So, the first rule is that the Junior racers (those racing in the 15-18 men's category, or Women's 3/4 category) CANNOT race in a UCI Elite field until they have reached a racing age of 19 for men, and 17/18 for women (see UCI rule 1.1.036 and 1.1.037 in the general rules and 5.1.001 in the Cyclocross rules).
And from USA Cycling and UCI rule 5.1.001:
Eligibility for Masters World Championships
The UCI is very strict on who can ride the Masters World Championships. Unfortunately, the rules differ slightly by discipline. Below you will find what the eligibility requirements are for each discipline. Note that in general, you are eligible if you are 30 and over and do not lose your master’s status via one of the specific rules.
Masters Cyclocross World ChampionshipsThis means that any of the Master's Women, racing in the 3/4 category, also cannot race Elite at any UCI events if they plan on racing at the Master's World Championships.
You can ride the Master World Cyclocross Championships if your racing age is 30 or above unless you:
* Note that the season is not the same as the calendar year. The 2011 CX season begins September 1st, 2010 and ends in mid February 2011 at the World Championships.
- Have been on a UCI team of any type (any discipline) in the current season*
- Have competed in the Elite World Championships, Continental Championships, or World Cups in any discipline in the current season.
- Are ranked in the UCI CX classification published after the National Championships in Europe.
[Edit: the women CAN race Elite, but must ensure that they do not accumulate any UCI points by either A) not racing to their full potential; B) waiting until all of the points places have crossed the line before finishing (a la Marilyn Rusekas); or C) DNF'ing the race.]
What does this mean in New England? At any of our Verge/Shimano series races, the juniors and masters have to race in a category that is available to them - typically for the men, the Junior 15-18 race, and for the women (both juniors AND masters), the Women's 3/4 race. However, in the smaller, non-UCI races, you will find many of these junior men/women and master's women racing in the Elite fields because they don't have to worry about their age, or accumulating UCI points.
My philosophy? I have a lot to learn from the racers in my field who are stronger than me - juniors, masters and everyone else. And, if I want to place higher, I need to work harder. We might not like the rules, but knowing what they are helps to put everything in perspective. And really? This is just riding bikes :)