25 November 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.

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