'A dire state' - Racing in Britain at only 60% of pre-pandemic levels

British Cycling's annual report reveals lasting impact of Covid-19

Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race 2022
(Image credit: Future)

The number of regional bike races across the country has recovered to just 60% of pre-pandemic levels, according to British Cycling’s annual report.

The report, which was published on Monday, outlines that regional racing was “hit hardest” by the pandemic, with event numbers reaching 50% by March 2022, and rising to 60% by July 2022.

"At the moment, we're just stuck," said Marc Etches, race organiser and vice chair of British Cycling Yorkshire. "It's not just the youth [events] or the adults, it's across all of them.

"When we ran the Regional Championships this year, we held a joint one for the women between northwest, northeast and Yorkshire, and we still really struggled. I think we only had 20-odd riders.

"Years ago, you'd be turning riders away." 

CiCLE Classic race organiser Colin Clews told Cycling Weekly he has noticed fewer events on the calendar since racing returned.  

"The domestic scene is really in a bit of a dire state at the moment," Clews said, "right the way from the top to the bottom."

Asked when, if at all, he expects the scene to make a full recovery, Clews said: "I think it's going to take a good few years and a change in the economic situation."

Clews explained that race organisers have had to account for rising costs since the pandemic, such as additional health and safety measures, risk assessments and Covid-related insurance. Clews believes that this, combined with riders preferring to save money during the cost-of-living crisis, has led to more and more events being cancelled.  

In June, British Cycling announced the launch of its Covid Recovery Fund, offering regional event organisers a grant of up to £300 to support race delivery. 

In a statement shared at the time, British Cycling’s cycling delivery director Dani Every said: “Despite their brilliant work and unwavering commitment, we know that the landscape for event organisers and volunteers has and continues to be incredibly challenging since the pandemic.

“We have made good progress in addressing historic inequalities in our sport over recent years, and with the support of Sport England we’re determined to build on that work and ensure a full and speedy recovery across the disciplines.”

British Cycling’s annual report also revealed an increase of around 7% in membership income, which generated £6.3m in the year to March 2022. 

According to the report, this increase was largely due to a half-price offer provided on licence fees as a result of the lack of racing opportunities for members in 2020. 

In the latest financial year, British Cycling's income from commercial partnerships fell from £5.19 million to £3.19 million.

This was mostly down to the premature end of the governing body’s deal with lead sponsor HSBC UK in December 2021, which “provided a significant contribution to our sponsorships and rights fees,” the report says. 

It is understood that British Cycling is still searching for a replacement headline sponsor.

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