Add concerns about poor treatment of junior women racers to the list of distressing news to come out of last weekend’s U.S. cyclocross national championships in Austin, Texas.
Colin Reuter, founder of crossresults.com, blasted the governing body for its treatment of the junior women in a blog post on Tuesday.
The postponement of eight races from Sunday afternoon to Monday, and the compression of those races into a shorter timeframe, required USA Cycling to rethink the race schedule. The greatest reshuffle came in the junior categories, leaving the marquee elite men’s, elite women’s, and U23 men’s races intact.
The junior men 15-16 category, the largest of the junior categories, was allowed to race on its own, while the men 17-18, the women 17-18, and the women 15-16 all raced together, each start separated by one minute.
The oldest junior men’s field started two minutes ahead of the youngest junior women’s field. The results were as one would expect: the 15-16 year old junior women were quickly lapped. Eleven of the 18 starters were pulled after a single lap. All were pulled by the end of lap two.
The winner of the women’s 15-16 race heard the lap bell and was then pulled. Third and fourth were pulled together.
“Faced with a tough decision, the organizers decided to utterly destroy the racing experience for the junior women, as well as the integrity of the competition — note that the third and fourth place riders in the 15-16 race have the same time,” Reuter wrote. “As in, they were riding together, and pulled off the course after two laps. Did they get to sprint? Did they know the race was ending?”
Update: USA Cycling’s chief official at cyclocross nationals, Dot Abbott, weighed in mid-day Wednesday on Facebook. Her statement is below, unedited, in its entirety:
Help put an end to the misinformed folks claiming Women 15-16 were robbed of their race experience at the USA CX National Championships in Austin, TX.
Due to city mandates were forced with making a tighter schedule that would give us clear winners.
The primary deciding factor for putting their race on course with the Men 17-18 and Women 17-18 is that the integrity of the podium would be maintained for all categories. The riders in contention for the medals would have fewer slower riders on course that they had to pass, and fewer riders that might get in their way and possibly cost them a podium spot. Any other combination would have resulted in an unfair race for the podium places in this or other categories concerned.
Given the mandated course modifications, the shorter Junior course was no longer available for Monday’s racing. If the Junior Women 15-16 had their own individual time on the course, the outcome of the race and number of laps for the winner would have been the same. Because they were turning 13-14 minute lap times, for the 30 minute race allocation in the USAC regulations this category would have done a total of 2 laps (winning time 26:12) rather than 3 laps (approximately 39:30).
For those riders turning a slower first lap, in accordance with the way the events were run throughout the week, anyone turning a first lap time that would result in a projected total race time of over 36 minutes would have been pulled from the race after the first lap. [EDIT] This accounts for riders placed 15th and farther in Women 15-16. Possibly seven women 15-16 would have been able to do one more additional lap. Significant? Yes. Worth impeding the races for the podium spots by using a different schedule? Not at a Nationals if it could be avoided.
Putting this race after any other category possible (Men 15-16) would have meant that the Women 15-16 leader had to pass over 20 riders on her first lap. Grouping Men Juniors (15-16 and 17-18) on the course together with a time gap start would have had a similar outcome, with the Men 15-16 leader going through about 19 Men 17-18 riders on his first lap. This is not what the National Championships are about.