British Cycling has announced the launch of a new Under-23 Men’s National Road Series. Here is a look at what it is, how it will work and whether this marks a positive step forward for British road racing.
What is it?
Last season’s National Road Series helped showcase the talents of a number of hitherto relatively unknown male under-23 talents. Josh Whitehead took a surprise win at the Lancaster Grand Prix, while Finn Crockett and Issac Peatfield finished third and fourth in the series overall respectively). Their emergence underlined the wealth of under-23 talent there is in Britain. Domestically, however, there are relatively few opportunities for young riders to prove themselves.
The Under-23 Men’s National Road Series aims to change that. A pilot five-round road racing series for male under-23 riders, it has been developed in collaboration with the British Cycling Road Commission and regional teams. The calendar has been designed to ensure a good geographical spread and avoid clashes with National Road Series races and other key events.
British Cycling’s Head of Sport and Major Events, Jonathan Day, said of the Series’ purpose:
“This new series has been developed following discussions with our Road Commission and with the support of organisers on the ground working collaboratively with our regional team. We know that domestically, opportunities for under-23’s to race amongst their peer group are limited, and we hope this pilot series will help to address that and provide new opportunities for riders at this level.”
It has been developed as part of the governing body’s wider aim, as set out in its 2021 long-term plan for road racing, to provide full and high-quality calendars for riders of all ages, and improve the retention and progression opportunities for those in the youth, junior and under-23 age categories.
Beginning with the Yorkshire Under-23 Classic on Sunday 17 April, the Series then includes a stage race – the Future Tour of Wales – from Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May. The third round of the series will be held in the Central region on Sunday 5 June. Round four will be the Worcester Classic on Sunday 31 July, before the Stars of the South West RR concludes the series on Sunday 28 August.
All rounds will be designated as National B road races. Four of the five rounds are brand new races; we understand that the Central region race is the only existing race and will be reclassified/upgraded to National B level.
|1||Yorkshire Under-23 Classic||17 Apr|
|2||Future Tour of Wales||30 Apr – 2 May|
|3||Central region (details TBC)||5 Jun|
|4||Worcester Classic||31 Jul|
|5||Stars of the South West RR||28 Aug|
How will it work?
The scoring system has yet to be announced, but we anticipate it will be similar to that of the National Road Series, with the top 20 riders all scoring points, and an overall series winner crowned after the final round. Unlike the National Road Series, we are told there won’t be a team classification; the standings will be for individual riders only.
Like all National B events, the races will be open to E123s (as long as they are under-23). So we could see UCI Continental riders participating alongside riders from elite teams and clubs.
We understand that the National Road Series will also continue to have an Under-23 classification, something that was introduced for both the men’s and women’s Series last season.
We’ll produce an explainer on this once it’s all confirmed an overall series winner crowned following the final round.
What about the women?
There is no direct equivalent for women. As announced in December 2021, an Under-23 Women’s National Road Series will for the first time this year be incorporated into the Junior Women’s National Road Series, with the idea being that it will support those races to become more sustainable and competitive. This idea has had its detractors; critics argue it will be detrimental to the development of junior riders.
A positive step for domestic road racing?
There is a lot to like about this announcement.
- The Series should provide an important platform for male under-23 riders to develop their race craft and showcase themselves.
- The races are well spread geographically (although Scotland doesn’t have a round), and the inclusion of a stage race should hopefully ensure variety in terms of terrains and styles of racing.
- The Series includes four brand new races, an exciting development in itself.
- Packaging up the races into a Series backed by the governing body elevates the races and will give us fans a reason to follow them with interest.
The obvious negative, of course, is the lack of parity for women. The rationale for merging a women’s under-23 series with the women’s junior series seems to be primarily about a concern that standalone races for either category wouldn’t achieve the numbers required to make the races sustainable. It’s a chicken and egg situation here though; equality of opportunity and dedicated support is more likely to encourage more participation. If the pilot men’s under-23 series is success, let’s hope a dedicated women’s under-23 series will follow in the not too distant future.
Featured photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com. National Road Series 2021 – Lancaster Grand Prix podium, Josh Whitehead Jacob Scott and Finn Crockett.