Women’s Wednesday: BRAC 2017

by Gypsy Garcia, 303 Ambassador

USAC and BRAC reshape race category structure, add Cat 5 for Senior Women

In an effort to expand opportunities for women to enter the racing scene, USA Cycling and Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado are implementing a brand new category in 2017.

Although the Senior Men’s Cat 5 designation has been in place since 2013, beginner women have been required to enter as Senior Women Cat 4 racers, even if they’ve had no previous race experience. This positioned them to compete with more experienced Cat 4 racers on race day, some of whom were approaching a Cat 3 upgrade.

Katie Salix: New to racing altogether in 2016. She chose to ride a MTB for her beginner CX season this year. To help build skills and knowledge, Katie also took several clinics with Inspired Training Center at the Back to Basics series early in the season.
Katie Salix: New to racing altogether in 2016. She chose to ride a MTB for her beginner CX season this year. To help build skills and knowledge, Katie also took several clinics with Inspired Training Center at the Back to Basics series early in the season.

BRAC President Doug Gordon recently announced this change and other race group reorganizations on the BRAC Presidential blog.

“For years, we have struggled with balancing the needs of an incredibly diverse membership,” Gordon wrote. “I cannot emphasize how broad the input has been, and how constructive, too.”

In a phone interview, Gordon stressed his commitment to growing the women’s race fields. Considering the women’s category SW5 is a new designation, he acknowledged an expected period of adjustment.

“This is a brand new change at USAC and BRAC, as of 16 days ago. Some of the outcomes remain to be seen,” Gordon stated. “Whatever it looks like, know that BRAC is fully committed to growing women’s racing.”

Two things Gordon expects to see for SW5 racers is mentorship from more experienced racers and growing a beginner’s racer program. This program would include short clinics before some races and follow up “lessons learned” debriefings after the race. In his message to BRAC members, he encourages more experienced racers to help new and developing racers.

Melisa Link: Not new to racing at all but very involved in all things racing. She is a welcoming and encouraging force in the Colorado Women's racing scene
Melisa Link: Not new to racing at all but very involved in all things racing. She is a welcoming and encouraging force in the Colorado Women’s racing scene

Addressing senior racers, Gordon wrote: “It’s your opportunity as P1-2 men AND women to offer legitimate mentoring to those who are coming up the ranks in your sport. This can be a growth opportunity.”

Initial reactions about these changes within the Colorado women’s cycling community are mixed. USAC official, BRAC board member and SW4 racer Melisa Link believes the change is a positive one.

“Whatever your racing goals are, it’s always exciting to ‘cat up,’” Link says. By adding this beginner category, “it’s a way to create excitement in our sport.” In addition to removing barriers and increasing interest, Link believes this change will encourage more women to compete across all bicycle racing disciplines in Colorado.

Senior Women Cat 3 road racer and Cat 1 mountain bike racer Laura Vance of Primal – Audi Denver Women’s racing team has concerns about the new category addition. She worries about how it may reduce the number of women racers in the existing SW4 class and may hinder the women’s upgrade path.

Kristi "Crash" Lindquist: A lifelong swimmer and a two-time Ironman triathlete, Kristi is new to USAC bicylcle racing in 2016. She started as a beginner this season with no CX experience and promoted to Cat 3 before the end of the season.
Kristi “Crash” Lindquist: A lifelong swimmer and a two-time Ironman triathlete, Kristi is new to USAC bicylcle racing in 2016. She started as a beginner this season with no CX experience and promoted to Cat 3 before the end of the season.

“Splitting Cat 4 into two groups hurts the already small women’s fields,” Vance opines and continues with an example. “Instead of having 25 racers in Cat 4, ten of which are new, now you’ll have a significantly reduced field in Cat 4 and a very small field in Cat 5. This will make acquiring upgrade points even more difficult and limited primarily to podium finishers, making the upgrade path much slower than it already is.”

Vance includes racers who are especially goal-focused in her analysis. “Women who have a goal want progression, and if they’re doing well and constantly one position out of the upgrade points every race, it could get frustrating and contribute to women racers not returning after they’ve seen very hard training and race efforts not bear any fruit.”

This new women’s racing category, additional changes to the men’s categories and the race day schedule overall is a hot topic among Colorado bicycle racers as they prepare for the 2017 season. As the subject evolves, 303Cycling will monitor the topic for further developments. For more information regarding all of the race category and schedule changes, please refer to the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website (www.coloradocycling.org) and USA Cycling (www.usacycling.org).

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