Dear USA Cycling, NCNCA, team managers and race organizers,
Jim Langley and I are writing to ask you to please consider adding two new rules for District/State Championship Masters events. They are:
1) Masters age groups will ALWAYS be run separately, never combined. And mixing with other groups is strictly prohibited.
2) Racers from outside the official race district may race, however they can not factor in the official placings.
Both these things happened at this year’s Age-Group Districts at Mount Hamilton. Many racers at the finish were frustrated at not placing where they felt they were capable of finishing had the races been held fairly, that is run separately instead of combing groups together and enforcing a "no mixing" rule with the penalty being disqualification or relegation to last place. In addition, at least one Southern California rider took a podium spot away from a NorCal District racer (second place in the 60+ went to someone from Malibu).
Because of time constraints, we realize it's not realistic to separate every single age-group by five minutes, so we propose separating the age-groups by a one to two minute gap. In the likely event that riders from different age-groups catch those that started before them, a strict rule of "no riding together" is enforced with severe penalties.
Taking a cue from the sport of triathlon, but modifying it just a bit for road racing, a ten meter or 30 foot minimum must be maintained at all times between riders from different groups. A rider has 30 seconds to pass someone from a different age-group or they must drop back and wait two minutes before trying again.
Unfortunately, this year's race organizers, in an understandable desire to minimize the "time spread" between the first to the last races of the day, combined several categories together. In addition, they allowed riders of different age groups to work together in the same race because enforcing a "no-mixing" rule would be impossible.
Because the 55+/60+ and 65+ groups were run as a combined race, and because working together between the age groups was perfectly legal, a “climbers” group led by the fastest 55s formed on the long climb to the top of Mount Hamilton and the winner of all 3 groups came out of this “climbers’ group.
Had the groups been separated by one to two minutes and had the no-mixing rule been enforced, the outcome of the races would likely have been very different. A pure climber with a five minute lead at the top of Mount Hamilton would have a difficult time staying away by himself for the next 48 miles to the finish, especially since they are mostly downhill and flat miles, usually into a stiff headwind.
But, a pure-climber who reaches the top with a five-minute lead in the company of the strongest climbers from the other age groups, would have to be a poor descender or be very weak on the flats not to stay with the main peloton to the finish, giving no chance for the others in his age group to catch up.
But, more importantly, this year's race would have been a true State Championships for each group, a man to man contest in its purest form.
Instead, this year's Northern California-Nevada District Championship was a combined age-group race favoring the pure climbers who, hung to the top with the fastest climbers from the other categories, and then rode the "train" all the way to the finish line.
Please understand, that apart from the Masters Nationals, there is no more-important event on the NCNCA racing calendar than the Northern California-Nevada State Cycling Championship. Winning the title of State Champion entitles you to wear the custom jersey and earn free entry into the next year’s races. We, and most Masters we know train and race but mainly only dream of winning the State title since the competition is so tough. But, it’s a huge goal and an all-important race and we target it all year long.
What’s more, this dream/drive to win doesn't go away as we age. On the contrary, it often gets more and more intense because we older athletes are more aware that our racing days are numbered.
We believe that it’s essential to employ these two rules in order to stage a fair race, ensure true results and allow riders with different strengths a fair chance to win the most prestigious race on the NCNCA calendar, the Northern California-Nevada District Championship Race.
Team Bicycle Trip
Racing since 1975
Adviser to the Board of Directors
Team Bicycle Trip
Racing since 1980