The Youth Tour of Scotland road race returns to Perthshire this weekend for its sixth year. The event is based at Strathallan School and gives young riders a rare opportunity to compete over four stages competing with the best youth riders from across the UK.
One aspect of youth racing that there is still some disparity with the gender balance. There are many reasons for this and the lack of visibility and coverage of women racing professionally and cycling in general in all forms of media is something I have written of before.
There is a marked dropout rate of female riders as you ascend through the age categories with the youngest age groups showing an almost equal gender balance in entrants.
By the time you reach the older age categories the balance becomes heavily weighted in favour of male riders, with some age categories often not having any girls riding. Scottish Cycling and local grass roots clubs like the Tay Titans are working towards a number of initiatives to try and retain girls as they grow older. The next few years will see if the current trend can be reversed, but already there are some positive signs: Scottish Cycling has announced that the 2017 Youth Tour has seen a 20% rise of girls entering the race from last year.
Despite the recent success of British riders at the highest level of cycle racing the domestic race scene for riders is still relatively small meaning that riders wanting to gain experience racing every weekend need to travel vast distances across the UK to get to events.
For Scottish riders this invariably means travelling south most weekends, so having such an event like the Youth Tour on our doorstep is a massive deal. The event also offers one of the few opportunities in the UK to race at the highest level on consecutive days on closed roads and be based in a residential setting along with other teams, managers and mechanics.
This residential aspect is very important for young riders and it has been recognised as a key aspect in the growth of the event and in particular the participation of young female riders.
The event itself will host 140 riders along with their team support of managers, coaches and mechanics and the volunteers, officials and organisers that make the event happen.
Throughout four stages of competition the riders will have the chance to compete for individual stage wins, points’ competition, King and Queen of the mountains, best Scottish rider and team awards.
In France the Tour de l’Avenir (the Tour of the Future) stage race is held in high regard and has been established for many years as the stepping stone for young riders to take on the road to becoming a professional racer.
The Youth Tour of Scotland has similar aspirations and many of the riders that will be competing this weekend are already racing internationally and are part of British Cycling’s Olympic development squads.
With such a high quality field of young riders the Youth Tour of Scotland is gaining a reputation for the premier youth events in the UK. It is an ideal opportunity to go along and support some of the potential cycling stars of the future race competitively on the roads of Courier Country.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
The Youth Tour of Scotland
When? The Youth Tour of Scotland takes place between April 7-10
Where? Full details of the route for each stage along with road closures can be found at: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/youthtourofscotland
The best way to go and spectate at the Youth Tour of Scotland is by bike.
Where to Ride? Strathearn – OS Landranger 1:50,000 Map 58
Suitable For: Road cycling
Description: The routes of the Youth Tour of Scotland stages are based around the network of roads in Strathearn. Each stage will take place on a closed road circuit.
Stage 1: Sat April 8 – Road Race – From the B935 the circuit takes rides through Forteviot and round a loop by Water of May.
Stage 2: Sunday April 9 – Team Time Trial – This loop is based around St David’s to the north of Auchterarder.
Stage 3: Sunday April 9 – Road Race – This road race will take place on the same loop as the Team Time Trial.
Stage 4: Monday April 10 – Road Race – From Forgandenny around Strathallan School.