New CA Junior Cycling Policy – Changes to race distances!

Posted: June 26, 2015 in Nationals, Opinion, Road
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After CyclingDad’s recent ‘Call for Contributions’, a regular reader pointed out that one of the major changes to the Cycling Australia Junior Cycling Policy – released last month – is the change to race distances.  CyclingDad, like this reader, thinks there’s a bit of good to the changes, but equally some questionable decision making.

It is quite a substantial document, with a lot of governance, duty of care and motherhood statements – many of them necessary for the sport to meet the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Junior Sports Guidelines.  One major change is the cancellation of prize money for junior racing.  It doesn’t even give promoters the option of keeping it!  It simply advocates: no prize money.  Is this a good thing?  Most parents I speak to don’t think so, and even race promoters think it’s far easier to put $20 into an envelop than to have to organise trophies, ribbons or medals.

The biggest changes through are the changes to the distances the varying age-groups are allowed to race.  Some positive changes here with the girls now able to race the same distance as the boys across all age-categories – this means some big increases for the under-17 girls who are now able to race 70km races (and 50km in stage races).

If only the road lead to good decisions...

If only all roads led to good decisions…

The policy itself seems a little contradictory: for e.g. in under-15’s ‘Competitive Stream’, CA recommends training sessions can be up-to two-hours (with up to six sessions and 175km per week) while at the same time reducing the maximum distance back to just 20kms for a stage race!  It’ll take the under-15 boy’s less than 40-minutes to race 20kms in a mass start stage race, yet CA is advocating that they can train up to two-hours in a session, six times a week?!  Complete contradiction plus in no way reflective of the fitness and capabilities this level of recommended training will give these riders; nor is it preparing them for the jump up to the under-17s where they can race more than twice as far (and on a significantly bigger gear!).

CA is even likely to contravene it’s own policy at the junior road nationals in Shepparton later this year where the road race for the under-15 boy’s will exceed 30km – likely to be 39.6km!  At the recent Shepparton JT we saw 20 of the 21 riders contest the finish in A-grade as the course simply wasn’t selective – largely due to it being just 23.5km (exceeding CA’s 20km limit!).  I for one as a parent would like a more selective race for no other reason as to reducing the likelihood of a crash in a big bunch sprint finish!

Before these changes under-15 boy’s were racing stages up to 50km long, and managing quite well with them.  As stated, I think the equalisation of the distance girls and boys of the same age can ride is a good move, but to so reduce the distance under-15’s can ride is simply a terrible, ill-informed decision.  It’s worth pointing out that this change won’t impact the children of either the reader who sent this in or CyclingDad as our kids have already moved through the under-15 category.

Thankfully the changes don’t seem to have filtered through to the ‘real world’ with both this weekend’s Wagga Wagga JT and next month’s Eildon JT offering stages well over the 20km limit for the under-15 boys… although the under-17 girls are only being offered the same distance as the under-15 boys, rather than the same courses being offered to the under-17 boys.  Both tours are also offering stages exceeding the CA policy for the under-17 boys.

Confused?  I know I am.  I understand CA needed to update its junior policy (mainly to keep the ASC happy, who, after all is its major funder), but to so drastically change race distances is, in my opinion – and the opinion of many in the junior cycling community – a decision that needs to be reviewed… and quickly!  Perhaps, in the real world, it won’t have a significant impact and junior tour organisers will continue to offer stages exceeding policy limits.

I don’t like taking pot-shots at CA, especially in its current state… it is an easy target!  And there is a lot that’s good about the policy – not so much changes, rather documenting things so they’re all in one place.  I would have liked to see the policy perhaps go further with regard to junior tours, mandating minimum safety standards and traffic management based on speed limits the courses are held on.

Any how, keen to get your thoughts on these changes – especially those in or coming into the under-15 category.  For those who haven’t read the new policy it’s here.

Safe riding everyone.

Comments
  1. Another Cycling Parent says:

    The changes in distances brings mixed blessings.

    CA previously had published race distances, but race organisers frequently ignored the and States allowed them the benefit to fit the race to the roads. JM15 and Eildon provides the perfect example with the recommended max distance for a stage race being 30 or 35km yet the second road stage being 50km long.

    It’s good that they’ve clamped down on race distances but it seems they’ve taken the easy way out and pandered to the loudest voices. Shortening the JM15 races is nuts. Lengthening the JW17 races; however is a more questionable decision. In the JM17 races the organisers have large numbers of entrants so you can, at a pinch, cater for the stronger A grade field with a longer race or at least the gaps between first and last managed by grading. In the W17s you are now going to blow out the difference between 1st and last, discouraging last place. Consider the increased gap between first and last an extra 40% race distance will cause.

    What might be good for a handful can be detrimental to the overal sport.

    As for the prize money thing – yes, it’s easier to slip a 20 into an envelope and probably more the kids really like making money (some can make more in a Christmas carnival series than a full holidays working at McDonalds) but it also might take some of the pressure off the poor race organisers and handicappers if the monetary impact of a poor grading at a Wheelrace is not a massive purse hanging off 2000 meters of madness!

  2. SGW says:

    I have a Son in the U15 category and find the race distances confusing, the work load experienced in a race can vary signifinantly depending on a number of factors, wind, gradient, road surface, temperature. Take for instance the work load of racing up Mt Buffalo, the junior boys just go from the gun and the work load is huge. Then you have a 20km race on flat roads with no wind and hot mix, there is no comparison, wattage, strain on the body, fatuigue …the list goers on. Arbitrary metrics won’t help kids improve, modern training with experienced coaches who measure and manage a work load will, they will challenge these kids while getting the best out of them, good coaching couples this with tactical race training, things like how to ride a wheel in the wind and how to sprint safely!!!

    From my parental perspective its a waste of time also, a day travelling to a race or week end if its a tour, accommodation, petrol entry fees etc, for what a 20km race? This has seen my son stop going to club races this winter where they now insist the u15 ride together rather than in grades they may have earn’t their way into prior to the new policy, this does not challenge all involved and it’s an all day a-fare. There was a club race today we did not go my son trained, 88km, 700meters of climbing at a pre determined intensity designed to build him towards the next tour and it was over by 9am. This leaves him the rest of the day to do his chores and earn some money to pay off the next pair of shoes, helmet or save to replace that bike he seems to grow out of every six months. It also leave me with a Saturday 🙂

    What is the objective here? I read a blog earlier about three young men going to Europe soon, will these guidelines help to prepare them for what they will encounter when they get their????

  3. cycdad says:

    Good news! CA has admitted it was just an error in the document and distances for the under-15’s are back to what they were: that is 40km for a Mass Start race and 30km for a Stage race. Be easy to argue it’s still on the short side, but hey, 30 or 40km raced hard is just that… HARD! If the stronger kids want a harder race, they’ll need to make it so! Interesting the upcoming National Junior Champs will be held on a flattish 37.5km course… that’s as much to do with the loop being 15km long though! Sanity prevails… on this occasion at least!

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