It might be getting to close to the festive season here in the UK, but there are no presents in British Cycling’s announcement about the 2023 National Road Series and National Circuit Series. Indeed, the slow, insidious decline of the domestic road racing calendar seems set to continue as we head into the new season.
Anyway, before we offer our thoughts in full, here is what we know about the 2023 road racing programme…
Featured image: Joe Cotterill/The British Continental. The 2022 Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix.
National Road Series
The National Road Series is the premier road racing series in the UK for men and women. After a COVID-hit calendar in 2021, last season marked a hopeful return to normality. There were eight rounds of racing planned in all in 2022 (seven for the men), made up of six one-day races and two stage races. Even with the subsequent cancellation of the Tour of Reservoir, the programme looked half decent.
However, the elite-level road racing calendars for both men and women will shrink in 2023.
Gone (for good?) are the Stockton Cycling Festival Grand Prix and the two-day Tour of the Reservoir. The Stockton GP is a causality of local authority spending constraints. We’re less clear why the Tour of the Reservoir isn’t returning (the new organisers vowed to bring the race back in 2023 when it was cancelled last year) but it might be that the ever-increasing challenges of holding a road race in the UK were deemed insurmountable by the people who took the race over after Mike Hodgson’s sad passing.
The four-stage Manx International Stage Race will also not run in 2023, although British Cycling tells us it will be back in 2024 – next year’s hiatus is due to planned roadworks.
All this means that for the men, the National Road Series is down to just four one-day races. They are all quality races, it has to be said, but it will mean slim pickings for Elite Development Teams and others that were hoping for a strong calendar of domestic racing to help their riders progress.
The Series begins in May with the iconic Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, the undoubted jewel in the Series crown. The race will have a new organiser in 2023 as Dan Ellmore steps down after a successful stint looking after the cherished event.
The Lancaster Grand Prix continues to grow in stature and will return once again in 2023, as will the Ryedale Grand Prix, an important mainstay of the oft-changing calendar. The Series culminates with the historic Beaumont Trophy in September.
British Cycling says it is hopeful that a fifth round of the men’s Series will be added to the calendar, with further updates to be shared in due course.
|14 May||1||Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix|
|16 Jul||2||Lancaster Grand Prix|
|20 Aug||3||Ryedale Men’s Grasscrete Grand Prix|
|17 Sep||4||The Beaumont Trophy|
The women’s National Road Series comprises five rounds in 2022. It shares the same races as the men’s races but with one important difference: the ANEXO/CAMS 7th Women’s CiCLE Classic. This race has a new March date (it was previously held in June), meaning it will mark the start of the Series and could mean the riders face a muddy edition of a race that is renowned for its off-road sectors. The particularly good news here is the Anexo Group has committed to sponsoring the race for the next three years, assuring its future at what is a perilous time for domestic road races.
|26 Mar||1||The ANEXO/CAMS 7th Women’s CiCLE Classic|
|14 May||2||Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix|
|16 Jul||3||Lancaster Grand Prix|
|20 Aug||4||Ryedale Women’s Grasscrete Grand Prix|
|17 Sep||5||The Curlew Cup|
National Circuit Series
In contrast to the diminished National Road Series, the 2023 National Circuit Series programme offers continuity. As with 2022, six rounds are planned for the men, while five are set to take place for the women, an increase on the four in the 2022 programme.
The Barnsley Town Centre Races sadly disappear, but that looks set to be offset by a yet-to-be-confirmed round in the South East. It is also welcome news that the Sheffield Grand Prix will host a women’s round for the first time.
Both the men’s and women’s series will open in Otley, which always plays host to a magnificent evening of racing, at the end of June, while the Newark Town Centre Races will crown the Series winners on 28 July.
|28 Jun||1||Property Development Men’s Otley Grand Prix|
|30 Jun||2||The Ilkley Cycle Races|
|5 Jul||3||South East (TBC)|
|19 Jul||4||Sheffield Grand Prix|
|25 Jul||5||Fort Vale Colne Grand Prix|
|28 Jul||6||Newark Town Centre Races|
|28 Jun||1||The Santini Otley Women’s Grand Prix|
|30 Jun||2||The Ilkley Cycle Races|
|8 Jul||3||South East (TBC)|
|19 Jul||4||Sheffield Grand Prix|
|28 Jul||5||Newark Town Centre Races|
National road championships
British Cycling has also confirmed the dates for next season’s national road championships, with the venues yet to be confirmed.
|22 Jun||National Time Trial Championships||tbc|
|23 Jun||National Circuit Race Championships||tbc|
|25 Jun||National Road Race Championship||tbc|
A few thoughts
In a social media post back in October we lamented that “the slow decline of the domestic road racing scene is like watching a death by a thousand cuts”. What we meant by this of course is that the decline is slow, insidious, almost imperceptible at times. And yet it is real. And it continues.
The first men’s National Road Series had ten rounds. Eight were planned for 2020 and 2021. In 2022 there were just six. And now there might be four, five at best. While the women’s calendar has grown in recent years, it was starting from a very low base, and now shrinks from its 2022 high of seven rounds.
Jonathan Day at British Cycling recognises the problem. “The picture facing organisers, funders and sponsors in 2022 remains incredibly stark”, he says in a blog post. He says that British Cycling is working to support organisers and hopes to grow the calendar again in 2024.
He also recognises that British Cycling alone can’t solve these issues. Like race organisers, the national governing body has its own financial challenges at present; it can’t just write cheques to solve the issues.
But what it can offer is leadership, coordination, support and assistance. That is why we called on British Cycling back in October to kickstart the development of an ambitious action plan to revive the British road racing scene. Two months later, the need for urgent action seems greater than ever before.
Of course, British Cycling’s chief executive Brian Facer has stepped down, meaning there is now a leadership vacuum within the national governing body. That said, we were never convinced that domestic road racing was anywhere near the top of British Cycling leadership’s agenda. We had a discussion with Brian Facer at the nationals in October 2021, and the impression we got from that – as well as the general direction of travel under his watch – was that domestic road racing was likely not going to get much attention at the top while he was in charge. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that this changes in 2023 when a new chief executive is appointed.
Speaking of 2023, a few readers, noticing our lack of content of late, have asked about the future of The British Continental. We’ll write more on that soon. But after a period of rest, recuperation and reflection, we’re pleased to say that The British Continental is not dead yet.