Cyclo-X’s 80% Rule Rant

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From the USA Cyling Rulebook-
5G. Finish
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.

I’ve been pulled in exactly two cross races in my life. Elite Nationals last year in Bend and the UCI race on Sunday in Madison. Both times it was because the officials “decided” to impose this bullshit 80% rule. Neither of the times was there a chance that I was going to be lapped by the leader.

The rule is bullshit on many levels. Least of all that the officials don’t know how to calculate the time to enforce it. But most of all because it doesn’t allow good riders to have the chance to race, sometime up to the last 30% of the race. Riders that are going to finish in the top 25 of the Elite Nationals field, of over 150 guys on the start line. Riders that lost a huge chunk of their time the first two laps when they were not moving.

Another problem with the rule is that the officials seem to only use the 80% number and not the last section of part (b) that states- the intent is that all riders should be pulled before they are lapped. I think that in important races, that the officials need someone that is exclusively appointed to calculate the time that each, and every rider, will be lapped and then pull them at that point. I know that sounds like a lot of trouble, but really, it’s not. I could do it with a wrist watch and pencil easily. With basic chip timing, it would be a no-brainer.

Let’s use last weekend for an example. On Saturday, for example, the official pulling spot for the 80% rule was the same as Sunday, about 75 meters before the finish line. They pulled 6 riders, approximately 10% of the finishers at that point with 1 lap to go. So, those riders had to ride 75 meters to ride before they started their final lap and there was 0 % chance that they were going to be lapped because Ryan Trebon would have already finished the race. There should be absolutely no pulling of riders on the final lap unless there is a chance that the rider is going to interfere with the leader on the final straight.

On Sunday the same thing. I’m just going to leave myself out of the mix, but maybe up to 25% of the finishers of the race were pulled with very little chance of being lapped. And they have it “officially” stated that 28 riders, out of the 53 riders starting the race were lapped. Total bullshit. You can go all the way back to Mike Sherer, who they have officially finishing in 34th place. He would not of been lapped. He would of had to lose twice as much time with 2 to go, than he had been losing the whole race. And that is presuming that Bart Wellens would keep going the same speed as he had the whole race, which he didn’t. His final lap was 39 seconds slower than his fastest.

When I was pulled, with 2 laps to go, I waited at the line two minutes before Wellens came by. I was told by the official that the time back his was using for the 80% rule was 6 minutes, 44 seconds. I have no idea how he came up with that number. If you apply the rule correctly, 80% of the of the fastest first lap time of 8:37 is 6:51. And Wellens did an 8:26 lap, so if you subtract the two minute I stood there then it would of been only 6:26. And the official had already pulled 4 riders ahead of me, with Brad White, probably being 30 seconds ahead of me, so he was only 5 something back at the time. None of us were going to be lapped.

It didn’t really matter to me because I wasn’t having a good race, but it is the principal of the thing. At Nationals last year in Bend, I would have passed another 10 riders at least, maybe more, during the last two laps of the race I didn’t get to ride. That would have put me into the top 20, which was not a bad result considering how far back I started and how unbelievably hard it was to pass the first few laps. I would have had to lose 2 minutes to Todd in one lap when I was losing about a minute a lap average the whole race. It was just dumb.

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. I don’t want lapped guys screwing up the finish of UCI races, but come on, this is just stupid. When there are only 8 USGP races, that have only 60 riders or so starting, I see no reason that they should be pulling over half of the guys of the race when the riders spend all this money and effort to come compete. The riders in these races aren’t shitty bike riders. They are the best in the country. I see no reason to pull them other than the officials can’t do simple arithmetic. Like the rule says, the intent is to pull riders before they are lapped, not if they not going to be lapped.

FYI – Today is National Coffee Day.

This is pretty much what I was thinking after getting pulled at Nationals last year.

18 thoughts on “Cyclo-X’s 80% Rule Rant

  1. Mark Thomas

    I’ve got empathy for you on that one. I’ve only been pulled a couple of times in my life. One of those was at Masters Worlds. I know you weren’t happy that day (for different reasons), neither was I.

  2. JM

    I have seen this rule enforced at several races, and it is always becomes a source of dispute. I can understand it being enforced in a major race, where a title or substantial prize money is at stake, but I also think the officials and organizers need to examine the context in which it is being enforced. It makes no sense to me to apply the 80% in “lower” categories, as it tends to send the wrong message to many riders (“compete to win or get out!”). Also, unless there are a huge number of riders on the course, what harm is there is allowing as many riders as possible to finish? I think officials and organizers need to ask themselves “For whose benefit are we putting on this race? The riders or the officials?”. By the way, I’ve done several cross races with chip timing and found it to be a much better alternative to hand scoring. Yes, there is a price attached, but as it becomes more popular, the price will inevitably come down to a more affordable level. And as far as lapped riders getting in the way is concerned, Ihave found most riders to be fairly self-policing…and isn’t cross all about avoiding obstacles anyway?

  3. andrew

    It’s frustrating to be pulled, but I’m with the officials here. Making sure racers get the chance to finish a race in the second half of the field is less important than ensuring a clean race at the front where the results matter. It’s the ELITE field. Not Masters 50+ or Womens 4s where participation and effort matter. ELITE.

  4. tilford97 Post author

    Andrew-Obviously I agree with you, but my point is that there is no need to pull many of the riders that the officials are removing from the race. Why not just make the rule 50%. Or make it a miss and out and pull the last 10 riders every lap until there are only 3 left. I think Bruce makes a valid point here. Lots of times the specatators aren’t there only to see Bart Wellens ride around. They are there to see their local favorites compete. It is hard to compete when you’re not riding around.

  5. tilford97 Post author

    And, I’m not so sure when the big deal about lapped riders started? At Nationals, in 1984, I lapped every rider in the race except Roy Knickman and Lawrence Malone, who finished 2nd and 3rd. Only 3 guys riding around isn’t that exciting to watch in my opinion.

    Maybe we could get Sven Nys or Stybar to come over and race some of our smaller UCI races and eventually only one guy would be on the course. Wouldn’t that be exciting to watch.

  6. bob

    lazy officiating.
    As you pointed out the INTENT of the rule is to prevent lapped riders from interferring with the leaders. But as u have correctly pointed out the riders pulled mostly had no possibility of being lapped .75 meters left until their final lap with the leader ON the final lap? That is just insulting peoples intelligence.
    In the lower categories participation should be encouraged so the rule should not be used either.
    For the record i raced cross country in the 70’s with literally hundreds of runners , a couple of officials, a little chronograph machine and they always got the results spot on.
    I raced in So Cal where they used to always let guys ride themselves into shape while being lapped. 120 riders no problem. All they do is place the riders otb and the time gap to the leaders every lap. Easy. Once a rider gets to 1/2 of a lap down you look at the time they have lost per lap and how many laps left.
    Just to play devils advocate, lets say it is a UCI race and a rider is about to be lapped. It is not some Fred, it is a elite rider, consider it a hazard of the course that must be negotiated just like a barrier, sand, etc. If a rider complains about being held up the ref should shrug it off.

    Maybe it is just me but i remember races being not so heavily policed and more rider responsibility. You were expected to learn to handle your bike and how to race properly.
    It was not the officials job to be babysitters and treat the riders like children.

  7. Sean YD

    There are many good points being made here. I’ll add that on a day when there are a number of categories racing – with each race starting about 15-20 minutes apart – it can be to the officials’ advantage to invoke the 80 percent rule simply to keep the races on time. Granted, the elite men’s race is usually the final one of the day, so this principle doesn’t apply in that case.

  8. robo

    well said as usual Steve! some of these rules are crap for sure! most responsible riders will pull over if being lapped by the lead group . most riders would benefit to continue not quit (as long as the winning sprint is not impaired)

  9. Tristan

    Timing chips. We need timing chips. I’d pay an extra $1 or two for it. Then, if you really must, use the software to tell the officals which guys are obviously going to clash with the leaders or the leaders’ sprint finishes etc.

  10. john

    A case of getting pulled at the first KC Nats. The old guys had something like the 60, 65, 70 and 75+ in the same race with a short interval between each cat and the younger guys going first. Before Ned O. started to lap some of the oldest guys – they were pulled – turned out they were pulling guys who would have been on the podium. There were only a couple of the oldest guys left in the race. We had to redo the race the next day.

  11. tilford97 Post author

    Chad-I agree it is a little harsh. But from what I’ve experienced, the officials use the gray area of the 80% rule, which states that the 80% number isn’t written in stone, and pull riders much earlier than needed.

    If they are going to enforce the rule, and use the fudge factor, that should be applied so they leave more riders in the race, not less.

    Adam Myerson wrote a reply on my facebook posting saying that they were having issues with this rule on the East coast, and now they have the officials on the same page as the riders and it’s working pretty well. The rule has merit. It’s just not being used correctly. And if it’s not being used correctly in USGP races and our National Championships, then the rule/and or the officials need to be addressed.

  12. H Luce

    uh, William, this is the Steve Tilford weblog, maybe you’d be happier playing in your own sandbox, OK? Just saying…

  13. Bubba

    What do you do when you are officiating races?
    Hopefully you send a number of weekends a year officiating at races with all your knowledge and experience.

  14. steevo

    Late to the game:
    I have been to a few races with so many bottlenecks and short laps that 60% of the field got pulled due to the 80% rule.

    The rule should just be: If you are about to get lapped, you pull over and self neutralize until where the officials can mark where you finish.

    One USGP where I had been lapped, I slowly rode out of the way, however I had dudes attacking me to get 43rd or whatever.

    Apparently at gloucester this weekend guys were jumping onto the back of the lead train after being lapped. Have some self respect people.


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