USAC Allows Wider Tires in Some National Championship Races

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by Jamie Mack

Masters Given Exemption to New Tire Width Rule

With less than a month before the Nationals competitions begin in Bend, Oregon, USA Cycling has announced that some racers will be given an exemption to the controversial ruling that started the season. The tire width rule, widely debated and questioned since the beginning of this season (see a recent petition organized by Paule Bates here), will only be applied to riders in the Elite, U23 and Junior 17-18 races in Bend. Masters racers and those younger than 16, as well as collegiate and singlespeed racers, will not be restricted by the new tire rule. These riders will however be limited by previous regulations to a tire no more than 35mm in width.

The new width restriction rule created a great deal of controversy, as well as a few tires reportedly accidentally slashed by UCI calipers, because of the limited reasoning given for the new restriction and the limited time prior to the season that it was given. Riders were forced to choose between removing, replacing and re-gluing multiple tire sets or risking the wrath of the tire inspectors. And the limited time prior to the season, which had riders scrambling for new equipment, created tension for racers because their off-season preparations were suddenly in vain. A bigger concern, no pun intended, was that the rule seemed to penalize bigger riders and poorer riders (likely racing on clinchers) as both groups would want higher volume tires.

While the announcement may provide relief to racers preparing for the races, the last minute exemption is likely to bring out a lot of the same feelings that the pre-season announcement did. While it may be a relief to racers who have not made the changes necessary to comply with the rules all season, there is likely some animosity developing among riders who have already switched rubber once. Time will tell if the change is made permanent, or if USA Cycling continues to enforce the regulation going forward. Have an opinion? Drop a comment below.

Singlespeeders Get Championship Status

USA Cycling also confirmed today that a new championship jersey will be awarded for the first time this year in Bend. The winner of the singlespeed category, which has been run for the last several years as a non-championship event, will now be able to wear the Stars and Stripes in races throughout the 2011-2012 season. While the category has often attracted some of the best riders in the country, the offer of a full championship title will likely entice some additional competition. Open to all comers, as long as they are riding bikes with a freewheel (sorry fixie riders, you’re not there yet), one cog and drop bars, the newest championship category will bring out the best one-gear minds in the country to do battle in the December cold in Oregon.

Other Championship Info

Registration prices are due to increase on Wednesday November 17, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Normally, registration for Nationals would not require a reminder, as the start order used to be determined by how fast your internet connection was at the time registration opened. But this year, start order is determined by a short time trial the day before the Championship race. So, remember to register before prices go up. And don’t forget to pack the aero helmet (just kidding). Information on eligibility and call-up is available here.

All the information you need about registration and the events in Bend can be found here.

 

 

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19 comments
Pete Webber
Pete Webber

Here's the way I see it:

1) USA Cycling needs to be more clear with their communications on items like this. A rule change in the middle of the season should be fully explained, justified, and made very clear. In this case, it was not explained when announced initiially, was always confusing, and was never justified. When they flip-flopped, they again did not explain. The news came in a couple of poorly written sentences buried in press releases with headlines on other topics. The result is unnessasary costs and hassles for many riders.

2) This highlights the underlying issue of UCI governanace of cyclocross vs. the sport in the USA. There are many UCI rules that don't make much sense in the US. Especially if imposed in situations so far removed from the rule-making process. Length of sandpits, number of obstacles, height of obstacles, number of catagories allowed in a day, tire width, disc brakes, etc. These rules have come and gone, changed without warning, and force US riders, race promoters, and manufacturers to continually change courses and equipment without justification or understanding.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but USA Cycling, local associations, and the UCI need to get on the same page, or at least communicate better.

joel
joel

so the "emergency singlespeed legislation" had singlespeeds at nats restricted to eiher cats 1-2 only, or cats 1-3 only (they didnt seem to be sure), and now its open to all. this makes me very happy, but makes me wonder about next year? is this a permanent ruling, that singlespeed is a class unfettered by racing category? or will they be bringing back the cat 1-2 or cat 1-3 restriction next year - or, more importantly (to me) for any races that might conceivably be held in conjunction with worlds in louisville?

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

I was under the impression from the start that the rule was to be enforced for UCI categories only. Thats what's happening now. I never got rid of the 34's.
Before any of this nonsense started there was a rule that the max width would be 35mm, but did anyone ever see an official measuring tire width at a race before this year? They seem to get all excited by "new" rules.
Most of the UCI races I've done this year don't comply with UCI regulations in one form or another, why then is this rule so cut and dry when they don't even enforce their own guidelines?

Doug Dobrozsi
Doug Dobrozsi

For tubies, tire width is a function of inflation pressure. It's a balloon and it gets bigger when you pump it up. We measured a few 34s. Fango 34s measured within spec at 20 ish psi but at 32 they were over. Vittoria XMs in 34 would not make it at even at 20 psi.

If it's an ice fest in bend, 34s at low pressure would probably be the best choice as long as they pass the caliper test.

I assume the rule is interpreted to mean the tires as raced - the measurements be taken at the racing pressure.

CX magazine should do a test and plot some graphs of width vs. inflation pressure for the various offerings.

pdxvelo
pdxvelo

I agree with skibike in theory but probably not so much in vulgarity. deep mud in bend in winter, not likely. your wheels would be fine in Bend. as for tire width, thats a wash. pressure is far more important than 34 vs 32c tires. just dial in your pressure and stop whining. if you lose nats by 2 cm i'll eat my words. the rider rides the bike. look at Nys, he doesn't have the engine any more but his bikehandling is incredible.

skibikejunkie
skibikejunkie

To the racers that bought new wheels due to the tire rule change: you're stupid. Just use your old wheels and put 32mm tires on them.

To the racers that are complaining about having to buy new tires due to the tire rule being rescinded: you're also stupid. Shut up and race on your 32mm tires.

Yeah, the handling of the rule change hasn't been ideal. But are the people griping about it really going to be contenders for a national championship? Probably not. We're amateur bike racers. Even if you do win, not that many people will care except you, your mother, and your significant other. And that last one only until you tell the story for the third time or use it to try and justify yet another wheelset when the living room furniture needs to be replaced. It's a hobby. You're not making a living at it, so relax.

Dan Werle
Dan Werle

I've found this issue to be very, very frustrating from the get-go, and I believe that those UCI representatives who met and decided on that original rule change could have done a much better job of meeting their goal if they would have taken more time and more thought to making that decision than they did.
At the end of the season, I'm curious to hear the thoughts of riders on all levels - especially those European junior riders who this legislation was originally targeted at - on how they changes affected them and whether they found this ruling to be on the mark.

Dan Werle
Dan Werle

With tire prices being what they are, the holiday season among us, travel plans to Bend being budgeted for, and the world economy still generally in poor-to-fair shape, it won't be easy for many riders who had followed the news and obliged by USAC's rule changes earlier in the year to shell out an added $100-400 for new tires in preparation for one or perhaps two races.

Dan Werle
Dan Werle

The UCI decision has, as expected, led to a trickle-down effect on tire-width rules by smaller federations, such as USAC. The recent proposal on junior equipment restrictions voted down by the USAC seemed to be more on target with the goal the UCI had originally set - leveling the playing field for junior riders. And now, USAC, for whatever reason, with respect to many riders, has decided to rescind their rule change from just a few months ago. I can appreciate USAC's efforts to try and do the right thing; however, ironically, what they've just done with this most recent flip-flop is very similar to what the original UCI ruling was trying to prevent - providing another avenue for wealthier riders to gain a leg up on the rest of the field.

Dan Werle
Dan Werle

The UCI created the new tire restriction to prevent junior riders in Europe from stockpiling large quantities of wheelsets. In so doing, they created a great deal of controversy and disdain among riders at many different levels. Also, in the process of implementing that rule, they threw a wrench in the cogs of a handful of pretty small, dedicated tire manufacturing companies (I count at most nine tubular cyclo-cross tire manufacturers - if Specialized, Schwalbe, and Continental are included) in the month or two leading up to the cyclo-cross season.

Greg OaH
Greg OaH

when the UCI came out with their new skinny tire rule I did wonder why they didn't want bigger racers doing cross?
maybe they hate Americans?
maybe they want cross to stop growing? (in America?)

Coloracer
Coloracer

I am so pissed! I live in Colorado where riding a 34mm tire makes sense 99% of the time. (At least it's not usually a disadvantage.) I went out and acquired two new sets of wheels and tires for CX Nats and now I get punked by them in the 11th hour. Who in the hell is making these decisions? !@#%! USAC is a complete sham. How about refunding my money for the wheels?

beth h
beth h

One solution is already being practiced in a couple of regions: form a regional or statewide organization and sanction your own races and series, with or without the blessing of USAC or UCI.

Granted, the top-drawer racers who need to earn points for national or for international competition will be frustrated by not having many local opportunities in which to compete for points; but anyone at that level of racing can, if desired, find a way to travel outside their [non-USAC-sanctioned] area in order to race for the points they need to qualify for better placement in Nationals or a spot on a Worlds team. Many already do.

The rest of us -- and I'm speaking strictly about those with no real national or international aspirations, whom I'd guess constitute the majority of amateur racers in the US -- are not served by rule changes such as this which leave us madly contorting mid-season in order to stay "legal".

Again, the question needs to be asked -- who is Nationals FOR? Is it intended only for the best of the best, or is it intended to be open to everyone? Until USAC gains some real clarity on this and then crafts policy around a clear answer, those who race in the entry-level and middle categories will continue to be dealt the short end of the stick as a result of the confusion caused by these short-notice, mid-season rule changes.

Coloracer
Coloracer

You guys are missing the point. I directly e-mailed USAC and was told that they will mandate the 32 rule. I only owned 34's, so I purchased 32's in anticipation of testing my new equipment prior to racing Nats. Now I own 32's that I don't want. I think 34's are preferrable in most situations in Colorado for my riding style. That's why I bought them in the first place. I can go fast on 32's, but certainly didn't feel the need to stockpile a couple sets of them.

coloracer
coloracer

I'm guessing skibikejunie doesn't bike or ski very well. Equipment DOES matter. For those of us who actually compete at a high level and dont care who notices - since it is fun to compete and do well on a personal level - the leap before you look mentality of USAC sucks.

Paul
Paul

Agreed! But really, Why be wishy washy over two millimeters. I just measured my Hutchinson bulldog tires (listed as 34C) they come in at 33 on the nose! What the heck was wrong with the 35mm cut off? nice round number, great tire choices from 32c to 35c. please stop making up new rules!

skibikejunkie
skibikejunkie

We're not missing the point, because "I bought 32s just for Nats after receiving an email from USAC" is not the point you made. The point you made was "equipment DOES matter," with the most obvious inference that not being on 34s will adversely and materially affect your results.

I agree that USAC's handling of this was completely inept. I agree that it sucks for you and the people I know in real life that bought 32s just for Nats. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal, and tire cost is only a fraction of the total cost of going to race nationals. All of us who can afford to race bikes and especially buy race-specific tires have things pretty good. Even if you race on your 32s, I don't imagine it will make a meaningful difference in your results. I'll go one further than pdxvelo--if you happen to miss the stars and stripes by 2cm, I'll buy your 32s from you at whatever price you paid for them.

skibikejunkie
skibikejunkie

You're right, I'm a terrible cyclist and an even worse skier.

I didn't say equipment doesn't matter. I just said quit whining about it and race. Will racing on 32mm tires instead of 34's really keep you from being a national champion? 34's wouldn't turn me into one, that's for sure.

Sure it sucks, but if it's the worst thing that's happened to you this week, I have a hard time mustering any sympathy. I like to do well as much as the next guy, I just choose to focus on the race itself and the things I can control rather than officials' decisions and things I can't control. If you don't like USAC, don't go to Nationals. Nobody is forcing you.

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