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: 


Limit Field Sizes

Run some analytics across the numbers from this season's races, and over the past few seasons. Cap the categories where necessary. 100+ rider fields on courses around here is stupid...and maybe even a little greedy on the promoters' part. More riders = more money, sure, but not necessarily happy/satisfied racers who have to deal with mixed fields & abilities.

Diluting fields is a bad idea, as is having more than one category out on the course at any given time....but then there is only so much time in a day of racing for the promoter to effectively tend to, unless they wanted to split the days but that only adds time & cost, minimize lapped riders, cap field sizes.

Field size limits could ensure that all the popular categories are properly represented and filled, but not stuffed to the point where the line between 'racing' and 'riding' becomes blurred. Another thought, and I mean this not to sound Draconian, but a person down more than one lap on a consistent basis with smaller field sizes probably needs a downgrade, encouragement, and a new training plan.

Capping vs longer courses

Some good points, capping a field might reduce the chances of having lots of lapped riders as the first lap is more like racing and not like a parade hence leading to a lapped rider issue.

Both concepts are painful to implement for some promoters but which is better, Longer courses or capped fields?

No matter how long the course is, if the course is very single track-ish and the field has 130 riders the first lap still is a parade lap for many in the field.

I see your point but....

I don't really see this as just an ACA problem, it's a promoter problem that has driven the ACA to take action. Do promoters care about money or quality?

Overloading fields drives demand for category redundancy/dilution, and running more than one category at a time (absolutely LAME) feeds the problem, and thus a diminished racing experience is had by many on Colorado's short singletrack-ish courses.

Start focusing on quality and racer experience by limiting fields accordingly based on course length/difficulty, and ACA can start reviewing results closely and issuing upgrades/downgrades within the traditional categories.

No matter how long the course is, a solid field of 50 is going to see a lot more 'racing' than a mixed field of 100+ bumping/grinding/cursing/flailing

Longer Courses & Venue Issues

It seems like a simple solution to just mandate the promoters make the course longer, however, what most people dont realize (b/c they've never tried to be a CX race promoter in CO) is that finding willing venues in the first place is a real challenge/issue in and of itself.

Boulder racing (forget who they sold out to) is about the only one with longstanding, legacy CX venues while most of the rest of us struggle to convince cities, schools and businesses to allow us to use their grounds. This all ties back to discussions on prior years (just waiting for it to come up again this year) as to why we dont have more 'real' courses on grass here in CO.

I think most any promoter would be glad to make a longer course but are limited already in so many ways by what we do have, we should just be grateful to have what we have before it goes away. It's really not the promoters fault but perhaps the ACA can help modulate some of the effects and limitations of big fields by changing things up with categories to help the majority have a quality race experience. Honestly, if you go to promoters meetings, you will understand that is their goal and they are not like you may think in terms of being close minded and with a hard shell.