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 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:


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.


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.


Unknown said…
This is fantastic, I want to give you a hug.
AlanAtwood said…
This is what you get when you look just at the numbers and nothing else. There's only one solution here, (A).

Putting men and women on a course at the same time is ultimately going to make it that much harder for one to score (as proven by the fact that they pulled riders). So for me, (B) and (C) aren't even worth consideration. 136 riders on a course is not a problem (especially given the lap times), and with those guys you can still pull and should have 5 15-16's and 17-18's on the lead lap and have the winners pose. And it's much easier to keep track of 2 fields instead of 3.

Yup, a travesty it was. Just like happen to the older masters men a few years ago in a multi-field race, at least one eventual national champion was pulled from the race.
Alison Mittelstadt said…
This situation was absolutely farcical, unfair and unconscionable. Not to mention discouraging, embarrassing, and dangerous. No attention was paid to the female finishers whatsoever. Need I point out that there were more elite women signed up for US Nationals then elite men? In MABRA we often see larger women's than men's fields. Junior women deserve better...both on the national and the UCI level (where are the Junior and U23 Womens' categories at Worlds?)
e-RICHIE said…
Great read atmo.
Colin R said…
Alan, I agree. Choice (A) makes the most sense for many reasons. The giant 40-44 masters field earlier in the week proved that 150 riders on course was not outside "acceptable use" of the course -- if it was, the field limit would have been lower, right?
Unknown said…
I echo Molly's comment. Hugs for Colin.
Ksb said…
Not to mention the fact that the Jr Women 15-16 race was meant to be a 35 minute race!
joe rodrigues said…
Colin, I enjoyed reading your post. As a father of a pre-teen daughter, I can imagine how disappointed the girls were. Maybe it's time racers (both pro and amateur), promoters, and cycling clubs reconsider their unwavering support of USA cycling.
Unknown said…
Your writing is fantastic and USAC can suck it.

Not only did they completely disenfranchise an entire group of teenage girls in a sport that should be welcoming to any and all, but they just sent the overarching message to every single USAC membership holder that A, women don't matter and B, despite paying the SAME AMOUNT FOR OUR LICENSES, we will never be equal. Thanks, USAC... Way to send the message home.
. said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
PJ Brownell said…
Spot on. Thanks for posting this, Colin.

My perspective is that of a (female) women's cycling director of one of the larger cycling clubs in New England and I work at a bike shop. One of the realities I have come to realize as a result of my experiences performing my jobs is that your (Colin's) opinion as a A) Male B) Outspoken & experienced etc. male cyclist and C) Male! means much more than anything I can express as a A) Female B) Not outspoken but experienced female cyclist and C) Female!. As much as that sucks, I'll take what I can get and latch on to it. So thank you for saying what you have. Because it's true and it's helpful. And it's good to see when people give a shit about stuff like this. I'm sure to most it seems trivial but it's important to a lot of us. I hope. I hope it's not just a few of us who care!

Side note: The biggest travesty of all of this is that I see ## capable young women walking away from the sport because of some silly decision which could have easily been avoided. And in five years I will be sitting here scratching my head wondering why I can't get women to join my cycling club...

Build it and they will come? Perhaps.
. said…
Larry Grossman said...
this is a very interesting read. Information I was not aware of. Thank you for posting this.
jeff said…
Yep. That's an entirely accurate and informed piece. That, after those families went deep to stay another day.
It's a travesty in a large pool of travesties at that event, and we are honing in on the details when we need to fix the problem.
Thank you for the thinking, Colin.
Unknown said…
Totally disgusting

The right thing to do here at the very minimum is to comp next year's Nationals entry fee and their racing license.
rpecot said…
Embarassing. Thanks for a great dissection of events.
bikenerd said…
All of those 15-16 year old women should get free USAC memberships for life. Because if they don't, why would they ever want to race a bike again?
Anonymous said…
I saw the schedule Sunday, and predicted this exact outcome. Sad, but not a suprise.

Oh well, they can just try again at worlds, where they have junior and U23 fields, right? Oh wait..
David Smith said…
Disappointed as a Sunday (only) spectator but particularly so for the affected racers.

Of all of the blame to go around, it seems like the lion's share should go to USAC.

Doesn't the national sanctioning body know and plan for these sorts of contingencies?
Unknown said…
Short-sided, nincompoop thinking is why this happens. PRO riders should totally get a good race, but not at the cost of the future PROs. We need more racers, not higher quality races for the current PROs.
Anonymous said…
Commissaires need a massive reprimand here as this is not how you run categories.

When you have two separate categories on course simultaneously - doesn't matter if it's Elite Men and Under 15 Girls simultaneously - the progress of one or the other race *never* gets to affect the other.

If the U15s are getting lapped by riders in a completely separate race, *tough luck* - they stay on course until it's affected by their own race. It's as simple at that, and it's not rocket science. Futhermore, once the lead rider is on the last lap, you don't pull riders (because they now have clear track and can't affect the lead of the race anymore) - which appears to be the second mistake made.

Sadly, I've found it pretty common that some Commissaires just make up their own rules.

I should also point out this wouldn't be USACs fault - it would be the fault of the UCI-accredited President of the Commissaires Panel ("Chief Commissaire") - who in ideal circumstances wouldn't even be from the USA. We get the same thing with our National federation/race organizers getting blamed for decisions that the UCI-appointed Chief Commissaires make, and we have absolutely no control over their mistakes or bad decisions.

-An anonymous commissaire from another national federation.
Anonymous said…
This is depressing. Why do I even bother racing? Why do I give everything I have to a sport that doesn't give a flying fuck about me? What is wrong with me? A normal person would not keep doing something after getting repeatedly shit on. Maybe I need to see a therapist.
Anonymous said…
Like the other anonymous, I saw this coming.

There was a similar problem in KC severa (6?)l years ago. Some of the boy10-12 racers were allowed 3laps like they were told on the start line. Others were only allowed to do two laps. And no they weren't lapped. As ask Gage Hecht and Gavin Haley. They were there.

Cyclocross is cruel enough on its own. Incompetent officiating pushes it over the top.

Robin Dunn said…
Thank you for posting this. As a female racer, I saw many inequalities in racing this year among female and male races. Frustrating but I appreciate that others support us and voice their opinions.
perhaps the biggest travesty of the weekend. how could anyone look at that schedule and think this was going to be a good idea.

when i looked at the results, i hoped the kids that got one lap was a mistake... that's truly awful...

very good write up. wish this had actually gotten more attention...

A.J. said…
I just want to cry. I know, I know, there's no crying in cyclocross but I'm a fan, a spectator, so I can cry if I want to. I tuned in to watch the MONDAY race in hopes of seeing the junior girls I know and have cheered for throughout the fall here in New England. I caught a quick glimpse of the start, but then only brief camera shots through the race (so I'm irritated at the televised coverage as well, but at least the girls were covered. I mean, if the race was held on Sunday as scheduled I wouldn't have seen them at all because they wouldn't have been racing with the boys. Sheesh.) And then I waited ... and waited ... and waited to see the winner and others cross the finish line. Saw the 17-18 winner but not a single other girl, and certainly not "my" girl. And didn't see "my" 15-16 racer at all, and she frikkin' WON the thing.

I'm not a racer. I know very little about competing in this sport except what I've learned from the racers in my life (my spouse and many friends). But I've spent a lot of time at the races photographing the women, girls, men and boys (notice what I did there?) and I care deeply about whether they are all getting a fair shake. I am appalled about Monday's race and what happened to "my" girls.

What to do? How to make enough noise to make this change? Would a petition to USA Cycling stand any chance of being effective? Sign me up.
Anonymous said…
For years women were given no other option than to race with junior racers in the same race and may who are lapped immediately with no concern for how that might affect woman's racing. When the tables are turned and the opposite gender is the perceived as being inconvenienced women again have to be the ones to compromise. bullshat.
MB said…
Fantastic, concise analysis, Colin.

And while racing only one lap most certainly discouraged the young ladies racing, I would suspect this outcome discouraged their parents even more. These parent may no longer be willing to pay to bring their daughter to nationals again--even though she may want to attend.

Double whammy.
Anonymous said…
This is ridiculous!!! It is tough enough to get women onto this sport and even tougher getting them to enjoy it and stick with it. What a bad move!
Unknown said…
Colin, thank you for writing this and for not letting this unacceptable decision be diminished by the tree discussions.
Each of those young athletes deserved their full race. It is unconscionable to penalize this group differently than any other.
CX has so much to offer to young female athletes - it's shameful that this was acceptable to anyone.
Well written, Colin.
Anonymous said…
Its just another blemish on USA Cycling. I am really finding it hard to support them - there are good people involved with it but it leadership always seems to lead them into poor decisions.
The circumstances were well beyond the racers control and its really sad to think so many traveled so far for that. I hope this debacle has not effected any of the juniors from their future pursuits. The sport is very top heavy in that Masters racing is the largest group. To really hand the junior group of bag of dog crap for their national championship can only harm their future participation.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for writing this. That was a very unfortunate choice by USA Cycling, one of many this year. How can we turn this around?
Colin R said…
Hi AJ -

Just wanted to take a moment to stand up for the folks at BTBTv who did the live coverage. I was actually really impressed by how many shots they got of the 17-18 women throughout the race-- With 100 kids on the course at once, spread across 3 categories, and the girls of both gender mixing together -- there is just plain no way you can expect a producer in a truck looking at 6 screens to be able to follow any race except the front race (the boys) in a meaningful way. So the poor coverage is just a symptom of the idiotic scheduling, not an additionally shitty decision that was made, IMO.

Colin R said…
Anon 8:22 --

I interviewed for a job with USA Cycling about 4 years ago and meeting quite of few of the folks who work there. They were, in general, quite nice people.

The most disturbing thing about the interview process, though, was realizing that the vast majority of staff there didn't race bikes or promote races. The sport isn't a passion for them... it's just a job. Which is why they can be so appallingly out of touch on stuff like this.
cp said…
Just another piece of the ongoing inequality story of women's cyclocross.

The simple fact that women and men race for different lengths of time - an archaic practice rooted in physiological reasoning we know to be completely unfounded - proves that women are a secondary consideration, and begrudgingly compulsory at that.

The highest level of the sport, and the experience is still a fraction of what boys and men are afforded.

The leadership turnover required to right this ship is almost unfathomable as UCI is front and center in propagating a culture of fair experience.

Going back to my video games,
Don Seib said…
Colin, very good synopsis.

I haven't read all the comments so some of this may have been posted.

There was no reason to pull the riders that soon. At every other race prior to Monday, the prior class of racers were finishing right up to the start of the next race. A few times....too close. There was a significant gap in time after the 17-18 men were done prior to the start of the U23 men. It was bad judgement to pull riders that early. No excuses for it, none that are acceptable. USA Cycling demonstrated decision making on par with the Austin Parks department.

Putting the men together and the women together was the right answer. We saw a schedule on Sunday afternoon that actually showed that (not USA cycling). My guess a similar interpretation that I made, because I said to my family when they told me the USA Cycling schedule "that is absurd". Again USA Cycling decision making that was actually sub-standard to the Austin Parks department. They planned it.... Almost every parent I talked with Monday morning knew it was going to can officials not have known it too.

Lastly and somewhat related and not...why is it USA Cycling/Promoters can't get pressure washers in place and staffed at a national event. During the 20 minute, put everybody on the course practice, only 3 washers were functionality. Two more showed and were put in place but full chaos was in effect. We could not get our son's pit bike clean before the start of the 15-16 race as there were hundreds of people in line to wash... Because of the fiasco of putting 3 groups together after...the same mess happened during that race.

I have started a lengthy commentary to USA Cycling as I won't accept a "victim" mentality. Asheville has the potential of being a debacle and with proper planning that is not necessary.

Thanks again for your comments.
Linda Mack said…
Ok this is hindsight, but why didn't this occur to anyone? Start 17-18 female, 30 seconds back start 15-16 female. Then move 17-18 men to the line. Wait 10 minutes or till first female appears toward end of course. Then start the men chasing the women.

duh I think the top boys are skilled enough to thread their way around individual young women.
Gretchen said…
"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." Love, it Colin! Thank you for taking the time to write about this, and write about it so well.
Anonymous said…
2008 KC was quite different. The conditions were what Saturday in Austin would have been,though the races were run. It was painful watching the kids, suffer, not really able to pick up their bike over the barriers crying while they raced! those races needed to be shortened for the good of the kids.10-12's 2nd place, Gage 45:15 two laps, Gavin 3rd, 46:27, and in the 13-14 Logan won, completing 2 laps in 30:18
Unknown said…
AWESOME commentary! Thank you for giving a voice to those who do not always feel heard!
Anonymous said…
Here's a radical thought not previously discussed. Reverse the schedule. Start the juniors first by gender and elites last. USAC pays a lot of lip service to youth development but it was totally ignored. The elites have racked more race laps percentage-wise than the kids. The lesser elite racers could live with having their races shortened by being pulled early to keep a schedule. I have been a USAC official and my policy on "pulling" was too always wait as long as possible to do it in order to give the racer what they paid/prepared for. PERIOD. It's a struggle balancing the schedule against time allowed but the needs of the paying customer take precedence
Anonymous said…
your response is bassically spot on with the challenges from the producers btbtv standpoint. I wonder if in the future their would be a way to bassically create different video feeds that follow a specific "race within a race" while still having the commentary overlaid on whatever particular video feed your wanting to watch. Im not in video production but it seems like it could be possible or at least something they could explore.
Alan Cote said…

I was totally unaware of this, thank you for the summary -- and you really nailed when writing:
" ... and the only one for which blame falls entirely and unmistakably on USA Cycling."
Manny Goguen said…
The only issue I can see with option A is the leaders of the 15/16 boys and girls catching the slower 17/18 boys and girls. And if USAC thinks that is a good enough reason to ruin ALL the 15/16 and 17/18 girls races, just so the 15/16 boys race doesn't have the POSSIBILITY of the podium getting mixed up, I think its time for a change!

This is coming from someone whos brother was racing for a podium spot in the 15/16 boys race.
Anonymous said…
This is so wrong. It's sad. Perhaps we need to make sure ws and juniors get their own race versus trying to cram to many races during Nationals. Do we really need that many non-championship races and an "industry" race?
Colin R said…
Anon 9:45 --

If the schedule hadn't gotten messed up due to #treegate, the fields would have been fine. Having a whole day to run the final 6 races of the event is PLENTY of time. Industry and non-champ races had nothing to do with this.
Spencer said…
just have Brad Ross & the
Crusade Crew, Kenji, and OBRA run the event. They seem to accomodate more racers on race day, sort the BS associated with venue planning, and provide a kickass party at the same time. I'm happy and lucky to avoid the USAC BS that is constantly thrown around the cycling community.
Jess said…
Thanks for doing all this research! Horrible for this to happen to the junior women. But really it happens to women all the time. Take mtn bike nationals this year. All womens CAT 1 races were cut to two laps (the night before the race) while no changes were made to the mens races for that day (who raced before the women). USA cycling says they did this for the sake of "time". So if there is a time issue, why not change BOTH the men and womens races....ANSWER: less women to complain they didn't get to race the full race they were promised. #easytargets
Unknown said…
As a 15 year old girl who was pull after one lap I really appreciate this. If I had know I was only going to do a fifteen min race I most definitely would've worked harder and perhaps moved up a few places
Anonymous said…
USAC needs to be held accountable for such a big mistake. Posting comments are good but this needs to never EVER happen again.
Anonymous said…
I am long time male racer that is married to a former Elite Woman racer. We have both competed all over the U.S. in a few disciplines including CX from the local level to the National level as well as multiple National Championships. We have a very young daughter whom most friends and family assume will grow up to race bikes as well. Of course we will support her in whatever she wants to do in life but after seeing how USAC functions a governing body and how it can very selective with it's support of women and young people in general, we find it difficult to encourage the path of bike racing. We realize that one has to look past obstacles to reach one's dreams. But when USAC continues to show IT is one of the main obstacles in the progression of cycling the choice to become a bike racer easier to make. USAC - NO THANKS!
Anonymous said…
It is sad. That 15/16 girls race had a 52 second gap between rider 1 and rider 2. Anyone who knows cross realizes that anything can happen in that amount of time. What if those girls actually got to race their race? All of those girls did not receive the respect they deserved. They train all year and the costs that go into this sport are not small by any means.
Kristen Beard said…
As a female racer and the mother of a young daughter I want to thank you for writing such an informative post.
Anonymous said…
2 years ago in Wisconsin I remember the girls 13/14 race being cut to 1 lap only. They were informed as they were getting ready to do call ups. The officials said that the men prior to them did not have fast enough lap times so they were worried about being on time for the televised races. The end result was the 13/14 girls had faster lap times but we're only allowed to race 1 lap. What kind of race is that?
Anonymous said…
I am almost in tears, this is so true and has been true FOREVER. I raced junior girls and then throughout college and we were always second class citizens. Our races were often treated as just an add on, an afterthought, a must have just to let them play. Also, all women were always grouped together regardless of ability because it was WAY too much trouble to think of giving us two groups. When we did happen to mix with other groups, we always got pulled. I remember traveling hours and hours to races and if the girls weren't off on time, we all got pulled so the men COULD WARM UP ON THE COURSE! And we wonder why girls don't want to participate. Girls should race with girls, boys with boys and let them FINISH. There should be a minimum amount of 2 laps completed before getting pulled. If you can't go around someone then don't race, you don't have the skills.
Dieter said…
Good analysis and comments. There are some obvious solutions to the failure in preparation & process, and the failures in execution on race day. You've touched on all of them here. Thanks for writing this!
Anonymous said…
Ahh, the USAC Glass Ceiling Barrier Regulations are (still) here!
L Giff said…
I am so glad this article is making its way around within the cycling world. As a fresh cat 2 female cyclocross racer, I attended a couple of bigger races this year in hopes of challenging myself and bettering my ranking leading up to nationals.

I chose to travel to Iowa (9 hours from home) to race Jinglecross. Weeks before the event I noticed that the cat 2 women were being grouped with the masters men, of which there were over 100 already registered. Seeing this was a huge concern, so I contacted the race director to voice my worry about being on the course with said men. He assured me that the course was "wide open" and that it wouldn't be a problem.

Well, let me say that it was a complete catastrophe and major disappointment. Aside from the fact that we spent a large sum of money on gas, hotel, food, bike prep, etc., I was pulled from the 40 minute race 20 minutes in. Mind you, I was in 8th place and was gaining on the 7th place rider and could see riders in front of me beyond that. We caught the masters men within 30 seconds of the start, causing a huge back up which in turn opened a gap from the front group of women. Upon crossing the line following my second lap, a race official whistled for me to exit the course. My first thought was that he must be referring to a male rider behind me that I had just passed, but as he motioned again for me to exit the course I was stunned.

As I pulled off the course, there was a large group of women congregating (who had also just been pulled from the race.) The consensus was mutual- we were all incredibly frustrated. Not only were we denied the right to race a fair race, but the official who pulled us was aggressive and rude. He explained that we were pulled because we would be in the way of the men. That's it. We were pulled from the race was because we were apparently unimportant and inferior to the men.

We didn't ask to race with the men. We didn't want to race with the men. We had no choice but to race with the men. So, when we were pulled because we were in the way of the men, I was completely speechless.
I avoided contacting the race director after this because I didn't want to cause a ruckus. However, I am seeing so many more instances like this occurring and I think it's important to spread the word in order to make a change. We pay the same amount to race, we put just as much effort into our training, and we deserve to be treated fairly when race day arrives.
Colin R said…
L Giff --

That sucks.

I don't know where you live, but if you ever make it to a New England Verge Series UCI race, I can tell you that we have 3 different races for women (UCI, Cat 3, Cat 4), and only the Cat 4 women share the course with another field (Cub Juniors). And obviously no one is getting pulled unless they get lapped by a woman in their category.

Big event don't have to compromise the women's experience, and good officials/scorers don't have to pull lapped riders. We never pull anyone except in UCI races.
ggould said…
Thank you for writing this. The idea that the women's race is just a sideshow to the men's race is pretty deeply ingrained. In the original USAC schedule the junior men, U23 men, elite men and elite women's races would be covered with a live webcast. Conspicuously absent from this live coverage was the junior women's race. 3 races for men and only 1 for women. It doesn't exactly send a great message to our up and coming junior women.
But we DO care about our junior women. Internationally, the U.S.A. has been leading the way in terms of equality. Progress has been made, but there is still a ways to go. That is why articles like this are so important: to remind us to keep pressing ahead. Thanks to everyone who has been outspoken on this issue- the next generation of badass USA women cyclocrossers will reap the benefits!
Anonymous said…
As a woman who races cyclocross in OBRAland, where 200+ female racers in six categories in one field is a normal occurrence, I thank you for writing this. I'm so grateful I get to race in a state and with a racing association that gives a sh*t about girls and women, and treats our results with the same respect the men get.
Anonymous said…
Great perspective and summary.

In that area, light towers and generators weren't an option? Seriously, I doubt that would have been overly complicated to achieve, thus going into a night race.
Anonymous said…
Best thing I've read in ages! Thank you!!!!
I'll be sending an email with a link to this blog to USACycling President Steve Johnson
and the Cyclocross Committee Representative Brook Watts
Anonymous said…
These sexist stagings aren't limited to Nationals. At Jingle Cross this year, some junior women were staged behind junior boys four years younger, so the 13-14 year-old girls immediately had to ride through a shattering pack of ten year-old boys. At many mountain bike races in the Midwest, the junior women are staaged behind the Cat 4 men, so the girls often have to pass two-thirds of the beginning men fields on tight single track. Guess how many fat dudes let a fast 13 year-old girl go by without being a total jerk about it? Not that many.

We (yes, I indict myself here) continually marginalize junior female racers.
ggould said…
Unfortunately, the original BTB webcast wasn't going to include junior women's racing (yet they were airing 3 different men's races). Disappointing that the only reason we got to see any junior women's racing was because they happened to be grouped with the junior men.
Crap like this is what makes cycling in most parts of the US one big sausage-fest. Me, I prefer riding in a group with men AND women. How do we get women riders, though, if women are taught as girls that men's cycling is more important. Personally, I'd like to see some women's races on TV/DVD. Or what about a race that isn't divided into sexes? I'm just tired of women's cycling always being an also-ran. Cycling is cycling.
Unknown said…
Thank you for this! So well written, and it completely describes the rage I'm feeling after watching this unfold on Monday. So...where do we go from here? If a few vocal "tree enthusiasts" can derail a national championship, what can a few hundred (thousand??) angry cyclists do to change the sexist policies of the USAC? Who do we call? Who do we email? Let's make some change!
Anna said…
What an informative article.
The outcome of how this event was handled breaks my heart.
I am not part of the Cyclocross community but I am a part of a community that supports a Cyclocross family. Both mother and daughter, who was in the 15-16 race, traveled from Oregon to compete in nationals this year and our whole neighborhood was supportive and excited for them.
I do not understand the nuances of the sport but I DO recognize idiocy when hearing about a panel of organizers who need to be reprimanded + replaced. I hope they realize their actions not only affect the participants involved but on a grander scale, their LEGITIMACY as a functioning organization to outsiders who are just being introduced to Cyclocross.
To see a whole family partake in an activity and excel in a sport together is rare. To see a whole community build friendships around that family is unheard of. I hope the outcome of how this was handled does not cause the girls to become jaded and give up a sport they love so much. They are so very talented.
My compassion to all of the Juniors in that race.
Anonymous said…
The be honest...this is not really a new issue, women and junior women get the short end of the stick in ALL cyclosports! Smaller prize pools (or none at all), strangely grouped races (very often I have seen Cat 4 women grouped with 10-15 juniors), and the list goes on. There have been many championships (state and national) that have been effected by these issues, so one never really knows who the real champions are!
marco said…
Great points and summary. knowing the schedule was fubared, they should have still just let all the Jrs race their allotted time with that schedule and not pull anyone. those that stayed on monday sacrificed a lot. would anyone really care if they weren't pulled? just let them race.

I race masters now, but racing jrs was my favorite time ever and always will be. Let the kids have their fun and time.
Anonymous said…
How about no pulling of any Junior riders period - why do we need to pull Juniors in races. This is one solution to help the above problem. The schedule was just wrong, but why pull any young riders. The only time a junior rider should be pulled is if they are going to get lapped right at the sprint finish by the leaders and there is a group catching them - in that case they can be pulled just to the side before the line and given a real time and place.

I love to see races with real results even if it shows a rider a few laps down. The whole 80% rule also is crazy to implement for our up and coming kids.

I remember at the 2002 Nationals the chief ref told everyone he only needed 3 finishers and would pull as many riders as he needed on a course that, after shortening the lap, was sub 4 minute lap times.

If you want to have less lapped riders make the courses longer! And make sure the Junior women get their own time slots please.
Unknown said…
The 17-18 women's race could run with the Elite Women. They are together all year and the junior women with a chance of winning are already getting on the podium at UCI races.
The U-23 Men can race with the Elite Men. Again, they race elite men's races all season at UCI races and the top U23 men are on the podium at the UCI races. That would consolidate some races right there, very easily.
The sport has grown a lot. 20 years ago the national championships took place on a single day with 6 categories total (unfortunately, none of which were junior women, so progress has been good). But the sport has grown beyond the point of holding the national championships in a single location, which USAC does not do for road and track racing. USAC could break up the UCI categories from the rest of the categories, ie their cash cow, and have the UCI categories races in January and everyone can race in December. That way we aren't in the same situation of putting so much stress on a single course, and also so a good course isn't trashed by the time the marquee races take place.
Unknown said…
So why not run 15-16 boys alone, all girls together, 17-18 boys with the U23?
Anonymous said…
Great post.

Would be good to post this on the USAC facebook pages. Seems like some good feedback and comments from a pretty terrible situation.

Their actions show that they could purely give a shit about juniors, specifically girls.

Lets work to get things changed. They can't not listen to this feedback when so many people are appalled by their actions.

Tsk, tsk.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the post. My daughter would have raced the 15/16 championship race if not for a family illness. Watching these events unfold from home was maddening to say the least. Two years ago in Madison this same group of girls (then 13/14) were similarly screwed. Because it was determined that the race was running behind their race was shortened to one lap. That was the only race of the day shortened.
Anonymous said…
I really understand how this totally sucks but there is a silver lining. Just a few years ago Women didn't have their own Pro Road Championship. They raced with the Elites and U23. Those events are separate now because the sport is growing. I don't mean to be dismissive. I'm a female athlete and the climate can be painfully frustrating but these sorts of growing pains are a really good sign that cyclocross is getting bigger and bigger is better.
AM said…
Awesome work Colin- thanks for taking the time to post this. As a USAC member, I'm definitely looking forward to hearing their response. Clearly the officials were in a tough and unenviable position at cx nats, but man, what a crappy message they ended up sending to Junior girls. It's a real shame.
Anonymous said…
I love this! I love the fact that people are calling out the horrible decisions that USAC made. I love that people love this sport. I love that someone is speaking out about fairness to women's racing. I love that people agree that this WAS a tragedy for junior women. Now, call USAC and complain daily! I would be asking for a refund, a comp on next years racing license, a free entry to CX Nats next year. There ARE other (and better) organizations to race under.

I hate that the race was even given to Austin. Did no one investigate the venue? Was there not a contract for the use of the park? I mean, proper vetting of the event space would've shown that the 'tree people' have serious clout in that area. They are almost as bad as those tree huggers in Oregon and my state of Washington. They are not to be messed with, hence why the parks department folded. If they were worried about mud and damage to trees, then speak up when the event is being promoted, not when rain hits and there is mud. I've even seen arborists comment on other sites that the 'damage' the tree people claim would happen, was not true.

Screw USAC, do what Oregon (my favorite place to race) has done, and kick USAC to the curb. Show them that good venues matter, that consumers demand they do what they are paid to do, and that at the end of the day the happiness of the consumers matters!

Now, please move Nats back to a place where mud is welcomed and all riders get a fair shot!
Anonymous said…
Although not on the same level, I did a local CX race and the beginner women's race started about one minute after Singlespeed men.

I didn't understand why I got pulled after two laps until I was told it's because I got passed by the two leaders from the Singlespeed men's race.

I was so angry - I didn't get a chance to catch the two women I was gaining on because of this unfairness.
Doug A said…
Thank you for bringing this into the light of day!

My daughter was in the 15-16 field and really feels cheated. We spent a ton of money to be there and remain an extra day to get one lap? The lap times they are sending out are not correct either. They are not subtracting the start time delays. I took a pic of the posted results and the first girl was pulled at 15:42 in a 35min race! With the thick mud on that day, times were affected greatly. My daughter lost 2-3 min trying to unclog her drivetrain AFTER the pits. Anything could happen in subsequent laps and we'll never know.

We knew this schedule was a problem the minute we saw it and hoped that increasing their race to 35min meant they wouldn't be pulling them. Wrong.

I'd like to add that local USAC officials in NC are working hard to attract women and Jrs to cycling. Our JR CX field is growing rapidly, but if National CX events are like this, what's the point? Our kids aren't stupid, they see what's going on. CX is my daughter's favorite discipline and this treatment was pretty poor. It wasn't much better for the 17-18 Woman whose field was basically ignored by the announcers. As second and third changed hands due to a mud mechanical, the third place finisher ran from the pits all the way to the finish to maintain comment what so ever. Just calling out mid pack Jr Men finishing. As the U23 woman't podium finishers crossed the line, they chose to announce the Elite Men staging, 3 times WWF Style. Never acknowledged the U23's.

It's pretty sad, because those are the mentors for the 15-16 women as well as our younger Jr women, and they watched them get ignored. Message received USAC.

I hope we get better at home next year in Asheville. Rest assured we will be talking with our local officials and the race promoter. This cannot continue if we hope to grow women in this sport.
Anonymous said…
Run the Elite men,Elite woman, U23 men, Junior 17-18 & Junior 15-16 as separate races. Cut the distance by 15% which would have allowed enough time to run a 6th race which would have been a combination of the Junior woman 17-18 & Junior woman 15-16.
Anonymous said…
Your "racist grandfather" comment is unbecoming and just as insensitive as the racist stereotype it purports to refer to.
Colin R said…
Anon 4:50

I think my point about what kind of attitudes are socially acceptable changes as time passes is exactly as abrasive as I intended it to be.
Anonymous said…
I've been riding and racing since early 80's. Besides going for a leisurely ride with your honey, this sport and everything in it is a constant kick to the Jimmies.
Get used to it or find something else.
If you have air in your tires, feel fortunate...
Anonymous said…
so, does it alter your view or at least your allegations about sexism that the decision was made by a female chief ref?
Chris Brandt said…
I visited the park late in the afternoon, Sunday, to take photos I later posted to Instagram. I hoped to help inform racers of the course modifications they'd encounter during Monday's postponed event.

I was present while the course marking folks were wrapping up their tape modifications and re-routes. I saw a couple working and many more standing around, drinking beer. I wondered why they hadn't revised the "junior shortcut" taping, which could easily have been done while avoiding the Heritage Tree roots. Maybe that would have shortened the course enough for the juniors to get a more complete, multi-lap race experience?

Maybe the wooden barriers late in the lap should have been kept out for the Juniors too? (I know they kept them out earlier in the week to keep lap times shorter for Masters.) I couldn't figure out why they included the planks for the Juniors, when there were already two run-ups, plus numerous other forced dismount areas due to the mud.

Thanks for the important commentary and article. I hope that this snafu creates increased energy and motivation to further create positive race experiences for juniors and female racers, to ensure future health of the sport. I'm optimistic that it will!
Doug said…
Anon 5:40

Are you suggesting that a women can't be sexist?
re-bop! said…
Another old-timer here.

USAC (actually USACDF) does not care one bit about domestic racing and they haven't for decades. The best you will ever get from them is "I'm sorry you have a problem. It's your problem, not ours."

There's a viable, stable, alternative. That's the same guys running OBRA right now and their participation numbers are huge because they have a great product.

But, you need to tell your local promoters to switch and that you will attend the non-USAC event.

USACDF is never going to go away, but that doesn't mean you have to give them your money.
Neill said…
This is an outstanding post and one I greatly appreciate. I’m going to go back and re-read Velonews and Cyclingnews articles to see if I missed some of these details in their reporting. While it’s difficult to scale one disappointment over others, this is terrible. It’s not your local $15 Junior crit.
Anonymous said…
I support your passionate concern for sexism and agism in this sport, but I do not support your use of rhetoric that is not only "abrasive" (your own description) but inflammatory and bullying, painting anyone who does not agree with your analysis as "you," the other.

I do appreciate your posting additional information that adds to people's knowledge of the situation, but I wouldn't expect too many direct replies from USAC. You have created a charged discussion that will be difficult to participate in. Rather than seek clarification and understanding you chose to present accusations and mandates.

But what do I know, being a potentional cultural dinosaur and all?
Colin R said…
Anon 5:40

The fact that she herself was a teenage girl once upon a time doesn't change the fact that she was made a decision that clearly marginalized teenage girls.

Knowing that she's female makes me think that it was less consciously sexist (I explicitly think girls don't matter!) and more institutionally sexist (when times are tough, we cut corners with the women's fields). Still a sexist decision though, as anyone who thought the girls race was as important as the boys race would not have used this schedule.
Colin R said…
Anon 6:12--

I've already had direct correspondence from two USAC people and both conversations were productive. I do not think they will chime in here, as your analysis of the atmosphere is correct.

I apologize for being an abrasive dick to the supporters of option (C) and calling them old sexists. It was a cheap shot and unfair.
Anonymous said…
I do not understand why USAC pulls racers from a different wave on course with other racers on the off chance that the lapped rider could possibly, every so slightly interfere with faster racers.

It makes no sense to completely ruin someone's race by pulling them just to protect the faster racer from potential interference...What is the worst that could happen to the faster racer? They have to take a different line through a corner?
Anonymous said…
I still want USA Cycling to take responsibility for the mess that was cxnats. While I appreciate the Chief Commissaire and member of the Pro CX commission's responses on social media, both inadequate and both should have come after an official response from USA Cycling. Sure, I want to know the facts (the facts as they see them), but more importantly I want to know what they are going to do in the short and long-term to address the many problems. Saying that they are listening is not enough given past history of not listening. (Having the Chief Commissaire use the word disgrace to qualify complaints doesn't really give the warm fuzzies that USA Cycling is listening.)

For example, the explanation of pulling many of the 15-16 girls after one lap was that they would be running a total time longer than 36 minutes. Yet in the boys 15-16, they let 13 riders finish with time above 36 minutes (last rider on lead lap finished with a time of 40 minutes). And the boys 15-16 were scheduled for 30 minutes while the girls 15-16 had 35 minutes. There were simply too many categories on the course, and they messed up. Acknowledge it. and say what you're going to do to fix it. Stop deflecting and blaming others.
Colin R said…
Anon -

The worst that could happen is that they get crashed out by the racer being lapped and lose out on a national championship.

Colin R said…
Anon -

The worst that could happen is that they get crashed out by the racer being lapped and lose out on a national championship.

rachmavis said…
Thanks for posting this! My daughter was so disappointed when they pulled her off. They did not know their race was going to be cut short. As a mom it was so painful so see this happen to my daughter - in year 2015!

I do hope for the future the USA Cycling organization will step up as a world leader and give women cyclist the same rights as men.
Mama Bear said…
As the mother of 2 girls that participate in cycling in both mountain biking and Cyclocross, I'm honestly not sharing this article with them. Why would I? It would just discourage them. It would make them question if the governing bodies really want girls to be a part of the sport of cycling. Our state, Georgia, just established a middle and high school mountain bike racing league. They are asking, begging the few girls that raced this year to recruit other girls to be a part of our sport. This decision by USA cycling officials does not say to our girls, "hey, we want you to be a part of this sport." This mama hopes this brings about big changes for my girls in their sport of choice.
Unknown said…
This is why OBRA exists
re-bop! said…
, but I wouldn't expect too many direct replies from USAC. You have created a charged discussion that will be difficult to participate in. Rather than seek clarification and understanding you chose to present accusations and mandates.

Haha! You must be new here.

USAC is blameless. Circumstances were *completely* out of their control.

You see, they've never organized a CX national championships before. Not once. They are busy searching for another exec they can pay $300,000/yr to hide favored dopers.
re-bop! said…
Mama Bear and other parents,

Locally, even regionally, you might find some good support, but once you reach National level, it's a pay-to-play treadmill and doping is rampant. The federation is okay with it.

If the kids like riding competitively in high school, cool. Great even. Just understand the healthiest choice is regional competition.

Best case scenario, cycling is a part of developing as healthy, emotionally intact young adults with life skills developed/practiced through competitive cycling.

If competitive riding doesn't suit them, that's okay too.

Best wishes to all. OBRA/NABRA is the way around some of these problems.
Jeff said…
I have known Dot Abbot for 12 years and respect her very highly. I have seen her put in two unenviable situations this year (I also go along to road races in the off season). Nobody here would want her job. In both cases, the least worst option was taken. In both cases, execution was... well...
re-bop! said…

The blame lies with USAC's decision process. Whatever happened in USACDF HQ that made hosting a national championship in a new venue with no test event a perfectly sensible project needs to change, radically.

It won't though. Neither will USAC's actual interests. (Men's road racing development)

Following results online throughout the events it seems like the on-ground production was great until the NIMBY's got bothered. Course was good, even after all the changes.
re-bop! said…
BTW, institutional sexism is a nice way to think about it.

The original schedule had
mens elite was a 60 minute event.
womens elite was a 40 minute event
U-23 mens elite was a 50 minute event
17-18 mens elite was a 40 minute event.
15-16 junior men was a 40 minute event. (get it before it's deleted)

The course was good and hard, especially difficult for the first race. No matter what, riders would be spread out all over the course. Chopping a few minutes off the mens races would not have changed anything.

Given the complicated and detailed rule book full of rules never enforced, there is probably a provision to justify how things went down.
WasORnowWA said…
Yes! Having lived in OBRAland (oregon) and now up in USUCville (WA) the difference is dramatic. Oregon has a vibrant, growing cycling community. WA has stuck in the mud USAC loyalists. WA cross promoters have largely abandoned USAC, and MTB did long ago. Why anyone continues to give $ to USAC is beyond me, especially if they've seen what OBRA does.
timojhen said…
Just adding to the kudos. Certainly has me questioning the messages sent... As a parent and a license holder.

Agree it's a case of "least worst" options, but calling out the subtle messaging and creating this dialog is super important.....
chester said…

The message isn't that subtle. As comments above highlight, giving women's racing the bad deal by grouping with men, then pulling riders appears to be an all-season thing. Nationals just highlighted it.

Selling a 30-40 minute, event then forcing the majority of the field off the course way before the end of the event appears common.

For that to be okay to the consumer is just one example of the or terrible product. I am glad this story is being read by many, but the treatment of women just barely gets this topic started.
Common Sense said…
They knew the 15/16 girls were not going to be as fast as the boys "Common Sense" I'm not agreeing with what they did but it is very common in a 30/40/60 minute cross race for the leaders to finish in less than the race time given if they are off the front. Knowing this USAC should of said 15/16 ladies you have two laps, have at it and good luck. If the Winner finished at 26+ minutes out of a thirty minute race, that is appropriate, she is the fastest in her field. If you also think USAC is bagging on the women in cross, what about the UCI, there is no 17/18 Junior Worlds or U23 Worlds for them like the boys get????? This is a long road ahead were going to have to fight but it is worth the battle. This all would of been avoided if they had just used common sense and said "Ladies you have 2 laps and Good Luck"....

Popular posts from this blog

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Do-It-Yourself March Cycling Blog Post