Nov 15 2007
Someone started a thread in the Cross Forum about upgrading and tewills chimed in with a couple ideas on the upgrade process. According to Candi Murray, OBRA currently has the same 3 top 3’s / 5 top 5’s criteria for cross that it does for mtb racing. It isn’t the stricter, more elaborate set that road racing has probably due to having less races to judge a rider by in a season. However, the field sizes are growing. I don’t think it’s the ideal criteria but failing a better suggestion, it’s the best we have.
Caveat – I am currently a B+35 racer. My season results (5th, 1st, 3rd) put me right at, but just below, the upgrade limits. I will not say I should or shouldn’t cat up although I am sure that 99% of any comments will say that I should. If you do think I should – I am genuinely interested in hearing why.
Anyway, I was thinking about the process this year, particularly after Brooke Hoyer began posting lap time information on his blog and the overlap that happens between categories. Brooke put the Barton lap times here. Comparing the A+ to B+, the average B+ lap time for 1st, 5th , and 10th places (about 8:10) was right at the 10th place A+ lap time (also 8:10…assuming I’m reading the data correctly). You could make an argument that those top 10 B+ riders would do reasonably fine in the A+’s. Comparing the open B’s to A’s, the difference is even less noticeable. But by current criteria, only the top 5 really get scrutinized.
So is placement a realistic indicator of performance? I’m beginning to think that maybe it isn’t. Perhaps lap times would be a more accurate representation of ability…and category placement. Instead of 3 top 3’s, maybe 3 races where your lap times are better than the 10th or 20th percentile of the next category up is sufficient. This may be the top 3 racers or the top 10. Aside from deliberately slowing down for an entire race, sandbagging would be much harder to do. Simply ‘bagging it to drop a spot or two down into the 6th-10th places that fly under the upgrade radar might actually be counterproductive.
The reality of it though is that implementing this criteria would mean significantly more work for the race officials. In addition to the time they spend getting placement right, they would now also have to track finish times and # of laps to get average lap times. The race chips would be a potential solution but they’re expensive and are reputed to be somewhat unreliable.
Obviously this is just a thought. But if we’re looking to have a category system that feels fair, maybe lap times are a better indicator of performance than placement.