Analysis: USA Cycling to Vote on Rule Changes that Will Shape American Cyclocross

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Junior Women, Cyclocross National Championships. ? Janet Hill.

No more fancy carbon wheels or tubular tires for Juniors? © Janet Hill

by Kat Statman

From the USA Cycling Communique about proposed rule changes: “The USCF Board of Trustees will vote on several key issues when it meets in conjunction with the USA Cycling Local Associations on Nov. 6-7 in Colorado Springs. All USA Cycling members are encouraged to review the USCF Board of Trustees proposed 2010 legislation and contact your trustee representative to let your voice be heard on the outlined issues.”

We here at Cyclocross Magazine have gone through this 30 page document looking for the significant rule change proposals for ’cross so that you don’t have to. There are a  couple that stand out clearly and will possibly be contentious issues among USA Cycling members if passed.

To clarify, we spoke with Shawn Farrell, technical director of USA Cycling. He emphasized that there are four potential outcomes for each proposal. The rule can: Be withdrawn; Pass as written; Fail (and get tossed out; Pass with amendments. The meeting this weekend will bring the regional trustees together to discuss and vote on each issue at hand. The trustees are taking feedback currently (email them via links above) and then will work with that info this weekend.

One of the more problematic or difficult proposed rule changes is that of field size. The proposed legislation states, “UR10.13 1J7 Cyclo-cross default field limit – David Miller and Tom Simonson. This creates a default field limit for cyclo-cross races. 1J7. Maximum Field. Entries shall be accepted in order of receipt by the organizer up to the field limit and subsequent entries shall be returned. The maximum field limit in any youth race or a road event exclusively for category 5 men or Category 4 women shall be 50 riders. The maximum field for a road event that includes category 5 men with other categories shall be 75. For other road events and for cyclo-cross events, if no field limit is given in the official race announcement, a field limit of 100 shall be used.”

What does this piece of proposed legislation purport to change for cyclocross events and who might it affect? Possible reasons for such a rule stem from the extremely large field sizes that were witnessed at the 2009 Cyclocross National Championships and many other USAC permitted events around the country where field size in some categories became a problem. For example, as reported on the forums of roadbikereview.com, a poster mentioned that for the Alpenrose Cross Crusade (though this is an OBRA and not a USAC event) there were 100 to 150 entries in at least six individual races held on that day. Participation numbers for the National Championship events and for series like the Verge New England Cyclocross Championship Series or the Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross races is similar. Fortunately, the proposed legislation is not a blanket cap at 100 for all cyclocross races and leaves the discretion up to the promoter when it says, “For other road events and for cyclo-cross events, if no field limit is given in the official race announcement, a field limit of 100 shall be used.”

Juniors: No carbon or tubulars!
Another important possible rule change affects the under 17 Junior riders. The rule takes away these group of racers ability to use both tubular wheels and composite wheels. The added restrictions are, “Effective Jan 1, 2012 the following additional restrictions apply to Juniors under the age of 17 competing in any race: i) Wheels must have at least 16 spokes. The rims must be made of metal – composite fibers (carbon etc.) are forbidden. Spoke covers are forbidden. ii) Only high pressure detachable tires shall be used, with the tube detachable from the tire. Such tires shall be beaded. Tubular tires are forbidden.” Though we are not privy to the reasoning behind each proposed rule change, it seems to be in line with equalizing the Junior fields in terms of equipment advantages. The racing in the Junior ranks is not supposed to be about who has the most money, but rather about supporting and sponsoring a nurturing and fun environment to promote Junior development and interest in the sport.

Singlespeed Championship
For all of you singlespeed racers, there’s some big possible news on the horizon that will have a serious consequence on your National Championship plans. The new proposed legislation with respect to singlespeed categories is labeled as emergency legislation and, if passed, will be effective as of December 2010. Here’s the proposal: “This adds single speed classes to cyclo-cross championships. We want it to be treated as emergency legislation to be effective for the 2010 championships. 8F8. National Cyclocross Championships shall be conducted for Elite men (cat 1-2), and Elite women (cat 1-3), Single Speed Elite men (cat 1-2) and Single Speed Elite women (cat 1-3).” If passed there will no longer be a blanket singlespeed free-for-all race, but an actual National Championship awarded to the best Elite male and female singlespeeders.

No Helmet Cams or Visors
Everybody loves the helmet cam videos that are seen over on the cowbell site, unfortunately USAC is proposing to ban helmet cams with rule UR10.19 1N1. But it’s not like your $200 investment will be useless if it passes, as this rule only bans helmet cams and not bar cams, seat cams, or any other place on your bike that you might place a camera. Sounds like visors are out too: “1N1. Helmets. At all times when participating in an event held under a USA Cycling event permit, including club rides, any rider on a bicycle or motorcycle shall wear a protective, securely fastened helmet that satisfies the standards specified in USA Cycling Policies.  No additional component (helmet cams, visors, fairings) that was not initially manufactured with the helmet may be affixed to the helmet. The structure of the helmet may not be modified in any way. (Policy I, Sections 1 and 2 – see appendices.) [disqualification and a $20 fine for failure to wear or for removing such a helmet during a race. The fine is also applicable if the rider is not racing, but is participating in the event as described below].  “Participating in an event” means riding a bicycle in the vicinity of a race at any time between the beginning of registration and the last awarding of prizes, but does not apply to riding rollers or stationary trainers in order to warm up.” So Todd Wells and Adam Craig could still wear their visors to protect their eyes from all the splatter while riding on the trainer. Consistency in that helmet safety philosophy would suggest that means helmet lights would also be banned for 24 hour races (mountain, cyclocross or whatever else).

80% Rule and Pulling Riders
There are many other rule changes found in this document relating to cyclocross. The proposed legislation changes make it much more clear that the 80 percent rule is not a steadfast rule and it is up to the chief referee’s discretion. Proposed rule UR10.29 5G makes clear what the 80 percent rule says, “UR10.29 5G Cyclo-cross pulling riders – Tom Simonson This amends slightly the new rules adopted by telephone conference call in July. The July rules are black italic – the new section is in red. This makes the intent of the 80% rule clear. The wording about whether lapped riders are to be pulled or left in has been changed to a more neutral form. 5G. Finish 5G1. Unless announced otherwise, riders who have been lapped will be pulled from the race using the following procedures: Before the start of a race, it should be announced whether lapped riders will be pulled or remain in the race. If riders are to be pulled, the following applies: (a) Riders who have been lapped shall continue the lap to a designated location before the finish line and withdraw, under the control of the officials. (b) The Chief Referee may, after consulting with the organizer, impose the 80% rule. Under this rule, riders whose time gap to the race leader is at least 80% of the race leader’s time for the first lap will be pulled by the officials unless it is the final lap. The number of 80% is merely an approximation based on a typical course; the intent is that all riders should be pulled before they are lapped. (c) Riders who have been pulled because of lapping or the 80% rule will be listed in the results based on their position when pulled and the number of laps remaining. The results will list the number of laps remaining after the lap on which they were pulled.”

Fixie Hipsters Need Not Apply
Also Fixed gear bicycles will not be allowed in cyclocross events, all bikes must have a freewheel and two brakes: UR10.18 1M3 Cyclocross bikes – freewheel – Tom Simonson. This makes it clear that all cyclo-cross bikes must have a freewheel. 1M3. Bicycle Types (a).. (b) For road, cyclocross (including single speed classes) and MTB races, only a bicycle with a freewheel and one working brake on each wheel shall be used, except as allowed elsewhere in these rules.”  Just when fixed-gear cyclocross was about to jump the shark!

With this meeting happening this week, take the time to contact your local USA Cycling representative and make sure your voice is heard.  Also please comment below, let us and others know what you are thinking, and keep the discussion about the direction American cyclocross racing is going alive and thriving.

 

 

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28 comments
MarvinK
MarvinK

What I'd love to see as a rule change (especially for cyclocross) is that they calculate race age by the age at the end of the official season.  My daughter is going to state this year as an 11 year old--but because she has a late December birthday, she has to race with 13-14 year olds.  There shouldn't be a rule that puts kids with early birthdays at a significant advantage.

beth h
beth h

Between the equipment rules (for grownups as well as kids) and the growing formalizaton of the SS class, it's clear that USAC has the sometimes uncomfortable job of dividing the funsters from the more "serious" [read: truly competitive] racers in order to get the latter to the international stage with as little fuss as possible.

If that's the case -- and I'm not arguing whether it's good or bad, it's just the reality in almost any organized sport with World championship and/or Olympic considerations -- then perhaps it's time to promote two different kinds of races; one race for the Elites, and another, more affordable option for Everyone Else. The former, with clear regulations on equipment, course design and other details, would separate the wheat from the chaff, allowing the USAC to find the most talented racers and help get them to the international stage of competition. The latter would use a more informal atmosphere emphasizing fun and friendliness, to grow interest in the sport so that growth and momentum are sustained as new participants are drawn into the activity. But cramming everyone into one race day and expecting the entry-level racers to immediately work within the confines of the Elite rules could have a shrinking effect, as more people like Aaron (above) are potentially turned off to the sport.

The argument could be made that, because the sport has grown so much, it can afford to lose a few Aarons here and there. I would suggest that, to the contrary, we cannot afford to alienate ANYone from cycle sport, ever, especially in the United States where other sports and recreational activities draw in many more fans and participants. The entry-level cyclocross racer of today can go on to become not only a higher-level racer of tomorrow, but also a race volunteer, official or mechanic -- or even, if finances permit, a sponsor -- depending on how the activity presents itself to them. And no matter how many racers toe the starting line, races simply do not happen without the collective efforts of everyone else mentioned here.

Ben Suttlemyre
Ben Suttlemyre

As a father who has taken his sons to jr nats for road, MTB and CX, I can attest to the expense of equiping kids to be competitive. I can also tell you how demoralizing it is for kids to have a just good enough bike, when others are rolling two or three pro models and six sets of wheels out of the back of the motorhome. I agree that some leveling of the field could be good..but what do we give up? Which kids are good enough to get to use the good stuff at nationals or worlds? Which equipment is okay and which is too good for kids? If the team gets donated the good stuff for free is it okay? This is a slippery slope that we just dont want to go down. Next thing you know the material of the frame, the wheels, the gruppos allowed are all regulated. Then the UCI starts telling you what can be used or not...Gee 32mm tires anyone?

trail_animal
trail_animal

Maybe most of the regional races in New England will start having dedicated SS divisions...it's a pitty that we're so far behind the rest of the country with this!?!?

Aaron
Aaron

Last year was my first cyclocross season. I became a fan because of the fun atmosphere including costumes and beer handups. My first race I was cat 4. I was 40 lb overweight and came in last...lapped. I'm sure my helmet had a visor on it because I bought an inexpensive MTB helmet. I essentially raced SS for two reasons. I was so out of shape I couldn't get out of the easiest gear and the bike was a piece of crap that wouldn't shift out of the easiest gear. My only tires are 35mm which I'm sure gives me some sort of advantage as I continue to finish back of the pack.
All these rules suck!!! If I would have known about all this crap I may have never tried my first race. I wouldn't pay $25 plus a $10 one day license to be pulled 20 minutes into a 30 minute race. If you want the sport to grow, make it fun and easy on the new guy.
Maybe there should be rules for elite races and the rest of us could go on having fun. BBQ, Beer handups, costumes for Halloween races and helmet cams so we can relive our glory days on youtube.

roadcrossmtb
roadcrossmtb

There's a reason why cross has grown so fast. The more beginner and intermediate fields are open to ALL. Don't limit fields in non-championship events.

With respect to visors, what does "not initially manufactured with the helmet". I'm not aware of any XC/Road helmets that have an integrated visor - they are all to my knowledge clip on. So are those visors to be banned? I think the language is ambiguous. And anyway, why would you ban visors? That's just plain stupid. I don't even think visors are banned for road racing and they are certainly allowed in MTB. I don't get it.

JT Fountain
JT Fountain

This is exactly the direction I've been hoping to see single speed cx move in. For those who worry it'll take the fun and care free attitude out of it, there's always the SS "Worlds" race. I don't believe the majority of SS racers are out there "just to have fun". Hey, I'm out there to have fun, but also to compete my hardest in a bike RACE... I think most single speeders who attend Nats are in this boat...

Andy S
Andy S

Very supportive of the "no carbon wheels for juniors". We have 2 kids in 'cross going to Nats and it would be a bummer to have a kid lose a podium spot to a kid with a $2,000 wheel set when my kid is racing on a bike I cobbled together for $700 so they have something to ride. I would exempt the Juniors racing in Elite events though, and those competing in Worlds. If you are racing in the Elite field, you need to have comparable equipment, and you need to be able to use the equipment in competition to have confidence in it. Also, if you are pro, it is ideal to be able to race on the sponsors' gear.

Ron S.
Ron S.

I like the suggestion of having an Elite only singlespeed National Championship class. On one level, I can see how it might give more credibility to the racers who choose to focus on this discipline. However, I do NOT agree with enacting this rule for 2010 as there are already many non-Cat 1 & Cat 2 singlespeeders who have already signed up. If the singlespeed race is going to be made Elite only this year, then I sure hope that there will be a "non-championship" race earlier in the year as well. It just seems to me to try and rush this in this year...make it a rule for 2011 and call it good.

Despite being for this change (in 2011, no so much in 2010).....I do agree with the comment that someone else posted above: While possibly "legitimizing" the singlespeed category, would it kill off the fun and care-free attitude and in the end, hurt participatation in this category?

Booksy
Booksy

Banning helmet visors makes absolutely no sense.

beth
beth

I am still trying to figure out the reason for banning helmet cams -- has anyone actually been killed while using one in a race, or is USAC trying to avoid filming of potentially ugly scenes that might show up on YouTube later? Either way, it feels like the folks in Legal were thinking waaaaay to hard on this one.

As for Singlespeeders having their own Nats, well and good. But refining and regulating a discipline with such a grass-roots history could kill it for the [majority] non-elite riders who race singlespeed purely for the joy of it. (Or, more simply put: If USAC is going to make it all elite, official, uptight and expensive, why travel to Nats when I can stay home and ride the pump track instead?) I am SO glad I race in Oregon.

David I. Lehn
David I. Lehn

The helmet rule could kill some of the Halloween race fun. Are floppy ears, devil horns, wigs or other anti-fairing additions banned from helmets too?

Jay
Jay

All bikes must have a freewheel...does it have to be engaged? I'm not dumb enough (or smart enough) to ride a fixie in a cross race, but if I did, it'd have a flip flop hub and a free wheel cog attached (but not engaged)

Marc Dettman
Marc Dettman

The 80% rule can be complete garbage if the course is short, if you have a couple of races running on the course at once, or if you have a sandbagger or two running off the front. I think it's more important to make the majority of racers happy to keep the sport growing than it is to give the guys up front a free run. This is the US, not Europe. Getting pulled in two laps before you've even been caught is going turn off the people that are supporting the sport. Will racers stop racing cross if they have to work their way around lapped traffic? No. Will racers quit racing if they spend a ton of dough on travel, training and race fees if they get pulled in 2 laps? Say goodbye to the gravy train boys. As far as the junior racers, I don't think it's safety as much as it is $$. Give the kids a chance - seeing kids racing on 303s and Dugasts seems wrong. Seeing me racing on 303s and Dugasts seems wrong to me too for that matter ...

Andrew Stackhouse
Andrew Stackhouse

What will determine your Single Speed category for qualifying for nationals? If you only race Single Speed at the regional level you never earn any upgrade points. Can Nationals be your first and only single speed race of the year? Should there now be "Elite" and non-elite single speed races at the regional level?

@mathowie
@mathowie

Do tubeless tires count for juniors? I guess it's a tire separate from the rim, but there is no "high pressure tube" inside.

Ron Callahan
Ron Callahan

IF I raced 'cross, if I paid to come to a race and was pulled within two laps, I'd be quite upset. Especially it the gap was due to a mechanical.

One of the guys at the USGP race in Louisville broke a wheel in the first turn and had to jog to the pits. No way that he didn't lose more than enough time to be pulled under these rules.

Tracy Lea
Tracy Lea

The other rule that being proposed is that feeding be allowed for cross races if the temp is 68 degrees so no ref discretion BUT feeding is still limited to the pit area. This is a UCI rule but does this make sense for our races - and is the pit really the safest spot for feeding? should the pit now get jammed with racers racing at speed trying to pick up a bottle?

Lastly - shouldn't we has riders been given a chance to comment more than one week or less before voting? This legislation has been in the hands of the USAC reps for weeks and it has not been posted until now.

erik leaver
erik leaver

I'm pretty sure that the rule about field limits "if no field limit is given in the official race announcement, a field limit of 100 shall be used” has been around for quite some time.

The solution? Work with your CR before you submit your race flier to figure out what safe field limits are. Some courses are fine with 100, some can take up to 150. But others, particularly ones with single track sections or other hazards, may necessitate smaller field limits.

@bikehugger
@bikehugger

How is this face changing? Single Speed champs great -- considering the fields sizes in that category, make sense and no fixes, ok. What else?

beth h
beth h

I'm all for promoting the fastest riders at Nats. That's what a National Championship is for. Obviously now that there's a jersey in play for singlespeeders, USAC will have to come up with a system of points that makes sense. Of course, this will all be done retroactively so that we will have at least one to two years' worth of confusion while folks sort out why they want to race, and where.

As for being "competitive" versus being "realistic", I fall in the latter camp and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Don't look for me at a National championships, ever; I started this game too late in life and suffer no delusions of grandeur. I race singlespeed because it's like BMX for Big People and it's filthy and crazy and oh-so-fun to ride until my eyeballs fall out. Period.

I only worry that, in the quest to further refine SSCX as a discipline, a lot of racers who do it purely for fun -- and with lackluster "results" -- will eventually get shut out at the regional level as well, by the more "serious" racers, who will clamor for increasingly smaller and more selective start fields when they can eventually earn singlespeed points closer to home. What happens then?

USAC and the many regional organizers should be asking themselves how serious they are about "growing" the sport of cyclocross, and what they want that growth to look like. I agree that this rule change could've waited until 2011. I wonder how early pre-registrants in "lesser" categories will be forced to punt if the "emergency" clause goes into effect for this year. At the very least they deserve a full -- and immediate -- refund if there is to be no open race at Nats.

Whatever happens, USAC needs to act quickly and decisively -- and then make a very clear and public explanation of what happens next. Nats is only five weeks away.

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

The category deserves a jersey for sure, but do folks who already registered for the event deserve to be shut out or engage in a last minute chase of paperwork and points? Many regions aren't even USAC areas and really fast guys haven't cared about categories. Largely indifferent on the rule but definitely don't think it warrants "emergency" legislation.

Andy
Andy

So you raced Louisville, too, eh?...

Josh snead
Josh snead

Really? You'd feel better about being lapped and getting in the way of the front of the race? Maybe more than once? Why? If your race is going so badly that you're in danger of being lapped, what's wrong with being pulled (with a finish order!)?

If you're too slow to finish on the leader's lap, downgrade or train harder. If you've had a problem and a mechanical has ended your momentum; well, that's bike racing- no reason to remain on the track, potentially affecting the front of the race.

I'd love to see the 80% rule become the standard for all cross races. The leaders will have fairer, safer finshes without battling through lapped traffic and the riders towards the tail end of the race will have something to race REALLY hard for: the pride of finishing on the leaders lap.

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

agreed, not face changing. did someone mention faces? it will impact the sport, more for some areas and racers than others.

MDet
MDet

Yeah I was there. Pretty apparent, huh. This was our 4th year going to the Derby Cup. Have loved it every year until now. Don't think we'll go back again. We've brought and enticed a lot of people from our area (Michigan) to join in the fun and make the trip. But no more. While the 80% might be great for elite racing, for the rest of us mere mortals, racing for fun (and a bag of goodies in Louisville for the Masters) it doesn't get it.

Booksy
Booksy

Up in Louisville, the 2's and 3's raced together. The guys who won were slow 1's and the field was full of recent upgrades to 3's. We're talking about a MASSIVE ability gap that was no fault of the recent upgrades. Needless to say, a bunch of riders (nearly half the field) got pulled. Are you seriously suggesting they "downgrade" back to the 4's? As a rider you have no control over what the leaders are doing. They may be sandbagging, first time racers (in the 4's), or just off the front after a first lap pileup. I think your stance is short-sighted and elitest.

Josh snead
Josh snead

Ok, maybe I shouldn't have said ALL races should follow the 80% rule, but I'd love it if it were the standard for larger cat 1/2 races that don't have more than 1 race on course at a time.

In my area (norcal), we rarely have races governed by USAC. Our largest series allows riders to self select categories and does not pull lapped riders. This, combined with starting SS A's just behind the men's geared A's, gives us races that are frequently decided by uncooperative or inexperienced racers who won't or don't know how to yield as they're being lapped.

Our situation is probably a bit unique since anyone can race the A's and everyone knows they won't be pulled. The result is unfair finishes for the frontrunners and upset riders at the back of the field who don't care about the outcome of the race and don't like dealing with charging, barely coherent race leaders (these guys are the exception, but it seems like there's always at least a few that fit this description- one is often all it takes to interrupt the fight for the win).

I think an easy solution to this would be to continue to allow riders to choose their category, but to give the top men's and women's racers a course without other categories racing on it, and enforce the 80% rule.

Anyway, as the sport grows this will become a problem in regions with big A fields. Getting people used to the idea of being pulled if they're about to be lapped when they're racing the top race is a good thing, IMO.

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