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05/13/2013 01:57 PM

The long awaited update.

Hi everyone,

It's been absolutely ages since I last wrote a blog post about myself and what I've been up to. Indeed it is getting close to a year ago now. My blog in the last year has instead become an occasional site for a bit of campaigning, mainly to do with the current state of UK road racing (see here, here and here).

Anyway, my last "proper" blog was for Veloveritas in June - http://www.veloveritas.co.uk/2012/06/16/whats-going-on/ in which I explained that I didn't know why I had fatigue. Well, after many trips to various doctors and a ludicrous amount of blood tests I still never really got to the bottom of it and my fatigue got much worse. It's most likely that I had a virus that caused me to go straight into the post-viral fatigue phase - i.e. the sort of symptoms you get from glandular fever.

I had to stop cycling altogether as even 20 minute cycle rides left me so exhausted that I had to go to sleep afterwards for 10+ hours. The main way to describe it is simply as a lack of motivation, I haven't been so demotivated to do anything at all (like for instance to get out of bed) in my entire life. All my cycling mojo had drained out of me and I was basically pretty depressed. It was far worse than any other injury or illness that I have ever experienced and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Eventually, since I wasn't getting any better and realising that it had become partly (if not entirely) a psychological problem I got some help to plan my recovery, which began in about September 2012. It involved walking for short periods twice a day, I added 10 minutes to the daily walking time every week until I was walking for over 3 hours a day quite a few weeks later. Walking was great because it isn't strenuous and I have never been 'pro' at it so I had no expectations. To think that only a few months earlier I was riding 200km+ UCI pro races in Italy was, however, slightly demotivating again.

So then I began my recovery on the bicycle, which involved mountain biking and short cafe rides mostly, so long as I didn't think too hard about how good I used to be I was fine. The trouble was that I did slightly too much riding, although it was still a pittance in comparison to what I used to do I suddenly ended up getting very, very fatigued again, resetting myself back to square one, again. After more motivational trouble I steadily bounced back again in a similar fashion to before, then in February I did slightly too much (again) and so on and so on... By the time I went to Mallorca to help lead rides at the Perfect Condition training camp, something I had promised to do much, much earlier I had basically no idea whether I would be able to do anything or not. The week before I left I did two rides and spent the rest of the time not doing a whole lot.

Mallorca was really difficult but fortunately I had a great time and managed to ride almost every day, confirmation that I was 100% better. It was great to be surrounded by really keen cyclists again, a far cry from the far more serious ones I had been associating myself with previously.

However, I have decided to no longer try and ride full time as a cyclist. Looking back I am really proud of what I have done and how far I got. Some days I feel like I got further than I should have and should count myself lucky, on others I feel like I didn't get far enough. Either way it doesn't matter now, if pushed I'll choose to take the former view. It would have been really nice to race pro in Italy for a few years rather than have it all go wrong so quickly but I can't change what happened, I just have to be philosophical about it, I know I was good enough.

There are multiple reasons I have decided to stop: the main one is that I feel it is time to focus my energies and on other things, namely using my long neglected education to get myself a proper job, earn some money and finally move out. It's time to stop being a cycling bum. I start my new job as a programmer for Siemens on Monday.

I am currently on a racing sabbatical, I shall return to race but this time as a proper amateur, with a new approach/philosophy and only when I feel ready. I have some things I would still like to achieve on my bicycle and would also like to coach/help out as many keen cyclists as possible to achieve their goals.

See you on a club run or at a race somewhere.

Cheers,

p.s. If you haven't already then please sign the cycle petition to the PM: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196

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03/08/2013 04:33 PM

Something Positive

Hi everyone,

As usual it has been a while since I posted anything. After the recent tragedy at the Severn bridge road race I was contacted by my friend John Heaton-Armstrong (who has written for this blog before) with some positive action we can all take from this in order to move forward and make road racing safer:

The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme was introduced into the 2002 Police Reform Act by the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

In summary, the legislation allows the Chief Constable to confer powers normally reserved to the Police Service to accredited persons employed by accredited companies.

The powers currently in force in Wales and Essex are;

1. The power of a constable engaged in the regulation of traffic in a road to direct a person either driving or propelling a vehicle to stop etc...

2. The power of a constable in uniform to...direct a person on foot to stop.

In the event that these directions are not complied with, s.35 and s.37 state that the person(s) will be guilty of an offence. Paragraph 3A s.5 gives a marshal the power to require the name and address of someone who fails to stop.

The bottom line is that the main problem which resulted in this accident (i.e. the lack of a rolling road closure) has a solution, but this solution remains at the discretion of each Chief Constable, and experience shows that ACPO are very resistant to pressure from central government.

The demise of top-flight amateur racing in the UK, and professional racing in addition might be halted by this sort of change, but looking to a body (i.e. British Cycling) who have allowed the number of top flight races in the UK to fall by >50% in the last 5 years does not seem a logical decision.

There is currently an e-petition to give the National Escort Group the powers referred to above, but this being directed to government demonstrates why efforts to date have been so ineffective - the address is being made to the wrong audience. This change rather needs to be advocated to local government, and the newly instituted Police and Crime Commissioners, otherwise it is extremely unlikely that change will be made in the near future.

Of course the underlying problem is that the legislation relating to cycle racing on the roads was brought into law in 1960, but getting this updated will take many months, and there is a real danger that, in that time, racing will all but have disappeared.
So in response to this I have written the following which I will send to my local MP and PCC:

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you in response to the tragic incident that occurred just last week in which a young man died whilst participating in The Severn Bridge Road Race in Devon.

I believe the incident was preventable and draws attention not only to the out of date laws pertaining to The Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations (written in 1960), but also a failure to take proper advantage of The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (introduced into the 2002 Police Reform Act by the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act).

Whilst I concede that the regulations take time to be redrafted, in the meantime I believe it would be prudent to use the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme to allow The National Escort Group (http://www.neggb.org.uk/) to be given powers to stop traffic.

As a professional cyclist I have raced in many countries in Europe and the rest of the world and I have found the UK to be the most dangerous by far. Given the nature of road racing, the current upsurge in popularity in road cycling and the current mood in the country pertaining to sport I urge you to act swiftly and appropriately, as I fear the incident that took 23 year old Junior Heffernan's life may happen again. In my years of racing in the UK I have found the NEG, even in its current, neutered form to be the most effective method of creating a safe racing environment. Their professionalism, experience and dedication is exemplary and if any group of people needed extra power to control traffic it is them, for the good of safe road racing in the country.

Regards,

David Mclean,

Please feel free to use this letter as a template to write your own letters to your local MP and PCC. You can find out how to contact them here:

Local MP: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/.
Local PCC: http://www.policecrimecommissioner.co.uk/.

It only takes a minute.

Also, whilst possibly less effective there is still no reason not to sign the petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46709.

Thanks.

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12/18/2012 10:24 AM

Guest Post!

It's been a while since I posted, sorry but there isn't a whole lot to report cyclingwise, except to to say that I have started riding again, but only a little bit. Perhaps it's time soon to do a post about my ongoing recovery, but not yet.

Below is a post from John Heaton-Armstrong about BC and the current state of the domestic racing calendar:

British Cycling at a crossroads?

by John Heaton-Armstrong on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 07:05.

I considered the title for a while, given that I no longer believe BC to be 'at a crossroads'. The reality is that it has turned in a direction away from domestic competition. I am led to this conclusion when considering the news that it will now receive an increased amount (£32m) over the next four years, up from the £25m it was awarded after the Beijing Olympics.

What have those years seen? In terms of base membership, there has been a very significant growth, but the necessity of such membership has to be considered. I would contend that, in the adult population, the assistance of BC is required little at all. For leisure cycling, if indeed an organisation is required, there are a myriad, beginning with the CTC, which has for years supported cycling across the country. In the case of sportives, while they are not everyone's cup of tea, it is perfectly possible to run them, indeed en masse, without BCs involvement. The cynic in me believes that the Sky Rides are actually a clever marketing ploy to get participants to think positively about a company whose reputation is at an all time low. Whilst an investigation has rejected the possibility of this being the case, I would argue that this represents a conflict of interest, in that the collaboration of BC and Sky necessarily means that public funds (i.e. those that BC receive from UK Sport) are going towards supporting the interests of a private company, and a highly dubious one at that.

We can then turn to the question of domestic racing in the UK. In 2008, a letter I wrote to Cycling Weekly (which was letter of the week, but never received the free track pump I was hoping for) called for the channelling of these funds into domestic racing in some part, given the increasing cost of race levees at the time. In the intervening period, there has been an inexorable decline of top flight racing in the UK, the number of Premier Calendar races falling by 50%. We have been told by BC's Sport and Membership director that judging a race series by the number of events is arbitrary - http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/...ix-events.html. Perhaps it is, Mr Clay, but for there to be any sort of judgement, there have to be some races in that series, and today we are faced with the very real possibility that there will be no races in the series by the next Olympics.

The point I am driving at, is that racing in the UK needs BC in a way that other areas of cycling do not, and BC is failing in its mandate. It is a publicly funded body, but those members who pay their taxes and want to race, or indeed want to watch top flight racing on home soil, and those taxpayers who are not members but wish to do the same, currently have very limited opportunity. In fact, in a 2 week period in Belgium, the fan can watch 6 of the best races in the world, the same number as make up the 2013 Premier Calendar over the course of a year. When one considers the size, resources and expenditure on cycling by Belgium, there is only one word to describe the state of affairs in the UK - pitiful.

Over the last few days I've been asked several times whether I am happy about the Tour de France visiting the UK in 2014, or the boost to BC's funding. In each case, I've had to say no, in fact I am very sad about both. They are distractions from the cancer that is eating domestic racing in the UK, and which BC has done little about. We have continual promises about lobbying, and campaigns which have been allowed to lapse, but still nothing concrete has been delivered.

To return to the title, BC has passed the crossroads and cyclesport in the UK is dying. The life saving treatment by BC is to actually pay for Premier Calendar races. This would cost less than a tenth of the funding it receives, but have a monumental effect, quite apart from the duty BC has to protect the series. Cycling is a professional sport. Riders don't need money from BC, particularly those at the top of the tree who receive most. But riders do need races. I hope there are some left in the UK in 4 years' time.
If you'd like to comment there is a discussion about it going on right now on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/notes/john-h...51297884627398

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10/05/2012 11:47 AM

Legacy

I remember May 29th 2005 like it was yesterday, do you? Of course you do. The place: Indianapolis. The man of the hour: Dan Wheldon.


Indeed, from that moment on in Great Britain our lives changed forever and a new era began. Yes, the country shut down that weekend and we celebrated from the rooftops, it was the first British Indy win of many, here is a photo of a whole load of Brits celebrating:


Don't you remember? It's hard for me to remember what it was like before 29/5/05.

Now of course we are immersed in a golden era of British Indy 500 winners, we've won the thing the last 3 years on the trot. I can't move for Dario Franchitti key rings, Wheldon iPod covers and massive American V8s painted up like a Chip Ganassi Racing Car.


And so like the chicken and egg the great British champions led to great British speedway races being organised and held in this country and now Indy 500 is a national sport just like football, right? Now there are Speedway stadiums in every major city in the country, yes? What? No?

Sorry everyone, this is a stupid post. It's just that it's so obvious (to me at least) that if there is to be a true legacy from the recent British cycling sucesses it is to come from races IN this country rather than riders FROM it. If you don't know what I'm talking about then read my post from a few weeks ago.

A race creates a champion every time it goes ahead, it's pretty much guaranteed, with every year that passes and with quality riders attending it gets more prestigious every single year. In fact it's difficult for a race not to create a legacy, they are legacy making machines. It's a no-brainer!

Indy 500 racing is a national sport in the deep south of the US because that is where the races are, it remains so even though British drivers win it all the time. Cycling is a national sport in France because of Le Tour, not because the French win it every single year* (*written through tears of laughter and pity).

We need more legacy making machines in this country if we want to keep cycling on the map, what can you do about it? Read here: http://forum.errl.org.uk//entry.php?...-Roads.-Please.

If you haven't read BC's recent press release in response then here it is: http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cam...paign-update-0.

The wheels are once again in motion to change the law - albeit very slowly - you can be rest assured that I will be (and have been) monitoring progress closely in recent weeks. What we need to hope for is that there aren't too many negative responses by ACPO officers to suggested changes by mid October. In the meantime BC is going to offer all the help it can to Premier Calendar organisers. Bob Brayshaw, the BC liason officer is going to help any budding (or not so budding) Premier Calendar organiser negotiate police charging fees to a reasonable level. It is still hard to organise a big race in the UK but it is possible, all you really need is sponsorship, it would be great if we went up from just 6 premier calendars next year to something a little more reasonable, something that could sustain the numerous sponsored and Continental teams registered here..

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09/07/2012 12:04 PM

Keep Racing on the Roads. Please.

There is no doubt that British cycling is alive and well at the highest echelons of performance - Britons won the Tour, the world champs and pretty much the entire velodrome; there's also no doubt that British cycling is alive and kicking at the grass roots level too - membership has doubled since 2007. It makes sense to assume that all is well in between, too, right? Unfortunately not; BC is the governing body for beginner’s racing, Regional racing (2nd and 3rd cats), all levels of women's road racing, National level racing (Elites and 1st cats) and the semi professional/professional teams below Sky. All of these parts of the sport are in trouble - but particularly at the higher end.

What’s wrong with the in between then?

The problem with all that lies between the two extremes of the Sky rides and the Sky team is that not only is there a large and almost unbridgeable gap between the likes of Sky and the next best British teams but that the races for those teams are getting scarcer and scarcer in this country. In recent years more and more road races have had to retreat to closed circuits, Premier Calendar events have been cancelled and the racing calendar has fizzled out earlier and earlier in the season. The 2012 Premier Calendar has the fewest events (only 6) in the entire history of the series. Elite and 1st cat riders have been wrapping up their racing in August or early September. Riders for some of the UK Continental registered teams have been spotted preparing for the Tour of Britain on a diet mostly made up of 1 hour criteriums at Hog Hill!

The problem is with race organisation.

The bottom line is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to organise and run road races in the UK. Cycle teams, clubs, racers have developed, grown and moved onwards and upwards but the races themselves have gone backwards or at best remained static. This is due to a number of contributory reasons, some more important than others:

Here is why road races are in trouble whilst everything else is booming:

  1. Legislation: Every year that passes the law governing road races gets another year out of date, it was written in 1960 and no longer works. If you have a quick scan you will see that most of the road races we currently ride will violate one law or another: http://lvrc.org/documents/road_traffic_act_1960.pdf Everyone knows the rules are poor, including the rules themselves (read the last paragraph).

  2. The Police: The 1960 act gives a huge amount of power to the local police, who are able to place any constrictions they feel necessary on an organiser. They often don’t want the extra work or don’t understand what is required so the larger races never come to fruition. The Police’s job is to serve the public, not to quash the aspirations of an organiser with impractical and unnecessary rules. Ever wondered why the Tour of Britain has those big transfers and a strange patchwork of stages in certain counties? One reason the Tour of Britain goes where it does is because those are the areas with friendly police constables (another being not all regional.development committees are interested).

  3. Marshalling: did you know that all of those marshalls at your local road race don't have any legal powers to stop traffic? They are literally just standing there in a hi-viz vest, waving a flag in the street and hoping for the best. It's worked OK so far but it's hardly ideal, as a sport we are one RTA away from big legal problems and both literal and figurative nails in coffins. The volunteers at the Tour of Britain have no power to stop traffic either.

  4. Lack of organisers: There is a perception that a road race is immensely difficult and time consuming to put together. For your average National B or lower this is a misconception, there is plenty of help available from BC and other organisers if you look, often you can do it all on your own until the day of the race.

  5. Frustrated big race organisers: Once a race is up and running it's much easier to maintain, this is why it's so sad to see big events like Premier Calendars disappear, they are very difficult to get going again once lost. Organisation of these events is far more difficult than it should be because of the Police powers and 1960 act, these people have enough of an uphill battle gaining sponsorship and finding volunteers. For an idea of what a big race organiser is up against, read this interview with Peter Harrison, who organises a Premier Calendar and a Women's series event.

  6. Lack of volunteers: this is a perennial problem in all sports. The make-up of the teams to which road racers belong is changing; we used to be mainly club riders, now there are many more sponsored teams and riders (a symptom of growth). This is no bad thing by itself but there is perhaps a reduction in people willing to organise or help out at a race as a result. A culture of volunteering needs to re-emerge in road racing, especially amongst those in the sponsored teams. Elite road racers in particular need to pick up here, they benefit from the sport more than others, marshalling is something that everyone should do but elite riders in particular don't seem to bother with. You can ride out to a race and do it on your rest week, it's no biggy.

  7. Opening hours: Shops for a number of years have been open on Sundays, this means increased traffic (and more danger), earlier starts and shorter races.

What can I do to help?

  1. Write to your MP: The British public is in a unique mood at the moment, we seem to be unusually tolerant of cycling and cyclists thanks to success in the velodrome and Bradley Wiggins's tour win, not forgetting Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Armitstead. Now is the time to bring a final push for big reforms to the 1960 act. Write to your MP, also write to Julian Huppert, joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and tell him that it needs changing. You can also contact Julian on Twitter.

  2. Encourage British Cycling to act: A couple of years ago BC launched 'Keep Racing on the Roads' to tackle the first three things on my list. Here is the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-R...10888005595054. They appeared to be making progress for a while, sadly they haven't posted since June last year. What has happened? I don't know, I don't care. BC needs to take up the mantle once again with its stated aims. BC is letting us down, like their page, write on their page, email info@britishcycling.org.uk, make sure they know you are concerned that nothing is happening. Above all tell them to act now to save the Premier Calendar, it's in crisis.

  3. Marshal, Organise, Volunteer: Get stuck in, it is your duty to volunteer, yes, even if you get a free bike from your shop team, yes, even if you have more than 200pts on your license, yes, even if your cycle kit has more than 5 sponsors on it, the more you take from your sport the more you must give back.

  4. Spread the word: Spread this message as far as possible. BC must know that we are relying on them, everyone is relying on them, they need our support, let them know they have it and that you're doing your bit.

The standards that the world class performance programme have set and achieved for themselves need to be aspired to by the rest of the road racing community at large, that means by BC, by organisers and by the racers themselves as a long term goal. If we can have a Tour de France winner and a British registered Protour team why can't we have a racing calendar to match? It's a long term goal but for now we just need to stop it from disappearing altogether. Wouldn't it be sad if we measure the success of Britain's European pros in the context of an all but forgotten and empty domestic scene?

The UK racing scene is bursting at the seams for want of races, particularly at the top end. More and more sponsored teams are relying on getting exposure in the Premier Calendar, which every year shrinks a little bit more. It will only be a matter of time before it simply no longer makes sense to run a team with a UK sponsor wanting UK exposure, Sigma Sport aren't going to sell any bikes racing in Belgium.

We should aspire to having the Tour of Britain and Rutland Melton on the World Tour, we should have a phalanx of UCI .1 and .2 events, UCI women's events, 15-20 premier calendars a year and a similarly increased amount of National B and regional races. France has this, Belgium has this, Italy and Spain have this, our world champion and Tour winner don’t, doesn’t that seem strange? One of the continual criticisms of the current government is that their policies are fantastic, but only for the very few, the 1%, who benefit greatly whilst the majority suffer. It would be a pity if this were to be mirrored by road racing in the UK.

Thanks for reading, if you agree, please act - at the very least please share this message.

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