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?

News Item: 


Oh, sorry if anyone

Oh, sorry if anyone misunderstood what I mean. I don't fault the ACA at all. It is not a policy to auto upgrade so no fault until it is changed. I fault the riders that know they shouldn't be in that class. It comes down to wanting to be at the front vs. mid pack I think. Always more fun to be at the front of a race for sure. It is frustrating to hear people say that they might take it a bit easier this race so they don't have to upgrade.... heard that a few races ago from someone. All most of us can do, or have the free time to do, is get better and upgrade ourselves. I would rather finish 20th in Cat 3 then be 3rd in Cat 4.

There's always the Open

The biggest gripe last year was the size of the 35+ 4's field. So, the ACA made a new category they would be "comfortable" with and upgraded a bunch of racers (some of whom were well away from upgrading). That has lead to a bunch of racers on the course (35 & 35/3) with a hell of a spread of fitness/handling/etc. Really, the same thing can be seen in the SW open/35+ (esp. if KFC shows up), SM4, and SM35/4 (I was quite happy when I went from being lapped to lapping in the 4's).

Personally, I think 10 minute courses could solve a lot of the issues, but if very pointy end of the 35+ field can't manage to lap people cleanly, there's always the Open race.

Premature upgrades

I was one of those riders that was given a premature upgrade. The though process behind quickly upgrading "sandbaggers" is rediculous. Yes there are a few riders out there that are extremely talented and rightly deserve their upgrade. But it seems that upgrades should be a consistant and mathmatical process. Because someone wins a few races, does not mean that they are sandbagging. It means they won a few races. Why do we have BAR, BAT, BCR competitions when nobody actually gets to stay in a catagory long enough to win. Its sad when the 8th place rider becomes the BAR due to evryone ahead of him being forced to upgrade to "make room".
In my case, my results were all over the board. 23rd, 47th, 15th, 8th, 32nd, 7th, 11th, and a couple DNF's. Guess what....I was upgraded. Now....I am discouraqed to even show up. Its one thing to pay $30 to race, or even pay $30 to come in last place which I have no problem doing because I love to race.....BUT! when you force me to upgrade, and then pull me from the race because we are riding 6 minute laps with a huge diversity of abililties.....that's a problem.
Solution? Upgrades should be point based, with larger starting fields contributing to a larger and deeper points earning. Someone that races 20 races with an average placing of 20th-30th should not be upgraded.
There needs to be a CAT-5 accross the board. and it should be mandatory to attend at least 1 ACA skills clinic in the catagory that you are seeking an upgrade (Cat4-5).
We should be encouraging beginners, women, children and newbies to race. And they should be racing in a beginner class.
If you really want to encourage people to race, and develope new riders. The ACA should establish a mentoring program, where experienced riders can volunteer to teach and mentor new riders in exchange for assistance with race fees. Help those who help others.
So now I am racing with the sharks.....and have yet to experience a top 5 result let alone an actual win. Must be nice.

Race Day Schedule and Length of Days

In my struggles to manipulate the schedule of the Colorado Cross Classic to accommodate all categories AND have them occur during daylight hours I realized that there are not enough hours in the day. On September 20th sunset is at 6:01pm. On December 1st sunset is at 4:36pm. Would it make sense to race the "development categories" early in the season and then as the weather turns foul, which contributes to lower turn outs, transition the riders to the standard category system? Perhaps the two Cat 3 categories can be treated as leagues, each with a champion and then everyone merges, upgrades, or races a different category.
I appreciate all categories that come out to race and explain to my friends looking to get into the sport that there aren't any easy categories during the day. I do, personally, love to see guys/gals taking a chance and occasionally racing above his/her head. Nothing forces one to strive to be better than a good ass whooping AND learning from the experience (ie. watching the lines that the better racers take and the way they flow through the course).

Sounds Good

I like the idea of trimming/merging categories as the season progresses, weather gets colder and numbers drop. The downside would be, what do you do with the points for the cross cup series if you merge 4s and 35+ 4s and/or merge 3s and 35+ 3s into one race of 4s and 3s respectively? I think you started to touch on it in your comment, it would be interesting to see if it could be completely fleshed out. For what it's worth, I'm under 35 and don't care that much if my fields are 120 or 20 strong, I will be out there either way.

Sounds Good

I bet with the fancy new uber expensive timing system ACA made us buy and promoters use (funny how 5K's, 1/2 marathons, etc. all use timing chips but they don't have to buy a chip or get a license for that matter!), it would be easy to calculate points for all of the normal categories even if you need to combine the starts due to time restrictions.

Boups is my hero

My suggestion: run 3's, 35/3's, and SS together in the normal 35+ open time and run the 35+ open with the open (30 sec after). Yes the 35+ field might not like it, but that was the set-up for queens of cross and it worked (with some 3's in the field).

Or get some big ass lights and run the open races in the dark!!!

Good thought

Boups' suggestion makes sense. Every year, field sizes drop dramatically after the Boulder Cup weekend as riders burn out, weather gets worse, days get shorter, holidays approach, etc. This may be even more prevalent this year if people choose to skip frigid Nationals in Madison. Already the field sizes are smaller, what will happen in Nov/Dec--10 per category? That's pointless for everyone.

Personally, I went straight from 35+/4 to 35+ Open. I spent plenty of races getting lapped. Now I'm psyched if I can finish upper mid pack. Racing faster guys makes me faster, and I'd much rather have larger fields. I've been disappointed seeing the watering down of two fields with decent turnout into three meager ones. At some point, we're no longer racing, just individually riding around in circles.

As for lapped riders, it seems that some instruction at the start line may be in order, letting riders know they need to yield if they are OTB. When I was getting lapped, I always preferred at least getting to finish. Think people just need a reminder for a few weeks, then reevaluate if further action needs to be taken.

The point is to encourage racing...

We really need to re evaluate a lot of the current categories. The whole point is to encourage racing with comparable racers, not make people feel good about their results by diluting the categories. In my opinion (and that's all it is) 35+ 3's is just that. A feel good category. It doesn't attract new racers. If you can keep up, race 35+, if not race 3's. Even though it's a popular category, it has just gained its racers at the expense of the other two fields. 35+ and/or 3's were never at risk of consistently hitting field limits like was the case when 35+ 4's were created to alleviate the overwhelming size of the 4's field.

To add to the questionable nature of this new category is that it's run at the same time as the 35+. I would think that it would make more sense to run the two at a separate time so that a racer could race both 35 open and 35+ 3's or 35+ 3's and SM3's. But it just seems redundant.

I agree with the need for more beginner categories. A beginner mens and beginner womens 30 min race would encourage more new racers. Another category that does make sense would be a Singlespeed B's race run at 1 min after the Sm4's race. There is a huge level of disparity in the current SS race, almost to the point of being unsafe.

As far as upgrading and sandbagging, I also think that there shouldn't be a Beginner, B's, or any Cat 4 State Champions. A points competition seems ok as long as a racer with 4 top 5's or 6 top 10's is required to upgrade and forfeits their points and position in the points competition.

Just my opinion.

Surprised at where this conversation did NOT go

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments on this topic but I'm surprised at where this conversation did not go and that is in two directions;

1. Lapped riders. Are courses too short by design and hence promotes the lapped rider problem? I imagine there is already some rule on the books that says a course must be x miles or x minutes in length so could this rule be increased? Longer courses would reduce the ability for lapping to take place... not preventing.

2. Course design. Having large fields is great, matter of fact one of my best races ever had well over 100 racers in my category... but it also had 5 lanes and no center line rule which meant they could have packed in another 100 riders if they wanted to. Now that was road but the concept carries over, should a course be required to have something like 50% of double track on it? For those who have raced in those 60+ fields sometimes in those very single track centric courses the first lap is just a parade lap and then lap 2 the racing really starts.

Kris Thompson