Building up or tearing down title hopes at Masters Worlds. © Cyclocross Magazine

Building up or tearing down title hopes at Masters Worlds. © Cyclocross Magazine

You can’t win if you don’t show up. This is Rule Number One in bike racing.

If you have aspirations of becoming a Masters World Champion in cyclocross, you need to register, book your travel, and then show up. But before all that happens, most serious racers with podium hopes have long set the race as a goal. They’ve created and followed training programs, and allocated budgets and vacation time for the race.

American Lillian Pfluke is one such racer, and she’s been racing Masters World Championships on the road, track, mountain bike and cyclocross since age 40. She was one of four women cyclocrossers to sign up for the 55+ race at the 2014 World Championships in Gossau, and because she turned 55 this year, she targeted this year as her best chance to win a world championship.

Lillian Pfluke racing to a silver medal in the younger 50-54 group at the 2013 Masters World Championships in Louisville. She expected to move up an age group this year. © Brian Nelson / cxmagazine.com

Lillian Pfluke racing to a silver medal in the younger 50-54 group at the 2013 Masters World Championships in Louisville. She expected to move up an age group this year. © Brian Nelson / cxmagazine.com

The France-based American racer, who also competed in Louisville in 2012 and 2013, finishing second to Karen Brems in the 50-54 race in 2013, prepared for the 2014 Worlds for six months, skipped her annual ski trip, and missed spending time with her sons during the holidays in order to make her Worlds trip a possibility. It’s dedication and sacrifice. Sure, some might say it’s a selfish dedication, but it’s the type of commitment and sacrifice athletes make to try to be the best in the world.

But what happens if you go through all that preparation and expense, and the event you signed up for doesn’t get held?

Age groups for UCI Cyclocross Masters World Championships are set long before the event. However, there’s a lot of ambiguity as to whether the age groups used during registration will be honored at the race, and in the last two years, it’s resulted in confusion, frustration and some subjective rulings. It’s not a recipe that encourages participation in the older age groups.

“At registration we were all told that all medals would be awarded and that we would only compete within our age category,” Pfluke said.  However, at the end of Day 1 of the Gossau weekend, four women’s categories were combined into two, forcing some racers to be scored against women from a younger age group.

“Of course I don’t mind competing against younger women, I do it every weekend at home,” Pfluke told Cyclocross Magazine. “But I don’t need to travel to Worlds to do so. Indeed, the reason I travel to Worlds is to compete against women my own age.”

The ambiguity of whether and how categories will be combined seems to be the biggest problem, and Gossau isn’t the first time there has been confusion on this issue, and each time, it appears that the UCI overrules the promoter’s prior communication.