Explainers Features

Elite Development Teams: an explainer

An in-depth look at British Cycling's new initiative, designed to support rider development in the UK

Ahead of the start of the women’s National Road Series on 27 June, British Cycling has (finally) announced the first teams to be awarded Elite Development Team (EDT) status.

The new status was announced in November 2020 with the ambition of supporting “the best British talent on their journey towards success on the world stage”. Teams were asked to apply back in January, but it’s only now, on the eve of the postponed National Road Series, that we hear which teams have been selected…

2019 East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix. Photo: James York

Which teams have been awarded EDT status?

… so let’s cut to the chase and tell you which teams they are.

12 teams have been awarded EDT status in all, seven men’s teams and five women’s teams:

Men’s teams: Bikestrong-KTM, Crimson Orientation Marketing, Cycling Sheffield, Richardsons Trek, Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor, Team PB Performance, Wales Racing Academy.

Women’s teams: Bianchi Dama Cycling Team, Brother UK Cycle Team OnForm, Loughborough Lightning – TRG, Team Boompods, Team LDN – Brother UK.

What’s the big idea?

British Cycling’s ambition is to support the creation of teams that meet minimum standards in terms of supporting rider development. When the status was initially announced in November, British Cycling said that EDT status “will provide a new tier for ambitious national teams with a strong development focus, bridging the gap to UCI Continental level, and ensuring that riders are supported by a team of support staff, comprehensive race programmes, and appropriate guidance and mentoring.”

In essence, the purpose is to help British riders move on to the pro ranks. British Cycling’s Head of Sport and Major Events, says, “Competition for places on UCI Continental, ProTeams and WorldTeam squads is more competitive than ever, and we know that having access to a comprehensive race programme, coaching and guidance and financial support can be the difference between a rider not making the grade and fulfilling their dreams.”

2019 East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix. Photo: James York

Where does EDT status fit into the current team classifications?

The EDT category will sit between UCI Continental status and British Cycling’s ‘club commercial’ and ‘club’ categories. Non-UCI teams like Nuun-Sigma Sports-London RT currently fall into the club commercial category, but other elite outfits are categorised as ‘club’ teams include some National Road Series regulars (the Wales Racing Academy fell into this category in 2019) through to more conventional cycling clubs like the Kingston Wheelers, for example.

What are the criteria?

It’s not confirmed, yet. We’ve asked British Cycling to publish the details but what we do know is that when British Cycling invited teams to apply it said that qualifying teams would have the following obligations:

  • Minimum of 30% of riders should be under-23 for men’s teams and 50% under-28 for women’s teams, while a minimum of 80% of riders should be British.
  • Riders must be Elite, 1st, or 2nd category riders (progressing 3rd cat riders allowed for women’s teams).
  • Teams must have between six and 14 riders.
  • Teams are required to ride at least 75% of the National Road Series events with a minimum of four riders (6 of 8 races in 2021).
  • All staff members must hold a valid British Cycling licence with the requisite endorsement (i.e. Team Manager), and each team must have an appointed Rider Welfare Officer who is not related to the Team Manager. DBS check and safeguarding training will be required.
  • Riders must list the team as their primary club (road) and this should remain for the duration of the year. A stagiaire option will be available from August 1st for up to three riders.
  • Registration fee of £150 in addition to the standard affiliation fee.

In addition to meeting these obligations, British Cycling said applicants would be assessed based on the team’s objectives, how they intend to support rider development, whether they are providing a rounded and progressive race programme, and whether riders will receive support such as equipment and or expenses, to support their development.

British Cycling also said successful applicants will be expected to meet all or most of the following:

  • Teams are expected to support the National Road and Circuit Series.
  • Teams should support a proportion of riders’ expenses for national and international races.
  • Teams should provide riders with access to the required equipment needed to compete, such as a team bike, clothing, and equipment.
  • Team staff will be present at National Series events to provide support before, during and after the race for their riders.
  • Teams are obliged to provide a team car with requisite racking and equipment in order to provide a service role within the race convoy. Team cars should have a minimum of two members of staff while in the race convoy (i.e. driver and mechanic).

We’re not clear if these remain the criteria. And we’re also not sure how British Cycling will assess whether these obligations and expectations have been met. We don’t know, for example, what ‘supporting riders’ expenses’ actually entails (how are ‘expenses’ defined, what is the minimum proportion of these that teams are expected to meet, and what is mean by a ‘national’ race – is it all National A and B races, road and crit, or something more specific?). Similarly, what is the definition of ‘required equipment’ (does it include in-race nutrition, what ‘equipment’ is expected to be provided as a minimum?).

2019 East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix. Photo: James York

What’s in it for the teams?

When applications were announced, British Cycling said the main benefits for teams would be:

  • Entry guaranteed for up to eight riders in all National Road Series events.
  • Education courses and workshops provided for riders and team staff, including anti-doping, safeguarding, social and digital skills and commissaire insight. We are also looking to establish a future team manager training session, including rider welfare and convoy protocols.
  • Access to an Elite Development Team forum which will meet 2/3 times during the year.
  • Recognition as an Elite Development team with marketing collateral provided to highlight this.
  • Team information featured on the British Cycling website, social media channels and email newsletters, with links to the team website and social media accounts.

Again though, confirmed details haven’t been published as yet.

2019 East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix. Photo: James York

What difference will it make?

It’s too early to say.

It’s encouraging that a good number of teams applied. Presumably this means they felt that the benefits outweighed the additional administration and running costs that EDT status will entail.

It’s not clear from our conversations with those teams that have applied whether they will be running their teams any differently as a result, however. For them, they see it more as a seal of approval for what they are already doing, rather than something that will necessarily push them to meet higher standards.

For them, perhaps the real test will be whether the benefits that British Cycling provides them with – the training, support and exposure – enhances what they are already doing. For British Cycling, the question might be, have they set the bar high enough if so many teams have come forward and met the criteria? For non-EDT teams, the question will be whether EDT status encourages them to improve what they do in the future in order to acquire the badge too. And if the purpose of the initiative is to support rider development, there is the question of whether it helps riders to jump up to the pro ranks that wouldn’t otherwise have made it.

Ultimately, however, EDT status will surely only ever be a small part of the puzzle in terms of supporting rider development and in our minds there is a long ‘to do’ list of issues that the governing body needs to lead on addressing. Hopefully, not only will the tests we’ve set for EDT status be met, but this will the first in a much wider package of measures in the coming year or so that helps to reinvigorate elite road racing in the UK.

Featured photo: James York. 2019 East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix

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