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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.