Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Verge Addresses Sandbagging: Will It Have Any Effect?
For years people have been justifiably complaining about blatant sandbagging in cyclocross. The accepted wisdom is that as you progress and come to dominate a category, you should graciously upgrade. Of course no one begrudges you a good result here and there, but if you are consistently placing top ten, along with 9 other guys who are also consistently placing top ten, then you and your 9 friends are effectively racing against each other. This situation leaves the rest of the 120+ person field upset. One could argue that the sandbaggers should go and have their own 10 man race and allow everyone race without them for the remaining 115 places without them.
For years various solution have been proposed and some implemented. Shaming, heckling and anonymous letter/email writing have proved ineffective at bringing the most blatant and consistent sandbaggers to justice (it is taking every once of decency in me not to include links to people's results. Wait, f*** that I am not decent: 1, 2, 3, 4 (2007), 5 ...). Please note that according to USACycling 2 wins equals a mandatory upgrade. Every one of the riders noted in this post have more than 2 wins and are still racing in the category that they achieved those wins in.
Now, I realize that sometimes someone just has a breakthrough season and does not want to upgrade because they have points in a series. In fact I caught lots of shit for sandbagging on the track in 2007 when I remained in a lower category so that I could continue to accrue points in a series. What I learned in 2007 is that you may get some results and maybe even some prizes, but along the way you lose the respect of your friends and peers. I now upgrade in a timely manner (mtb cat 1 upgrade coming after Hodges Dam on 8/2/09)
It is safe to say that people have plenty of motivation to sandbag and often little incentive to upgrade. In fact, other than personal pride, there are no rewards for upgrading, while there are plenty of rewards for dominating the lower categories (prize money, good results, podium girls/boys). I mean seriously, when you go back to work on Monday, would you rather tell your coworkers that you won a cat 4 race or that you got lapped by a pro? Remember, your coworkers have no clue about the categories and the nuances therein.
Many of us have been petitioning the organizers of the Verge Series to consider breaking apart the 2/3 field. My suggestion was that they eliminate B masters (a sandbagger category if there ever was one) and allow both cat 3's and cat 2's to have their own race. This would eliminate the huge jump from 4 to 3. As it stood in 2008, a newly minted cat 3 was racing against seriously hardened cat 2's. It just wasn't fair. It made many cat 4's reluctant to upgrade. Many that did upgrade began racing 3/4 masters to avoid the thrashing that they'd take in the 2/3 race.
Breaking apart the 2's and the 3's would also give people upgrading from 3 to 2 a meaningful upgrade. As it stands now, the upgrade from 3 to 2 only has an effect on your racing at smaller regional races. With the Verge Series taking up more and more of the race calendar, the 3 to 2 upgrade in New England is just a number on your license for most races.
So word has trickled down that Verge will have a dedicated cat 3 race. Cat 2's will race with the elites. It appears that the B masters will still exist and may even have their own series, as opposed to the Podunk regional feel of the B masters races last year (no call ups, no series, no points).
There is one lingering problem in the B field. Since there has traditionally been no reason to apply for a 3 to 2 upgrade, many of the people who were dominating the B's last year are still cat 3's, despite having enough points for multiple "mandatory" upgrades. It would be nice if USAC would to follow up and enforce their own rules...
Here's a link to a more reputable source than RMM: http://cxmagazine.com/changes-coming-to-verge-neccs-series-categories-start-times