Okay. First of all the purpose of this post is NOT to talk about how great it was 20 years ago. I mean, we had 7 speed, down tube shifting. How great could that have been? :-)
I first rode in the district RR back in 1985 on the old Two Rock RR course. I don't remember the field sizes then, but I do remember having over 200 starters in 1987 at Fort Ord. Yesterday we had I believe 79.
I don't know about the NCNCA stats, but I remember there being around 30,000 licensed racers in the US back then and now we've got over 50,000.
Back then you had to place at districts to qualify for elite nationals. The number of qualifiers depended on your district size. In some states you had to win. In Nor-Cal you had to be top 20-22. Now you just need to be a cat 1 (and be quick on the keyboard for online reg!).
Back then I suspect that the age demographics were MUCH different. I suspect a much larger proportion of bike racers are "geezers" like me these days.
I wonder if the mentality is any different now than it was "back then". How many 3's raced yesterday? I know that in 1985 when I raced districts I was a cat 3 and I certainly wasn't alone.
I don't remember, but I doubt there was a 3's race at Fort Ord districts in 1987.
Anway, just some curious ramblings. I'd be interested to hear people's theories here.
One thing hasn't changed though. It's still a hard race!