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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Your first parigraph was one

Your first parigraph was one of the best written on this topic. Thank you. The ACA has been encouraging this on the road with little regard for the negative implications (3's are smaller, 35 open is small, and 35 3's is never that big). It is interesting to see the ACA taking this same distorted logic to cross and that there are issues in week 3.

Riders have become so soft. We need fewer cats, with larger fields, and more reasonable race day lengths for promoters and officials (both road and cross). Who ever thought more/smaller field was a good idea should be shot. I am so tired of the new thinking where guys want smaller fields, so they can do better. Heck some days racing I have gotten 33rd and was as proud as can be, yet other days I got 3rd and knew the race was a joke.

Here's a productive thought

Here's a productive thought "Who ever thought more/smaller field was a good idea should be shot".

What issues are you referring to? A racer crashed because of a lapped rider? Yeah, that has never happened before. Are we sure this lapped rider was a 35+3? Nearly all the 35+3s are skilled riders and saying "move lapped rider" or similar would suffice. In any case, lapping racers is part of racing and the 80% rule is just lame considering this is a recreational sport for 99.9% of us. Okay, maybe for someone like Powers or a pro who's livelihood depends on racing, but really, pulling racers from any other category is ridiculous. Talk about sucking the fun out of the sport.

I came up through the 35+4 and at first was lapped, then I lapped others. I've raced SM3s and 35+ the last two years and this year I'm doing both 35+ (prestige) and 35+3 ( points). I'm having a blast and I love my options -- thank you ACA!

The only real issue I see is lack of daylight for the later races. Just combine the 4s/SS/3s into one category in a 45 minute race. You'll have 100 on the course but so what?

let's make the problem worse?

So rather than growing the SM3 field beyond 28 riders, we should have two Cat 3 fields? This logic is so common out here, but I can't understand where it comes from.

What makes even less sense is putting the 3s behind the open men. That's NOT what the pro 1-2 riders need. The front of the 3s is pretty darn fast, but the middle to rear of our field has no business on the course with the pros. Period.

Every racer needs to understand (unless they are aspiring pros), that at some point, they will reach a limit where they are not a top 10 rider. For some it will be Cat 4 racing, for some Cat 3 racing, for some Pro 1-2 or 35 open, or 45 open. At some point, you don't get a top 10 every weekend. That's not a problem with our categories, that's reality.

If 35/3s are 60 deep and SM 3s are 25 deep, we should have an 85 person race.

"If 35/3s are 60 deep and SM

"If 35/3s are 60 deep and SM 3s are 25 deep, we should have an 85 person race."

What about the recent Xilinx race as an example? 35 open = 38 entrants (not bad). 35/3 = 55 entrants (better). 35/4 = 119 entrants. WOW!

I'm thinking the sport is better served if we give the opportunity for a gradual progression up the ranks instead of forcing folks from 35/4 directly into 35 open. The speed differential is huge. We don't force Senior cat 4s to go directly into the Open category, why should it be any different for masters? If we do, expect that many of those 119 entrants will drop out of the sport once they are forced to upgrade.

The opportunity for progression has been there for decades

The sport has had an opportunity for natural progression for decades. It's called Cat4, Cat3, etc. A few years back a group of older Cat 4's thought that the younger guys were causing all of the crashes and were less safe, and so the 35+ Cat4's were born. Paraphrasing what was said below, the CO racing culture has evolved to where older racers think it isn't fair to race young guys of similar ability, and they don't think it's fair to race their same age with better ability. It's like we're trying to create our own masters racing league and totally leaving a gap between junior development and masters. I think you could look at the road racing numbers from this year and see that 25 different categories has proven to actually not be the answer to the growth of the sport, despite all of the drum beating to the contrary.

Huge Master's Numbers

It is obvious that the 35 and over groups are the biggest fields in Colorado. This is a perfectly good reason to have 3 different fields for them. No, I don't agree that someone over 35 should have to race in the Cat. 3 group against guys half their age. I agree with maybe running the 35+3's with the cat 3's at an earlier time in the day. 4:00pm sucks. I did it the last 3 years. Run them together, same start time, and split results.

What does age have to do with ability?

Why don't you agree that someone over 35 should have to race in the Cat 3 group? Similar ability, so what's the issue? This is exactly the mentality that is creating the problem - it's not fair to race against younger guys of same ability and it's not fair to race against same age guys of different ability...

@stevef: to be fair, ACA

@stevef: to be fair, ACA officials are all exceptionally dedicated, and we're lucky to have the depth of experience we do in people like Yvonne, Dean, Al, Tim, et cetera et cetera. The dilution of categories here comes more from the racers themselves rather than the officials. You probably didn't mean your comments as a slight on the officials, but I just wanted to clarify.

+1 on Ben's comment regarding Tim's DQ. There is a distinct difference between "pedaling" a bike and "handling" a bike, and there are racers here who don't understand the distinction. The other part of this is that no racer should simply barrel ahead with blinders on, you've gotta keep some sort of perspective on what's going on around you, whether in front, behind, or wherever. If you're getting lapped, get out of the way as best possible so not to interfere with the race. If you're lapping, it can suck but you've gotta approach lapped riders like it's another course obstacle, negotiate it and move on.

I think the 80% rule *can* have a place in UCI level racing. I don't think it needs to be applied to each and every race, nor do I think it should be applied as universally as it has been applied since it's implementation. In his rant on the rule, Steve Tilford mentions a US National Championship where he, Larry Malone, and one other guy (who I forget) lapped THE ENTIRE REST OF THE ELITE FIELD, and did so pretty rapidly. They also continued on through traffic for the remainder of the race, but had the 80% rule been applied there, it would have been an anticlimactic finish to their seasons, I imagine.