Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recommendations For WCA Cyclocross

For a moment, let’s forget about today’s debacle at the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships in Austin TX. If you haven’t heard the news, the championships were postponed until Monday after Austin’s parks department raised concerns about the damage the races were causing at muddy Zilker Park. The show will go on tomorrow … albeit without some of the players.

This evening I would like to focus on the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2015 season. We are just three weeks away from the year-end party for the 2014 season, so now is a good time to start the conversation about the changes we would like to see. I have some ideas …

Give us points for the Trek CXC Cup. It's the biggest cyclocross race in the state, and the WCA wisely refuses to schedule series events on the same weekend. But is there a way to reward series riders for their Trek CXC Cup performances? The Iowa series counts Jingle Cross Rock ...

Fix the registration process. Pre-registering should benefit both the racer and the promoter, but for the racer it’s usually a better deal not to pre-register. Our fields don’t fill up, so you are not going to miss your chance to race. By pre-registering you lock yourself into a non-refundable commitment that in many cases—thanks to USA Cycling’s service charge—actually costs you more money than in-person registration. Everyone needs to check in at the registration desk anyway, and sometimes it’s actually faster if you’re not pre-registered! Is WORS-style series registration a possibility? Would more racers pre-register if they could buy into the entire series with a single discounted fee?

Standardize the call-up criteria. No one should be able to buy a call-up by pre-registering. That system can place slower racers ahead of faster ones, leading to unnecessary dangers in the early moments of a race. In 2014, some races based call-ups on pre-registration (and, by extension, on USA Cycling’s flawed race predictor) and some on series points, while others didn’t do call-ups at all. Pick one standard. I recommend series points, which generally will reward those who perform well consistently, and at worst will reward those who most frequently support WCA events. When calling a rider to the starting grid, use the rider’s name and number. Riders and officials don’t always recognize each other’s faces, and I have seen people taking advantage of their anonymity by occupying starting grid spots they didn’t earn.

Standardize podium times. Podium presentations should be part of the published schedule for each event. Give the officials enough time to score the race properly and to resolve any disputes. Pick times that don’t conflict with other races in which the riders might be expected to compete. For example, don’t schedule the Cat 4 Masters podium during the Cat 4 Open race.

Standardize number placement. I would rather show up at the race venue with two numbers already pinned on my jersey than to have just one number about whose placement I was unsure. Many racers care about number placement—if they didn’t, they wouldn’t ask about it days ahead of the event. It’s an easy “win” for the WCA to establish a standard that applies at every race in the series.

Brag about yourselves! Race promoters, if you have special amenities like flush toilets, heated changing facilities or a bike wash, then say so! Those features are hugely attractive to racers and belong on your flyer and your Facebook event page and/or website.

Keep everyone in the loop. Recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere. What happened to the 2013 racer survey? Its findings were never shared with us. Will there be a survey to wrap up the 2014 season? And don’t wait until August to publish the 2015 schedule! Even if you can’t publish the entire schedule at once, get the dates out as soon as you know them.

These are not earth-shattering changes; they’re little things that really add up. What sets a “series” apart from a loose collection of races is consistency. That’s what I want most of all: a set of standards whose execution is so routine that all I really have to worry about is my performance on the course.


  1. Wow Dave! All good points. Many of these would improve the operations of road races as well. I'll have to see where to make appropriate suggestions out here with NCNCA.

  2. greetings - all good comments. Can't make any promises because the WCA CX Committee has a 1 year tenure.

    Trek CXC doesn't follow the WCA race day schedule nor the category design. I believe that's a result of being a UCI race.

    Regarding prereg - promoters like it and it works very well especially for the morning races. Racers did not seem to mind. We made USA Cycling ranking a second criteria for call ups. We did not succeed at all the events.

    I agree the podium thing needs work. I think it has improved in 2014 (thanks to Rich Weiss delivering and assembling the WCA podium to each event). A podium time schedule for the Series might work.

    Number placement is decided by the Chief Referee day of the event. It's based on the finish line logistics. I understand the number thing (especially if you wear a skin suit)- maybe there's a way?

    Promoters are humble.

    We did not publish the 2013 survey because the questions were not structured all that well and the data was not that easy to cipher. We learned a lot about how to ask survey questions.
    A 2014 survey is in the works.

    Consistency is crucial and something we strive to accomplish.

    Thanks for supporting WCA CX
    Jerry Pearce
    WCA CX Committee Chairman

    1. Thanks for your reply and for the work you do for the WCA. Allow me to explain the problem with USA Cycling’s race predictor. It is particularly acute for Masters. Let’s say you’re a Masters racer who typically finishes in the Top 5. There’s one guy against whom you have a perfect head-to-head record. You don’t just beat him, you usually lap him. But his USA Cycling ranking points are comparable to yours, perhaps even better. Why? Because unlike you, he also does the open/elite race and the singlespeed race. He’s not competitive in those races, but by racing against a larger field that contains more high-quality riders his ranking points improve. There’s just one point value per rider, and when it is used across multiple race categories it fails to reflect a rider’s performance in any single category. A dominant Masters racer might be hopeless as a singlespeeder but still get call-ups on the strength of his Masters results. WCA points, on the other hand, are specific to the category in which they are earned.

  3. I'll also add that we have 16 races in the series, and every race is part of the championship points race. It's almost impossible to compete for an overall title - and I think that hurts attendance. Especially since we have races in the MKE and Madison area in a a single weekend. It's quickly becoming a Madison crowd and a Milwaukee crowd.

  4. The CX Committee understands that 16 is a lot of races. The bottom line is that a race not in the Series draws way fewer entries. I am not saying this will happen but, we have been working on a "mini Series" inside the Series. Please visit the WCA CX blog.

    1. Jerry, do you mean or some other site?