Change the “Guidelines” for Masters Cross Worlds

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I’ve been thinking about the line up procedures for cyclo-x races the last couple days. It is a quandary for both promoters and racers. But, the guidelines that the UCI and USAC came up with to line up the Masters World Cyclocross Championships in January is a cop out, lazy, and is just bad. Someone from our organization, USAC, needs to realize this and address it before the event.

I’m not sure I want to spend the next 3 months of my life training for something that has a high chance of being decided by picking a shitty number out of a bag. I am pretty positive that the powers that made this bad rule have no idea of the difference of abilities of the riders that are going to be lining up at the start line of the event in Louisville. They were saying something about Lars Boom winning a World Cup last year from the 5 row. With 75 guys, you could be 10 rows back. These races are pretty short, less than 45 minutes for sure, with ability levels varying from nearly bicycle tourists to ex professionals. It isn’t like passing a bunch of World Cup riders. It is chaos.

Bruce Fina and Joan Hanscom head up the Louisville promotion. I’ve know Bruce for decades. I don’t know Joan Hanscom. These two must have had a large amount of influence to the final decision. I certainly have no idea how it could have gotten to this point where it is final. If less than 80 riders, it is random. Crazy.

Here’s the statement by Bruce-

“The UCI and USA Cycling have been working diligently to establish fair and clear guidelines for the 2012 and 2013 Masters Worlds,” said race director Bruce Fina. “This is an entirely new animal. With ever-growing Masters fields in the U.S., all involved realize that these events will pose unique challenges that the races have not faced in Europe in terms of field sizes and eligibility. The UCI is rightfully concerned with protecting the integrity of the world championship jersey and title and its technical execution. All parties agree these qualification and eligibility guidelines are the best way to be fair to racers from the US and across the world while still recognizing that this is a world championship event and affording it a degree of respect and recognition for the competition that sets it apart from most mass participatory events.”

Phillipe Marien, long time UCI Commisaire and promoter of the event in Mol also said this quote-

Phillipe Marien: We always have used the lottery system, this is the fairest way to draw the starting order. In this particular category it is very difficult to gather an official national team or to check who is national champion or not. Each year there were some complaints from riders but that’s normal.

These guys are full of shit. They’ve both been involved in the sport of cyclocross to know that the start of the race is very important.

First of all, I had no idea of Phillipe Marien’s credentials. But, because he was the promoter of Mol, he should be fired and should not of had any imput on the starting procedures of this race, or any race, since he let the random call-up procedure at his race turn into a joke. The random draw in Belgium was completely unrandom for years. It was fixed beyond embarrassment, with Belgium national champions on the front row of virtually every category. If we’re going to use the Belgium standards for random, then just forget everything I’m writing here, because I’m good with it.

And this word random being used as a description for fair is ludicrous. Random doesn’t have anything to do with fairness at the start of a cyclo-x race. Random should be associated with the word lucky if anything. And that’s the way we want a World Championship to be decided, by luck? I don’t.

Cyclocross has struggled with years for the fair way to line up important events. It used to be by National Teams. Now by UCI points. At the US Nationals this year we are using a ranking system. Never have I seen this random thing. This isn’t the place to “try it out”. It is a World Championship. If randomness is so fair, then why isn’t the Elite Worlds doing it that way? Or our US Championships? Implying that random is the most fair way to line up a cx race is implying that it is unfair to do it thru seeding or ranking?

Bruce says that the UCI is worried about “protecting the integrity of the world championship jersey and title.” I’m not sure what that means exactly. Though, if I’m understanding it correctly, the lineup procedures they have in place now will do exactly the opposite. We should do something about it.

19 thoughts on “Change the “Guidelines” for Masters Cross Worlds

  1. Peter

    It’s too bad there are too many riders and too many age groups that you couldn’t have a one lap qualifying time trial the way F-1 sorts out its starting grids.

  2. IowaGriz

    Move the start back 150 yards and line all 80 on one line. Add a barrier at the 125 yard mark that is 50 feet wide and funnel everyone to the course entrance (20 feet wide?).

    Just like many of the MTB courses in the 80s. Sprint for the holeshot, the barrier equalizes it somewhat.
    (post is only somewhat sarcastic)

  3. flyn' pharmacist

    How about a one lap qualifier, but start 8 at a time. ( To save time) Or maybe only allow Cat 1,2,3 riders to race. We have all started behind riders that are strong in a straight line, but have no bike handling skills. I would also have NO call ups based on past performance. No offense Steve, but what chance does any US 50yr old have with you on the front row?

  4. Rod

    Back in the day when I raced motocross, you never had this problem. The was a wide enough starting line where everyone was was on the same row. You were still called up by your current rankings but there were not multiple rows that prevented the guys on the back rows from having a fair start. Everyone sprints for the first corner and it is on!

  5. Brad Carvey

    Random is stupid and dangerous, in a masters cx race. I don’t want people like Tilford starting behind me. It’s like having 4:30 milers starting behind 7:00 milers on a single track, with a cliff on one side. Not fun for the slow people and not fun for the fast people.
    I believe we should have lots of call ups. I even think there should be call backs. If you were lapped last year at nationals, go to the back.
    I think there should be an easy way to try to change your start position.
    Patrick Morrissey is a masters rider that has never had a call up, but is usually on the podium or at worst in the top 10. First year in Bend, after podium finishes in The 2 previous single speed natz, he got randomly called up at 78th. He still got 6th, even though the leaders were in the pit by the time he got to the start line. In my opinion that’s stupid.

  6. Ritchey_Breakaway

    I have to agree with Rod. Motocross has been doing this kind of thing forever. It’s more exciting to watch as well.

  7. Rad Renner

    If there’s no way to rank people (the current UCI excuse), then why is there so much emphasis on the current USAC ranking system? I cannot believe that the USAC is the only national governing body that is ranking non-elites. Are UCI officials truly that inept? Does the internet not work over in europe or have I been asleep for 10 years? These idiots say they want to maintain the integrity of the World Championships, but they plan on having random call ups? Sounds kinda like the rhythm method for birth control: if it works, you’re just lucky. CX ITT’s or motos might work, but they’d be a logistical nightmare to co-ordinate. I like the suggestion that only Cat. 1 or 2’s be eligible; if you’re not that good, then why should you be riding in a world championship event anyway?

  8. another_KM

    Since this is the UCI we’re talking about, these are your most likely options.

    1: Bribe the race promoter for your position. Fast and cheap! If that doesn’t work,

    2: Bribe Pat and Weisel to change the rules. It will take longer and be much more expensive. Money talks at the UCI. Sochi and China World Tour events are the perfect examples.

  9. Rad Renner

    Or how ’bout this? Compare lap times at specific events where pros and masters have raced the same course. The closer your lap times are to the pros, the higher your starting position. Given the number of euros who now race in the US, and vice versa, these comparisons should be pretty easy to make for both US and european masters racers.

  10. Not as fast as Steve...

    Steve, I was reading thorugh The World Championship website and noticed the first heat will be random, but the championship will be based on heat results….

    “For fields with greater than 80 registrants the UCI Cyclo-cross Commission has determined that short heats will be installed, with a limit of 60-70 riders per heat and a maximum of eight heats, and a ‘repechage’. Start order for the World Championship final will be according to the results of the heats. ”

    “For the World Championship Final, riders will be called up by their order of finish in their heats (all first riders of the different heats, all second riders of the different heats and so forth).”

    Although this is still not ideal, it might not be as bad as it seems.

    Good luck!

  11. tilford97 Post author

    The problem is that there won’t be 80 riders in a lot of categories. If there weren’t 80 at the Nationals in Bend in a category, then I doubt there were be that many in Louisville. But, there will be a lot of races with 60 + riders.

    They say there will be a full length race for each rider at the event. A consolation race of sorts. Can you image if 84 guys show up, they do two 42 heats, kick out 4 and then have the 4 ride a race on their own.

    It wasn’t well thought out. There is nothing the matter with having 100 + guys in a cross race as long as the get it approximately right lining up the field.

    As Brad states above, it is no fun for anyone riding a race with the start all mixed up in abilities.

  12. 80_deep


    A 40-deep heat at a typical ‘cross race means the final result is still dependent on how the organizer seeds the heats because of the bottleneck at the first corner/obstacle. That is no way to set a final.

    As others have said, doing a single row motorcycle-style start is the way to go. Better for the fans and a pretty fair way to do a start.

    The federations in Colorado and Oregon should adopt the single row start format. OBRA, are you listening?

  13. Earnit

    There NEVER should be random call ups. I broke my back for two full cx seasons training and getting better just so I could get a front call up in the Verge New England series. I race with and against, past and current World and National Champs every friggin weekend. If I complained about my start position, I’d get my man card taken away. Toughen up people! Train more, get faster, earn the front row and stop complaining about it. Worlds should be about the best riders, not the “participants”, sorry, if you want to be a “participant” go to triathlon!

  14. Jonny Bold

    The mistake we tend to make here is thinking the UCI gives a shit about masters racers. They don’t. USAC does….because we’re a cash cow and they know we’ll come no matter what. I think USAC screws up most everything, but I have to credit for last year’s attempt at fairness at Natz, by using the TT for qualifying, and also managing the riders about to get lapped. It was 100% better than in 2009 (the 1st year in Bend). If they come to realize it’s gonna be basicly a USA affair with a few Euros in each field (maybe), then they should be able to let USAC manage it and try to emmulate the effort at natz. Remember, this is under a microscope because it’s Louisville’s “test” effort for 2013 PRO Worlds. IMHO It matters for that reason more than any.

  15. bob

    in cross country races in college we had starts similar to motocross. one long start line slightly curved with over 300 runners on it. about 200 meters to the “funnel” a 90 degree turn about 10 feet wide, it was great fun, helped to sort things out quickly. Most of the time it was in the parking lot, it would be easy to rope off an area of the parking lot for a starting grid and only use it link to the course at the start

  16. Vincent

    As an economist I am in favor of no entry fee and you just pay for your start position. Just have an auction on ebay for each position. Sure some would bid alot even though they know they have no chance but for most they wont spend more for the start position that it will benefit them.

  17. Aubree

    Prior to cycling, I was a cross-country runner and we managed to fit 100-300 runners on a line (for bigger races). Each team had a “box” and they could line their team up as they wanted…5 in front, 2 in back (for example)…we would have a few hundred meters before our hole shot and we made it work and it made it pretty darn fair. I don’t see why this couldn’t happen in cross…even if they only widened it enough for 2 rows…that’s still far better than the current system!


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