02 May 2016

Looking ahead to the impact of USAC rule changes

Around the country the road season is wrapping up with most conferences having completed their seasons and crowned individual and team champions. While we are all primarily interested in the performances at the upcoming National Championships, we can also take a moment to speculate as to what Nationals will look like in the 2016-17 season under the new divisional structure.

I have previously speculated about the potential negative consequences of making divisional membership based on program type (varsity vs. club), but now we have some hard numbers to work with. I am relying on the information available at CCN and the conference results that are available as of today.

In my opinion, we can see clear negative outcomes in terms of "National Representation", "Showcasing the Best Teams/Riders", and "Field Composition".

National Representation
Currently there are 16 varsity programs with A riders. These programs are distributed as follows:

Midwest = 3
Rocky Mountain = 4
South Central = 1
Southeast = 8

This means that 6 out of the 10 active conferences will not be represented in the premier division. Further, 50% of the schools will come from a single conference.

Showcasing the Best Teams/Riders
Of the 10 active conferences, 7 of the conference championship winning teams are club programs. While this means that in 3 of the 4 conferences with varsity teams, a varsity team was the strongest team, in one conference (Rocky Mountain) a club team outperformed 4 varsity programs.

Further, only 9 of the 16 varsity programs make the CCN.com's Top 25 Power Rankings. This means 16 of the statistically strongest programs in the country will not be competing in the premier division.

From an individual rider perspective, the split also dilutes the quality of the premier field for both men and women. According to CCN.com's rider rankings, only 24 of the top 100 ranked men are from varsity programs. For the women it is only 39. This means that the majority of the top ranked individual riders will not be lining up to contest the premier division.

Field Composition
On the mens side, only 7 varsity teams are capable of fielding a full squad (6) in the Road Race. The remaining 8 programs can field a grand total of 19 riders. The resulting mens field will be extremely small and/or imbalanced (large teams dominating small teams).

For the women it is even more problematic. There are only 12 varsity programs that can field a female competitor at Nationals. Of these 12, only 5 can field the full 6 in the road race (an additional team, Brevard, can field 5 riders). If you were to include club programs, a full 12 programs would be able to field 5 riders. This leads to a very balanced and reasonably-sized field.

While I do favor a restructuring of the divisions, I don't think we have gotten to the point where it can be done on a varsity/club level. As previously stated, I think a transitional period is necessary where the "best" club programs should also be included in a redesigned "Division 1". I think "best" can be determined by considering the following:

1.  Club's interest and activity in pursuing "varsity status"
2.  Size of program/roster
3.  Quality of program--past results
4.  Program's interest in competing in the "top" division

That's my 2 cents, feel free to comment.

12 April 2016

2016 Road Nationals - criterium course breakdown

This year's Nationals are back in the Asheville, NC area. The Road Race and Time Trial course remain the same as last year, but the Criterium course is new. Because its new that's where we'll begin. This breakdown is brought to you by myself and Joey Iuliano (@Joey_Iuliano) of the University of Arizona. It was his initial tweets about the course that exposed the course characteristics and gave me the idea for the course breakdown.

In an Omnium-style event, it seems reasonable that every "type" of rider should have an opportunity to shine. The road race typically favors those who can climb well and tends to favor smaller and lighter riders. Generally, the CRITERIUM should showcase the sprinters and riders who excel on the flats and can generate big power and high speeds.

Last year's criterium course was an extremely difficult and selective course. In most people's mind, inappropriately so. The Women's event completely exploded with only 5 riders in contention after a few laps. A shortened Men's race had a largish breakaway get away from a severely reduced field. Many riders were pulled from both events very early, making for a frustrating and unfulfilling experience (not to mention expensive).

Many complained and USA Cycling promised to come up with a new course that was flatter and would provide a more appropriate criterium experience. When the course maps were posted, the elevation profile made it appear that we were going to have a basically flat course. However, upon closer inspection it is clear that the those profiles were somewhat misleading. One must conclude that there is not a mile of flat road anywhere in the Asheville area, because this year's course doesn't look much better than last year (if not worse).

On Strava:  https://www.strava.com/routes/4571974

As you can see the course is about .9 miles with about 105ft of elevation gain per lap. Note this is 105ft over only .4 miles or so. This equates to an average grade of 4.97%. Compare to last year's course: .85 miles with 105ft gained over approximately .35 miles (an average grade of 5.68%). Although we think last year's uphill section was harder, the bottom corner on this year's course will slow the riders even more before starting the climb. This year's course looks to be on narrower roads (with the exception of the downhill on Main Street) which will further contribute to stringing out the fields. Finally, unlike last year which had basically no flat sections, this year has the town square section (this means the elevation loss is over a shorter distance than last year). Small variations aside, the courses are remarkably similar.

Here's some snapshot views moving around the course:

View from Start/Finish area, the highest point on the course
First turn, 90 degree right-hander into the town square
Into the town square, quick left 

heading into another 90 degree left hander
slight downhill following the turn, still in the town square
a left, then quick right leaving the town square and down Main Street
at the top of East Main Street, left turn on to Azalea is at the bottom
nearing the turn, you can see Azalea coming back up on the left
The Azalea turn, very acute! Note the Azalea is the "inner" street, not the 90 degree
A view of the corner from the outside, riders come down E Main on the left side of the image, and turn to head up Azalea on the right side of the image. Almost an 180 degree turn!

after the turn, looking up Azalea

about halfway up Azalea

the last 200-300m before the turn on to Main Street

the sweeping turn to Main Street

on Main Street immediately after the turn, still going up...start/finish is right after where the road crests

Interested in even more Collegiate Cycling News, full coverage updated weekly!

31 March 2016

Collegiate Cycling Team Power Rankings

After some more number crunching I have now compiled a Power Ranking of all the collegiate teams for ROAD. The points are derived from the USAC Ranking System, but are applied with an eye towards how the teams would do head-to-head under the start list restrictions at Nationals (4 riders in Criterium and 6 riders in the Road Race). Version 2 will incorporate the conference standings/results.

The permanent home for the Team Power Rankings is live!

1.  Milligan College - 4157.65 (varsity)
2.  Marian University - 4229.6 (varsity)
3.  University of Colorado Boulder - 5001.95
4.  Lindenwood University - 5222.2 (varsity)
5.  Stanford University - 5354.85
6.  University of California-Davis - 5576.59
7.  Fort Lewis College - 6095.78 (varsity)
8.  Furman University - 6146.74
9.  Virginia Polytechnic University - 6639.73
10.  Midwestern State University - 6721.49 (varsity)
11.  Columbia University-NYC - 7014.62
12.  Colorado State University - 7025.19
13.  Appalachian State University - 7176.2
14.  Colorado Mesa University - 7332.95 (varsity)
15.  University of Arizona - 7444.62
16.  University of California-Los Angeles - 7586.58
17.  Lees-McRae College - 7617.6 (varsity)
18.  US Naval Academy - 7734.22
19.  University of California-San Diego - 7794.33
20.  University of Florida - 8016.05
21.  University of Wisconsin-Madison - 8019.15
22.  University of California-Berkeley - 8402.6
23.  University of Vermont - 8474.83
24.  University of California-Santa Barbara - 8483.83
25.  Ohio State University - 8500.98

An interesting observation is that only 7 of the Top 25 teams are currently designated as varsity programs. This seems to support my thesis that splitting the divisions on varsity/club next season will be a mistake.

The Individual Rankings were updated for this week as well. 

23 March 2016

Weekly Collegiate Update: March 23, 2016

The promised upgrades to the 2016 Road Rankings have been completed. We are now showing the Top 100 Men and Women and showing week-to-week changes in both ranking position and points.

Some riders will not be listed in the "right" place on the rankings because they do not have the minimum 5 criteriums and 5 road races. Once those results have been added to the system, the rider's rank will automatically be adjusted. Also recall that the scoring races must be within the last 12 months. So, as races drift out of this window, more recent results form the basis of the ranking points and position.

In the case that USAC doesn't provide a point value, we double-check the results that have been uploaded to the USAC system. If a rider does not have the requisite races, he or she is assigned the maximum value for that discipline (RR, Crit).

Some interesting stats:

For the men, Marian University has the most riders on the list with 11. Here is the Top 10 schools on the list:
  1. Marian University: 11
  2. Milligan College: 5
  3. Virginia Polytechnic University: 5
  4. Midwestern State University: 4
  5. Furman University: 4
  6. University of Colorado Boulder: 4
  7. Appalachian State University: 3
  8. University of Wisconsin-Madison: 3
  9. University of California-Davis: 3
  10. University of California-Berkeley: 3

Marian also tops the women's list, with 9 riders making the Top 100.

  1. Marian University: 9
  2. Milligan College: 7
  3. University of Colorado Boulder: 5
  4. Stanford University: 5
  5. University of California-San Diego: 5
  6. Lindenwood University: 5
  7. Columbia University-NYC: 4
  8. Fort Lewis College: 4
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 3
  10. US Naval Academy: 3

The full rankings can be found here:  http://winklercycling.com/collegiate-rankings.html

16 March 2016

Weekly Collegiate Update: March 16, 2016

Sam Anderson-Moxley leads the pack at the Spring 2015 UC Berkeley Criterium. Photo courtesy of UCSC cycling club.
The road season is now underway for most conferences. USAC is posting conference recaps on their News Archive (click on "collegiate" on sort by column, actually a filter).

CU Boulder will be racing this weekend in Golden, Colorado. The Oredigger Classic includes a Hill Climb Time Trial and a Criterium hosted by the Colorado School of Mines.

Below are the Top 10 Teams by number of USAC Licensees as of Tuesday March 15, 2016. In total, there are 2,332 active collegiate licensees.
  1. University of Colorado Boulder:  57
  2. Marian University:  54
  3. Stanford University:  52
  4. Fort Lewis College:  46
  5. University of California-Davis:  44
  6. Indiana University-Bloomington:  41
  7. University of Arizona:  39
  8. Lindenwood University:  34
  9. University of California-San Diego:  33
  10. Virginia Polytechnic University:  32

The 2016 Individual Road Rankings have been updated as well! This week's update includes the ability to see each riders' separate points and rank in the Road Race and Criterium disciplines (by rolling over the place and point "buttons"). 

Starting next week I will be highlighting movement on the list. Arrows will be included to indicate shifts in both "rank" and "rank points", as applicable.

24 February 2016

2016 Collegiate Individual Road Rankings

Below are the Top 25 Men and Women rankings as of February 24, 2016. Stay tuned for a more permanent ranking page, with regular updates during the season.

This ranking is based on the USAC Ranking/Points System and, therefore, incorporates its various shortcomings. This list only includes those riders who have purchased their 2016 collegiate racing license, and therefore may not include everyone racing this season. As riders renew their license they will be automatically included in future updates.

The ranking is based on an aggregate of each rider's Criterium and Road Race ranking. As a result, this identifies "all-rounders" more than specialists. To see how each sub-discipline is ranked you can use the USAC System directly.

The number in parenthesis is the rider's age. The school is included along with current Division (and varsity identifier, anticipating upcoming division changes).

** there is now a permanent page for these rankings - click here


  1. Colin DAW (26) Stanford University - D1
  2. Brendan RHIM (21) Furman University - D2
  3. Charlie HOUGH (21) Furman University - D2
  4. Connor BROWN (20) Lindenwood University - D1:VARSITY
  5. George SIMPSON (23) Colorado State University - D1
  6. Johnny MITCHELL (32) Milligan College - D2:VARSITY
  7. Glenn FERREIRA (30) University of Delaware - D2
  8. Derek SCHANZE (25) University of Florida - D1
  9. Brad NEAGOS (27) University of Denver - D2
  10. Andrew HEMESATH (24) Colorado School of Mines - D2
  11. Nolan TANKERSLEY (21) East Tennessee State University - D2
  12. Charles (Mac) CASSIN (25) University of Colorado Boulder - D1
  13. Christopher HARLAND DUNAWAY (28) University of California-Berkeley - D1
  14. Jonah MEADVANCORT (20) Lindenwood University - D1:VARSITY
  15. Maxwell ACKERMANN (22) University of Wisconsin-Madison - D1
  16. Fletcher LYDICK (20) Milligan College - D2:VARSITY
  17. Grant KOONTZ (22) Texas A & M University - D1
  18. Parker KYZER (24) Clemson University - D1
  19. Zachary FELPEL (26) Appalachian State University - D1
  20. Bill MULLIGAN (22) University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - D1
  21. Alexander FREUND (22) University of California-Berkeley - D1
  22. Nathaniel MORSE (21) Furman University - D2
  23. Taylor PEARMAN (23) Virginia Polytechnic University - D1
  24. Zachary CARLSON (21) Marian University - D1:VARSITY
  25. Zachary NEHR (20) Marian University - D1:VARSITY


  1. Gretchen STUMHOFER (27) University of California-San Diego - D1
  2. Diane MOUG (29) University of California-Davis - D1
  3. Allison ARENSMAN (22) Brevard College - D1:VARSITY
  4. Janelle COLE (20) Brevard College - D1:VARSITY
  5. Flora YAN (20) The University of Texas at Dallas - D2
  6. Melanie BEALE (23) Colorado State University - D1
  7. Jennifer CAICEDO (32) King University - D2:VARSITY
  8. Hannah ROSS (25) Midwestern State University - D1:VARSITY
  9. Laurel RATHBUN (20) Marian University - D1:VARSITY
  10. Hannah SWAN (20) Milligan College - D2:VARSITY
  11. Mollie BREWER (25) University of Colorado Boulder - D1
  12. Esther WALKER (29) University of California-San Diego - D1
  13. Katherine SHIELDS (23) Wake Forest University - D2
  14. Danielle HAULMAN (26) University of California-Davis - D1
  15. Kristen ARNOLD (26) Ohio State University - D1
  16. Samantha FOX (23) Drexel University - D1
  17. Emily ELBERS (22) Marian University - D1:VARSITY
  18. Rachel SWAN (19) Milligan College - D2:VARSITY
  19. Leslie LUPIEN (28) Dartmouth College - D2
  20. Corrie KARAS (22) Marian University - D1:VARSITY
  21. Julia FRESNE (20) Furman University - D2
  22. Judah SENCENBAUGH (24) Iowa State University - D1
  23. Amy BENNER (28) California State University-Channel Islands - D2
  24. Stephanie CUCAZ (23) Milligan College - D2:VARSITY
  25. Jessica BOBECK (23) University of Colorado Boulder - D1

16 December 2015

The impact of the upcoming varsity/club reorganization on national championship results

USA Cycling has published a little data on the impact of the club/varsity changes coming for the 2016-17 school year. Primarily they have focused on how field sizes will be impacted. While this is an important consideration, another important thing to examine is the change to the results. Below you will find how the Top 20 results in each event would have been impacted in 2015.

My conclusion is that the proposed organization will split the quality of the collegiate field, and in the case of road,  dramatically so. At first glance, this split looks even worse than what occurs under the current "modified small/big school division structure". In my opinion, at least in the short term, this is a bad thing for collegiate cycling.

Cyclocross Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20
  • Men:  5
  • Women: 7

Road Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20
  • Individual Time Trial: 
    • Men: 15
    • Women: 17
  • Criterium:
    • Men:  12
    • Women: 13
  • Road Race:
    • Men:  11
    • Women: 13

MTB Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20

  • Cross Country:
    • Men:  5
    • Women: 3
  • Dual Slalom:
    • Men:  4
    • Women: 3
  • Short Track Cross Country:
    • Men:  9
    • Women: 5
  • Downhill:
    • Men:  8
    • Women: 5

I'll play devil's advocate and counter that over time the best riders will migrate to varsity programs because of the financial benefits of doing so. This is a valid argument and I agree that as the number of varsity programs and opportunities increase, more top riders will attend those schools. This argument is somewhat undercut, however, by the nature of universities and colleges with varsity cycling programs. The current reality is that primarily small schools with relatively small NCAA Athletics programs have been successful creating a well-supported cycling program (I previously researched this and, if memory serves, the majority of these schools have less than 5,000 students). Until varsity cycling programs are implemented across a broader variety of institution sizes and types offering the full-range of educational opportunities, many of the strongest competitors will be "lost" to club programs or simply choose not to compete in collegiate racing.

09 December 2015

v.2 of the Collegiate Category "A" Map

I reworked the visualization adding greater detail. It doesn't quite fit embedded into Blogger, so you'll have to click over to my website to view the interactive version.

The demographic insights remain the same, number one being that collegiate cycling is concentrated in very few states.  Almost 50% of all racers are attending school in 1 of 4 states.

  • Colorado has almost 20% of all Category A racers
  • California: almost 12%
  • North Carolina: about 10%
  • Indiana: 6.5%

One interesting project that could flow out of this would be finding the geographical location for Nationals competitions that results in the fewest miles travelled.

Version 2 of the Map


Also mapped all licensed collegiate racers here.

25 November 2015

Visualizing the distribution of Category A competitors in 2015

By the Numbers: The universe of category A collegiate racers

Category A is the highest level for collegiate racing. Racers achieve this category through results and experience, showing success and rising up through the lower categories (B, C, D). Competitors in Category A represent the pinnacle of competitive cycling at the collegiate level.

Similarly, National Championship events should be contested by the "best of the best," specifically the best of the Category A racers nationwide. I believe most people would agree that the competitors selected to compete in a National Championships should represent a subset of the overall competitor ranks, and the "best" subset. How big this subset should be is a factor of: the overall size of the eligible pool of competitors, the practical limitations of the National Championship events, and perhaps an arbitrary numerical subset representing a "quality factor", i.e. the best 10%, or best 20%.

For example, we might say that the Road National Championships for Men should be contested by roughly the best 10% of all Men Category A racers in the country.

Here are the numbers of Category A riders nationwide from which we would make these types of calculations.

Grand Total:  1464 (M: 1096, F: 367)
  Road:        870 (M:  632, F: 238)
  XC:          588 (M:  430, F: 158)
  CX:          473 (M:  342, F: 131)
  DH:          335 (M:  246, F:  88)
  Track:       231 (M:  159, F:  72)

As mentioned in another post, field limits at Nationals should be something like the following:

Road:  125-150 (road race can handle the higher number, but I think it would be viable to just pick one number for both events, I'd favor 125)

XC:  75 (I think putting any more on the course is unfair--they are almost out of contention from the start and many get pulled early) 

CX: 75 (for the reasons mentioned above, I'd go even lower, like 50, but that is probably not viable from a financial perspective)

DH/DS: 75 (somewhat arbitrary because each rider does course alone)

Track:  doesn't really apply with so many events, and is probably not a problem (or could be solved with heats, etc.)

Using these as starting points, we come up with the following if there were only 1 national championship event (and 2x for two event/divisions):

  Men = approx. top 20% (of Cat As nationwide)
  Women = approx. top 50%

  Men = approx. top 18%
  Women = approx. top 50%

  Men = approx. top 22%
  Women = approx. top 57%

  Men = approx. top 30%
  Women = approx. top 85%

Obviously, the fact that collegiate racers are on teams complicates the issue for some disciplines. The existence of events like the Team Time Trial (and similar events) encourage a system where teams qualify rather than just individuals. Of course, this only the case because of the qualification system in place. At least one alternative would be that the Team Time Trial is a stand alone event, and every school is eligible to compete in the national championship event (assuming they can field 3 eligible riders). This would be like the USA at the World Championships in Richmond. Every US Pro Team was eligible to race the event.

Overall school standings would probably get more complicated under such a system, but probably nothing that couldn't be resolved.