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Bike Racing In Decline After Covid

Having Raced on the open roads since 2009 myself and coached around 100 riders of various levels over the same time period, planning the seasons’ race program had become something of a second nature to me. Each year I would follow a similar pattern of when I would plan in the first half of the season’s races and when I would then look again for the second half a little later in the year.

Over the past decade or so it’s been reasonably obvious that there’s been a slow, but consistent, downward trend in the quantity of races available from Elite all the way down to 4th Cat. Various reasons for this all play a part; increasing costs, an ageing group of race organizers who no one seems keen to replace and BC’s consistent lack of interest in stepping up among others. This has never really caused too many issues when planning a season – ok, perhaps the odd longer journey, or additional free weekend (is this really a bad thing with most people’s football season style approach to racing?), but all in all nothing too worrying?

Enter 2020 and the COVID pandemic. That season can be written off for obvious reasons, and for the most part 2021 as well. Although we’re only just back to ‘normal’, I was optimistic of an improved 2022 season race calendar wise.

My normal planning date came and went and the race planning conversations with my clients continued to be postponed. It got to mid Feb and after yet another round of ‘there’s no races Jake’ from everyone, I thought I’d take a look for myself.

A quick look at road races up until the end of June shows 85 possible options across all categories nationally. I had no real reference point for comparison as most of my riders tend to be higher category, and live relatively local to me, so I applied some relevant filters. I chose 2nd cat as it’s more of a catch-all for the higher cats; covering E12 & 234 races and also applied a 100km filter from my home address. Seven races. Seems a bit low I thought, so I looked back to 2017 results; the last season I remember being able to race pretty much any weekend I fancied without too many issues. For the same time period; 59 road race results.

A big drop – perhaps some races have moved over to closed circuits for ease? For the same time period in 2017; 462 results for 2nd cat and above. 2022 so far; 145 races currently on the calendar for the period.

Given the gradual pre-covid drop off and the fact it will actually be three years since some organizers ran their races last, I’m really not confident the road race calendar will ever fully recover unless something is done from the top. A one year gap is probably manageable, but a lot of races will have last been run in 2019. It’s really not that surprising that a lot don’t seem to be re-appearing on the calendar for 2022, especially when it’s a largely well known fact that most races run at an operational loss financially. BC has recently announced a re-born under-23’s national series –  which is definitely a start – but with such a deficit in both Road and Circuit races compared to a few years ago, I think we really need to see an increased level of assistance in the running of races from the top before it’s too late.