Actually the US Juniors at World Championships are not at a disadvantage at all. One US Junior gets a second row start position. The US junior that lines up on the second row has as good a chance of success as any rider on the front row. As an example we can look to the silver medal of 2007. The only reason to chase world cup points is to guarantee you don't end up on the fourth row.
A Look Back at Worlds: Start Positions and Youth Development
Dan Seaton takes a deeper look at the 2009 Cyclocross World Championships. Next up is his look at start order and development of the juniors and espoirs race. Also see our archive of our live coverage of the race and Dan’s previous look at the men’s race and women’s race.
One of the big questions many people were asking after Saturday’s races was how much the rules regarding start position affected the US juniors and espoir riders’ finishes. The top eight starting spots go to those with top World Cup rankings and then the rest are based on nations’ rankings from the previous world championships, meaning that most of the US riders had to start towards the back. At the races on Sunday, Cyclocross Magazine contributor Dan Seaton had a chance to talk to USA Cycling Board President Mark Abramson and Euro ‘Cross Camp director Geoff Proctor about the American ‘cross development program and how the realities of racing most of the time on another continent affect the team’s chances at success.
“It’s a huge issue and something we’ve been talking a lot about,” Abramson said. “It’s very important to get those World Cup points the way things are now, so we’re talking with our juniors and working with the program to try to get more juniors over here to get those points.” Abramson noted that many of the juniors rode similar lap times as the leaders, but since they were starting in the last row, they simply couldn’t reach the front of the race. (Juniors Luke Keough and Zach McDonald had the fastest and second fastest final laps of anyone in the race.)
Abramson confirmed that USA Cycling has been discussing the way in which riders qualify for Worlds and how rankings are determined with the UCI. For the near term, however, efforts remain focused on working within the system and improving the nation’s ranking overall.
Proctor agreed with Abramson’s assessment of the challenges facing the US young riders, and explained that his Euro ‘Cross Camp is aimed at helping them to excel on the world stage. “One of the missions of the camp is to try to give kids experience, but the other part of the dual mission is to do well in the World Championships,” he said. “It’s a little hard to nail it on the day….but I’m proud that the guys that have come over here have that experience so they’re not really surprised by anything.”
Proctor emphasized that his program focuses on the big picture, not just success in Worlds. “It’s about so many other things too,” he explained. “Doing well in World Cups and big Belgian races. I think the real focus is just to try to do well internationally. We’ve got a good thing going in the US and this is an extension of that.”
He told us that he hopes to develop the camp, which now runs for only a few weeks between US Nationals and Worlds, into a bigger annual program.
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"Start position" seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the ranks of cyclocross; whether it is juniors, pros, or Masters, it is a big deal. We all know how important start position is in a race. Depending on field size, it is nearly impossible to get to the front, if you start in the back row. USA Cycling needs to address this, especially for the big races, like Nationals.
You just can't have "start position" be determined by how fast you are at registering on the computer. As cross gets bigger some better system will have to be instigated. There was a questionnaire sent out by the organizers/USA cycling for last years' Nationals race. I urge all to fill it out and let them know how you feel.