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Black Cyclists Network dream of UCI Continental racing status

(Left to right): BCN member Jo McLean, CAMS Business Development Manager Hal Tollitt, BCN founder Mani Arthur
(Left to right): BCN member Jo McLean, CAMS Business Development Manager Hal Tollitt, BCN founder Mani Arthur (Image credit: BCN)

The Black Cyclists Network (BCN) are stepping up their race team commitments in 2021 with a series of races on their schedule and a spring training camp to take place in Malaga, Spain.

The BCN was formed in 2018 by Mani Arthur as a way of welcoming riders from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds into cycling, no matter the riding level. In just under two years, the network has grown to over 100 members in London, with the programme also including a nine-rider race squad and a development team.

The network’s 2021 race plans have been coming together in recent weeks and, despite a degree of uncertainty owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and localized restrictions in the United Kingdom, Arthur has a race calendar for his athletes.

"Even though things are a little uncertain at the moment we do already have a full 2021 race schedule planned out ahead of us," he said.

"We are aiming to kick the season off with a training camp for the BCN racing team in Malaga in mid-March. The aim is to focus on the National Criterium B races and support races for the Tour Series and we want to do as many crits as we can get to during the season. We’re already looking at events around London, and some in Sheffield and Newcastle later in the year.

"I created BCN to create a welcoming space for all people from ethnic minorities. We have group members who have been riding for 10 years but never thought to join a bike club until now.

"Next year is an important year in the development of BCN as we are looking to expand. We are keen to establish more clubs across the UK and the goal for our racing team, which we want to get to UCI Continental level in the future."

The BCN now works with a number of partners, including CAMS, who will provide help with transport for the team next year through the loan of vehicles. CAMS is also the title sponsor for the women's CAMS-Tifosi Continental team. According to Arthur, the improved transport will provide his riders with greater opportunities to race across the United Kingdom.

"This is where the car and van supplied to us by our new sponsor CAMS are going to help as they allow us to really get out and about," he said.

"The CAMS sponsorship with the car and the van will enable us to get to events and races more easily as we push hard to build-up to pro-level racing. The vehicles will be vital in our other 2021 project which is to spread the message about BCN and set up new chapters around the UK. 

"We want to work out a way of following racing events with a team social ride the next day so we can meet new people and get those chapters around the UK set up and running. Having a big support van makes all of the racing and social rides so much easier for us as a team."

As well as beefing up their race options, Arthur is also keen to ensure the level of coaching within the network improves.

"A priority right now is getting our ride captains skilled up to British Cycling coaching levels, with all of their certification done, as we want to make sure we can start to train riders more effectively.

"Throughout 2021 we will be making and publishing behind-the-scenes videos on our YouTube channel so people can keep up with what we are doing. We’ve got a lot of global support so this is a great way of keeping them involved in what we are doing and how the BCN is growing and improving."

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.