Britain’s inadequate provision for cycling on the roads when I saw another great film celebrating Dutch cycling. It was provided by Cycling UK in their regular email to members.

Tens of thousands of people of all ages cycling on all manner of bikes, along superb cycling paths in towns and around. Cycling to work, to the shops, to school, cycling in pairs, hand in hand, with children perched on shoulders, or sat in trailers.

All going anywhere you care to mention and enjoying right of way across junctions. And not one cycle helmet in sight!
As for their cycle parking facilities at railway stations - well. It takes my breath away.

Brilliant, inspirational.

Utopia, whereas in Britain….Oh, GOD!

Other than some small well designed facilities, a few kilometres of segregated cycle route here and there, Britain’s roads are designed to process fast moving traffic with little thought of how vulnerable road users are to cope.  Let’s be blunt. The road system, especially at roundabouts, remains hellish.

The Dutch approach to providing safe conditions to encourage cycling is well known and I never tire of hearing about it.  Their work has become the benchmark by which transport planners in this country ought to at least try and emulate, but they don’t.  Instead, Britain’s lamentable progress to provide decent cycling conditions is a sad reflection of a very deep political and social divide.

There is simply not the political will to provide a decent integrated transport system in a country where the car is king/queen. 

Take the provision for cycle parking at main line railway stations, embarrassingly low compared to Holland.

Mind you, the Dutch are not without their problems! (I write with tongue in cheek.)  Provision for cycle parking at Utrecht, for example, simply can’t keep up with demand, according to The Guardian last month. 

Today at Utrecht’s railway station there are 6,500 parking spaces for cycles. How many? 6,500!

By the end of next year this will be an additional 6,500 spaces, doubling to 13,000!

How many?

It will be the biggest of its kind in the world.

Yet this huge provision for cycle parking – there is nothing like it in the UK - won’t be enough, say the Dutch cycling organisation Fietserbond.


13,000 bike parking spaces at one station not enough?

Correct. This is simply because so many more people are taking up cycling to get about town and country. In Utrecht cycle journeys have increased 40 per cent from five years ago.

In The Hague a bike park for 8,500 cycles is due to open next Spring. There is a 5000 bike park at Delft. Amsterdam plans to excavate a 7000 bike park beneath the waterfront.

There are a staggering 22.5 million bicycles in Holland – and 17.1 million people!

28 per cent of all journeys are by bike. In Britain, despite big increases in the numbers cycling, utility cycling remains at around *2 – 4 per cent.

You may wonder how it is cycle stats remain so low in the UK,  with such a big rise in numbers cycling in London and other cities, notably Cambridge. Well, according to a survey a few years ago the low overall percentage for the UK is due to a drop in cycling in rural areas.

However, cycle parking provision at UK rail stations is improving, but not fast enough, evidence all the “fly parking” – bikes left locked to railings all around the stations.

There was a “big” increase in cycle parking provision at some main line stations in Britain a decade ago, as a result of Labour Peer Lord Adonis promoting the idea.

I seem to recall transport minister Lord Adonis, himself a bike rider,  persuaded Leeds – with grand aid -  to put in a 300 space cycle parking hub at their main station.

 I think a few other stations may have followed suit.

Dave Holladay, an Independent Transport Specialist working for Transportation Management Solutions, who also advises Cycling UK (formerly CTC), provided me with latest information on cycle parking at London’s main line termini.

Back in 2002 there were 30 spaces on two platforms at London Waterloo, the busiest station in the UK.

 By 2010 cycle parking at London Waterloo had increased to 300 in 2-tier racks. Today there are 650 spaces. Not many when you consider Waterloo has close on 100 million people a year rushing through.

There were also 124 docking points issuing 500 Santander hire bikes every morning. The hire bike system is one of the truly successful cycle projects to date.

A number of years ago the total number of cycle parking spaces across all of London’s main line termini was put at about 1000. Holladay tells me this has since improved with some individual stations boasting 1000 spaces.

However, none of this parking is secure.

“No one has yet delivered secure parking, although with modern phone apps, q/r patches, or RFID cards the public are equipped to engage with automated systems,” says Holladay.

And yet there is a system available, he says, citing the one used in 1996 for the Portsmouth hire bikes. This is an unmanned secure entrance enabling user’s access to the bicycle storage area. - 

He tells me there has been a long promised bike hub at Waterloo.  Caverns exist under the station, including a massive and empty car park vacant since Eurostar services moved to St Pancras.

But he also tells me of poorly audited waste of public money on cycle parking at stations by some Train Operating Companies (TOCs)

It seems that just as Local Authority highway planners often engage with local cycling campaigners in their preparatory work, when they come to making final decisions they generally go their own sweet way, paying little attention to guidelines and building sub-standard facilities with limited appeal.

In providing for station cycle parking there is, I understand, often poor project preparation, resulting in building either the wrong thing or failing to properly survey the site. I know a man who can give me chapter & verse on the missing/misspent money.

Here follows the latest cycle parking scenario for London’s other mainline stations, besides London Waterloo, already detailed.

Euston is probably close to Waterloo’s provision, with some 600 spaces across five locations. 

At Paddington there is a compound for 400 bikes on Platform nine/10.  

Marylebone has just over 400, all on Platform four.

Victoria has cycle parking by a taxi rank and the bus station, also in nearby Hudson Place. 

At Liverpool Street, there are maybe spaces for between 100 and 200 bikes near the taxi road between One Bishopsgate and the station.  

London Bridge is being rebuilt and is chaotic at present

Fenchurch Street has minimal provision.

St Pancras has between 200 – 300 spaces in the car park, considered to be the wrong place!

Kings Cross has perhaps a couple of hundred on platforms one and eight.

There is also Brompton cycle hire. 

Santander provides 500 plus hire bikes at Kings Cross, as they do also at Waterloo, in addition to many locations across the West End and, I think, a few outside the central area.


According to figures provided by Cycling UK, a European Commission survey found

 only 4 per cent of UK respondents cycled daily, the lowest percentage of all EU 28 countries – with the exception of Cyprus, 2 per cent, and Malta, 1 per cent.

The figure is 43 per cent in the Netherlands; 30 per cent in Denmark and 28 per cent in Finland.

Some UK cities buck the trend. London has seen big increases in the numbers cycling. In 2015, there were 610,000 cycle journeys a day, or 23 million per year.

Other cities recording substantial increases in numbers of people cycling include Cambridge where 29 per cent of working residents cycled. Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield have also showed substantial increases.

Typically, the increase in cycling is more often than not due to personal reasons, such as avoiding costly public transport and/or disruption to services, rather than to any notion of improvements to infrastructure. 

AND FINALLY… funny quip of the week from Eurosport TV:

Scene: Tour of Spain. As one of Alberto Contador’s many valiant escape bids comes to a premature end, he looks back down the road to see the Team Sky express once again bearing down on him. Cue for Eurosport TV commentator Carlton Kirby to remark:  “The Sky train is now approaching….stand well back from the platform edge.”

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Pothole story scoops Ride London Surrey Classic in local press

IT’s a week since I joined the throng on West Street to watch the best pros in the world hurtle past the end of my road. This was the fifth annual Prudential Ride London Surrey Classic which this year was awarded the top rating, UCI World Cup status.

You may recall that the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff snatched the victory in a bunch sprint on The Mall after one of the most exciting road races we have seen, full of action and attacking riding throughout.

The pro race was the climax to a day which began with 25,000 charity riders in the Prudential Ride London 100 warming up the course for the pros, albeit taking a slightly shorter route through the Surrey Hills before rushing – some struggling -  back to the capital, ahead of the race.

The pro race hit my town at around 3.20 in the afternoon, lapping the town four times. So how did my local paper, the Dorking Advertiser, report this unique event?  

They didn’t! Their front page scoop was about a pothole. Nothing about the pro race at all!
Yes, they majored on the danger of pothole and how marshals had to warn  the charity riders to beware it. Gave this the front page.
This was on a par with a recent front page story of a driver given a £60 parking ticket for leaving a front wheel sticking millimetres out of a parking bay! Ah, good parochial stories.

The passage of the biggest single day professional road race in Britain, featuring many of the top teams from the Tour de France and including points champion Michael Matthews, was of no consequence.

The “preview” the week before – a few paragraphs in the things worth seeing section – gave the charity ride a brief mention But nothing about the race passing through town four times, no time table, nothing about the technical hilly course through the hills above the town. Nothing about the star riders.  In the past they gave the race a decent showing. This time, zilch.  
Unless the big race story got lost at the printers! Doubt it. They simply didn't run it!

So how did they fill four pages?  

Curiously, the Dorking Ad contrived to write up the charity ride, without once mentioning anything at all about the pro race following hot on the heels of the amateurs!

Imagine a major pop concert and the music press failing to write up the headline act!

But clearly that’s not how the editorial team saw it. They decided that the charity ride was the exclusive story of the day, giving that a good write up, it must be said.  But they studiously avoided the other thing.

It’s a bit like reporting on a swimming gala and saying nothing about the GB Olympic swimming team doing a few lengths!

I’m left wondering how they achieved this.

There was plenty of scope for their reporters and photographers, plenty of action on the tough hilly course through the Surrey Hills all around - and where Team Sky tore the peloton to pieces – before the race headed one more time through the town centre and back to London via Box Hill.

The race came into town on the slightly downhill A25 from Westcott.  It hit the town at such speed you caught your breath. It was like an avalanche.  There were whoops of delight from spectators lining the kerbsides.

The three pubs on West Street were doing good business and the pavements outside were crowded with spectators agog at the action. Many were perhaps hoping for a glimpse of the likes of Andre Greipel, a name they would be familiar with from his sprinting exploits in Le Tour, although not this year when he failed to win one stage.

Even now, after decades of reporting the races from the inside, the spectacle of seeing a race going full tilt still excites.  The wow factor as 150 pairs of wheels rush by,  whipping dust and paper into the air,  the roar of the following team cars - looking like toast racks with expensive bikes slotted in them someone said -  and the beat of chopper blades overhead.

For just over an hour this controlled mayhem delighted the senses. That’s what people enjoyed. The town given over to sporting spectacle.

 The Kings Arms pub added to the carnival by showing live TV coverage in the bar so you could follow the action and dart outside again just before the breakaway came belting through with the field  right on their tail.

We could have been anywhere - Belgium, Holland, France, Italy. It seemed professional road racing has made its mark in Britain, too.

But not in my local paper!

This is how the Dorking Ad reported race day. The “race” for them was all about the charity ride. Oh, and a pothole.

They devoted the front page to the pothole and three inside pages to this “race”, and the moaners, just for balance!

The front page headline took some beating: “Why wasn’t pothole fixed before race?”

This was in inch-high thick Times Bold. And it took two reporters to put the story together

about how anxious marshals pointed out a hole in the road on West Street helping thousands of charity riders avoid disaster.

Well, clearly it’s a story, but front page?

They illustrated their story with probably the most undramatic picture ever, of a lone rider successfully avoiding the hole. In fact, not one of the 25,000 riders was reported to have hit it. Neither did the pros, I must presume.

Clearly, Surrey Council deserves a rocket.  And the marshals the riders thanks.

But the paper didn’t actually mention the Pro race once!

Not once. Not once in four pages. There were lots of pictures of the charity ride and one pic which 
looked as if might be the pro bunch – that unmistakable relaxed style. But there was caption to say so.

The front page was taken up with the hole.  Of course, we should be grateful to the newspaper for shaming Surrey Council’s highways department.

So that was the front page. What did they write about on the three inside pages given over to the event?

Well, it was good spread all about the charity ride and how many good causes will benefit, and how the event organisers will donate big sums to a local charity. They reported how those turning out to watch thoroughly enjoyed cheering on riders of all ages.  
One woman bystander said that as she gets locked in by this event and can’t do a thing about it she might as well be positive and come out and cheer the them on.  Surrey Hills residents take note!

The report noted that last year’s bike jam had been avoided by reducing the number of entrants to 25,000. The event went off smoothly, it said, although sadly one participant died – Maris Ozols, 67 -   who suffered a cardiac arrest on the shorter 46-mile route.

So what was on fourth and final page of the Advertiser's coverage of this great event? 

The fourth page was their piece de resistance, surpassing their front cover pothole scoop. It carried the following headline in big black letters: “County roads are being shut illegally during bike race”.

This told how residents of Surrey Hills have complained that the road closures are illegal. They have been complaining about this ever since the 2012 Olympic road races, saying that there are no alternative routes for them to use during the lengthy road closure.

Hugh Brasher, event director of Prudential RideLondon, replied saying that the road closures are “fully compliant with the law and the event has all the necessary permissions.”

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Hoy's plea saves £43m funding.. but British Cycling give way to allow England's Regions a place on Board

Last Saturday a lively and controversial Extraordinary General Meeting of British Cycling in Warrington finally approved changes to the constitution as demanded by UK Sport’s proposals for Olympic funded sports.

But only after the governing body gave way to allow a crucial amendment to allow the 10 English Regions a place on the Board.

In a statement on British Cycling’s website, Julie Harrington, Chief Executive Officer of British Cycling, said:

“Today, British Cycling’s National Council voted in favour of changes to our constitution in order to ensure that we are compliant with the Code for Sports Governance. Our membership also voted for an amendment to create the role of a director nominated by the English regions to go alongside those nominated by Scottish Cycling and Welsh Cycling. We have heard the concerns of our National Councillors and we will actively work with our membership to ensure that the voice of the enthusiast remains central to our purpose.

“Securing funding for elite and grassroots participation through these changes will enable us to inspire more people on to two wheels across communities the length of the country. Without secured funding we will not be able to share our love of the sport and enable others to try it. Our sport is growing and growing up. Today’s vote is the start of an exciting new chapter for British Cycling and our sport.”

But it was anything but straight forward.

The following  story is gleaned from officials representing South East Region and Central Region who were at the forefront of the opposition to some of the proposals.

They faced a weekend of intense lobbying and debate. It ended with British Cycling succeeding in keeping its £43 government funding as National Council voted to accept the controversial new code of governance demanded by UK Sport and Sport England.

Bringing in Sir Chris  Hoy late last week to make an emotive plea to support the vote appears to have swung waverers. Hoy claimed that without funding he could never have achieved his six Olympic gold medals – a British record.

His intervention appears to have saved the Federation’s bacon – their jobs and funding!

British Cycling had feared their proposals would be rejected by National Council which had judged them to be too severe, that the changes would make National Council obsolete.

It became apparent to some on the eve of the EGM that BC management had underestimated the strength of feeling and as a result they climbed down on some of the points.

Crucially, this led to the acceptance of an amendment to the proposal by South East Region to allow the 10 English Regions representation on the new board to preserve National Council’s influence in board decisions.

That was the crux of the matter to most of  those opposed, including the South East’s Peter King.  The former CEO of British Cycling  had warned that National Council would likely reject British Cycling/UK Sports controversial changes to the organisation if National Council lost its voice.

However, Tony Doyle, former president of the British Cycling Federation, wanted the proposals rejected and to use the three month deadline he says was provided to negotiate a better deal. Funding would have been frozen during that period, not lost, he told me.

Doyle described those Regions which voted against their mandate as “Turncoats”.

 “I'm staggered by yesterday's outcome. Integrity is seriously in short supply amongst our National Councillors. Shame on them,” he said.

He says National Councillors were bullied into submission when they were told that 225 British Cycling staff would lose their jobs, and that the redundancy payments alone would cost the Federation £2.1 million.

Peter King didn’t take kindly to be called a “turncoat”, and neither, he ventured, will his fellow South East Region Councillors.  

King also objected to what he called a “challenge to my integrity” and called for perspective into the whole affair.

He and his fellow South East delegation had not disregarded their mandate, he says.

“The view of my colleagues, taken right at the end of the meeting when almost all of our proposals had succeeded, was that we were mandated to vote against the key proposal if it was not amended but that a view should be taken once the outcome of the amendment process was known.” 

But he added that even if all SE Region votes had been against, the proposals would still have succeeded. He added he cannot speak for the Central and South Votes.

King said his position at the EGM was exactly what it had been all the way through this, since his first discussion with Doyle.  “We agreed that modernisation was overdue and that we expected the proposals to be passed by the EGM.  We also agreed that if the proposals were to succeed then we needed to try to get them amended to mitigate the primacy of the Board and the authority of National Council.  In both respects those aims were achieved,” says King.

Doyle had wanted to bring to account those members of the Board and others he felt had brought the Federation into dispute in the recent past, while King’s intention, he says, was to “contribute to the necessary improvements in governance, direction and management going forward.”

However, the EGM is just the start of the affair! King says he has spoken to people at Regional meetings who don’t think the proposals go far enough. There is a sense of “an increasing disconnect between the Board and senior staff and the sport as we know it at local level.  These concerns now need to be addressed urgently. The question is, what do we do now?”

Central Region’s Stuart Benstead paid tribute to Peter King for the way he formulated the many amendments that re-shaped the documents into an acceptable form to National Council.

Benstead said it was recognised that further modernisation of the documents will be necessary. He said the task now was to elect the right people to what is likely to be an all-new national Board.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Brailsford and his gymnastics stunt at the Rayner dinner

When I read about Team Sky boss Sir David Brailsford bawling out

a cycling reporter on the Tour’s rest day for writing “S...” about him, it sounded very much like a Trump moment.

But it also reminded me of the time when I crossed swords – or words – with the great man.  Brailsford, that is. Not the American  President. 

My comments had been harmless but he didn’t take kindly to them, I learned. He politely chastised me when we next met. He gave me a steely smile. But there was no outburst.

Nevertheless, he had been clearly irritated by what I had written.  And I was very surprised, for I thought his stock had risen considerably by my observations. But no. Whoa, I thought.

The incident in question had occurred during that celebrated annual social occasion, the Dave Rayner Fund Raising Dinner. This must have been 2003 and I think it was held in Harrogate. Or was it Bradford?

No matter. I was covering the event for Cycling Weekly and Brailsford was there with several members of the World Class Performance team, some of whom may have benefited from Rayner funding in the past. At that stage in his career I think he was in a managerial role and had yet to be elevated to the top job of Performance Director prior to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Anyway, after the dinner and just before the auction of cycling memorabilia was to begin, many guests had repaired to the lounge bar. Everyone was in high spirits, as they usually are at a Rayner dinner – it’s a huge laugh, just as the late Dave Rayner himself was. Rayner was a charismatic and talented professional bike rider who died tragically young and whose name lives on by the inspired  creation of the Rayner Fund which has since provided countless youngsters with a springboard to the pro ranks.

So when I spotted Brailsford doing side to side cartwheels in the crowded hotel lounge, to the cheers of those around him who clearly appreciated this demonstration of kinesthetic awareness and flexibility - which it seems has been passed on to ace descender Froome  - I naturally included his excellent gymnastic stunt in my story.

A story intended as a light-hearted sketch of the proceedings and which perfectly reflected the nature of the event. Or so I thought.

Dave thought otherwise, I discovered a while later when reporting the opening gala night of the newly built Newport Velodrome in South Wales.

As I walked into the building someone tipped me off. Ooooh. He didn’t like what you had written about him. I should not have written about him doing cartwheels!

Mystified, I sought him out in the track centre and asked him if that was true. He said yes, he’d taken a dim view to my reporting him doing cartwheels.

They were perfect cartwheels, I told him. He smiled thinly. He’d rather I hadn’t written it.

Oh dear, come on Dave, lighten up! I remember saying. He grinned at that.

And that was that. We met on several press occasions after that and clearly the matter had been forgotten. 

But it left me surprised and disappointed. I could only surmise that he considered that such antics reported in the cycling press would not do his job prospects any good when in fact it can’t have done him any harm at all!

In fact! Well, not in fact, I am making this bit up. But I like to think that his boss, Peter Keen, who created the World Class Performance Plan in the first place,  thought that if he made Brailsford Performance Director, he might then “perform cartwheels”  around the opposition? 

(Or run circles around them, as the saying goes)

And so it has proved!

I mean, just look at him. Leaving out all the controversy of the recent past, here is the Mastermind behind the greatest haul of Olympic medals of any sport in Britain; he is the creator of Team Sky, top team in Le Tour.

And he does perfect cartwheels.