NATIONAL HILL CLIMB FIELD SIZE AND ENTRY
As I stated on here a couple of days ago, there has been a lot of discussion around the field size and entry criteria for the upcoming national hill climb on Winnats. Due to the status and popularity of the climb myself and Nick always knew that the event would be oversubscribed and therefore one of the first tasks we tackled, once we knew the climb was to be on Winnats, was to formulate a plan for how the field would be selected. We didn’t want it to be a process based in opinion (“Oh he’s good – he should get a ride”) and we also wanted it to be clear so that prospective competitors would know what to aim for.
1. Choosing Winnats as a course.
It has been stated on here that the field size for Winnats has been dictated by the parish council. To some extent this is true, however if we were to entirely go with the parish council’s wishes there would be no race on Winnats as they really would rather it didn’t happen. As I stated in the zoomcast, myself and Nick knew that we would come up against a lot of opposition, and I cannot overstate the amount of work that has gone into getting the race on Winnats Pass.
It’s also been suggested that CTT should have somehow helped us ensure that we could have a longer road closure. I really don’t think CTT could have helped with this – the Parish Council and DCC don’t have to do what CTT ask. In fact, they seemed more responsive to local people going along to their meetings.
Getting the race on Winnats has been a process of compromise by both the organisers and the parish council. In order to gain their approval, we had to agree to be off the pass by 11am, which means the race has to finish soon after 10.30am. In order to have a sensible start time, and to give the various contractors time to put in place barriers, a finish gantry, screen and timing equipment, we felt the earliest we could start the race would be 8am with the road closure starting at 6.30am. This gives us 150 minutes of racing which, with 30 second intervals, gives us 300 slots. (As a side note this decision also has an impact upon the entry fee, which has been highlighted by some as expensive. A big part of the cost is the automatic timing which, if we did not opt for this, would mean that we would have to go with 1 minute starting intervals and therefore only 150 slots).
The decision we faced, therefore, with regard to the venue was: do we go with Winnats and its iconic and unique place in hill climbing but with a reduced field size or, do we have a bigger field on a different hill?
For us, this was a no-brainer. A once in a generation opportunity to put the race back on Winnats was too big a prize to give up, and if we are to ever use Winnats again we had to compromise and accommodate the parish council’s wishes. If we were to put their backs up now – it will definitely never happen again.
2. Entry requirements – gender and previous performances.
I will split this section into two. First, I will talk about the male/female allocation and then I will talk about how those places will be filled.
The championships consist of 4 races across 2 genders. There are 300 places available across the 4 races and the male/female population split in this country is near enough 50%/50% – therefore half of the places will be allocated to male competitors and half to female competitors. The only situation that will change this is if there are less than 150 female entries, in which case those spare spaces will be allocated to male competitors.
There is a view that this allocation is not fair based upon the male/female ratio in a ‘typical’ race and we should therefore base the allocation for the nationals on such a ratio. Indeed, allocations of 60/40 and 80/20 have been stated.
My first point is: what constitutes a typical race? How would we decide what a ‘fair’ ratio would be? As I said at the top of this statement – we want all entry decisions to be impartial and not based on opinions and deciding what a fair ratio is would be an opinion, not a fact. The only fact I know of regarding gender, is the gender split across the country. That is 50/50 so that is the gender split we will allocate for the race.
It is my view that there is a reason why there not as many female competitors in cycling time-trials as there are men. Since the beginnings of the sport females have been made to feel second best and, certainly in the early days, they were actively made to feel unwelcome. Their place was seen as being in the HQ providing refreshments. Even today we still have events that do not provide equal prize money, and because of this, women are voting with their feet and participating in other sports. There are many other social and image reasons why women don’t take up sport (and this is not the place to discuss them), but nonetheless the attitudes of some in our sport in previous and current generations is not helping the matter. Women don’t feel welcome, and we need to show that in cycling we believe in gender equality. And the only way to show this is by demonstrating it in a practical manner.
Because of previous attitudes in cycling toward women, it can be argued that the strength in depth amongst female competitors is not as great as male competitors, but continuing to restrict the entry numbers for females will simply continue this trend. If we want there to be greater numbers of female competitors and we want female sport to become more competitive, we have to provide the opportunities for this to happen and that means equal field sizes and equal prize money – and this has to happen right now.
Finally on this point, can I reiterate that the male and female races are separate events. It’s not a case of a man replacing a woman or vice-versa – they are separate events, and they have the same number of places allocated to them.
The second point regarding entries, is the entry requirements. For this we are using 3 categories which have been discussed and signed off by the CTT board. Therefore this is CTT criteria, not just ours:
• Previous performances. Guaranteed places for Senior Men and Women who have placed in the top 10 in the Championships in these years. This amounts to a maximum of 23 men and 26 women. Guaranteed places for Men/Women who have achieved a top 3 position in the Junior Championships in these years, but who are now Seniors. This amounts to a maximum of 7 men and 5 women. Guaranteed places for Men/Women who have achieved a top 5 position in the Junior Championships in these years, who are still Juniors. This amounts to a maximum of 4 men and 5 women.
• Spindata. Other championships will use fastest times to determine the entry, but of course with hill climbs this is not relevant as all climbs are different lengths and gradients. The method used previously, therefore, was to award entry into the championship based on placings in previous races. This again is not fair as the ‘value’ of a placing in a race will depend upon the number of competitors and how far from the winner the individual’s achievement is. As an example: a top 10 placing in the Monsal Head hill climb is a huge achievement due to the size and quality of the field, whereas a top 5 in another race might not be equal to this – even though, on the surface, a top 5 looks better than a top 10. To address this issue, we are using Spindata as this gives a ranking based upon performances relative to other competitors. It is entirely unbiased and, although it might not be perfect, it is a lot better than simply choosing the field based on raw placings. There has been a question of whether rankings used will include people who have a “provisional” ranking (i.e. people who have done less than 3 events). Given the late running season for other events, and the quite early closing date for the National, we will consider provisional rankings.
• Wildcards. Places will be made available to entrants who have not been able to ride UK hill climbs but they clearly have the potential for a high-quality performance. In short, if Lizzie Deignan wants a ride – she’s in!
3. Entry Requirements – Categories
The national championships consist of four races: senior and junior men, and senior and junior women. There are no titles for veterans and juveniles.
Therefore, based on the titles which are being competed for, entry allocations will be given for senior riders and junior riders only. A senior rider is anyone 18 or over at the start of 2021 and encompasses veteran riders. Similarly, a junior rider is anyone under 18 at the start of the year and this encompasses juvenile riders. Separate allocations cannot be made for veterans and for juvenile riders because, even though they have their own category and there are age medals awarded, those medals do not make them a national champion in the eyes of the CTT, and therefore we cannot allocate places for them within the field.
I do understand the viewpoint that having age medals does suggest that there are championship titles up for grabs – but this is not the case. Furthermore, there is no value in lobbying myself or the rest of the team about this issue. It is a CTT decision, and any queries need to be directed directly to the CTT.
I did state in the zoomcast that I would personally support championship titles for veterans and for age categories below 18, but this of course would have an impact upon the field size needed for the national championship which would further impact where the event could be based, as many venues would not be able to support the length of road closure required.
Furthermore, I am happy to go on record and say that the lack of allocated places for the younger riders is counterproductive to getting young people into the sport. One of the benefits of a closed road is that all ages can ride, but the policy of lumping all the under 18s into one category will result in most entrants below 12 not getting a ride as their performances will naturally not be on par with 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. Plus, those under 12 will have limited opportunities to achieve qualifying rides as not all hill climbs are on closed roads. But, once again this is a CTT championship, and we therefore must promote it under their rules and regulations – regardless of our personal viewpoints.
In terms of an opportunity for veterans to race for a national title, the BMCR (British Master Cycle Racing) have promoted a national hill climb since 2019. I have ridden this twice and, as a competitor, I welcome the chance to race against people my age. Similarly, the younger riders have an opportunity via ESCA. But regardless, if there is a will to have a CTT championship for riders at either ends of the age range, this is something that needs to be communicated to the CTT directly.
I know that this statement will not bring an end to the various discussions going on about the national hill climb, and in many respects, I hope that it doesn’t. Only through discussion do we make progress. However, I do hope that this statement does make the position of the organisers of this year’s championship clear, and it makes clear the reasons for the various decisions we have made around the venue, field size and the allocation of places for the race.
Chris Myhill 9th September 2021