The strength of the Union

It’s interesting, looking at the All-Time lists, that the non-English parts of the UK are well represented. If you look at the three sets of men’s rankings, there are 60 spots in all (20 for each event). Based on the population of the UK, you’d expect roughly 50 of these to be occupied by Englishmen, 5 by Scots, 3 by Welshmen and one or two by Northern Irish riders. In actual fact, 15 spots are filled by Scots, 5 by Welsh riders and 2 from Isle of Man. England has 38 spots sewn up. Northern Ireland draws a blank among the men, but that’s a little deceptive. A number of Northern Irish riders choose to represent the Republic of Ireland and so are not on the British (UK) list. Martyn Irvine is one who would certainly feature at both the pursuit and TT if he rode for the UK.

Among the women, it is a similar story. England takes 41 spots, Scotland and Wales 9 each with Wendy Houvenhagel getting Northern Ireland on the board. So what explains this relative strength of the “provinces”?  I really don’t know but would hazard a guess that the structure of lottery funding has something to do with it. I have not done the research on this but perhaps the existence of regional sports bodies helps get Scotland and Wales, in particular, a disproportionate amount of funding. Certainly the distribution of state-of the art indoor velodromes is skewed. Scotland and Wales have one each while England has three.

Of course it might just be that there’s a great amount of talent in these smaller members of the UK and whatever the reason, the overall result has been excellent for British Cycling!

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