The challenge of West Coast racers interested in racing USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals chasing points from USAC-sanctioned races has been well-documented over the years. Athletes such as Don Myrah have traveled to sanctioned races to get points, and others have done so in recent years as well.
With Nationals on the West Coast in Tacoma, Washington this year, chasing USAC points is again an issue for riders interested in getting a decent call-up at Nationals.
Two years ago, we looked at the USAC ranking system for West Coasters targeting Reno Nationals. The ranking system is based on a rider’s five best scores from the last 365 days, with points determined based on the strength of the race field and a rider’s finish in that field.
One potential—and long-discussed—solution to the dilemma faced by riders in regions that do not sanction their races via USA Cycling is to use the CrossResults rankings. USA Cycling recently formed a partnership with its sister company BikeReg for registration services, but there has been no indication that partnership would extend to the ranking system.
With the USAC rankings slated to be used for call-ups in Tacoma, promoter Clipped in Races of California is providing a unique opportunity for West Coasters to chase those points.
2019 West Coast Cyclocross Points Prestige
The 2019 West Coast Cyclocross Points Prestige is a 5-race series being held near Sacramento during the weekend of August 16-18. The series is USAC-sanctioned, allowing amateur riders to improve their ranking for Nationals and other USAC races and get an early start to the 2019 cyclocross season.
Since many of the interested riders likely do not currently have high rankings, event organizers are inviting pros and other highly ranked West Coast riders to attend to help improve each race’s “Race Quality” score. The five-race format allows each athlete—barring mechanicals and DNFs—to get their five races in one fell swoop.
WCCPP racing will take place at Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta, with one race Friday night and then two on each of Saturday and Sunday. Categories are Cat 4/5 and Cat 1/2/3 for women and men, with a morning session and evening session on the weekend days.
The West Coast Cyclocross Points Prestige is being organized by Clipped in Races. We reached out to Clint Claasen to get more information on the series and how it will work. You can read our conversation below.
Interview: Clint Claasen on the 2019 West Coast Cyclocross Points Prestige
Cyclocross Magazine: Where did the idea for the Cyclocross Points Prestige come from?
Clint Claasen: Historically, the West Coast has had few opportunities for cyclocross racers to earn points through the USA Cycling ranking system. Our company, Clipped In Races, has organized and promoted the Sacramento Cyclocross series as a grassroots series for the past five years, but we’ve heard frustrations of some of our more seasoned racers—especially in the years USA Cycling National Championships come to the West Coast.
We have explored the idea of sanctioning our Sacramento Cyclocross series through USA Cycling ever since we took over the series in 2014, and in 2016 we even persuaded USA Cycling to allow us to sanction our A and B races. Unfortunately, the structure and payments that USAC mandates for sanctioned races do not fit with the Sacramento Cyclocross series. (Outlined in our 2017 Open Letter if you’re interested.)
After looking at exactly how USAC ranking points are calculated, we decided to develop a new series: The West Coast Cyclocross Points Prestige.
Our goal for this series is two-fold. One, give amateur, West Coast-based cyclocross racers the best shot possible to get USAC ranking points, and two, give select West-Coast-based professional cyclocross racers a crowd-sourced monetary kickstart to their season. To accomplish this, we have combed through the USA Cycling Results and Rankings FAQ page and optimized our series based on their rankings calculations.
CXM: Is a weekend-long series something you’ve thought about for a while?
CC: We’ve struggled for a while with balancing the needs of the local grassroots cyclocross scene with the needs of our region’s top cyclocross racers. On one hand, we have many first-timers who had never heard of cyclocross (let alone USA Cycling!) before, and on the other hand, we have immensely talented racers who pour their hearts, souls, time, energy and talents into competing on the state, national and even the international ’cross stage. It’s been hard to serve both.
In the past, we’ve looked for ways to integrate USAC into our Sacramento Cyclocross series but have come to the conclusion that’s not realistic. Almost half of our SacCX racers to not have an annual USAC license, so there’s no way we could make our 8-race series $80 more expensive to them.
When we finally moved on to developing a completely different series, the emphasis became optimizing points and giving USAC-focused racers the best bang for their buck. From there, details for this series came together fairly quickly.
CXM: How did the West Coast Nats influence your decision to hold the series?
CC: Each year we hear the stories of West Coast racers getting back row starts at Nationals, no matter where the championships are held. We started brainstorming this idea after reviewing our post-season Sacramento Cyclocross survey last year. And while this series wasn’t created solely because Nationals are on the West Coast in 2019, the Tacoma location definitely added to the urgency of getting the series up and running this year.
CXM: The USAC algorithm is based on the “strength of the field,” with respect to current USAC scores. Have you recruited riders to help make the fields “stronger,” point-wise?
CC: Yes, this is what USAC calls “Race Quality,” the first part of the points calculation which takes, “The five best-ranked riders from the top 10 finishers, average their rankings and multiply that by 90 percent to create the quality of the race.”
We are actively recruiting highly ranked West Coast cyclocross male and female racers to participate in this series to optimize the Race Quality value. We are providing these pros some incentives like free racing, lodging and a fully catered food menu for the weekend from a professional chef. In addition, we are offering some financial support thanks to a weekend-long raffle of products and 18 call-up spots at each race. All proceeds go to the invited pro racers to help kickstart their seasons of traveling all over the United States—and the world—to get points.
We’re piggybacking on the points they’ve worked hard to gain, so we figure it’s only fair to give back.
CXM: Why did you pick the mid-August date? It seems like racing five times in a weekend that early could be a lot?
CC: Since our focus for this series is optimizing the chance for points, we knew we needed highly ranked riders to attend in order to optimize the “race quality” portion of USAC’s formula. Typically, the highly ranked riders from the West Coast travel to the East Coast or Europe for nearly the whole season. The best chance we have to bring those racers to our weekend is very early in the season.
We consulted with several pros from the region, and their main concern was that they did not want to race one week before their first UCI race. Since the first UCI race is the August 31st / September 1st weekend, we set it up for two weeks prior to that.
When we talked to Tobin Ortenblad, he didn’t really have a concern about the physical demands of 5 45-minute races over 3 days. He and others felt it would be a unique opportunity for focused training two weeks out from the UCI season opener and a low-risk shakedown of the legs, equipment and race prep.
CXM: Are you using the same course for all the races?
CC: We have been using the Gibson Ranch venue for the last five years of the Sacramento Cyclocross Series. It’s a favorite venue and we’ve developed two UCI spec’d courses there. However, for the West Coast Points Prestige we are moving the main venue and start/finish to a different area in the park and creating three courses for the weekend. These courses will use many of the same features we have used in the past, but will feel all new with different approaches and flow. Two of the three courses for the WCCXPP weekend will be run backward, so each of the five races will feel different.
CXM: Do you think more USAC-sanctioned racing should be a part of the California scene?
CC: I think all cycling racing in the country should be supported by, or sanctioned by, a unified organization such as USA Cycling. It provides a roadmap for athletes aspiring to higher levels of achievement. Having raced my way up to the pro mountain bike ranks, I believe strongly in a unified set of standards and guidelines for race disciplines that keeps racing fair.
However, that unifying organization needs to serve race organizers, promoters, cycling clubs and sponsors better than the current model. It needs to offer a product that benefits all levels of racers, even the grassroots racers not interested in national ranking points.
CXM: Thanks for your time. We are excited to see how the series goes.
CC: Thank you. We’re looking forward to it as well.