Monday, June 11, 2007

4-D format for bike racing

This weekend I visited with a guy
whose daughter races barrel horses heavily
and one of the topics we touched on
was (National Barrel Horse Association) NBHA format which we both thought might have the potential to address some of the issues we face as a state with small bike racing fields.

Problem: In Nebraska, and probably other sparsely populated areas, category driven races end up with super small fields. This leads to a mixing of categories, which in theory, shouldn't be much of a problem, but which really seems to affect they way strategies and tactics play out, and doesn't really solve the core numbers problem. For example, in Norfolk this weekend, there were only 8 of us in the men's 1/2/3 combined.

Solution?
This same problem used to affect barrel racing when it was divided into rider age categories and the number of barrel races dwindled to the point where good races were hard to come by and when you found them, only an elite level horse and rider team could hope to win anything for their efforts. Then the NBHA came along with a novel way to address categories and payback (winnings) called the 4-D system.

4-D stands for four divisions and it works like this:
  • 1st Division: These are the riders with the fastest times. ·
  • 2nd Division: These are competitors who ran ONE-HALF (1/2) SECOND or SLOWER than the OVERALL fastest time.
  • 3rd Division: These are competitors who ran ONE (1) SECOND or SLOWER than the OVERALL fastest time.
  • 4th Division: These are competitors who ran TWO (2) SECONDS or SLOWER than the OVERALL fastest time.
The biggest benefits are as follows:
  1. One doesn't have to be an elite rider or have the elite level horse to make a little money. One can compete from beginner to expert on solid but differently talented horses. If you don't have the fastest horse to win in the 1D, you might be a regular winner in the 3D or 4D. Because everything is based off of the speed of the fastest horse that day, there's no categorization or accusations of "sandbagging."
  2. Horse and rider age independent. All entries go into one cash payback pool with percentages being paid out to each divisions placings.
How would this work in bike racing?
I'm not sure on the division time splits or how many divisions there should be, but I think that could be easily calculated from race results collected over a season. One might also want to have two races to divide the raw beginner from the more experienced, for the sake of safety. But from there, you could combine everyone and perhaps have a much more interesting race for the following reason:
  • Everyone is motivated to be as fast as they can be b/c they don't know what the divisions will be until the end. Moreover, the faster the divisions pay a little more than the slower ones.
  • The lack of categorical division would allow teams to use more members for the races and thereby hopefully employ more of the strategies and tactics used by pro teams.
  • By not having to have prizes for so many different categories, perhaps the divisional payback could be richer and not be so top-heavy (mostly going to the elites with mere medals or tokens for the slower folks).
Drawbacks
  • How to keep track of lapped riders. Maybe this isn't such a big deal b/c they manage to do this now, but I don't know how.
  • Too many riders in a field. But, this could be addressed with multiple races. If you fill one field, say a 50 rider limit, just run another race, or divide the total number, so you have two good sized fields randomly divided, then the final prizes are still time-based.
OK, I've put the idea out there... what are all the holes?

7 comments:

Veronica said...

Good ideas Syd!
My thoughts on some loop holes:
"Too many riders in a field. But, this could be addressed with multiple races. If you fill one field, say a 50 rider limit, just run another race, or divide the total number, so you have two good sized fields randomly divided, then the final prizes are still time-based."
"Everyone is motivated to be as fast as they can be b/c they don't know what the divisions will be until the end."
vn - I hope that this is the case as well and someone doesn't just put in enough effort to be at the top of a lower class instead of the bottom of a higher class.
vn- I don't know what the "whiner ratio" is in the biking world, but an issue that could cause "unfair" issue is weather. E.G. The wind starts gusting only during the second group of riders, slowing time significantly for this group. I would hope that people would be more mature…
"By not having to have prizes for so many different categories, perhaps the divisional payback could be richer and not be so top-heavy (mostly going to the elites with mere medals or tokens for the slower folks)."
vn - Tokens are not very motivating as an adult and you can't trade them for new equipment/gear. This does need fixed but I don't know enough about the bike racing circuit to have feedback.

Sweet Cheeks said...

Syd- that is great that you are brainstorming solutions for your racing scene out there.

This is not a solution to your dilemma but I think you should come to Northern California and race! You'll race against some phenomenal females and have some fun, too!

Hang in there in Nebraska. you're incredible.

Neve_r_est said...

A few of the smaller local stage races over here work this way. First event is a TT which places you in either an A,B, or C group for the crit and road race depending on your TT time. Works fairly well for the small races. You do end up with a few strong riders with no handling or pack skills ending up with the fast group, though. And sometimes the best sprinters aren't very good TT riders either. Either way it keeps the pack sizes reasonable at least.

DG

munsoned said...

This method would work great for TTs and mtb races. Heck, my TT time this weekend got me 2nd in the 1/2s but was slower than a few people in other cats.

With road races and crits, you can't really base categories with time. There's so much in the way of tactics going on, that the only way to categorize people is through results. Like Neverest mentioned, categorizing people based on TT times could pit horrible bike handlers with huge aerobic engines against agile sprint specialists. This could spell disaster on technical crit courses.

Mainly, the issue with Nebraska is the lack of interest in cycling, or rather road biking. A majority of our local population see bikes as toys for kids, or something to be used on trails around lakes. They don't like serious cyclists taking up their roads and they couldn't imagine what it's like riding in traffic either. It is also a very expensive sport to get into. Sure the entry fees and such are not much, but to even get into it, you need a road bike which is at least $600. That's a tough pill to swallow when you can buy a pair of running shoes for at most $150 and be set for some good competition.

The Metro Mountain Bike Challenge series is a great idea because it brings new people out to experience competition. The races are designed for recreational riders in hopes to encourage them to ride and perhaps race more. At higher level races such as ours, it can be real intimidating for a newcomer to feel welcome. We all went through it, but most likely had a friend from a group ride to follow. I don't know if there could be a grassroots road bike intro race series. It's hard enough securing venues for races that have significant monetary backing, I can't imagine how much of a hole you'd dig yourself into with insurance costs, road closures, police support for a cheap race strictly for beginners.

I don't have the answers, but it'd be nice to try something different than the current system that just doesn't work for our part of the country.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for these ideas. I raced for my first time last year and was so bummed that there weren't more beginners, let alone more riders in intermediate and advanced. I got last, but loved the experience and challenge. I vowed to try again and it has motivated me to get in better shape. What I'm disappointed about though, is that there is no one else that I'm competitive with at this point in time. It may take a couple years for that. I am happy that the Metro MTB challenge was started though. What a great idea to get more people involved.
Anyway, whatever needs to be done to get more people biking.....maybe just more divisions for people to choose from. Thanks for listening.

buconine said...

I have to agree with munsoned on needing a citizens class. When i first started road racing 20 years ago, beginner class was guys in cut off jeans shorts and tennis shoes. I had to be asked to remove my panniers from my touring bike @ the cornhusker state games because i didn't know any better. There were tons of local races then and good fields. No weekend warrior stands a chance in a cat5 race and will leave dissapointed and will prob not try again. Sponsored or team riders have no business in beginner class either. I would love and support a metro type series for road racing.
The more people that race, the more entry fees collected. The more money coming in means more money that is available to payout. I think a 100% pro payout could work too if we could build fields enough and get sponsors to cover race costs. 4D could work but seems open to alot of whining and protests. Keep the ideas coming, you've got some great ones...

Luke said...

What about Belgian-style kermesse racing?

As I understand it, the kermesse is like a large circuit race. There are no categories, so everyone races together. You start with hundreds of riders, all lumped together. When a group is about to get lapped, the officials score them the next time they cross the finish line and they drop out. It continues until there's only an elite group left. This way everyone gets to race, at speeds and distances appropriate to their ability.