Shattered Dreams at Masters Worlds, Where Attendance Matters More Than Age – Updated

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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.

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18 comments
GordonPaulson
GordonPaulson

Well said Bob. I believe that my wife, Diane Ostenso, deserved the 60+ jersey  in Louisville last year. She prepared for Louisville for over a year. She counted on a chance to be a World Champion once in her life. She suffered as much as the 50+ woman who (very deservedly) won the last minute combined age group. Yet the 'powers that be' denied her a reasonable and fair opportunity to realize her dream. From all indications women over 55 should probably abandon such a dream because it's fairly unlikely, given this poor treatment, that there will ever be a women's field at the CX Worlds that is large enough for the Commisaires to award a jersey. How sad. Treating racers who've probably given more to the sport than most, who have to train and compete with the challenges that aging brings, is wrong. Treating them like they don't really count is shameful. Given the way the UCI/USAC combined the fields and treated Diane like she wasn't in a "real" race I know we won't register for any more of their events until they remedy this crap. Hopefully Mr Cookson's concern for women's cycling will expand to embrace master's women so that they too can be recognized as the champions they truly are.

DownsBob
DownsBob

With the UCI's approach to this, no one will show up in the potentially thin categories. How does that promote the sport? Publish the categories where rainbows will be awarded and stick to it. Only that way will people make the commitment to go. We are an aging world and cross is growing, so eventually they will fill in. Patience and treating people with respect should be the approach. I think it is just amazing that these older men and women will get out there on these often treacherous courses and let 'er rip, give them the friggin Jersey!

craigmacintyre
craigmacintyre

I think the problem stems from lack of understanding.  The racers that got screwed failed to understand that the UCI doesn't care about them at all.  This is essentially a money grab.  Just like the USAC's money grab on license fees, etc.  The AG's exist primarily to fund the organization so that they can continue to provide services to elites and pro's.  If anyone believes otherwise, they haven't been following cycling for long.  Before you argue that they assist juniors, remember that the only interest there is to develop more pro's and elites ...

blaireau47
blaireau47

Uci should understand it is not thé racers problem if à full field did not register.

Larry Purtill
Larry Purtill

Became aware of this problem last year after Julie got screwed and more aware this year as my wife took up cyclocross racing and especially followed the 55-59 age group. Thinking she might like to go to the worlds in the future, even just to be competitive, but why, as the article mentions, would she or anyone do that knowing you could be racing younger riders and get lapped or pulled? Doesn't encourage growth of the sport, especially for master's women. The worse part was they raced this year and didn't know the field was combined until after: a real disgrace and insult to the riders. It should be simple, have the race, whatever number shows up, that is the field.

Frontrunners Nanaimo
Frontrunners Nanaimo

UCI and most National organizations care very little about Masters racing. For the most part it is an annoyance. They have no clue how to appeal to this group or keep them happy and engaged.

Gregory Dyas
Gregory Dyas

Great article. And some damned silly nonsense on UCI's part.

Courtney Cotton
Courtney Cotton

If you state you're going to have an age category, a change at the starting line should NOT be possible. Race promoters often ask how to get more women into the sport and how to keep them there. One way is to allow them to compete and be scored against those in their class. No one wants to train their butts off and spend a lot of money on travel only to find out seconds before the race gun that they should have upped the ante or stayed home. It's frustrating to say the least. Definitely not a fan of UCI and the tricks they pull.

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

Hemanth, they were already combined into one race...so the last-minute change was the decision to NOT score separately.

Eric Hunter
Eric Hunter

Remind me again why I prefer to race OBRA and not UCI.

Hemanth Shenoi
Hemanth Shenoi

So combine the field into one race and score separately.... Like every Cat IV Masters race I've ever done!

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