Friday, October 26, 2012

The Rules

Every year, there is grumbling from racers about other racers in the field. Typically, the grumbling is about people who are doing well in the field, and the fact that those people should upgrade or move to a different race (typically, the Elite race). Often, the people doing the grumbling aren't aware of the RULES associated, and every year, I find myself having to explain what the rules are...

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 Championships
You can ride the Master World Cyclocross Championships if your racing age is 30 or above unless you: 

  • 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.
* 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.
This 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.

[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 :)


Colin R said...

Point of clarification: you can race UCI races all season long and still do masters worlds; you just can't score UCI points in those races. UCI points go 10 deep, so they are somewhere between "totally impossible" (Gloucester) and "hard" (New Gloucester) to get.

There's been women in New England (Marilyn Ruseckas) who raced UCI and have stopped on the final lap to drop a place (Loon Mtn 2010) and preserve their eligibility. But it's pretty rare.

Anyway, this isn't a judgement against anyone, just wanted to clarify the rule and what options are available.

mkr said...

Colin is correct, you can race but not score points. That said, who the hell wants to pay to do that?

Bottom line is that the master's women in question are not walking away with all of the races. Sure, they are always in the top five or so but there are at least a handful of other women who are just as good and capable of winning on any given day. That would seem like a pretty level playing field to me.

I also agree with the point that if you don't like the results that you are getting, work harder or reset your expectations to more accurately reflect your ability.

I do think what the big races need in the near future is a separate women's Cat3 and Cat4 field. They could be run at the same time but the disparity level between a beginner and many Cat3 is huge. The women's 3/4 race is also getting big enough to warrant such a change.

Cathy said...

Colin - you are correct. The Master's women CAN race UCI, but should they have to do that, and then either A) not race to their full potential to ensure they don't get points, or B) do what Marilyn did and stop their race to not get points, or C) DNF the race?

The grumbling I'm hearing is that we should automatically upgrade these racers to the Elites, which I disagree with because of my two points here. I don't think it's fair.

But yes, I agree. The CAN do those races.

Joy said...

Cathy, if you look at where the top women of the 3/4 field typically finish in a UCI race, you'll see that top 3/4 masters women run little risk of finishing in the top 10. I see where this might be an issue for less attended races like New Gloucester, but it seems that by continuing to race in the 3/4 field, these women are being overly cautious and are missing out on the opportunity to learn from the elites - which could improve their results at Master's Worlds!

Moreover, I'd argue that anyone who doesn't follow upgrade guidelines and continues to race in a category they should have upgraded out of is does a disservice to the field as a whole. I don't buy this whole resetting expectations argument, because 3s who don't move up to 3s make the front of the field a mini elite field, which depresses the results of the rest of the field.

MKR, women usually only have two fields to choose from in races. We don't have as many options as master's men, and that's why this is a problem.

Also, I've only been able to race once this season, but I agree that that no one was holding me back from achieving my goal of upgrading. I am confident that I would have been able to earn the necessary upgrade points even if these women beat me every weekend. :) I just feel that it's not good for the field as a whole, and for the nearly upgraded elites looking to have more competition in the back of that field.

I am glad that you've opened a discussion on this, and helped to share the master's point of view. It's inspiring to see women be so competitive into their late 30s, 40s, and 50s!

Joy said...

I re-read MKR's comments while not multi-tasking, and I agree with his points. :)

Perhaps it doesn't really matter much as it's true that the master's women aren't occupying all of the podium spots, or preventing others from doing well.

Since the topic of this post is Rules, I'll point out that it does seem like USA Cycling upgrade rules are not being followed in some of these cases. So it's really just a matter of what set of rules riders want to follow.

Cathy said...

Joy - thanks for the comments! I'm glad that we can have a discussion about this. I also agree with MKR about looking at the need to separate out some of the women's fields to help create more equity - especially since our fields have been growing so dramatically over the past couple of years. The challenge with that, of course, is scheduling and determining the best solution for both racers and promoters.

As to your point on the upgrade rules - hard to enforce a mandatory upgrade into fields where you cannot race (or can, but have to ensure you don't perform...). I do agree that if there were alternatives, this would be much less of an issue.

My post was more about where we are today. I'll leave the where we want to be tomorrow for another day :)

Fatmarc Vanderbacon said...

we have a 45+ 123 class down in MAC land to try and mitigate this situation a bit.

It is a tough situation, but also part of what makes racing in NE so special.

Seeing the Rainbow stripes in a 3/4race was odd the first time we saw it, but now it's just kinda normal.


Cathy said...

Marc - I know you do both a 45+ and a 35+ in the MAC. And I THINK you run the 45+ with the 3/4 field and the 35+ with the Elites, is that right? And how does that work at a UCI race - my understanding is that you can't have two races on the course at the same time in a UCI event (meaning the Elite race).

Several people have pointed to your model, so I'd like to understand it a bit more!

Joy said...

Cathy, I think it's a great idea to run a W35+ race at the same time as the 3/4 race, and offer a separate podium. I don't see why this woudln't work, and it would give the competitors masters women and newly retired elites an opportunity to have their own event and avoid these issues.

Nancy said...

From my experience, I think that everyone can decide which races to enter and I respected the K's at the front of 3-4 women of having no interest in upgrading.

But I don't buy the excuse about Master Worlds eligibility. If you think it is easy to get UCI point (top 10 even at New Gloucester or Vermont), I disagree. I tried for about 2 years and my best result was 12th. It is closed enough from top 10 but when you looked at the result, I was about 1 minute behind. Just to let you know, since I upgraded from the 3-4, I got a coach, start real training, team support, nice bike and wheels, start mountain biking to improve my skills because I discovered that I really sucked. From my experience, I think that the back of the elite field is competitive enough that they won't have to worry too much about racing at their full potential to don't get UCI point. Maybe once a while, on a muddy day in which there is more broken bikes and DNF.

As you said, the Marilyn situation is classified as an exception rather than the rule and she did win Nationals ahead of the K's too.

It will be nice that the women elite field grows because the recently upgrade cat 3 are replacing the 2's that retired or gave up.

Colin R said...

As an outside observer who watches both women's races, I don't personally perceive a problem with sandbagging. The 3/4 women's podium at UCI races has been fairly fluid, and the only dominant (multi-win) rider under the age of 50 upgraded to Elites.

The balance looks good to me. It would be nice to have 3 women's fields, but as long as there is 2, I think they're about the right speed. If you're good enough to ride at the front of 3/4 women, then you're good enough to upgrade to elites, but you'll be in the bottom 3rd. That's about the overlap I'd expect.