Friday, December 21, 2007

Qualifiers For Nationals?

The Trebon Crash thread generated some commentary about adding qualifying heats for Nationals, and Tom Simpson's last post, I think, warrants a thread of its own. So what do you think?

Tom's Comment:

Regarding qualifiers - to continue the upward growth of this branch of cycling we've always thought a system of heats during Nationals could work. In the largest entry fields - think Elite Men, probably 3 different Master's Categories - each with 30 minute long heats of 60-75 max. They could be run with 25 or 30 best finishers advancing to the medal round. Only in extraordinarliy wide open courses like Providence in '05, '06 would a rider in the back 1/3 of races stand a chance of finishing, let alone contending for a medal. In a field of 60-75 riders you still get to race, not just particpate.

Everyone would still be able to participate in Nationals and the best riders would mostly move through the qualfiers to final. "Mostly" because who knows what flat tire or biff a contender could encounter in their heat and finish 10 places out of the finals. Bike racing.

The question is how much time would these heats require - KLM created a 4-day event this year in Kansas - is that enough time to add a qualifying day? Will Nationals become a 5-day affair with attendant rider costs to stay an extra longer? Staff costs for promoter for an extra racing day and extra earlier set-up days - lots of potential and lots of questions to be answered.

Would Masters, for instance, attend a separate Nationals just for them? 3 days for just Masters with qualifying heats on friday, medal rounds for qualifiers on sunday with saturday the medal rounds for smaller entry fields. Is there enough sponsorship money to separate categories - or enough competitors to support separate Nationals with their entry fee money?

Tom Simpson
Pilarcitos Cyclesports
I think it's a great idea, especially for races that don't have any qualifications. The Men's Elite races and Masters races, quite frankly, are a bit out of hand. Case in point: at last year's Nationals, Gannon Myall had the bad fortune of starting from the back - and lost his chance at a title (tho still raced like a champ to 4th). So...I think aside from previous top 10's and those w/ UCI points, everyone else should get thrown into a qualifier.

And on a personal note: having wasted my call-up for this year's nationals, I know I'd sleep better next year knowing I'd have a chance to qualify for a good spot on the starting grid for Natz.

So it begs the question: would those riders who don't have aspirations of winning or even a top 10, still be enticed to come and race?


Anonymous b said...

I think that if a qualifying system were in place, the riders would still come to the race. Possibly more. After all, they come to race, and qualifying heats mean more racing.

The 30 minute idea I don't agree with though, because 30 minutes just isn't long enough. Even 40 minute masters races are too short IMHO and it was up to me, all cross races would be 60 minutes. The longer races give more time for the better riders to emerge and for a race to develop. In general, the longer the better. Of course time restraints would play a role at an event with huge attendance numbers.

I think that masters riders would definitely attend a championship of their own. Look to the road scene for proof of that.

Finally, one of the big benefits of a qualifier type of arrangement is that start positions would be determined by a fair and equitable method. That is too say that the better you ride in qualifying events, the better your start position. That's a world away from letting your credit card determine your start position, which is just ridiculous.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a regional qualifying system before nationals? Not that I'd have real chance anyway, but i think having to race on Sat when I've just killed myself the day before to try and qualify would be a real disadvantage if some automatically qualified due to past results. There could be one or two races in each region that could be designated qualifiers. I'd like to see Master's stay with the main show too and not get broken off.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

I think if you are going to have a qualifying process then the qualifying process should happen at the locaL/regional level. How much more of a pounding can some of these nationals venues take with an additional day(s) of racing? The more qualifying events you have before the elite men/women's races the worse shape the course will be on the day of the big championship.

Having regional qualifiers will help build the fields at the local levels ( at the very least for the qualifying event or maybe for several events if the local qualifying process involves a series of races). You can also use the results of the local qualifying events to set the starting grid. Set the starting grid by Defending champ, top X UCI points ( or top X from the previous year's nationals) then take the first place riders from each regional event ( maybe rank the regions based on the results of the previous year's nationals so the region with the best showing at the previous year's nationals gets their local champ/#1 qualifier staged first and the weakest region gets their champ staged last of the local champs/#1 qualifier, then move to the 2nd placed qualifier from each region then the 3rd placed qualifier etc. This is how were were basically staged for the start of the 1980 Jr Road nationals. This eliminates the opening minute online Reg lottery for starting grid spots for those riders who don't have a call up.

4:17 PM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

I think 30 minutes is plenty long for a heat - that's plenty of time whittle down a group. The fast guys will be in the top 20, even in a 20 min heat...

Casey's point about whether the course can handle it is a good one.

A couple problems with regional qualifiers: (a) difficult registration process - i.e. all qualifiers need to be complete and database maintained before pre-reg begins, and (b) definitely will see much lower numbers of entrants (and therefore, spectators).

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A rider’s best points and the championship race will determine the plate. (Qualifi cations are listed in BMX Today) Regional and National scores will count beginning on the first National or Regional of the new season through the Grands, Local race scores will count beginning on January 1 through August 31.

Rules: The championship race will be run under National rules.

Eligibility: Riders must have raced 10 races (local, state, and/or National) per the Regional Championship criteria. Non-qualified riders who hold a valid NBL license may race in the Open class only. As referenced to in Chapter 13 under Special Events.

Awards: Regional trophies or BMX bucks will be awarded. All qualified riders who race their Regional Championship Race will receive a number plate and number (must use 1st letter of last name on plate). Number plates will be awarded to all riders in each age group in Cruiser, Girls, Expert, Novice and Rookie. Riders can only earn a Regional Championship Number Plate in the region they live in, and the Regional Championship Race is mandatory (qualified riders only). You must race the Regional Championship held in your Region!

Here how it's done in NBL- BMX.Shane

7:19 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Funkdaddy - The spectator turnout shouldn't be hurt that much for a national championship, unless most of the spectators now are coming from riders in other events.

No reason why things can't be set up so that each region's qualifying process can't be completed 6 weeks before the nationals so that people who qualify have a reasonable lead time to make travel arrangements.

You could still have the non-championship B events that would not be subject to qualifying ( since they are not a championship event they can be a free for all in terms of who can come and race) and this would help draw riders and spectators to the event in general.

I've always felt that once you opened up nationals to everyone you took a lot of the importance out of the event. Back in the days when you have to qualify for the various nationals you have very large turnouts at the local qualifying events ( think of the District TT championship with over 100 elite men in the elite open division) which made for some great local racing. Also most of the people who qualified for nationals showed up since you were never sure if you would ever qualify for another nationals. You can set your field sizes at the nationals for as large as you feel the course can reasonably handle. Just because people have to qualify for the race doesn't automatically mean you will have small fields.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One issue that needs to be addressed with potential qualifiers and more defined start fields for championships would be budget. Promoters are currently counting on the multitudes to pay their bills - if you reduce that revenue stream we either return to events that look like Dogpatch Worlds - 2 cones for a finish line - or we figure out a replacement for entry fees.

NCNCA currently requires a 1$/rider surcharge for all events - road, track, CX, etcx. that is used to fund the NCNCA and our special programs. What if USA Cycling charged $1/CX rider race entry nationwide just for funding championships? They certainly don;t have anything else earmarked for 'cross since it carries no Olympic weight. That method could be a self-funding championships without the need to rely on rider entry fees. Corporate Sponsorship cannot carry the program or at least has not been successful to date.

Tom Simpson
Pilarcitos Cyclesports

1:12 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Are Cross nationals different from Track Nationals in terms of who keeps the entry fees? I know for Track nationals USAC keeps the entry fees. I though USAC kept the entry fees for all the nationals ( except for maybe the non-championship events held as part of nationals). Nationals promoters have to depend on non-entry type of revenues to pay for the events like sponsorships, concession stand sales etc. There is an example of a draft copy of the track nationals contract at

1:48 PM  
Blogger Lindaelgart said...

Back in the "olden days" when I first started racing, one always had to qualify to go to nationals. (This was road nationals, not cx, which was basically non-existent at the time.) We qualified at the districts. There were a certain number of qualifying spots based on the number of riders per district/state.

In multi-sport it is the same now. I experienced this when doing duathlons a few years ago. There are qualifier races that hold a certain number of places. If you don't qualify at one you can go to another. This makes sense for cross where there can be a lot of mishaps.

This seems to give nationals a lot more meaning, IMO.

Also, in multi-sport age groupers (similar to masters in cycling but all ages) qualify for worlds at nationals. If one qualifies then one is a member of the team and is treated as such, even though one has to pay their way.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Lindaelgart said...

Back in the "olden days" when I first started racing, one always had to qualify to go to nationals. (This was road nationals, not cx, which was basically non-existent at the time.) We qualified at the districts. There were a certain number of qualifying spots based on the number of riders per district/state.

In multi-sport it is the same now. I experienced this when doing duathlons a few years ago. There are qualifier races that hold a certain number of places. If you don't qualify at one you can go to another. This makes sense for cross where there can be a lot of mishaps.

This seems to give nationals a lot more meaning, IMO.

Also, in multi-sport age groupers (similar to masters in cycling but all ages) qualify for worlds at nationals. If one qualifies then one is a member of the team and is treated as such, even though one has to pay their way.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous b said...

I have to take issue with Mr. Simpson's comment on relying on the multitudes and their revenue stream to pay the bills. The entry fees go up and up and the prizes most often are a joke. The riders are paying high prices for everything in cycling in the US and most of the promoters' costs seem to be borne by the riders.

Take a look at how it's done overseas. The high entry fees that are the norm here don't exist. The prize lists are often very small and there's maybe less "fluff", but when you're not paying an arm and a leg to start, that's fine. What a racer wants is a well run event and a good value for the dollar spent. In short, a good, fair, well run event.

I know this is a bit off subject, but maybe the promoters should seek to finance the events more through sponsorship funding rather than saddling the racers with even more of a financial burden. Remember, the racers have already bought and paid for bikes, clothing, club fees, licenses, gas, food, lodging.

Let's not continue on the path to making cycling the "new golf" and a sport only for the rich. Riders are already paying more than their fare share to race their bikes. Promoters should share in that responsibility by working hard to secure sponsorship that helps to pay the bills.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous howie said...

This thread is bringing up a lot of good issues. I too remember the old days Linda is speaking of. You qualified for the nationals based on your district championship results. The number of riders to qualify was based on the size of your district. Since NorCal is a very large district, we always got to send a pretty large number of riders.

European racing is very different in so many ways- too numerous to count here, but mainly it comes down to the simple view of cycling vs. other sports, here and there. When a town has a cross race over there, most, if not all of the prizes and overhead of the race are put up by the busninesses in the town. Entry fees are largely refunded when you turn your race number back in at the end of the day (you have to, to get your prize money anyway...), so that is taken out of the financial equation. Sadly, this is less and less likely to happen here in the states. There are no towns calling the federation or local district rep. to see if they can get a place on the race calendar to hold there very own race (there are over there...). People are interested enough over there that they can charge a small admission fee to watch the race- something else that would probably never happen here.

Then there is the issue of gaining race sponsorship in this climate. You can put on a big race and have a lot of dough, but only a few times a year. A promoter can't keep going to the same sponsors with a hand out, weekend after weekend, and expect the well to never run dry. Bob Liebold proved that point long ago. He collectively asked the 1,2 Pro road field one day on the starting line of some race, where there were grumblings of poor prizes, "do you want to race a lot for small prizes, or do you want to race 25% as much, but for great prizes? You can't have both." One of the reasons NorCal is as good a district as it is, is because we can race more than just about any other district in the country.

I agree that a qualification is necessary for cross now, but it's unclear how it should be done. I agree that bike racing is expensive now, but that is largely our choice- think 35+ B rider with a $6,000 cross bike; no one is making you buy all that carbon. At some basic level, it's like saying that bike racing should be as popular as football or baseball- a fantasy that a lot of us have I'm sure- but is that realistic in America? Hopefully some day it will be, but right now I think the promoters are trying to do what they can, with the unspoken, interwoven socio-economic issues in front of them.

I think we proved to the nation at Nationals (again) that we are at the forefront of the cross scene in the US. We are smarter than your average bears, so who else is better suited to tackle the concepts in this blog thread? If any district is cable of making cross more sports/mainstream palatable to the average American sports enthusiast, it's likely to be us.
Merry Christmas from Blackmarket Racing.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

b said..

The problem is that here in the states Cycling isn't that popular so it is a lot harder to get sponsorship, especially cash sponsorship. In many cases when a promoter can land a cash sponsor the sponsor often wants their money to go into the prize list. I've dealt with a few local road events that had a large cash prize list for certain categories and then complained about the high permit fees they have to pay. When I suggest they reduce the prize list a little bit and use the money for the permit fees they say they can't because the sponsor wants all the money to go to the prize list.

I'm sure there isn't a promoter around who wouldn't gladly build a statue in your honor if you could bring them a large cash sponsor so that they could use sponsorship to pay the bills instead of rider entry fees.

In many cases it is pretty easy to get sponsorship where the sponsor gives you merchandise. In most cases this means the sponsor provided merchandise goes into the prize list. This still means you need to use entry fees to cover the race expenses. If cycling was as popular here as it is in europe then you would have cities bidding to hold a race instead of telling the promoter how much it will cost them for police and other city services needed to hold the race.

Maybe with growing concerns about global warming we will see more people using bicycles for transportation and bicycle racing will get more popular and attract more sponsors. Then again watch a stage of a big race like the Tour of CA and you will see that Pro level bicycle racing is not exactly a green sport with all the motor vehicles that are used to support the racing.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my 2 cents. I am a B racer, I don't have a 3K bike, I might have $400 invested into it, I love racing but don't like paying high entry fees, I like racing in other series, but I don't like having to waste gas to get there. I like going to the Nats, I know I will never win. With all this being said, let me tell you what happened at the starting line of my race in Livermore.
A 50+ dude and I were chatting. He was talking about Kansas. I told him I had been to 3 Nationals. 2 here and 1 in Portland. For those of you who have gone you know what a cool thing it is to do. You get to race and meet people from all over the country. I was over my head, but I raced beyond what I thought were my limits. There are hundreds of spectators, even in the lowly master events. It is quite an experience I told him. I should have told him, oh by the way, unless you can qualify you won't be racing.
Let's be real for a minute. We all know that there are only a handful of people that will win any race on any given day. No matter where you race. That's cool, whatever...I know I won't be scheduling vacation and budgeting money for a race I will not be in. Will I go just to see those few choosen race, not bloodly likely. There's my moan. Here's my solution.
If we end up just having qualified racers going to the Nats, why don't we use some of that hard earned entry fees we pay every weekend and help the folks who aren't on trade teams. You know the ones, racers full of talent but light in the pocket. I can think of one team in particular with talented riders (in green kits). If you are going to exclude people who can afford to travel why don't we include people who don't have the means to do so. I am going to get all old skool on ya'll. Things were better when we just needed a $18 NCNCA licence. If you wanted to race bigger events you needed a USCF licence. Let's look at Oregon fields, a $10 ORBA license and $20 entry fees. And the total kicker, hundreds of spectators. Oh and I forgot the total total kicker, people are having fun!!!
That's my story and I'm stickin to it.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous eyes wide open said...

There's been some good comments here on this subject. There's no doubt that NorCal cross racing is hot. The national results are proof of that.

But before we all go patting ourselves on the back about how good it is up here in NorCal with the low entry fees, low prize lists, and the tons of races to choose from, you might take a look at what goes on in Southern California.

Down south, there are ALOT of races in all disciplines. Their cross scene has been getting better and better for years and has also yielded national champions. Overall, there are more cycling events in SoCal. The entry fees are lower, the prize lists WAY better and the late fees are lower or non existent. If you don't believe me, check out the race flyers from SoCal (cross fees and prize lists are comparable). They put on great races down there and often for less money and often with better prize lists. That's the truth.

There's no reason why entry fees should be higher in NorCal and no reason why prize lists should be lower in NorCal for any type of cycling event. I give all due credit to Velo Promo and am thankful for his races, but that old argument I've heard forever just doesn't hold water.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

1:25 PM  
Anonymous izoard said...

Casey, here's a comment from a former Nationals promoter when we asked the question about entry fees and who gets the dough, "As for USAC and nationals, we kept that $. Why would anybody try to do it otherwise? Maybe that explains why those events look like the Buchenwald GP."

Aside from high level pro sports, i.e. Track/Field, a very few National level swimming events, and the assorted stick/ball & racket pro sports, I can't think of any other activity that requires prizes (even lame ones) to entice attendance.

I love having CCCP next door to a public golf course. Those participants pay $45 for a weekend round of golf. Somebody makes a golf course for them, they have parking for them, they have bathrooms for them. But nobody keeps score for them, nobody has prizes or award ceremonies for finishing their round. They do have a bar and restauranrt on site for hunger pangs and a Pro shop to buy equipment and t-shirts and golf stuff. They have no sponsors - they are totally funded by participant revenue - and they don;t even shake your hand at the end of your round. Mostly they ask you to please don;t dawdle and slow everyone else's round. How many people play golf? How many people race bikes?

Is our model wrong? Is golf's model wrong? Even golfers in Europe and Southern California pony up for their round of golf. If we take a look at how they do it overseas we run into significant cultural differences. Their municipal governments pick up a huge portion of the costs. That hasn't happened here - unless you're a gazillionaire owner of a major sports franchise who can blackmail municipalities into providing them facilities for free - but cycling is not even in the same solar system as these businesses.

Vive le difference!

Tom Simpson
Pilarcitos Cyclesports

6:25 PM  
Anonymous eyes wide open said...

Here's an open question for Tom Simpson-

Have you ever pinned on a number and raced your bicycle? If your answer is yes, then you'll know where riders are coming from when they voice their concerns and opinions when it comes to racing, entry fees and prize lists. If your answer is no, and if you haven't competed in some other similar sport, then you might have a hard time understanding that sportspeople always like to have a carrot dangling in front of them in the form of a prize.

That's been the case since the beginning of organized sport. As a rider, you want to shoot for something. Of course you do it for the camraderie, the exercise, and the pure thrill of racing. But you also do it because you want to win...and winning a good prize is part of that lust for victory. Good prizes ALWAYS make for better and more competitive sport. That concept is so obvious and so simple and so historically correct that it should not have to be explained and especially not to a promoter. It's strange that some believe that riders wanting to have a good prize list makes them greedy or somehow less noble sportspeople.

I think when you start comparing golf to bike racing, you're starting to lose the plot. Even though bikes and equipment prices have skyrocketed, the sport of bike racing is essentially still a blue collar sport and it is not a valid comparison to golf.

Here's another question- how thrilled would you think Tiger Woods would be paying $30 to enter a golf tournament where the top prize is a t shirt and a Powerbar?

9:36 PM  
Anonymous izoard said...

"Eyes", I'm a dinosaur. My first license was issued by the ABL in 1974 and I still have my NCCA #'s. They were permanent vinyl back and shoulder numbers issued for the season. Clusters were 5-speed Regina Oro's, Japanese components were just starting to become accepted, and tires were Clement, Wolber, Continental, and Barum for 'cross. Clothing was wool, shoes were leather, cleats were hammered into the soles after you had ridden enough to form pedal impressions on the soles. Helmets were early Bell, CCM hockey helmets and for traditionalists, Cinelli leather hairnets. And we had some awesome race courses. I raced Hamilton when it was scheduled in August in those days. I raced the Marin Road Race the year Mike Neel used it for training before turning pro and finishing 10th that year at Worlds. I raced Crocket-Martinez, Auburn Grand Prix, Fiddletown RR, Tassajara RR, Tour of the Redwoods in Phillipsville, Strawberry Valley RR near Freedom, Corralitos RR, San Bruno Mtn. Hill Climb, Sierra Grade RR, Tour Del Mar in La Honda/Pescadero - thanks for sending me back to my old training diaries to remember so many cool locations in our neck of the woods.

What did I get out of it? I competed as much as possible in 1974/5/6/7 and then had to be a responsible husband and father. I progressed until I was 2 placings shy of Cat 2. I ended as a Category 3 rider and only entered a few events each succeeding year until my last license in 1984. But I still have a ton of criterium memories locked away - Cherry Pie, Hayward State, Fairfax, Vallco Parking lot in Cupertino, Tanforan Parking lot where I watched Jack Disney race in his fixie, Alameda, Berkeley, Land Park, Redwood City, Santa Rosa, GG Park "Clean Air Race". When I look back at results, Mike MacDonald, George Slough and Bill Fallis were my contemporaries.

And my point regarding weekend golfers? - while Tiger the Pro might object to paying $30 for a top prize of a t-shirt, Tiger the amateur golfer does pay $45 for green fees and no t-shirt - and millions of them do every weekend. The Wildlfower Triathalon pays out $40,000 to their Elite Pros - and plaques/medals to the rest of their competitors who pay $90-$200 for their entry fees - for medals. And they already have over 2,000 athletes registered for the '08 race in May.

Golfers, Triathletes, AYSO kids, Bobbie Sox kids, adult softball leagues - I think the vast majority of athletes participating in sports don;t consider a prizelist as their motivation. For most of them, there isn't a prizelist, big or small.

And we do have choices to make - if an athlete is motivated by prizes, he/she needs to search for and enter those events that offer sufficient prizes to earn their entry fee. If Southern California can provide superior prizelists and modest entry fees, I congratulate them and would love to steal their successful marketing methods.

We try and build partnerships within the cycling and active athletic business community so that they'll want to be represented in a favorable manner at our events, just like Robert Leibold and all the other Northern California Cycling Clubs who promote events. Many of those partnerships are valued as "In Kind" merchandise but we still rely on competitor entry fees to pay the bills. The porta pottie guys only take cash, not extra jerseys or energy bars for their invoice.

We sure don;t have a monopoly on bike race promotion - if better promoters come along they'll drive us out of business if we can't adapt. Because we have a choice, too.

Casey, Howie, Linda Elgart, John Funke and I are public in our identities - we don;t bite. Any chance you might favor us with your name?

Tom Simpson
Pilarcitos Cyclesports

12:30 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Eyes Wide Open said -Good prizes ALWAYS make for better and more competitive sport.

I have been involved with bicycle racing now for 30 years now as a rider, promoter and official. Some of the best racing I have ever seen in my life was at Wed night track races when there were no prizes on the line at all. In fact once the same riders started racing for prizes at the Friday night track races their riding would get less aggressive and more defensive. I have always felt that the difference in racing styles was because prizes were introduced into the mix. When you are just racing for training and no prizes are on the line you are freer to ride more aggressively because you have nothing to lose. Once you put prizes on the line then riders tend to get more defensive and they start racing not to win but they race not to lose. I've also seen lots of god aggressive racing at the Early Birds where they don't have any prizes and we don't even place riders.

Bicycle racing is a unique sport in that the total amateurs race for ( and expect) prizes. Look at running for an example. The amateurs in running don't get prizes. Their main motivation is to achieve a better time in a specific distance or a specific event. Another motivation might be to meet a qualifying time so they can go to a major event like the Boston Marathon. It is only the Pros in running that are competing for prizes with a monetary value. The entry fees for running races, even for the amateurs are not cheap either. This is the same for most other sports. The amateurs are competing for fun, or maybe some recognition or some other intangible goal they have and it is the Pros who compete for prizes that have a monetary value. I remember back when the 1/2 riders were strictly limited in how much they could earn in prizes per day at a race due to eligibility requirements for the olympics. Those of us who were in the lower categories would be racing for even less than the 1/2s were allowed to compete for. That didn't stop us from getting out there and racing though.

As for the racing being better in S. Cal I'll have to dispute that. I compared the 2008 calendars for NCNCA and SCNCA. For next year SCNCA has 69 road events listed for the S. CAl region. NCNCA has 93 road events scheduled for our region. This year Southern CA had 20 Cross races while we had 32. I think the only area where S Cal has more races is on the track and this makes sense since they have 3 tracks to our 1. Yea the typical S. Cal 1/2/Pro ( r 1/2/3/Pro race has a $1,000 prize list but their entry fees ( for most of the races I looked at) start at $25 and go up and are pretty much on a par with our races that have similar prizes.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Dave Carr said...

First I gotta get a couple flames outta the way. Funke: What are you thinking trotting out this tired old subject yet again? I mean, it must be Christmas because someone is complaining about Natz qualifiers again. What did you used to call all those other riders who had the gall to enter your race? Oh, that's right, "jokers". Well here's a counterpoint to your Myall argument, so obvious it hardly bears repeating: Alan Coats. Last row start, result: stars and stripes. Uh huh.

OK, that felt good.

Now I gotta shout out to my old school homies Casey and Tom. Thanks for reminding us what it's all about: The joy of competition and once in a long while the thrill of victory. Entry fees and prizes are frankly meaningless at Natz, it's all about airing it out with your finely tuned fitness on a big course under extreme conditions. If others forget this I guess that's what happens when the sport gets all grown up, 2000 entries at nationals and a lot of bad attitudes.

I think limited qualifiers are a good idea, at the regional level as Casey said, just enough to get the fields down to a reasonable size. Natz travel is too big an investment (time, energy, $) to go not knowing if your weekend will be over in 30 minutes. (By the way Funke, tell me if 30 minutes is enough after you get hooked by one of your 'jokers' at the start, have to run half the course to the pit for a bike and then burn all the matches to get back into contention in only 15 minutes.)

Meanwhile I forget who threw out the idea of parallel courses but that's a great idea to help accomodate the masses. As anon and the 50+ dude noted, Natz is an unforgettable event and for the 95% who don't make the podium it's all about the experience. Sure we could make it about selecting the winner in the cleanest possible way but then Natz would be an invitational tournament held in the Vallco parking lot with 50 competitors and zero spectators. Yawn.


10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chuckie said,
Yeah, the qualifier topic is sorta
lame. At the SS Cross World's up near Portland this November I watched the more skilled and faster racers make their way to the front in less than 3 full laps.
How did THAT happen. The race director did the call ups, THEN he had everyone at the start do an about face... there was no whining.
Carr's mention of Coates ride is just another example of how most (but not all)faster contenders can pull this off.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that too!! What was amazing about those people like Wicks and Craig and Trebon etc that picked their way up through the pack was that there were over 100 starters in that race. Yow !

9:10 PM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

In order for Alan to win Natz from the back, he had to be head and shoulders above everyone that day. Kudos to him for stomping - but sorry that doesn't change a thing - many races are already lost before the gun goes off...

Regarding SS CX Worlds - if you put ALL the fast guys in the back, sure they're gonna make it up front.

Oh, and sorry Dave, I'm not biting.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Coats' ride was impressive. But to use his ride as an example that it's all good with the huge fields and the starting position lottery is ridiculous.

He won again DESPITE having a terrible starting position. That says that he's one hell of a rider, but it does NOT say that the present system is a good one. Qualifiers of some sort are a good idea. Alan Coats and those SS riders used in another example are exceptions to the rule.

Then you have the promoters and officials telling us that good prize lists are somehow a bad thing. That the racing is better with poor or low prize lists. What ?! Gimme a break. Everybody wants the promoters to make a profit. That way they give us races to race. Simple. But pleeeaaase don't tell me that low or non existent prize lists are somehow a good thing and make for more aggressive racing. That's a joke, nobody believes it, and the fact that this subject is brought up over and over proves that there just might be a better way.

Instead, why don't promoters try a couple of things? First, offer some really good prize lists at a couple of your races without raising fees. Good prizes for all classes. Let everyone know there's really good prizes to be won. Afterward, use your registration info to ask all the riders if they liked the better prize lists. Also, ask them what they, the riders who give you money every week would like to see at your races. Get their input and put it to use.

The result just might be a better race experience for everyone and it just might put more money in your pocket. Hard to argue with that, eh?

8:21 AM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

I would love to see regional qualifiers and I'd love to see if it could be done - I'm just a little skeptical about implementing the process especially given how short the season is. Casey says qualifiers would need to be completed 6 weeks before Nationals - that means they would have to be wrapped and tally-ed up by the end of October. That's a tall order, I think, especially if you want to have more than one qualifier...

And yes, Casey, I do think that spectator turnout is largely racers along with their friends/siblings/etc. I think that part of the allure of going to nationals for many is for the experience and shutting them out at the regional level might change the nature of the event altogether. I know many of those that are there just for the experience are also the most hardcore fans.

Perhaps a hybrid solution is best - regional qualifiers to choose, let's say, up to 50 riders, plus open registration for a single qualifying heat that would allow 20-ish riders to advance to the finals.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

As a rider who had to qualify his way into Jr nationals I can tell you that it made nationals a much more meaningful experience exactly because i had to earn my way into the big show.

There could still be plenty of opportunity for people who don't/can't qualify for nationals to be part of the experience. There is no reason why the B events should require qualifying. Also you only really need qualifying for those categories that had about 100 riders this year. That means that you are really only looking for qualifying for the elite men and women and the younger master men ( up to about 45-49 I believe). All the other categories could still be come one come all until they start getting fields of 100 +.

I don't think you would really need multi qualifying events in any one region. Let's say you want to have about 75 riders in the championship race. You would probably want to qualify about 90 riders with the realization that some who qualify will not go to nationals. Let's say there are 10 regions that hold qualifying races. You could take the top 6 from each regional race this gives you 60 riders. Now take the defending Champ ( it they are eligible) For elite men you would probably want to take the top 10 in UCI points and anyone who is in the top 10 in the USGP who isn't in the top 10 in UCI points. You could then have 10-15 additional riders who qualify via a coaches selection or via a special Cross selection committee. These 10-15 additional selections would help cover those riders who should be at nationals but had problems in their regional qualifying event. The above system would make it pretty unlikely that a truly deserving rider would get shut out of nationals. For non-elites where you don't have UCI or USGP points to help choose riders you can use previous national results or go deeper in taking riders from the regionals.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another possibility is if you don't like the Nationals process.....don't go. As long as there is money to be made, it will be the most important factor in putting a race of that size on. This is America and capitolism rules. There is nothing wrong with that but it is the reality of it all. The only thing that needs qualification here are why someone would go through all the hassle of going to a Nationals race then bitch about it.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't exactly agree with the wording on the following petition, I signed it in hopes that it will cause someone at USAC to look for improvements at championship events.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correct URL

10:54 AM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

thanks for the link to the petition.

Katie Compton (signee #122) weighed in on this page with her own take on a contentious issue:


12:07 PM  
Anonymous Montel said...

Why exactly are there "Non Championship" events at Nationals anyway...???

And Katie Compton's comment is interesting...So are Andy JM and Justin Robinson sandbaggers? What about some of those other elites racing masters races - As a side note I never saw Marc Gullickson chasing Masters titles even though he was plenty old enough - and I don't think the McCormacks did either...

I can certainly see no argument with riders who race masters events after they "retire" like Ned Overend or Knapp.

There are rules that if you are race an elite UCI World Cup Moutain bike event then you can't race Masters Worlds - maybe something like that should be implemented for Cyclo Cross...

Oh and why are fast pros like Trebon, Wicks and Decker racing Single Speed Races - I used to be able to win them, but now I can't because good riders race them...Damn that sucks! Oh well. I can't hit a golf ball either...

I remember Jim Crompton's remarks at Napa CX Nationals - after pulling many riders in the Masters fields - saying all he needed was the top 3 finishers. Is that fair?

My Solution? Move Nationals to Mid January 2-3 weeks before worlds. Qualify riders based on the districts, plus top 10 in national series like USGP. Add in additional slots for series winners that the District Rep assigns ahead of time - like the NorCal cup or Bay Area Prestige series, and then offer a major regional qualifier or last chance qualifier somewhere along the way.

How about categories - we all have cross categories on our licences (even though we ignore that here in NorCal for good reasons), what about Cat 1's only qualifing - so that riders who want to race Nats must upgrade by winning races just like all other racing categories...

3:07 PM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

Ok, I went to the rulebook because I was curious.

Basically it boils down to that riders that are defined as "Elite" cannot compete in Masters Nationals. From the rulebook:

1A29. An Elite rider is one who satisfies any of the following conditions:
a) has a racing age of 23 to 29,
b) has a racing age of 19-22 and is a member of a UCI Pro team,
c) has a racing age of 30 years or older and has been a member of any UCI Team at any time in the current year,
d) has a racing age of 30 years or older and has competed in any elite UCI World Cups, World Championships, Pan American Games, Pan American Championship, or Olympic Games within the current calendar year.
Riders who are classified as an Elite rider per part d) above are classified as such only in the discipline in which they competed.

The reason why most of the over-30 fast guys don't do Masters is because of (c) above.

And Mark McCormack did race Masters Natz 35+ this year - he got 2nd to Brandon Dwight. Apparently he was not on a UCI Trade Team this year...

2:40 PM  
Blogger Dave Carr said...

Back in 2003 I raced the 30-34 at Portland and the race was about to be won by Travis Brown -- until they invoked that rule and pulled him off the course in mid race.

Jim Crompton's comment is classic -- and seems to candidly reflect the USAC point of view. In their view the purpose of championships is to obtain three names for the record books. The rest is just fun and games.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, interesting. I have a question though. What is the definition of a UCI team or UCI trade team?

8:47 AM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

I notice people use the the expression "elites racing masters" - as if they don't belong in the masters fields...

Isn't it the other way around? Once you're "of age", you are a master, and if you *choose* to race elites, then aren't you a "master racing elites"? Just because you choose to race elite, does that somehow magically shave years off your age?

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO, master-aged riders, actually DO look younger AND race as fast as the mid pack younger elite.
so in a sense, yes, it does shave years off your percieved age.
think of it as something like the peter pan factor in cross.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous elite/master/master/elite rider said...

In response to Funkdaddy's comparisons and explanations regarding "masters racing elites" or "elites racing masters" I feel I should put my two cents in and offer a little insight.

To compare "masters" with "elites" is like comparing apples and oranges. "Masters" is a category or description defined solely by the chronological age of the rider. "Elite" is a category or description defined solely by the level of ability as defined by USA Cycling. The "elite" definition comes about through reported results and by adhering to rules and regulations regarding non-age related categories.

Therefore, "masters racing elites" and "elites racing masters" are basically the same thing. "Masters racing elites" means that the rider first MUST BE of a certain age (master) and second, MUST BE of a certain non-age, ability related category (elite). "Elites racing masters" means that the rider first MUST BE an elite and second, MUST BE a master. In other words, a "masters/elite" rider can race in either category because the term implies that the rider is first of masters age and second, is an elite. An "elite/masters" can race in either category because he or she is an elite and also of masters age.

In the end, the difference in the two descriptions is not in the actual descriptions themselves. Instead, the difference lies in the context in which either description is used in the course of a discussion.

Ok then. Clear as frozen KC mud? Hope so. I need to get out on my bike because my brain now hurts from all that thinking.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous elite/master/blogger/blogger/master/elite said...

Wow, that was a thread killer.

8:44 AM  

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