Following the announcement of the Cycling BC 2019 Provincial Championships Calendar, we would like to provide an update regarding the removal of U17/U15/U13 as provincial championship categories for road and track in 2019. We apologize for the delay in coordinating this update in relation to the release of the calendar. We would like to thank the youth coaching community for getting the word out to their constituents including youth riders and parents.
Cycling BC introduced youth provincial championship categories for road and track in the past as a way to help increase participation in the sport and promote early entry into racing. BC is the only province in the country with provincial championships for athletes below U19 in Road, and below U17 in Track. While championships for younger athletes may have had some impact in this area, over the past few years there have also been challenges with; 1) placing additional strain on organizers to take on the financial risk of hosting provincial championships for youth categories with low registration, 2) feedback about less than optimal athlete experiences, 3) talented younger athletes opting out of youth provincials due to their perceptions about the level of competition OR conflicting events more in line with their training objectives.
Beginning in the fall of 2017, a group of youth cycling coaches initiated discussions with Cycling BC about the idea of moving away from age category racing for youth and moving to ability-based racing. This approach has been in place in Ontario for some time and is working well. Their experience with ability-based racing for youth is that the kids stay in the sport longer and have more fun as they develop their skills to the next level.
In 2018, it was extremely challenging to find an organizer willing to put on provincial road championships for youth. It was Ron Hayman’s willingness to host provincials alongside the Hayman Classic that made it possible. Ron’s vision for the Hayman Classic event is to develop youth cycling by giving youth the experience of a Stage Race; incorporating the provincial championships into the race was difficult, but he tried. The result was that some athletes were dropped or lapped because of the disparity in experience and ability across each age group.
In July 2018, we trialled an ability-based youth road race at the Tour de White Rock and this proved to be a success, giving kids a positive race experience against other riders of similar ability regardless of their age. At this stage of the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model, we are still very much focussed on FUNdamentals and believe that athletes should have a positive experience.
Finding an organizer to host provincial road championships for youth under 19 in 2019 proved once again to be very difficult and with the positive feedback received from the ability-based trial events, such as the Tour de White Rock and Western Track Challenge, Cycling BC saw an opportunity to ensure a better race experience for younger riders.
Given the success of the ability-based races tested in 2018, support from the youth coach community whom we rely on as subject matter experts in this area, consultation with Cycling Canada and our affiliates across the country, and the financial risk, Cycling BC made the decision to support the idea of ability-based racing for younger, newer athletes. The fact that there was no organizer stepping forward to host a youth road provincials for 2019 also helped propel us in this direction.
In the fall, we will be looking to our community of coaches and club representatives to evaluate the impact these changes have on our young athletes. In the meantime, the Cycling BC team will be working with the community to ensure that our young racers have opportunities to participate in the sport in developmentally meaningful ways.
If you have any questions or comments on ways to develop youth cyclists and grow the sport of cycling in BC, please free to contact us anytime.