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.

16 November 2015

Varsity Programs and a varsity division

As discussed in an earlier post, the rise of varsity cycling programs continues to gather momentum and in recent years has become the real divide between programs that are successful on the national level, and those that aren't.

According to a recent USA Cycling post, there are currently 20 approved Varsity Programs and 8 Emerging Varsity Programs. Notably, some of the announced varsity programs don't have an active program yet, but plan to be fielding teams in the near future.

In addition to these 28 teams, there are 245 collegiate cycling club sport teams.

About 82% of all collegiate racers are on club teams. About 13% of collegiate racers are on varsity teams. For varsity teams, the mean roster size is 33, and median is 25. For club teams, the mean is 15 and the median is 11.

(These numbers are for racers in all racing categories and disciplines. I currently can't get at USAC numbers for Cat A racers only.)

I think the collegiate racing structure will change soon. The current divisions based primarily on institution enrollment numbers will be scrapped and replaced with a Varsity Division and a Club Division. This is probably a good development. The number one complaint I've heard over the past few years is that club teams cannot realistically compete against the well-funded varsity teams like Marian, Fort Lewis, Brevard, etc. The recent nationals attendance numbers and results certainly support this argument.

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts about how this should work:

1.  varsity programs should have a minimum roster size

This ensures that varsity programs are teams and not simply well-supported individual riders. The roster minimums should be for nationals-eligible riders and be discipline-specific, e.g., road = 5 Cat A men and 5 Cat A women. This raises the bar for achieving varsity status and also controls and directs the growth of the varsity division. This should allow for easy management of the size of the field at various nationals events. It may also mean, for the foreseeable future, that every varsity program will be automatically qualified for Nationals.

2.  varsity programs should have a maximum roster size

This would function similar to the minimums (nationals-eligible and discipline-specific). This would serve to distribute the talent among the various varsity schools and enhance competition at conference and national level events.

3.  varsity programs must be varsity for all disciplines

This simply avoids issues like a program focusing on ROAD and competing at the varsity level, but then sending the same road riders to club MTB national championships. I don't think varsity programs should be required to compete in multiple disciplines, but if they do, varsity in all.

4.  varsity programs NOT be required to attend multiple national championships

I think a school should be permitted to focus on a single discipline. I think it would serve the sport better to allow a school to allocate all of its resources to supporting a MTB program, rather than have to dilute it by being forced to take on the expense of a second discipline (attendance at nationals, coaching resources, competition expenses, etc.) Additionally, geography tends to influence what a school can realistically focus on or excel at.

5.  varsity nationals events should "count" more riders for team omnium

Currently, only the top 3 riders score per event. This number should be increased in line with the allowable number of riders per event, i.e., if you can start 5, at least 4 should count. One certainly could count ALL riders, but it might be good to have a throwaway so teams aren't penalized for mishaps. The argument that not all teams can field enough riders goes away when talking about varsity programs. Unlike club teams, there is no valid argument for not being able to field the minimum number of riders.

6.  consider increasing the number of riders per event, especially for road

This would emphasize the team aspect even more, and encourage teams to compete against each other as teams. Overall field size will probably still be a limiter on how big this number could go, but with 20-25 teams it seems that 6-7 would be feasible.

Racing with more riders per team will force more sophisticated team tactics, making the team aspect more important and the racing more interesting. This will also make the racing tactics more like professional-style racing, which will help the riders become more attractive recruiting prospects for professional teams.

7.  make the ITT (Road) count towards the team omnium

Have the riders who don't do the TTT do the ITT and count the points. This makes sure everyone rides on Sunday and "counts". It also requires teams to think tactically about their mix of riders in these 2 events.

Some questions to consider for a Varsity Division in collegiate cycling.

1.  Does it matter how many varsity teams there are nationally? Or asked another way, should this number be limited?

2.  Should the Divisions be named "varsity" and "club"? Or does this undermine the legitimacy of either one or both? Could they just remain Division 1 and Division 2, to remain consistent with NCAA parlance, and just adjust the memberships?

3.  What about Emerging Varsity programs? Do they remain in Club/Div 2 until they meet the requirements, or do they race with Varsity/Div 1 while attempting to make the transition?

4.  Do we even need to create the requirement for "top division" teams to be varsity? Should it just be the Top 20-25 teams nationally, regardless of whether cycling is sponsored by the University? Would quality simply rise to the top, which will be mostly varsity programs anyway (but allowing for the exceptional club team to add quality to the top division?).

Comments welcome...

11 November 2015

U23s and Collegiate Racing

A VeloNews article was recently published describing the dismal state of the domestic amateur racing scene in the USA. It highlights the various difficulties encountered by amateur teams and individual racers trying to make the jump to the professional ranks. I won't repeat the points made there, but simply encourage you to go read it now.

This article (and some of the followup commentary) connects nicely with my focus on the collegiate racing scene and its potential role as a development path. It certainly warrants a deeper look to see if we can provide the critical U23 racing period through the vehicle of collegiate racing.

Here's some interesting numbers:

MTB Cross Country (Cat Pro & 1):
182:  male USAC licensees with racing age 19-22:
70%:  currently a member of a collegiate racing team (for women it is 85%)

Road (Cat 1 & 2 Road Race):
321:  male USAC licensees with racing age 19-22:
55%:  currently a member of a collegiate racing team (for women it is 88%)

Cyclocross (Cat 1 & 2):
75:  male USAC licensees with racing age 19-22:
57%:  currently a member of a collegiate racing team (for women it is 77%)

So, with the majority of the experienced U23 riders racing for collegiate teams, shouldn't we be directing national development resources to ensure the collegiate racing system helps these riders continue to progress while in school?

And where are these riders attending?

For Men's Road, 50% of all Cat 1 & 2 riders are at these 15 schools (with count):

Marian University:  11
Fort Lewis College:  10
Milligan College:  8
University of Colorado Boulder:  7
Lindenwood University:  7
Colorado State University:  7
University of Wisconsin-Madison:  6
Lees-McRae College:  6
Mars Hill University:  5
Colorado Mesa University:  4
University of California-Davis:  4
California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo:  4
Furman University:  4
University of California-Berkeley:  4
Lindsey Wilson College:  4

For women,

Marian University:  5
Lees-McRae College:  3
Lindenwood University:  2
University of Arizona:  2
Milligan College:  2
Whitman College:  1
University of California-Los Angeles:  1

For Men's XC, 50% of all Pro & Cat 1 riders are at these 10 schools (with count):

Fort Lewis College:  14
University of Colorado Boulder:  8
Brevard College:  7
Marian University:  7
Lees-McRae College:  5
Colorado Mesa University:  5
Appalachian State University:  5
Lindenwood University:  5
Colorado State University:  4
Michigan Technological University:  4

For Women's XC, the following are the only schools with more than one Pro/Cat1 rider attending:

Ripon College:  2
Lees-McRae College:  2
Fort Lewis College:  2
University of Colorado Boulder:  2
Stanford University:  2

09 November 2015

2015 MTB Nationals - by the numbers

Here's some more numbers!

I feel that prior to any discussion of changes to division structure or rules, we need to understand what is going on at the national events (Road numbers coming later in the week).

Below is a breakdown of the attendance at the MTB Nationals in Snowshoe, WV in October. Attendance is controlled by USAC's qualification rules which provide for top teams and individuals to qualify out of their conference (conference placing affects size of roster at nationals events).

The current rules allow for teams to bring up to 10 men and 10 women (up from 8 in 2014). At the time, I argued against this increase because I feel it inappropriately favors the well-financed teams. As you can see from the counts below, no teams brought the maximum number of riders and only 13 out of 77 brought more than half that (6+ men or 6+ women or 11+ combined).

Some highlights:

  • Division 1 men's endurance races continue to have the largest fields (arguably too big)
  • Division 2 men's fields are small in all disciplines
  • Women's fields are lower than men's but reasonably sized and fairly balanced across the divisions
  • size of roster drives overall result

======= Team Participation Metrics =======

12 of 41 Division 1 teams fielded a team relay
9 of 36 Division 2 teams fielded a team relay

20 teams fielded at least 1 rider in 4 of the 8 individual events. Only 13 (of 77) teams fielded 1 or more riders in all 8 of the individual events.

Only 5 teams fielded the full contingent of "scoring riders"--3 riders in every individual event. (KING UNIVERSITY (D2), WARREN WILSON COLLEGE (D2), BREVARD COLLEGE (D1), FORT LEWIS COLLEGE (D1), UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT (D1) )

======= Individual Participation by Event =======

Division 2:

Men Dual Slalom:  27
Men Downhill:  33
Men Cross Country:  46
Men Short Track Cross Country:  44

Women Dual Slalom: 19
Women Downhill: 16
Women Cross Country: 25
Women Short Track Cross Country: 25

Division 1:

Men Dual Slalom:  61
Men Downhill:  67
Men Short Track Cross Country:  84
Men Cross Country:  88

Women Dual Slalom: 30
Women Downhill: 24
Women Short Track Cross Country: 39
Women Cross Country: 38

======= "Big" Teams: Men or Women > 5 or Team > 10 =======

MARIAN UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 19] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE: [Roster = 17] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
LINDSEY WILSON COLLEGE: [Roster = 15] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
COLORADO MESA UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 14] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT: [Roster = 14] [Division 1] 
BREVARD COLLEGE: [Roster = 13] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
LEES-MCRAE COLLEGE: [Roster = 11] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER: [Roster = 10] [Division 1] 
WARREN WILSON COLLEGE: [Roster = 10] [Division 2] [VARSITY] 
LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 9] [Division 1] [VARSITY] 
COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 9] [Division 1] 
APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 7] [Division 1] 

Note:  The biggest teams on this list also dominated the top spots in the omnium results. The top 5 Division 1 teams were:  FLC, Brevard, Marian, Lees-McRae, Lindsey Wilson. (full team rankings here)

======= Varsity Teams =======

Division 1:
MARIAN UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 19] [Division 1] 
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE: [Roster = 17] [Division 1] 
LINDSEY WILSON COLLEGE: [Roster = 15] [Division 1] 
COLORADO MESA UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 14] [Division 1] 
BREVARD COLLEGE: [Roster = 13] [Division 1] 
LEES-MCRAE COLLEGE: [Roster = 11] [Division 1] 
LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 9] [Division 1] 
MIDWESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY: [Roster = 3] [Division 1] 

Division 2:
UNION COLLEGE-KY: [Roster = 5] 
RIPON COLLEGE: [Roster = 2] 

02 November 2015

Collegiate Cycling 2015 - by the numbers

Here's some counts from USA Cycling's database of collegiate racers. Note this is all racers, all categories. It also may not accurately reflect who is actually an active student, since the license year doesn't correspond with the academic year. Nonetheless, I suspect it is pretty close to the universe of collegiate racers.

For more info on USAC Collegiate Cycling:  http://www.usacycling.org/Programs/collegiate/

  Total - 275
  Div I - 119 (2994 riders)
  Div II - 156 (1543 riders)


 27 teams -- 381 riders
 Div 1 = 268 riders
Div 2 = 113 riders
 57 teams -- 857 riders
Div 1 = 411 riders
Div 2 = 446 riders
 3 teams -- 18 riders
Div 1 = 18 riders
Div 2 = 0 riders
 45 teams -- 617 riders
Div 1 = 409 riders
Div 2 = 208 riders
North Central:
 14 teams -- 149 riders
Div 1 = 109 riders
Div 2 = 40 riders
 19 teams -- 264 riders
Div 1 = 75 riders
Div 2 = 189 riders
Rocky Mountain:
 17 teams -- 569 riders
Div 1 = 398 riders
Div 2 = 171 riders
South Central:
 25 teams -- 342 riders
Div 1 = 255 riders
Div 2 = 87 riders
 30 teams -- 510 riders
Div 1 = 345 riders
Div 2 = 165 riders
 6 teams -- 157 riders
Div 1 = 142 riders
Div 2 = 15 riders
 31 teams -- 673 riders
Div 1 = 564 riders
Div 2 = 109 riders