Archer - The State of the Nation...
So, another year goes by and another Archer GP is canceled. Knowing Stuart Benstead as I do he will have tried everything in his power to get this to run again - but it seems that the current financial woes have conspired against him. Right? erm thats not the whole story.
"Undoubtedly the recession has been a major factor, but not necessarily the only factor," Stuart diplomatically states, of course he doesn't want to burn any bridges, he is too long in the tooth for that. "I find this almost complete reliance by cycle sport on government-controlled funding very worrying indeed, whereas most other sports do have a core commercial sponsor for their domestic programme."
But hang on, isn't cycling the new golf, aren't UK sport throwing money at it, isn't Sky / Adidas etc. making sure that future generations are to be the best cyclists on the planet. Well yes if you want to fly around a wooden track, but grass roots road racing? Not likely. There is an athlete philosophy floating around in many sports at the moment that unless you are in the upper stratosphere of your sport, you ain't getting a bean, and that all athletes from the talent pools will become top class cyclists at whatever discipline, if you've got it you've got it, basically. Equally the Tour Series and the ToB are beacons for the sport in the UK, which is great for the image and perceptions of cycling. But I come back to the grass roots issue.
If races like the Archer can't get status, where are those riders who fall between the categories (and there are many thousands of them) of the above and the 'new golfers' (i.e sportive riders) going to get their fix? Well Sportives, right? Yes and no, the great new aspect of our sport can only go some way to satisfying those needs, they are, after all, fast 'charity' bikes rides (and I'm all for em, BTW). Okay, on circuits like Hog Hill, I hear you say; well yes but these circuits are still few and far between, and after 68 laps can be a little tedious (although the racing is highly competitive I might add).
So, as we rule the 'banking' across the world, and our young guns kick ass in the pro peloton, spare a thought for those inbetweenee aspirational racers, who want to ride classic races in the UK, and for people like Stuart Benstead, who after one head banging session too many might just throw the towel in.