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)