Cycling BC 2011 upgrade rules

Cycling BC recently published the rules regarding how a rider moves up through the categories. This page covers the high points: The most important change is that local and regional races will now award upgrade points. These changes, if they stand, will drastically shuffle the numbers of riders in the categories and will quickly lead to a very large category 2

At the start of the 2010 cycling season, category 5 was eliminated. Category 5 had been a true entry level category and 4 had some at least mildly seasoned racers. At the start of 2010, these two were merged giving the category a fairly wide breadth of abilities.

In 2010, the various race series, such as Escape Velocity's Tuesday night criteriums and Team Coastal's Thursday Challenge, did not count for upgrade points. This meant that there really were only about a dozen races that counted for upgrade points. Very few riders rode that many of the larger events.

Several of those races had category 3/4 combined fields. Tour de White Rock, Steveston Sockeye Spin and the Tour de Delta are three criteriums that come to mind. You were given upgrade points in a 3/4 race based on your position in your category, so if you finished 10th in the race, but were the highest category 4 finisher, you would get 8 points.

In theory, this all works out well. Unfortunately, in practice, there were a few problems.

First and foremost, there simply weren't many upgrade points available. Category 3 and 4 each had about ten people upgrade by the end of the 2010 season. Approximately 60 category 3 riders and about 70 category 4 riders earned points in 2010. (2010 upgrade information) This might be by design. You do not want to push riders up a category until they are truly ready. However, if there are not enough points available you end up with a mushroom cloud situation where there are a large number of people near the top of the category who can earn points at any given race but since the spread is wide, none of them get enough to upgrade.

This makes for good, fun racing.

The failure in the system was that in 2010 many new, inexperienced racers entered their first 'big' bike race in the category 3/4 field where a hard fought battle among riders nearly in the 2's was fought. The fitness and experience gap between a relatively new racer and a rider who was on the verge of category 2 in the old system is enormous.

This makes for a terrible and often expensive experience for your new, enthusiastic racer.

So the situation is, with category 4 being the entry level category, we shouldn't be having them race with riders who are effectively strong enough to race at a national level. Thus, to improve the situation for the new racers, the strongest category 3 riders need to be moved up to category 2.

As it stands now, 2011 will have three times the number of available upgrade points as 2010. Upgrades are immediate so a number of riders will be upgraded by the time the Escape Velocity Spring Series is over. By the time the race heavy month of May is over, theoretically 30 riders could be upgraded. In practice, this number will be somewhat smaller, but we're still talking about twice as many upgrades in half of the 2011 season as there was in the entire 2010 season.

Unfortunately, with the sheer number of weekly races available, I doubt this is sustainable. 40 new riders into the category 1/2 races this year might be fine once. It's doubtful that BC can supply enough strong new cyclists to upgrade that many into the top ranks of the sport every year.

There are two ways this could play out.

2011 runs as is documented. Many 3's move up to category 2. Many 4's are properly slotted into category 3 with some going right on through to 2 (you know who you are). In 2012, the rules are changed such that local weekly races count for half points or something like that, slowing the upgrade flood.

An alternate method, and the way I'd personally do it is to closely monitor the upgrades. Once the upper eschelon of category 3 riders has moved up to category 2, slow the tide and count local weekly races for half points or cap them at the 'races with 5-10 racers' level, regardless of the total number. (3,2,1 points for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place respectively)

That has the effect of quickly moving up the strongest riders in the various groups as well as still providing a reward for coming out and racing hard during the week without making a Tuesday night race as important to a rider's development as a 100km road race.

The one variable I don't know is how many people get out of the sport or go on to only race in the masters categories. Those numbers would have some effect on the outcomes here.

Either way, it will be interesting to see what actually happens.