Where did this series come from?
Back in the pre cross category stone age, without the help of social media or all knowing points to rank racers, I worked at local bike shop, CK Cycles. This was 2004. I had raced some cross in college in Western NY where it was fun but also totally wild card open racing with no production value. We got the idea at the shop to run some cross races because it seemed like a fun idea and a good way to spend the otherwise slow time of year at a bike shop. The first race we ran was in Colonie NY, and we wanted to do a Le Mans Start because that seemed cool. Gary Toth was the assigned official, I had never met him before. He was helpfully stern when he looked at me and said “LeMans Start?!?..... NO.”
We didn’t learn our lesson and kept putting races on and did a few more each year until the series gelled. Oh, and it rained in Colonie the 2nd year we ran the race. Cory Burns beat Al Donahue to win our 1/2/3 mens race but the park told us we could never come back because we left tire marks on the grass.
Why do you run the series?
I don’t know.
Or, because racing forces you to test yourself in uncommon ways. It’s a great venue to do things of “high” consequence that are really pretty low risk and don’t matter at all. For young racers, that characteristic is one that provides valuable life experiences and perspectives that are hard to otherwise obtain (safely).
What are the goals of the series?
Provide racing opportunities that encourage development of elite, women and junior racers.
Provide accessible/affordable racing opportunities to new and beginner racers.
Give local enthusiast racers a well run and “serious” competitive series.
What Race Categories are we running for 2018?
4/5 with U19 Sub Cat
Cat 5 with U19 sub cat
Cat 4 with 40+, U19, and Single Speed Sub Cats
1/2/3 with 40+, U19, and Single Speed Sub Cats
What’s changed after 2017?
No more men’s 3/4,4/5, 35+, 45+
Elite Women is now 1/2/3, not 1/2/3/4.
Both Women 1/2/3 and Women 4/5 now race separately from any other fields.
Why’d you change all this?
Our goal is to create equally dense and competitive groups of racers based on who is actually racing our races. In other words, we are tired of having races with less than ten people in them. We are shifting around the categories so that there will be about 40 people in each of the men’s races now instead of having some with 50 and some with 7.
But why would you do that!? I liked it how it was.
The best racing is larger group racing.
We sat down and crunched data for the last 6 seasons. We learned a lot.
The Mens 1/2/3 and 35+ are underpopulated.
Men’s 1/2/3 averaged 12 racers over the last 6 years.
35+ averages 9 racers per event. This is actually trending even worse though. 35+ averaged only 5 riders in 2017.
The 3/4 and 4/5 and 5 are well populated but they are redundant.
60% of the 3/4 is cat 3s.
70% of the 4/5 is 4s.
The new categories give us four basic races for men which will have the following estimated number of racers:
Cat 5: 35
Cat 4: 35
Cat 1/2/3: 40
Masters 50+/60+: 26 (I needed an RPI Professor to discover my Math error).
Compare that to what we did previously, it makes way more sense.
In the past:
Cat 5: 24
Cat 4/5: 36
3/4 : 27
In the past some of the categories were a good size, but some of them also were foolishly tiny. We think it will work better the new way.
Also, not for nothing, these categories will work better on crossresults.com.
Why did we get rid of the 35+?!?!
Last year only 5 five people entered it on average.
Average age of USAC licence holders is 35. So, there’s no nice way to put this, if you are the average age of all the racers, you don’t also get a special category for being old.
35+ is redundant with the category races and the bulk of the race age 35-44 racers are choosing category races.
45+ is a the largest masters category of the three we have traditionally run! Why did we get rid of that too?
Well for one, we didn’t get rid of it, we changed it to 50+
If it's not already clear, we crunched a lot of data before we did any of this.
Turns out, of the 1,417 people who entered a masters category over the last 6 years, 65% of them are race age of 50 or higher.
We ultimately determined that if the average USAC licence holder is 35, then it was reasonable to reassess at what age a special age group race should start. We picked 50 because the majority of our masters racers are above that age line. It seems like a rational place to start special race category grouping based on age when the average racer is 35.
Also USAC data is trending for the population of racers to increase age. 65% of the masters are over age 50 at NYCROSS races over the last six years, but this year, and next year and onward, that percentage is projected to increase further.
What about the cat 3s? Now they have to race the 1/2/3?
Okay bros, remember, there’s only like 3 cat 1s coming to these races. Of the, on average 12 people in the 1/2/3 most of them were cat 3 anyway, and some of those dudes who were cat 3 still won the races. Imagine that.
A history lesson may be beneficial:
- Before 2005 Cross didn’t have categories. Sometimes there were A and B fields. Sometimes C fields too. At some really small events, it was just Open races with one field. That meant new racers had to race cat 1s types right out of the bag. Ouch!
Historically, the distinction was that you needed a UCI licence to enter the real legit races, aka, NECS UCI events.
Around NYCROSS land, the fast locals raced the A race at smaller races or were heckled for sandbagging. This is where heckling really came from!
But a lot of them didn’t have UCI licenses (at least early on) so they raced the Bs at the NECS.
The C field was clearly for beginners and that was it.
Then, USAC made categories. That was all messed up for a while but has now sorted itself out a bit.
1s and 2s are elites - they were the people who automatically did the the “A” race back in the day.
4s are the lifetime dudes who basically aren’t very fast but have raced a bunch. They did the B race back in the day.
5s are the never done this before guys. They were in the C race circa 2003.
What about the 3s!!!
The 3s are basically the fast locals that don’t have a UCI licence (actually some do), at UCI races, they get to race the cat 3 killer B field, which is VERY strong and competitive at the front. Those dudes are mostly fast enough to race grassroots 1/2/3 races. Many of them do that. Some don’t. We are firmly “asking” all of them to do that from now on.
This isn’t the first time something like this happened - back around 07 NECS eliminated a cat 2/3 category race and forced all the 2s to either buy UCI licenses and enter the elite race, or quit racing. They mostly all started racing elites, which is one of the reason elite fields grew so much in the late 2000s, and then the whole sport grew because elite racing suddenly looked legit with 50 or more racers going toe to toe at the end of the day twice every weekend. People forgot that half the field was cat 2s who had been racing the B field the year before. It didn’t matter. It looked LEGIT! The Cat 2s loved it too! They were now Elite!
We are doing this same thing, but on the local level, its the fast cat 3s and 40+ racers who are in the shoes of the cats 2s of 2007. Cat3s and 40+ 1/2/3 dudes are actually pretty fast now a days and can make the last race of the day a competitive big event. It will be more fun and more awesome in general if the last race of the day is filled up instead of populated by 7 people.
But why change it at all? I liked racing 35+ or 45+ or 3/4 !?!?!
I am a race age 38 cat 3. I am one of the people caught out by this who will have to do the cat 1/2/3 next season.
But that’s okay - I will either train and get fit and then have a fun time being pack fodder in the big race at the end of the day, or, I can downgrade to cat 4 and race that race. Remember, you are not required to be a cat 3. If you are fast enough to be a cat 3, you are fast enough to race a local 1/2/3 against other local cat 3 racers. If like me, you upgraded to cat 3 in 2008 when you were 70 pounds lighter and don’t race or train anymore, then really, maybe, you should ask for a downgrade anyway. You’ll have more fun racing in the 4s.
Another good way to handle this “crisis” is by looking at your crossresults score. If you’re in the 300s (or 200s) You should be in the 1/2/3 race. If you are in the 400s (but have a cat 3 license) you may want to consider either training a lot more, or requesting a downgrade.
I just checked. My crossresults score is 642.48. This is evidence that the cat 3 upgrade I earned 10 years ago maybe no longer represents my current ability level.
But now my race will suck because I can’t beat a cat 1 who is 22?
Well yeah. You might surprise yourself, but you are probably right. But here’s the thing. If you are signing up for these races and doing all of the training and everything that goes into this, so that you can win watered down categories when there are lots of guys you know who are really lots faster, then you’re kinda missing the point.
There are subcategories!
Don’t forget - we are offering a subcategory in the 1/2/3s for the top placing 40+ racer. This means you will still get a prize if you are the best 40+ racer, even if a 22 year old cat 1 should show up and lap the field.
Same goes for U19 and single speed best place riders will get something cool!
Oh heavens, did you mess with singlespeed too?
Yes. We did.
Singlespeed, I personally, firmly believe, is an equipment choice, not a category. I have a sweet single speed mountain bike. I have owned fixed gears and single speed cross bikes too. I even have one of those White Industries eccentric hubs that lets you turn any bike into a single speed without a chain tensioner. Its cool!
So don’t think that I don’t like single speeds. It's just that, our categories are based on either ability levels or age. Not picking a bike.
But, just like riding a singlespeed has compromises, so does this series!
We are doing away with the singlespeed race as a standalone thing. But, we really do want people to ride single speeds. So in both the cat 4 race, and in the 1/2/3 race there will be subcategories for single speed. That means you could race the masters race for example, then also race the cat 4 or cat 1/2/3 on your singlespeed. We will give a prize to the top placing singlespeeder in each of those fields.
So no, there is no longer a stand alone single speed race. But there are two different single speed races instead of one (or zero, which was a serious consideration)! Everyone wins!
You mentioned crossresults.com about 15 times already. How are the new categories going to work with that?
After much consultation with the crossresults guy, we are doing the results so they will work the best with his algorithm, which basically requires us to follow a couple rules:
1. All the racers that are on course at the same time are gridded together, start together and race one main race that is THE race.
2. The racers are scored top to bottom based on order of finish regardless of sub-category. The main category is the category for crossresults.
3. At the venue we will break out additional columns for the sub-categories and do podiums for the folks who were top three, say on the single speeds in the 1/2/3. If you win the 1/2/3 on a singlespeed, and are 44 years old, you will collect a lot of medals that day!
4. BUT, when it goes into bikereg, it will all end up as one field, not results for single speed and then entirely separate results for 1/2/3. It will show it all as one list of results.
Does this make racing cooler?
Yes for sure. Now if you sign up for a race, you are racing all the other dudes and dudettes on the course with you at the same time. Don't be a wuss and let someone pass you or not chase someone because he or she isn't in "your category". Everyone is in your category!
Will this screw up my crossresults score?
Well, if by screw up, you mean make your artificially low crossresults score more realistic, then possibly. Colin tried to explain how crossresults works to me on my podcast. Its a lot of math I don't understand/he didn't want to go into. But figure the basic idea is that he was able to manually figure out years ago who was really fast. Ryan Treborn and Tim Johnson for example. Then using math he was able to compare how known fast riders did against each other and how other unknown riders did in the same pool. This let him set up a ranking system that can place any participant relative to the other participants in the pool of data. The key, is that the more cross pollination of riders takes place, the more accurate the rankings get.
He gave an hypothetical where ten riders race each other all the time but no one else and the same guy always wins. The algorithm will push down the best rider in that group's score because he appears to be the best of all of them. But, if that group cross-pollinates with others you get more data on who beats who across the board and it can more accurately assign points. Say those ten guys who race each other are all cat 5s, and the guy who is always winning signs up for Gloucester. By knowing where he placed in a large field with a bunch of diverse data, the algorithm can tweak his points based on that to accurately reflect how good he is in the overall population of racers. Then when he goes back to his ten person race with all the same people and wins, now crossresults knows how he did in a giant diverse field, and adjusts all the points to reflect that.
Although there are ways to manipulate it a bit, the idea behind crossresults is that it is giving you a relative indicator of how good you are compared to others in the data pool. How good you are, doesn't really change if you are racing a 1/2/3 or a single speed race or a 40+ race though, and crossresults helps boil that down.
Also, who cares what crossresults says! The fun part of this is the head to head racing on the course, not MATH!
I don’t like something you are doing. Who do I tell?
Okay so you have a couple options - you can email me at email@example.com. You can post your comments to our facebook wall. You could call me, but you’re going to have to track down my number.
If your comment turns into a giant day long facebook viral explosion, you can bet we will not adopt your suggestion in the future.
Please understand there is basically nothing you can say to compel us to change something you don’t like for the upcoming season. Even a modest series like ours, is a large ship, it takes a lot of advanced planning to change direction successfully.
We do take very seriously feedback that we receive and where changes are requested from a significant number of people and can be incorporated for the next season we try to do that.
Keep in mind there are somethings we are relegating to history - the women will get their own shot at the course from now on for example, so don’t waste your time emailing me to ask if we can put the single speed race back in with the elite women. Not. Gonna. Happen.
How much work goes into organizing this whole thing?
A lot. I should really get back to my regular day job.
Who gets all the money you make on this?
Well you clearly don’t know how this works! Me, (the series director) and the event promoters and the rest of the staff are all volunteer. We don’t make any money off of these things personally. Most of the events finish in the black and donate the revenue to local causes - the parks that are the venues, local trail building alliances, Jr. Devo programs and local ambulance services are examples of organizations that have benefited from race revenue surpluses in the past.
Their are some paid “contractors” at the events - Neutral Race Support is a service we pay for so please use it as much as you need. Our high speed results service is a paid contractor, and of course the USAC officials are paid to be there. But the race promoters and all the volunteers, well by definition, are volunteering their time.
Thanks for doing all of this!
Your welcome! Its really fun!