Who is a Masters racer? This is not an attempt at Cyclocross Magazine philosophy corner, but it is a question cycling’s rule-making bodies are constantly revisiting. Prior to 2015, riders over the age of 30 were able to race their age group and then race again in the Elite race on Sunday at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals. Although we never saw Tim Johnson or Ryan Trebon lapping their age group fields, there were still some familiar names such as Justin Lindine and Dylan McNicholas who won the Baby Masters races before the rule changes for 2015 Nationals made riders choose between their Masters age group and the Elite races.
The UCI has defined a Masters racer as anyone who is 30 or older and does not have any UCI points for Masters Worlds eligibility. However, after the recent UCI rule changes, that definition is changing. The 30-34 Baby Masters category is gone and any rider with up to 100 UCI points is eligible to race at Masters Worlds.
With the constantly changing definitions of a Masters racer, this begs the question: Who is a Masters racer? Is it someone who is strictly an amateur who competes against his or her age peers or is it just someone who is old enough to race a particular age group? Getting even one UCI point can be an incredible challenge at many events, but at the same time there are events like the 2016 Cynergy Hurtland where the Women’s field had 7 riders and the Men’s 16, so 17 of the 23 Elite riders took home at least one UCI point.
Since it is still summertime and the living is easy, we decided to have some fun with the new UCI rule changes. We first take a look at riders who would be eligible for Masters Worlds based on the new rules and who will be eligible two years from now when the rules go into effect and then ask some prominent Masters racers what they think of the new rules.
An Impressive Cast of Women Masters
A look at the list of women riders with less than 100 UCI points in 2016/17 shows an impressive collection of current and former national champions. Heading up the list, and just eligible with 93 UCI points, is Laura Van Gilder, who won her first cyclocross Masters Nationals in Hartford after a long career racing in the Elite races. Among the other riders in the national champion club with Van Gilder are Rebecca Gross, Christina Gokey-Smith, Catherine Moore, Melissa Barker, Corey Coogan-Cisek and Sydney Guagliardo.
Other intriguing eligible riders include 2016 SSCXWC winner Jessica Cutler, who could always use another excuse to come out of retirement, 2016 U.S. mountain bike national champion Erin Huck, Irish cyclocross and mountain bike champion Beth McCluskey and Canadian Sandra Walter.
There are also several accomplished riders who are currently Baby Masters who will be eligible when the rule changes go into affect in 2018, including Laura Winberry and Jenna Blandford, who has two nationals silvers to her name.
Men Who Could Make Worlds Wonderful
The list of men who would be eligible for Masters Worlds includes a number of riders who are still racing professionally or are winding down their pro careers. For the latter, the chance to race Masters Worlds could be one last chance at cyclocross glory and perhaps a nice rainbow stripes jersey to show off on their post-retirement group rides.
Some of the big names on the list of U.S. riders include Adam Craig – the world needs to meet the nose-wheelie, right? – The Beard Robert Marion, 2012 Baby Masters national champion Dylan McNicholas, Kevin Bradford-Parish, Brian Matter, Jake Wells, Adam Myerson and two-time Masters national champion Matthew Timmerman. Troy Wells heads up the group of riders who will be eligible two years from now.
The U.S. riders would not have an easy path to glory though; other countries would also be able to field formidable teams. Six-time Irish national champion Roger Aiken just makes the cut with 100 UCI points and British mountain bike standout and cyclocross national champion Liam Killeen is also barely eligible with 98 points. John Gadret of France is a former World Tour rider who also dabbles in cyclocross and Belgian Al Thijs has never been shy about coming out of retirement to race in unique races. Another notable is Ben Sonntag, who podiumed twice at collegiate nationals in the U.S.
What Do the Masters Think?
Speculation and gentle prodding are fun, but we also wanted to hear from the racers themselves about the new rule changes. We threw out the question on Twitter and reached out to a few racers to see what their thoughts about the UCI rule changes are.
Just one more reason to keep racing my bicycle !! I’ll be there if I’m eligible and pedaling !!
— Laura Van Gilder (@Lvgbike) July 20, 2017
I dig it. Now if @usacycling would look at nats that way.
— Rebecca Gross (@RebeccaSGross) July 20, 2017
Ironically I will be in Mol in Dec ’17 with minimum 1 pt unexpired. Yes, definitely intriguing for ’18.
— Corey Coogan Cisek (@CCooganCisek) July 19, 2017
Depends entirely on the date for me. I won’t skip @nbxbikes GP for it, or fly to Europe right before nationals.
— Adam Myerson (@AdamMyerson) July 19, 2017
What adam said.
— Dylan McNicholas (@dylmcnic) July 19, 2017
Jessica Cutler -Rule Change Good for Masters Women
After she came out of retirement for the 2016 Singlespeed Worlds, we thought Jessica Cutler would be a good candidate to come out of retirement again. She said that although Masters racing is not personally for her – perhaps because there is no tattoo waiting for the winner – she is supportive of the rule changes.
Said Cutler, “Looking through the last several years of masters world championships, especially in the younger categories the field sizes are pretty small. In Mol there were only 17 women total in the three youngest categories. Compare this with the men who had 158 total across the same categories. If you look at the results for most UCI women’s races, there are many women in this 15 year age range who are maybe not winning races, although of course many are, but who are competitive and finishing in the points.”
She continued, “There are a lot of women who may have some points but live in a country where they have no chance of selection for Elite Worlds or even to get a World Cup slot and this could be an opportunity to race in Europe in a championship race in a field where they can be competitive. Additionally, it allows these women who aren’t at the UCI top level but who are still competitive to prepare for Worlds in competitive domestic UCI fields without risking disqualifying themselves for Worlds if they happen into a top ten in a smaller C2.”
Cutler concluded, in essence, the more the merrier, “I can’t read everyone’s mind, but to me, the thought of racing against two other people sounds boring as heck and I would much rather have a more competitive and larger field.”
Robert Marion – Anti-Rule Change but Will Reluctantly Consider Racing
Whereas Cutler was no on racing Masters herself but positive about the rule changes, Robert Marion expressed the opposite opinion. “I am definitely more interested in Masters racing with the rule changes, as in past years I normally hang out just below or just above that 100 UCI point mark,” said Marion. “However, I am not in favor of the rule change to allow racers to have up to 100 UCI points, Yes it benefits athletes like myself who are racing a full UCI pro schedule, but I feel Masters racing should be reserved for athletes that are not doing a full pro schedule anymore.”
“I do know that in the past there were some very good professional cyclocross racers that made sure they didn’t have UCI points so they could do Masters, so they had to make that sacrifice in order to do so,” he said. “With the rule change now an athlete like myself could just add Masters worlds to the schedule and make sure not to go over 100 points. Which I think is slightly unfair to what I think of as being a true Master that can’t travel and race a full UCI pro schedule.”
Marion added that he is in favor of getting rid of the Baby Masters category, “On the rule change they made to get rid of the 30 to 34 age group I am in favor of that one. In my opinion Masters definitely doesn’t start below 35.”
Matt Timmerman – Bring It On Euro Masters!
Matt Timmerman is on a roll in the Masters 40-44 category, winning back-to-back national titles against his Masters peers. Timmerman seems like a rider likely to be stoked about racing Masters Worlds, and it turns out, he is. “Yes for sure the rule change has me thinking about racing Masters worlds a little more seriously than before,” said Timmerman. “It’s something I’ve thought that I’d like to try eventually, but UCI points are hard to come by and I’m going to take them while I can still get them. This might open the door to some super-fast Masters age Euro guys that I don’t know about as well. I’m excited about the opportunity to have UCI points & race Masters Worlds.”
Catherine Moore – No More Entering Masters Men’s Races
Catherine Moore (aka @Pigtailracer) is another Masters racer with multiple national championships in recent years and a few trips to Masters World under her belt. She said she is also in favor of the rule change and hopes cyclocross does not get any from the track rules committee. “I think it is a good decision to change the rules,” said Moore. “It allows Masters riders to compete against the best and not worry about counting your placing so you’ll stay out of the points. Two years ago when the Worlds were to be in San Jose I had to make sure I was not in the top ten or enter Men’s Masters races. Hopefully the Masters will be allowed to race Elites at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals. At least you can enter a UCI cyclocross race and still go to Worlds. On the track, if you enter a UCI event, you are ineligible for Masters Worlds, even if you have no points.”
Moore went on to say she agrees with Myerson that the date of Masters Worlds could be a challenge, albeit for a diferent reason. “I would love to go to Cyclocross Worlds and now I can,” she added. “The only hard part is logistics and getting time off of work. I am a teacher and some have said ‘Can’t you do that during the summer or break?’ *Laughs* Hey USA Cycling or UCI, can you schedule all the cycling events around my personal work schedule?”
What do you think about the UCI rule changes for Masters Worlds? Let us know in the poll below.