Rob Partridge takes a sideways glance at all things cycling in his column for BIKE Channel Canyon.
Stage two of Partridge, From The Pear Tree, sees him tackling the divisive subject of Tour of Britain qualificaton…
We’re halfway through the HSBC UK Spring Cup and that means the scrap to qualify for the Tour of Britain is well under way.
There are six UCI Continental teams in this country, that’s a lot for a small island and too many for a race which is attracting so much World Tour interest.
So we are competing with ONE Pro, JLT, Madison, Raleigh and Wiggins to earn one of four spots in the September stage race. And when I say earn, I mean earn.
On the eve of last season, race organisers Sweetspot broke from cycling tradition to reveal a new qualifying system. It wasn’t popular in some quarters, not least the peloton.
Some riders said it was going to dictate the way we raced and negativity would creep in as teams tried to ensure they did not miss out.
When I heard the news I guess I was on the fence. However, I have been thinking about it over the past few days on the bike. The more I do, the more it seems a good thing. It makes sense for more reasons than one.
To start with, you never know what goes on behind closed doors and exactly how teams are picked for most races. This new points system is transparent. It is an opportunity for a fair selection and that is what you want, especially in the world of sport.
Also, it’s obvious when you have money behind a team, they are going to do well. Take Mercedes, they are the best team in Formula One because they have the best car and they have the best car because they have the biggest budget.
Of course you want the top World Tour teams competing in these races but you also want the best of the smaller teams in the mix. And you want them there on merit.
We have all heard of teams feeling hard done by when they don’t get picked for races. Now Sweetspot are putting it out there for us to go and earn. The onus is now on us as riders.
There is obviously going to be disappointment if you miss out. It seems unfair, but is it really? It’s right there on paper, the four teams who qualify will have done so because they have proven their worth.
Last season my team spent quite a lot of time discussing this. We wanted to be in one of the biggest races in the UK, not just for ourselves but for our sponsors, too. It meant there were races where we looked to attack and others where we were on the defensive.
So yes, it gave us something extra to think about, rather than just trying to win bike races. But this year, it’s tried and tested and we all know how it works. It’s now part and parcel of our racing season and what we’ve got to do.
As far as I’m concerned – and it is how we look at it in BIKE Channel Canyon – if you go into a race aiming to win or at least podium, qualification will take care of itself.
Some riders may still be sceptical but I can’t see many race organisers complaining they have a full car park of team buses, because their event is a qualifying round.
As I was once told there are no shortcuts. If you want to be in the Tour of Britain you have to ride these races and that can only be good for the sport in this country.
With such a wide range of races, from Spring Cup to Tour Series, Rutland to the Tour de Yorkshire, to qualify you need a well-balanced squad, which I think suits us at BCC.
A good friend of mine pointed out I’ve enjoyed 10 all-inclusive holidays around the UK so far in my career. I’d love to make it 11 this September!
Check out From The Pear Tree: Stage One, where Rob talked cool kits and bleak team launches.