New Categories and Lapped Riders

With the increased popularity of cyclocross comes larger field sizes. Also with the popularity comes additional categories (i.e. Men 35+/3s, SingleSpeed etc). These additional categories are easily added by having the new category start 30 seconds to a minute behind the established category. A couple unintended consequences occur from these added categories. The first consequence is the dilution of other fields. For instance, the addition of the 35+/3s has taken away from the 35+ and the 3s. The second consequence is lapped riders.

What is interesting is there has been quite a bit of talk about how to handle lapped riders. This issue is not a Colorado issue but happens at all levels and all around the country. When talking about lapped riders people usually bring up the 80% rule. Here is an explanation of the rule from the USA Cyling Rulebook

5G1. Before the start of a race, it should be announced whether lapped riders will be pulled or remain in the race. If riders are to be pulled, the following applies:
(a) Riders who have been lapped shall continue the lap to a designated location before the finish line and withdraw, under the control of the officials.
(b) The Chief Referee may, after consulting with the organizer, impose the 80% rule. Under this rule, riders whose time gap to the race leader is at least 80% of the race leader’s time for the first lap will be pulled by the officials unless it is the final lap. The number of 80% is merely an approximation based on a typical course; the intent is that all riders should be pulled before they are lapped.
(c) Riders who have been pulled because of lapping or the 80% rule will be listed in the results based on their position when pulled and the number of laps remaining. The results will list the number of laps remaining after the lap on which they were pulled.

Here are two comments from racers in other parts of the country. From Jared Roy who is racing in the Portland area:

The 80% rule sucks for the Master 1 racers because we race with the Pro/1/2 guys who start a minute ahead of us, so we are always in danger of the 80% rule.

From Steve Tilford:

This rule is for lazy officiating. It’s just a bad rule all around. What if a rider loses 60% the first lap. He is going to be lapped for sure the next lap, but the rule doesn’t apply.

Here are two tweets referencing the rule. So what do you think? Should the ACA enforce the 80% rule? Are these new categories causing problems?

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The main difference being

The main difference in Colorado would be that if we had those numbers we demand to have a 35+ "D" and a 35+ "E". Everyone talks about opportunity to grow the sport, make it less intimidating etc. If you do the math with time slots and feel like 100 riders is too big for a race field we are actually limiting our growth as we will be "maxed" on numbers. Lets take a step back on the whole growth thing and realize that unless we want to cap groups at 100, we need to come up with a model that will work for field sizes over 100, much as they have been able to do in the Northwest.

Excellent point

There is a direct relationship between the splitting of categories, dilution of fields, and length of race day. It's not limited to CX here, and as I mentioned above, it's more a factor of racer demand than the officials imposing these guidelines.

But yeah, if everyone would simply race their category, it would make things much more condensed and straightforward. If I remember right, doesn't PDX (OBRA) use an As, Bs, Cs structure, with a few Master's categories thrown in?

Lapped Riders ACA vs UCI

The 80% rule w/ lapped riders in ACA is hard to compare to UCI races. I think it should be absolutely enforced in Men's and Women's Elite UCI races, no question.

With the current structure of ACA races (2 fields racing at the same time) it becomes pretty impossible to have any kind of lapped rider rule. In the Cat 3/SS this year, its pretty much a non-issue b/c there are far fewer riders on the course (with the new split 3s field). In the 35+ race (w/ 35+ open at 35+ Cat 3s on course at the same time), the mixing of fields is an issue for everyone just b/c of the volume of riders. Tim Faia's DSQ last weekend was absurd (the lapped rider crashed when Tim passed). CX racing is aggressive, and people need to be able to handle their bikes.

But, unless the ACA races only 1 field at a time, (which also is a bad idea) there's no way to enforce a lapped rider rule.

Additionally - 35+ 3s is an very unnecessary category. Last year's 35+ category structure worked much better.

Cat 26-25 Cat 3.5

All I can say is stop adding categories. Or if we do, at least add beginner categories to bring in new people, like the Queens of Cross race for women - awesome turnout.

Regarding SM 35/3, if they wanted to allow 35+ yr-old folks with families to race 3s (not 35 open), AND race at a time other than 4pm they should have made a decision to move the SM 3s to an earlier time rather than making a whole new CAT. (I am not lobbying for my SM3 race to be earlier, I am happy to race SM3 at anytime, including 4pm - I am under 35, and for the record we have a newborn).

But what really has me disappointed is that my field has been diluted. It was never big in the first place. If you look at last year's numbers the SM 3s were under 60 in the BIG races (not bad), but for most other races were around 30 or less. I think come November we will see some ridiculously small SM 3 fields. Not sure how exciting it will be to come home and say "Honey I got a top 10....out of 12 racers!!"

In a fast Category, like 35 open, the 80% rule should absolutely be enforced. That is an extremely competitive field. The front of that race should not have lapped riders affecting their race, especially from another category. That's just lame.

Sad statement of our racers

I think this attitude and the proliferation of endless categories is a sad statement of the evolution of the Colorado racing culture. A growing majority feels that it is unfair to race against racers of similar ablility which are younger. They also feel it isn't fair to race same aged racers who are faster. So, as the majority they are pushing the restructuring of racing into smaller and smaller individual groups to make it "fair." Then they point to the groups size and say "see, we needed this" while turning a blind eye to the shrinking Cat4, Cat3, and 35+ groups. I don't think using the argument of field size to justify existence is good logic when you are pulling from standard categories across the country (35+open and cat3) to accomplish it. I do also agree with some of the other posts, race your correct category and leave the excuses at home.

Regarding lapped traffic, I don't know if it's right to apply the 80% rule, but it sure sucks to have someone in 50th place in the 35+ Cat 3's affect the outcome of one of the premier races, the 35+ open, and I think it sucks that Tim was in that position to begin with. I also think officials should factor the course into their decisions on lapped riders. There was really only one race line on about 1/3 of the Frisco course, vs. a more open course with more consistent conditions across the width of the tape.

Getting lapped

Happens to me all the time in the 35 open. A good race is when it does not happen. Because of this, I'm damn sure not going to impact the result of the race when it does. I know when they are coming and I stay out of the way. It's too bad that other racers can't do the same.