Off season, what off season?

A few of our young racers

Cycling clubs don’t have off seasons, we ride all year round. Our season is dictated either by the federations or associations to which we’re members, and who run the various events, and our financial year. This year or, I should say, this past 15 months where the local council have effectively pulled a “fast one”. They asked all the clubs to bring their financial year end in line with the calendar year end, which in our case meant having a 15 month year. However, we still received the same subsidy as for the previous 12 months. A point I shall forcibly remind everyone, including M le Maire, when I present the club’s financials at Friday’s AGM.

Membership of those federations which control the season’s races are also for a calendar year, while the one which runs the weekly pointages (clubs take it in turn to host a Sunday run with a feed zone, clubs get points for each member turning up) and the brevets (untimed “race” on open roads, points awarded to clubs not individuals) runs from 1 September to 31 August. This means, in practice, that the licence renewal season  extends over a 6 month period. Yes, you need licences for each of the associations. They’re not expensive but it does start to add up, particularly as you need a current medical certificate for each one.

Often, with the racers, there’s a last minute rush to renew their licence just before the first race of the new season. Licences cannot generally be obtained quickly, so I often have to provide the racer with an “attestation” confirming that he’s (it’s always a he) paid his dues, the licence has been requested (copy attached) and I’m just waiting for it to be processed and returned or, in extremis, collected. However, once the season’s well underway, it’s unusual to receive requests for new licences. Unless that is there’s been a falling out. More common than you might think. Licences can be transferred between clubs during the season providing the receiving club is prepared to compensate the club the rider’s fleeing. Racers’s can’t change clubs, even at the end of the season, without the agreement and signature of the president. The relevant paperwork then has to be processed by the respective federations before the transfer can go ahead.

Apart from our hardcore membership, some of whom were founder members of the club over 40 years ago, each season we attract new members. Some have moved into the area, others have resolved to get back on their bikes. But a bit like New Year gym memberships, their resolve often doesn’t last the season. They join, turn up for a couple of pointages,  get tailed off the back of the peloton and are never seen again. When they don’t renew, I do send them an email enquiring why they haven’t. Lack of time is the most oft cited reason and an acceptably polite response.

Some people are what I call “cycling club sluts”. They constantly do the rounds of the clubs,  a few years here and a few years there. One’s never too sure what it is they’re seeking, but clearly they haven’t found it yet. It’s important to establish a solid membership who renew each year and who encourage friends and family to join too. That’s really the holy grail of most clubs.

One pressing dilemma is the average age of members. We’ve managed to keep ours (just) below 50. However, the federation which organisations the pointages awards more points to the over 50s. The most points are for those in the “ladies over 50” category, sadly we’ve very few of these. They’re like gold dust and a number of clubs have tried to poach me. I’m not sure whether it’s for my point scoring ability, my skills in the kitchen, or a combination of both. However, I have so far held fast and resisted temptation.