NEWS: Elite Pairs GP pilot given the green light

A pilot for a new Elite Pairs GP competition has been given the green light by British Cycling this week. The single event will debut at the third round of the Elite GP at Coventry, on Saturday 4 August 2018, with a view to being brought in, series wide, in 2019.

Like the individual event, prize money will be on offer with a £10 entry fee per pair (£5 each). Riders are not restricted to race with a member of their own club though, which means they are available to pair up with a friend from another club.

With the bulk of CS racing during the season club based, opportunities for keen cyclists from other disciplines to “rock up and race” are too few and far between. Some of the sport’s most successful competitions are easily accessible to new riders, like the British Youth and Junior League, Women’s League and Eurovets.

If you watch the following video for downhill racing posted by British Cycling recently, it highlights how insular and inward facing our traditional racing programme can be. BMX, Downhill, Track and Cyclocross all offer easy entry to events, but CS, particularly at senior level is primarily focused on team club racing, which caters for just a handful of club riders each week.

At a fraction of the cost of entering other forms of cycle racing, Cycle Speedway is a fine alternative to other disciplines, and needs to offer something better publicly to compete against the other disciplines to build it’s rider base.

With increased publicity from British Cycling in recent years, boosting our online presence to the cycling community, along with technology moving forward allowing the potential for professional live streaming, there’s no reason why taking advantage of the exposure and shifting the focus to more accessible racing could be successful.

The Elite GP can hopefully deliver similar levels of success to the BYJL, and adding the niche  (as far as cycling goes) but much treasured pairs racing alongside the individual, delivers more variety for senior riders. The Elite GP has also been earmarked by British Cycling to test the water with some new rules tweaks in the future, such as a new penalty for movement at the start, which still allows the rider to compete in the race, and new technology with a starting countdown sequence, potentially leading to a more efficient spectator experience.

To survive, the sport needs to align itself fully with cycling, a sport on the whole as popular as ever, the best place to start is looking how other disciplines do things and see how we can fit our own unique brand of cycling into a new mold, alongside our club racing – it’s not so much what happens on track that needs to change, more how it is perceived.

Track cycling should be seen as our family now, we both race on ovals, only ours is dirt track cycling. There is also scope for broadening the accessibility of the sport further and bringing it into cities that have no expensive dirt track facilities, in factories or car parks under an urban track cycling banner.

There are exciting possibilities ahead if the sport is willing to embrace them and take a brave step in a new direction, which truth be told, might not even look that different from inside the sport, but have a huge impact outside of it.

Cover photo by Andy Whitehouse.