Monday, March 9, 2015

Cross Nationals Qualification Criteria: Is It Fair, and Do We Need It?

Yesterday's post touched very briefly on a subject that many New Englanders have the luxury of ignoring:  USA Cycling's 2015 change to cyclocross nationals qualification criteria.

As of 2015, to race the elite race at nationals you needed either (1) at least one UCI point or (2) to be in the top 90 of the ProCX calendar.  The ProCX calendar is "all the UCI races in the USA" but with points going deeper than 10 (I think 20 or 25).

But either way, if you didn't go to UCI races, you didn't race nationals.  Period.  And going to UCI races is a lot easier in the northeast than anywhere else in the country:


There's so many UCI races within 90 minutes of Boston (10), you can't even see them all on the map!

Meanwhile, if you were ANYWHERE on the west coast, you get exactly two qualification chances:  CXLA or Waves for Water, and those could both be a pretty epic drive for you.  (If you're fast enough to get points at CrossVegas, you're fast enough to have a sponsor who pay for you to take a plane the rest of the UCI races in the country.)

As we saw yesterday, Waves for Water and CXLA were both middle of the road C2s, with the last UCI point coming around 220 crossresults points.  But let's not kid ourselves, travel is hard, and cycling is variable.  If you were a 219-point cross racer from San Francisco, it's a 13 hour drive to Seattle or a 6 hour drive to Los Angeles, and if you have an average race at those events you'll maybe get a UCI point.  

Meanwhile, the 220 point racer in Boston gets 18 UCI races within 6 hours to try to bag his UCI point at as well as 

So, I don't actually care if this state of affairs is right or wrong, but can we all agree that the odds of qualifying for nationals if you're on the bubble of getting in are highly dependent on where you live?

Thanks.

The reason the qualification criteria exists is because without it, the elite race is too big and too chaotic to be a well-run championship event.  As someone who was pulled after four laps from the elite race at 2011 Nationals in Madison, I agree with this.  The back half of that race was a bunch of scrubs who were just racing because we wanted more value for our travel dollar.

So, some kind of bar had to be set, and this UCI-race-focused one was the most reasonable one that the powers in charge came up with.  It's a somewhat decent criteria, because if you're good enough to get top 20 at nationals, you're good enough to get a UCI point on almost any weekend, assuming you have two tries.

The people who get screwed here are developing riders who really want to race elite nationals, but they can't, because they don't get many UCI races to try their luck at (unless they live in the Northeast).  Do we care about developing riders?  Should a 23 year old dude from San Fran who rides at the 210 point level be able to race nationals if he wants to?

(For reference, the last guy on the lead lap at Austin 2015 scored 235 points.  So this hypothetical dude is fast enough he'll never get in Jeremy Powers way)

The current argument, as far as I can tell, is "sucks to be that guy, but it's the only way to make the elite race reasonably small."

But what... if there was another way?

Let's look at the 2014 Men's elite race.  2014 is the last year without qualification criteria, and the last year you could race Masters and Elites.

Here's a little graph showing how many races you entered at 2014 nationals vs what place you finished.


Check it out.  All those dudes in the back half of the race?  They raced twice.  They're just like me at Madison 2011:  in the race because it's there, and they already got a plane ticket and a hotel room.

Of riders who finished outside the top 40, 45 out of 57 (79%) were in their second race of the weekend.  You want to keep those guys out of the elite race?  Just make them pick between masters or elites!

And that rule is already on the books.  If you removed the "elite qualification criteria" completely, and just said "pick masters or elites," I bet 80% of those guys would have raced their age group race.  I know I would have.  (Well actually I wouldn't have traveled at all, but either way, I wouldn't have been in JPows way).

If 80% of those dudes went to age group, the field size would be 61, without any qualification criteria at all, and now your 23 year old dude from San Fran can race.  (This year's national champs had 49 starters, for reference)

Check it out for women, it's the same graph:


The women's nationals race was even bigger, with 108 finishers.  53 out of 68 women who finished outside the top 40 were in their second race of the champ (78%), and if 80% of them opted to skip elites due to the age-group-or-elites cutoff then your women's field would have been 66.  (46 women started in Austin this year).

The bottom line is that traveling halfway across the country (or more) just to get blown out of the water and pulled off the course isn't something a lot of people want to do.  But if they're already at the venue, they'll pay another $75 to race a second time, even if they're not fast enough to have a chance of finishing.  Because they love racing cross.

In summary, the elite race would actually self-regulate quite nicely using just the "age-group or elites" criteria, and I think you'd see field sizes in the 60s.   Most of the field size reduction between 2014 and 2015 would have happened even without a qualification standard framed around a UCI series that is inaccessible many racers.  

Additional hypothesizing for people who really really think Nationals should be a small race:


If for some reason 60-ish starters at Nationals is too many, you could always try making Cat 1 mean something for the first time in cyclocross history, by restricting the race to cat 1 only:  this would have excluded 34 men from 2014 Nationals and a whopping 55 women.

(Obviously some of the cat 2s would upgrade, but this would send the "this is a super fast non joke race" message -- I know that I personally would not have tried to get a Cat 1 cx upgrade in 2011 to race Nats)


Sunday, March 8, 2015

2014/2015 US UCI CX Season Race Quality Analysis

You know it's gonna be a nerdy post when the title is that dense.

I've spent the last month trying to pretend that I'm not delaying recovery from this IT band injury by cross-country skiing on the weekends, but it's time to face the facts, if it hurts I shouldn't be doing it, period.  So this weekend instead of exercise I'm looking at databases!  Wheeeee!

Paul Boudreau emailed me about two months ago, asking for some information on how a UCI 'cross race going from a C2 to a C1 affects the quality of the field.  Obviously it was a tough enough question that I ignored him for a good long while, but I finally got going on it yesterday, and here's the results.

For those not in the know, there are two tiers of UCI permit that a cyclocross race can have:  C2 or C1  (or World Cup, but those don't exist stateside... yet).  The practical differences between the two are in the prize list and UCI points awarded:

 -- a C2 pays the men a total of  €1583 (women €1015), while a C1 pays the men €6677 (women €1583... yeah, that could be another post entirely).
-- at a C2, first place is worth 40 points, and 10th is worth 1 point.  At a C1, first is 60 points and 15th is one point
-- for UCI world rankings, only the best 5 C2 results and best 6 C1 results are counted.

The last bullet point is actually a huge motivator for the top guys to travel to every C1 -- there's only seven C1 races in the country, but there's 37 C2s.  So if you race a lot of UCI races, it doesn't take long to have five good C2 results on your record, after which C2s stop being very attractive to race in.  Meanwhile with a maximum of seven chances at your six C1 scores, every C1 "counts."

So that's why folks who are real pros go to every C1.

Let's look at how "hard" each UCI race in the US was this year.  For our purposes, "hard" means "how good did you have to be get predicted 10th on the crossresults race predictor?"

Note that this actually ignores how hard the race turned out to be -- maybe every single top rider got hit by a meteor and a Cat 3 won.  But we didn't know that was gonna happen when we were preregistering and making travel plans -- so we're looking at start list speed here, not finish list speed. 


Blue races are C1s, red races are C2s at the same venue as a C1, and green races are C2s.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the fastest race in the US was CrossVegas, which featured a 1-2 finish from Sven Nys and Lars Van Der Haar, as well as Jeremy Power's worst finish in the US all year (3rd).

The next four hardest races are C1s:  Boulder Cup, Cincy3, Derby City, and Ellison Park.  The C2 version of Derby City comes in at 6th place, and then the biggest C2 weekend by far:  Gran Prix of Gloucester.

Getting 10th at Gloucester is harder than getting 10th in the C1 race at KMC Cross Fest, Jingle Cross, or Trek CXC Cup.  The only other C2 weekend to outrank any C1 weekend is Nittany Lion Cross.

Explanations for why Gloucester (and to a lesser degree, Nittany) draw peak talent despite having relatively paltry UCI rewards are probably some combination of location, scheduling, heritage, media coverage, and Paul Boudreau's personal magnetism.

The graph for the women tells the same story, although the Nittany women's field drops way, way, down the ranks (42nd and 43rd hardest) and Cincy3 After Dark was quite a bit harder than anything that wasn't Cross Vegas (predicted 10th:  Meredith Miller).

The only women's C2 that was harder than ANY C1 weekend race was Gran Prix of Gloucester.


At the other end of the graph, the women's Kingsport UCI cup race only had 14 starters, making it much, much easier to score UCI points in than any other women's race in the country.  If you were looking to bag some UCI points (say, to qualify for US Nationals, or to not have to draw random numbers for the entire 2015 season), a ticket to Kingsport would have been the way to go.

And that brings us to the flip side of UCI races -- while some people, like Jeremy Powers, don't even waste time lining up for C2s the day after a C1, a lot of people are fighting desperately to get that first UCI point.  A UCI point gets you out of the random draw for the next 12 months AND qualifies you for US nationals, AND gives you something to hold over your friends for the rest of your life (thanks, Cary and Kevin).  

So, for the aspiring UCI-point-sniper, where was the place to be in 2014?  Note that this graph is different than the previous ones because at a C1, the points go 15 places, not 10.



As you might expect, Kingsport leads the way by far as the easiest points.

Rather surprisingly though, according to crossresults.com, the second-easiest UCI point of the season came in a C1 race! 

The Trek CXC Cup Day 1 men's race had Shawn Milne and Andrew Dillman predicted for 14th/15th at 238 points each.

(If you're thinking "um, those guys aren't very easy to beat," well, that's how freaking hard it is to get UCI points these days)

Thirteen place here in the results, collecting four UCI points, was Craig Etheridge, who went on to famously complain about all the pros on singlespeeds who beat him at Nationals.   Etheridge entered six UCI races this year, and this is the only one he made the UCI points in, which anecdotally supports the "surprisingly easy UCI points here" claim.

Note how the red bars move left of the blue ones in this graph -- so basically, the hardest UCI points out there are at C2s on the same weekend of a C1.  Or at Cross Vegas.  Or Gloucester.



Once again, roughly the same for women.  Notable differences are that CrossVegas actually drops out of the top spot for the first time, because it didn't draw top Euro pro women, making it "just another US C1."  And the Trek CXC C1 didn't have points that were nearly as easy for women as for men.

Interestingly, Every Mid Atlantic C2 is easier for women than the easiest New England C2 if you count Rockland Supercross as "New England."

Other fun facts -- the 2nd hardest C2 for women (after Gloucester) was Resolution Cross Cup, and the third hardest was Cycle-Smart International.  While Nittany was the second-hardest C2 for men, it was the third-easiest for women.

Easiest female UCI point of the season:  Avanell Schmitz, Kingsport Cyclo-cross Cup.
Easiest male UCI point of the season:  Byron Rice, Kingsport Cyclo-cross Cup.
Hardest female UCI points of the season: Arley Kemmerer, Cincy3 Cyclo-Stampede 
Hardest male UCI point of the season: Thijs Van Amerogen, Cross Vegas. 

Easiest female point in New England:  Kate Northcott, Baystate Day 2
Easiest female point in the Mid Atlantic:  Vicki Barclay, Charm City Day 2, 

Easiest male point in New England: Dylan McNicholas, Cycle-Smart International Day 2
Easiest male point in the Mid Atlantic:  Dylan McNicholas, HPCX Day 1

So you're a scrub looking to steal a UCI point?  Hope you live in the northeast:

Number of Northeast non-C1 UCI races on the calendar: 16  (HPCX, NBX, Charm City, SuperCross, Baystate, GP Gloucester, Nittany, Cycle-Smart)
Number of non-Northeast, non-C1 UCI races on the calendar:  11  (Waves for Water, NCGP, CXLA, Gateway Cross Cup, Kingsport, Resolution)



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Best of Chainstay Cam 2014


I had done a best-of video twice before (see Best of Seat Cam 2009 and Best of Seat Cam 2008), back when I was riding around with a Flip Mino jury-rigged to my bike.  A lot has changed since then, as Flip went out of business and every yahoo in the world has a GoPro now.  The general novelty of "it's a camera!  on a bike!" is no longer all you need to capture the cycling world's attention.

(Seriously look at how terrible this video I made six years ago is, and it went viral anyway)

Anyway, editing 20 hours of race footage into a few minutes is a lot of work, and trying to make it look good enough you're proud of it is even more work, which is probably why I hadn't done this in five years.  But now that it's done I'm like, "I should do that every year."  So maybe I will!

The music is "Wolfmother - Woman (MSTRKRFT Remix)."  Searching the internet for "MSTRKRFT Remix" is a good way to find a lot of tight jams.  And also this.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

US Nationals Junior Girls Travesty Wrapup

Well, THAT was a pretty viral 24 hours.

I want to address, correct, and elaborate on a few things that have come to light since my piece on how the Junior Girls were treated as US Nationals was posted yesterday.

First, I've talked to Pete Webber, who is on the USAC Cross Commission, and worked on the course at Nationals.  Pete also coaches a large number of juniors, both male and female, in Boulder.  From my conversation with him, it was clear to me that Pete absolutely wants the best experience for juniors of both genders in cyclocross, and has put more work into that almost anyone around here, including myself.

Pete wanted to outline a few points in USAC's defense for the events on Monday --

1) Because the course had reached ~15 minute lap times for junior girls, it makes getting race distances correct very difficult.  Ordinarily there are "shortcut" options in the course that can be used to affect lap length, but these were off the table Monday because they threatened Heritage trees.  Pete wanted specifically to emphasize that in spite of this difficulty, the junior race winners - Turner Ramsay (26:12), Emma White (35:43), Gage Hecht (39:24) and Scott Funston (31:00) all did the "right" number of laps for their race time.

They also did a ton of work earlier in the week to get the younger junior races correct with adding/removing shortcut sections, and they nailed all the race lengths at Boulder last year as well.

This is significant contrast to Madison, where this level of care was not taken, and the junior races were a mess due to lap lengths.

It might seem like a bit of a tangent, but the point is:  we're trying, we're improving, and we're getting results.  He's right.

2) Emma White got 30 UCI points for winning the girls 17-18 national championship, which is a race that doesn't even exist in Europe yet is brand new in the US and rare in Europe.  She got these points because of efforts to push the UCI toward gender equality in cyclocross, which have been mainly driven by the American and English racing scenes.

3) While the race winners were doing the correct distances, the weakest juniors were going to be finishing up to 20 minutes behind them because of the slow laps.  Earlier in the week, this might have been okay, but on the compressed schedule it was a risk that the officials strongly felt the need to guard against.  Therefore leaving everyone in the race to finish was not possible.

Pete and I agreed, however, that there's a massive difference between pulling someone after 17 minutes of racing versus pulling them after 40 minutes, or scoring them as they reach the finish straight because the next field is lined up or just started.

Bottom line:  we talked on the phone for an hour.  We both made points that the other had to admit were pretty valid.    If you'd been in the conversation, you would have been satisfied.

Second, Dot Abbott, the Chief Ref posted an explanation of her reasoning for the fields being aligned how they were.

I do not agree with several aspects of it, but want to retract my pejorative of "lazy" in describing the decision making process.  After seeing what variables she was trying to optimize for, I think she worked really hard to create an extremely technical solution to the problem, that would give the podium racers in all four fields the best possible race.

It was still not a good solution, it was still a sexist solution (that doesn't mean she's a sexist, but her decision can be, okay?), but it wasn't by any means lazy.  

However, there are some factual inaccuracies in Dot's reasoning and justification that I just cannot let slide.  I'm a data dork.  Throwing numbers around that are close but not equal to the facts is totally not cool with me.  The rest of this blog post is going to be kind of technical and nitpicky.

Let's look at the reasoning:

The primary deciding factor for putting their (15-16) race on course with the Men 17-18 and Women 17-18 is that the integrity of the podium would be maintained for all categories. The riders in contention for the medals would have fewer slower riders on course that they had to pass, and fewer riders that might get in their way and possibly cost them a podium spot. Any other combination would have resulted in an unfair race for the podium places in this or other categories concerned.
This is the thesis behind the decision.  "Any other combination would have resulted in an unfair race for the podium places in this or other categories concerned."  I don't think this is true at all.   I will agree that Option (A) of "all women together, then all men" from the original post would have forced both Junior Men's field leaders to deal with a lot of lapped traffic -- however I also think I can show that Option (B) ("all 15/16 then all 17/18") would have been better even by THIS criteria.

Note that this criteria has absolutely no ethic toward fairness, participation, or the message it sends about which fields are important, factors that I think absolutely should be consider at the most high-visibility event of the season, for age groups that are arguably the most impressionable in the sport.

Given that we watched the leading Junior Men laps girls on the livestream for the entire race, you have to admit that (1) putting the younger girls in with older boy caused more lapping for the boys, not less and (2) lapping really isn't as big a deal as you might think.  The Junior Men's leaders lapped 30-35 girls without incident during the race.
Given the mandated course modifications, the shorter Junior course was no longer available for Monday's racing. If the Junior Women 15-16 had their own individual time on the course, the outcome of the race and number of laps for the winner would have been the same. Because they were turning 13-14 minute lap times, for the 30 minute race allocation in the USAC regulations this category would have done a total of 2 laps (winning time 26:12) rather than 3 laps (approximately 39:30).
This is correct.  Junior 15-16 women would have raced 2 laps, so seven of them (39%) actually got their entire race in.  However, the race winner thought she was pulled from the race, and the "sprint" for third had one girl sprinting and one girl wondering why the other one was sprinting.  So it's safe to say that those girls had NO IDEA how long their race was.  Even if the only criteria is "give the podium contenders a fair race," this fails those criteria, since part of a fair race is knowing how long your race is.

Expecting 3 juniors fields to successfully share the course at the same time, racing 3 different distances (boys 4 laps, older girls 3 laps, younger girls 2 laps), is a recipe for disaster.  Even if the numbers work on paper, it doesn't in practice.

The 6th place girl from the 17-18 race emailed me, to say that she got pulled after two laps, despite being within sight of 5th and thus in the running for the extended podium.  The race was 20 minutes from ending at that point, there was no time-based reason to take her off the course, and she was less than five minutes behind Emma White -- further proof that coordinating 3 different races of 3 different durations on course at once is impossible.

For those riders turning a slower first lap, in accordance with the way the events were run throughout the week, anyone turning a first lap time that would result in a projected total race time of over 36 minutes would have been pulled from the race after the first lap. [EDIT] This accounts for riders placed 15th and farther in Women 15-16. Possibly seven women 15-16 would have been able to do one more additional lap. Significant? Yes. Worth impeding the races for the podium spots by using a different schedule? Not at a Nationals if it could be avoided.
So basically, they were willing to pull people going into the final lap if they were going to finish more than 6 minutes outside the race window (30 minutes) or 10 minutes out of first place (26 minutes).  Is this harsh?  Yes.  Is this super harsh?  Yes.  Could they have pulled riders at the pit, or the finish straight, so they could still ride most of the lap?  Yes.

But it's also a complete red herring.  The Junior 15-16 Women were on course with boys, and the winner of that race didn't even finish until the 39 minute mark.  Using a time-based justification for pulling them makes no sense, as there was no way letting those girls do a second lap could have affected the race length.   None of them were 80% behind their category leader (Turner Ramsay) after one lap.   They were pulled so they didn't get in the boys way, period.
Putting this race after any other category possible (Men 15-16) would have meant that the Women 15-16 leader had to pass over 20 riders on her first lap.
This is absolutely not true.

First, let's look at what actually happened.

The Junior Women 15-16 started roughly 20 seconds behind the Junior Women 17-18 and 1:20 behind the Junior Men 17-18.  Turner Ramsay's first lap was 14:16.

There were 12 of the older Junior Women who had lap one times over 14:36, so she passed 12 women on the first lap.

There were two boys who had lap times over 15:36, so she had to pass them also.  Turner Ramsay passed 14 people, total, on her first lap.

Now, in the hypothetical situation of her starting one minute behind the 15-16 men, 11 of them had a lap one time that was slower than 15:12.  Turner would have had to pass only eleven boys on lap one.

I have no idea where the "over 20 riders" claim comes from.  Even using the extremely narrow criteria of "minimize how much passing the leaders do," this wasn't the best solution for the 15-16 women.
Grouping Men Juniors (15-16 and 17-18) on the course together with a time gap start would have had a similar outcome, with the Men 15-16 leader going through about 19 Men 17-18 riders on his first lap. This is not what the National Championships are about.
I agree with "this is not what the national Championships are about," in theory.  Ideally, every field would get its own start, and no field would have to race through the stragglers from another field.  

In practice, though, this just doesn't always happen.  Note that the D1/D2 Collegiate women had 41 D1 women start and and second wave of 35 D2 women shortly after.  The D2 leaders hit the course with 41 riders in their way, which is, guess what, the exact size of the Junior Men's 17-18 field.

So boys starting behind 41 boys aren't what Nationals is about, but girls starting behind 41 girls is exactly what National Championships is about, apparently.


All that being said...

The Chief Referee's plan, while it ultimately didn't work, was reasonable if the only thing that matters is giving the podium contenders a fair shot.  I think I've shown here that option (B), 15-16 women behind 15-16 boys, would have worked just as well and actually better (eleven lap-one passes instead of fourteen).

I fully stand by my analysis, posted Monday, of the message sent to young women by the decisions that were made.  In a world where only the podium finishers matter, the schedule that was chosen is somewhat reasonable, but that world doesn't exist.  

By every other metric (participation, development, fairness, sexism, happiness) the schedule completely fails, and most frustratingly, an alternate schedule existed, that would have been at least as good for the podium racers, while being less complicated for everyone and a far more pleasant experience for the younger women.

I find the Chief Ref's unwillingness to acknowledge the hardship created for basically every teenage girl at the event who wasn't Emma White very disappointing.  Being an official and making tough choices under pressure is really, really hard.  Making mistakes is human.  I think a lot of people would have been satisfied with the word "sorry." 

Unfortunately, being unwilling to acknowledge your mistakes publicly is pretty human, too.

See you in Asheville.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

US Cyclocross Nationals Travesty Report: Junior Girls

Note:  if you're a USA Cycling representative or Austin 2015 representative, and want to add a comment, rebuttal, fact, or perspective to this discussion, feel free to email me at colin.reuter@gmail.com and I'll post it here verbatim.  I fully accept that I wasn't there and don't know every issue that may have contributed to the decisions that were made.  There may be an explanation for these events that I am not aware of, and if so, I would love to hear it.
Important Facts Update and Hyperbole Correction - The Junior Girls 15-16 race was supposed to be 30 minutes long, so the 7 girls who made it 2 laps were not "pulled" from the race, they were removed from the course after the finished their race.  Without firsthand testimony it's impossible to know how clear they were on their race duration being 2 laps shorter than the boys race happening simultaneously -- based on Turner Ramsey's quote to Cyclocross Magazine, it was certainly not a straightforward situation.

You also owe it to yourself to read the Chief Ref's statement on the matter before grabbing your torch and pitchfork.

Final Update Here:  http://untilthesnowends.blogspot.com/2015/01/us-nationals-junior-girls-travesty.html

-----

If you've been paying any attention to the world of cycling, you probably already know that Cross Nationals went full-Ice-Weasels and lost its venue on the last morning of racing.

The event was then "saved" by getting postponed to Monday at noon, which left the organizers trying to cram six races into the afternoon.  The noon start time was part of the desperation deal that was struck with the "tree people" -- obviously no one in charge wanted to run all the races in the afternoon.  But that was the deal they got, so that was what they had to work with.

Here's the situation.  What would YOU do?

You have time for five races.

You have to run the following fields:

Elite Men, 55 starters.
Elite Women, 54 starters.
U23 Men, 69 starters.
Junior Men 17-18, 52 starters
Junior Men 15-16, 84 starters
Junior Women 17-18, 23 starters
Junior Women 15-16, 21 starters

Note that "starters" is counting everyone who had to go home because of the date change.  This is based on prereg data.

It was time for some tough choices.

The decision was made to leave the two elite races and the U23 race as standalone events.  This is reasonable, as they are large, marquee fields.

This leaves us with two start spots for four junior fields.

There were three possible solutions to this puzzle, all of which had some problems:

(A) Gender equality!  All Junior Women run at the same time;  all Junior Men run at the same time!
   - problem:  this puts 136 Junior Men on course at once
(B) Age equality!  All 15-16 year olds run at the same time;  all 17-18 year olds run at the same time!
  - maybe a problem?  this puts 105 15-16 year olds on course at once.
(C) Screw it, let's just try to minimize how many people are on the course at once.  15-16 men get their own start (84 men) and then everyone else goes later (17-18 M, 17-18 W, 15-16 W :  96 starters)
  - problem:  18 year old boys are going to lap the everloving shit outta 15 year old girls

Which solution do you think is the best?  Which do you think the organizers (USA Cycling/Cadence Sports) chose?

Who am I kidding, you already know what happened.  They chose (c), because who gives a shit about the girls' race!

And guess what happened -- 11 out of 18 of the 15-16 year old women got pulled at the end of lap one.  
Junior Women 15-16 National Championship Results

In case you're thinking "maybe they got pulled at the end of lap two, but just didn't get a finish time because they were pulled before the line," Summer Moak says you are wrong:

So a bunch of 15-16 year old girls were put in the impossible position of trying to not get lapped by 17 and 18 year old boys after spotting them a two minute head start.  Over 60% of them got lapped one lap in and were pulled from the race after less than 20 minutes of racing.  100% of them got lapped by the end of lap two and were taken off the course as their "30-minute" race ended.  Turner Ramsay raced 26 minutes, thought she got pulled,  and then found out she won the race.


Junior Women 17-18 National Championship Results


Meanwhile the 17-18 girls faired quite a bit better -- they had a smaller disadvantage against the boys (starting 1 minute back) and two more years of maturity.  Five of them managed to avoid getting lapped, and rode 3 laps for a "full" 35 minute race.*  Nevertheless, 70% of this field was also pulled before finishing the race, even though they were being lapped by a field they cannot possibly be expected to compete with (17-18 year old men).

Ok.  So in case it's not clear, Junior Women at US Cyclocross Nationals got COMPLETELY SHAT UPON by the schedule change.  Faced with a tough decision, the organizers decided to utterly destroy the racing experience for the Junior Women, as well as the integrity of the competition -- note that the 3rd and 4th place riders in the 15-16 race have the same time.  As in, they were riding together, and pulled off the course after two laps.  Did they get to sprint?  Did they know the race was ending?  The race winner, Turner Ramsay said "I was so confused. I [originally] put my hands up, they rung the bell for me, I went back to sprinting, and then a lady pulled me."  So not only do Junior Women who bought airfare, lodging and reshuffled their travel plans not matter, Junior Women who are racing for the podium in their own National Championships don't matter.

Protip:  if you're thinking "well that sucks, but what can you do -- choices (A) and (B) weren't any better," you're what we call a "sexist dinosaur."  You know how "everyone" has that racist grandparent they just know better than to talk about Obama with?  That's how your kids are gonna feel about you and gender issues.

Choice (A) would have been less sexist because the 15-16 Women would have shared the course with women, not men.  This is actually the "normal" schedule.  Most of the 15-16 year olds don't get lapped with the schedule, and the leaders definitely don't get lapped.

Choice (B) would have been less sexist because the 15-16 Women would have been pitted against the 15-16 Men.  With a smaller time gap for them (one minute back) and two years less maturity in the men, it's safe to assume that significantly more women would have finished or at least reached a second lap before getting taken out of the race.

Real talk.  I know the Junior Women's fields are smaller.  I know they are (typically) less competitive.  I know that Turner Ramsay and Emma White beat their competition by significant margins, and would have been national champions no matter how many laps were ridden, or how many people were on the course.

THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT OKAY.

The message that was sent to teenage girls with this decision was utterly unacceptable: YOU ARE SECONDARY.  There's no way a girl could participate in what effectively was the men's 17-18 national championship and feel like anything other than a sideshow.   You might get to ride the course, but you're getting pulled when the boys lap you.  Because let's face it, you don't really matter. You're just a girl.

Of all the schedule options, choice (C) was the most sexist.  Without a doubt.  Every other option would have given the 15-16 year old girls an actual race, instead of a competition where every single rider was pulled and the winner didn't know if she won.  Note that men of the same age (15-16) had their race specifically preserved on a day when massive schedule compromises were made.

Even option (C), if they had left lapped riders on the course, to finish their National Championship race, would have been okay.

Seriously, let's think about this for a minute.

It's the National Championships.  You have a massive number of officials as well as a national-level timing company present.  The laps are so slow they are taking over ten minutes.  Without question, scoring and tracking lapped riders is not a problem.

So why do lapped girls need to get taken off the course?

Because they might get in the way.

Here's the thing: tons of girls "got in the boys' way" anyway.  Because when you're getting lapped on a 15-minute lap, pulling people before they get lapped is impossible.  So it's not like pulling the girls is going to keep the leading boys from having to deal with traffic -- it just means they'll have to deal with a bit less traffic (in case a girl would have gotten double-lapped), and maybe the boys in the middle of the race wouldn't have to deal with any traffic (if they can't lap any girls before they're pulled).

So "pulling lapped girls" doesn't even improve the boys' podium race.  The leading boys still have to lap all the girls who then get pulled, anyway.  The end result of pulling 95% of the girls in the race was slightly less lapped traffic for the midpack boys to deal with, and slightly easier race scoring.

That's it.

The Junior Women's National Championship, the one for 50% of the teenagers in America, was relegated to a complete and utter sideshow joke for a few trivial gains, due to lazy, sexist, and appalling decision making.

In the grand pantheon of 2015 Cyclocross National Organizational Mistakes, this was the greatest one, and the only one for which blame falls entirely and unmistakably on USA Cycling.

* Their race was 35 minutes, while the men were racing 40 minutes.  So the men rode 4 laps, but these girls were presumably told on the start line they were racing one lap less than the men.  Emma White posted up for the win at the end of her third lap, before any Junior 17-18 Men had finished.
Also, the initial results show 6 women finishing, but 6th place is clearly a lapped woman who was erroneously left in the race, if you compare her lap times to 7th place (Melissa Seib) who was pulled after two laps.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ice Weasels Cometh Promotion Report

In 2008 I put on my first bike race and talked about how much more work it was than I thought and how it was awesome.

In 2009 I wrote about how I thought the second year would be easier but it wasn't.

In 2010, we added a flyover, I lost the numbers, it got bigger, and it was even more work.

In 2011 we built a bunch of new sections and I was so exhausted it "almost wasn't worth lining up."

In 2012 we bought a flyover, spent a whole day cutting a new trail, and dropped USAC sanctioning.  I was so tired I got lapped in the race.

In 2013, we LOST THE VENUE 3 weeks before the race and basically all of New England helped me put a race together.  I was so cracked by race day, I didn't even race.

If programmers are good at pattern recognition, then how come I didn't see 2014 coming?



We set a new bar for insanity that I hope I will finally fail to clear in 2015:  with less than 48 hours until the start of the event, we lost the venue.

A midweek nor'easter blasted Boston with buckets of rain, and the North Shore even more, and at the epicenter of the North Shore rainfall was Rowley, Massachusetts, where our race was supposed to be.

That pink spot north of Boston is my venue.

Still though, the race was on a hill.  I knew it was going to be wet, but I thought we had some options.  The landowner called me and said it was a mess.  "We'll figure something out when I get there Thursday" was the plan.

This pond near the top of the hill was so full it was actively overflowing down the hillside, 36 hours after the rain stopped.

When I got there, the "plan" turned into "let's talk about canceling the race."  The road down to the parking area was completely washed out, I had to park my car at the top of hill.  The parking area itself squished audibly as you walked around it.  While the landowner didn't tell me I had to cancel, he looked me square in the eye and made it clear that I'd be footing the bill to repair the damage that 400 parked/stuck cars did down there.

We talked about other places to park.  There closest place you could put 400 cars was a mile away.  For a price.  I thought about 500 muddy, shivering cyclists, a mile from their cars.

I told Thom we had to cancel or postpone it.

Thom reminded me he was having a significant surgical operation on Monday, so if we postponed it, I was on my own.

I accepted canceling the race.

Before we gave up and drove home, Thom sent a Facebook message to Chris Nichols, who was "the guy" at Diamond Hill Park in Rhode Island.  We'd talked about checking out Diamond Hill as a venue a few months prior, but nothing ever came of it.  Since then, we'd established a contact with someone who knew the right people -- Chris.

Chris started making phone calls.  Thom and I started driving to Rhode Island.  Whatever, it was worth a shot.

We got there at 3pm.  Thom had described the place to me as "small and rocky."  I wasn't expecting much.

Five minutes into walking around the place I had completely changed my mind.  It might have been small, but it was just big enough.  I made up a course, rode it, made some tweaks, rode it again.  1.6 miles and totally decent.  It was 3:45.  Most offices closed in 75 minutes.  We started making phone calls.

The insurance company re-wrote our policy for Rhode Island.

The portapotties from Rowley got un-canceled and rerouted to Cumberland.

I started hunting for EMTs in Rhode Island.

I redirected neutral support to the new venue.  Thom booked one of our old food trucks (Mijo's tacos) from Providence.

The only problem was that we didn't have permission to use the venue.  We had a guy who said "it will probably be fine, go ahead with the race."  We sent a proposal to the mayor, but were assured it was a formality.

The response I got from the mayor did NOT sound like it was just a formality.  I sent him our insurance policy, changed the race location in BikeReg, emailed 600 preregistrants, and crossed my fingers.

We never did get permission...  

But somehow we put on the best fucking race I've ever been involved with.

Everyone who helped us build course Friday, everyone who helped clean up Saturday, everyone who brought me food on Satuday, everyone who dropped whatever they were doing to course marshal, move a timing tent, or do whatever else we needed -- THANK. YOU.  

Oh yeah.  That timing tent move.  

There's always a bit of a learning curve with a new course and a new venue.  I spent much of the beginner race running around, adding course crossings as I saw how the traffic flowed around the park, and how many people were ducking tape to get to various places.  I got back to the timing tent just in time to help Christin score the last lap.

It was the worst job we've ever done scoring.  Between the speed of riders crossing the line, the bend in the course, and the fact that venue layout made it really easy to preride THROUGH the finish line, we had more missed reads and false reads than the past two Ice Weasels combined.  It was BAD.  

We put the next race on hold, grabbed four people, and started relocating the finish line.

Five minutes later, we realized the new location had no way to stake the tent.  A light breeze threatened to blow the tent away immediately.  We started ripping the walls off it.  The sun streamed in, and now we couldn't see the screen.  The whole time, there's a horde of Killer B masters just waiting for their delayed race to start.   I have never felt such an acute, terrifying pressure in my life.

Thank god for Christin, who took the whole thing in stride and jumped right into scoring the next race on a screen she could barely see, with me holding the tent down every time the wind blew.

That was the only moment I thought the whole house of cards might come crumbling down.  When the beginner results turned out to be mostly right (thank god for CrossMgr), I started breathing again, and the rest of the day was AWESOME.

All the following pictures are by Meg McMahon, official event photographer.  Thanks for reading.

Adam St. Germain drove 4 hours to win a hard-fought men's race.

Seriously, this was the best Ice Weasels race to watch yet.  Jerome led early, flatted, and hit the last lap just five seconds off the leaders.  Adam and Joe rode the whole lap flat out to hold Jerome off, with Adam narrowly taking the win.

Meanwhile, at the other end of seriousness, Russ Campbell had the most impressive cyclocross costume I've ever seen.

No free beer (town park!) meant a lot more food handups.  I was okay with that.  Here Uri Halevi fails to keep kosher.

Mo did what Mo does:  crush the women's elite race and then crush the women's (and most of the men's) singlespeed field.

Meanwhile, her husband Matt raced his first cx race since 2006 in a Breaking Bad costume, complete with baggies of fake (I think) drugs to throw into the crowd.

A common misconception is that Ice Weasels is a party race.  There's plenty of people who race first, party second, and that's exactly how I want it to be.

Chris Nichols jumped into the men's elite race on a mountain bike, without a number.  But he got us the venue so he can do anything he wants!

Fat Bike Cyclocross:  So wrong it's right.


Chris and Paul of ECV have helped us a lot over the years.  Paul's punishment for not making this year's race is having to look at this picture of Chris having fun.

JRA Cycles sponsored the race and designed the jump.  Since they're serious effing bike riders, it was a serious effing jump.  Here, shop owner Brian McInnis proves he has less fear than I do.
  Jump designer and shop employee Will makes getting rad look easy.  It wasn't.
See what I mean?  This is why we have an EMT.

The wind was blowing the lap cards around.  Dan Walker held them in place for a few laps while I figured out a solution.

The first time I've ever wished we had a finish camera.  I called this sprint for Alex (on the right), but if it had been for first place, I'd have put them both on the top step.
Last year, Vickie's angel costume went viral, with over a hundred shares and a thousand likes on Facebook.  This year we had four angels.
This year's viral photo:  Sean Goguen endo'ing on Dan Barrett's custom "how to hop" barriers.  Kid shoulda read the instructions.
I could look at smiling faces on podiums all day and never get sick of it.
This woman is the secret ingredient that makes the whole thing work and I love her.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rules are Hard Part 2: 2013-2014 UCI Elite Race Times, now with real data

Look at this, three blog posts in a week when I should instead be planning a bike race!  It's like 2009 over here!

After Tuesday's post about 2014 UCI Race Lengths, and the conclusion "men's races have gotten noticeably longer even though the rules haven't changed," I was rightfully called out for not using 2013 race lengths as a control group.

So, I started digging up that data, which got Matt interested again, which led to Matt making a really nice spreadsheet summarizing everything.


Here is the "real" 2014 data, which is a bit different than what was tweeted.  The initial data came from "the UCI calendar as far as we knew it" and this data comes from "the UCI results that were reported to the UCI."  

The women's race has been sub-40 five times in 35 events (14%) and the men's race has been sub-60 seven times (20%).

If we assume a women's race with a winning time of 39:XX is actually close enough to a 40 minute race to be within the spirit of the rule (if not the letter of it) then there have only been three incorrectly run women's races this year:

HPCX Day 2 (0:38:20)
Cycle-Smart Day 1 (0:38:16)
Baystate Day 1 (0:34:47)

However the men's distribution still looks quite biased toward the race running long, with 80% of men's events lasting longer than an hour.  How does this compare to 2013?



In 2013, 18/44 Men's elite races were less than an hour  (41%), and the average race time was 1:21 shorter than in 2014.

The women's races were also significantly shorter (2:37 minutes shorter, 43% under 40 minutes), but this is expected since the rule about the duration of the women's race changed between 2013 and 2014.

In summary, I think it is safe to say that the women's rule change of "greater than 40 minutes" has created a bias toward "greater than 60 minutes" for the men's race as well, even though that's not the rule.

Comparing the 2013 Men's race length dataset to the 2014 Men's race data via a Student's T-test gives P less than 0.05, which is to say there's a 95% chance that this change in the year-to-year data was due to an outside factor (like a rule change) and only 5% that it is just random noise, and that the men's race length hasn't actually changed.

The full data is here.

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