Cyclocross general discussions

This discussion has an associated proposal. View Proposal Details here.

Comments about this discussion:


Moved to a separate discussion.

1) Cyclocross passing: "In the case of a rider being lapped, the passing rider has the right-of-way."
How does the slower rider know if he/she is being lapped or just overtaking by another rider with the same amount of laps? Do we need to address this distinction?

2) Are more detailed guidelines for the Cyclocross track desired to avoid situations where there are just too many riders on the (maybe too short) course? Thinking of Unicon/standard category.


From Patricia:

"#1 and #2 sort of go together. But in my opinion cyclocross is a crazy race that is sort of every person for themselves. It's hard to have this precedent of the passing rider having the right of way for the reason Ben mentions. And also you can't have a traditional rule of staying to the right unless passing because that is not always the best or rideable line. I would be in favor of removing #1. "


From Danielle Millet:

"Regarding #1, I think we should keep some kind of wording to prevent a lapped competitor from intentionally impeding the faster competitor.  I think as the rule is written now it's the faster rider's responsibility to alert the slower one to yield 'The approaching rider needs to alert the slower rider of their intentions to pass.' In my experience from bike cyclocross, it's typically very apparent due to relative speed whether you're being passed by someone lapping you vs just being overtaken.  It's pretty rare for someone with the same number of laps to fly by you, whereas when being lapped that's typically the case.


First of all I'd like to share that I thought the San Sebastian Cyclocross course was a blast! I was in the heat that almost everybody else was in. From a crowding perspective, that race was like the XC race at Unicon XIV (Sweden). No way to win if you didn't get a good position at the very start. But at the same time, not to be taken too seriously.

So there were many things to learn from that event. Part of me doesn't want to make Cyclocross too formalized, for fear it would take all the fun out. But here we are making rules, so I digress. Clearly at the Unicon course, not enough effort was made to divide riders up into equal groups, or to split that giant group so there would be more room. As always time is also a factor.

On to passing. Is it possible to (formally) distinguish a lapping rider from a rider who is merely trying to move in front of you? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending on how well you can distinguish their relative speed. Should Cyclocross racers be actively trying to block the people on their same lap? Probably not. It should go by the same rules we use for passing in other racing. That said, the overtaking rider should be able to make some kind of simple sound, to which the front rider should respond by letting them get by without causing too much trouble for himself.

Maybe we should adopt a standard word or sound for passing. I think I used "BeeBeep", which is pretty easy to utter even when you're fairly exhausted. Even the passing rider cannot be sure if the person in front of them is on the same lap they are, so I don't think there's any "clean" way to do it just for lapping. A pass is a pass.


I have a really clever standard word for passing: it's "passing"! I know, I spent a really long time coming up with that one. That's what I yelled pretty much the whole race. I didn't have any problem with this during the race. Riders would get out of my way when possible and as was reasonable, and I didn't have anyone purposefully get in my way. The chaos of Cyclocross is part of the event and it affects all riders. Being a skilled rider and being able to pass quickly is part of what it takes to be a good CX rider.

As far as who is lapping vs not, those who are not lapping should not be shouting out "passing". I'm not sure how much incentive there is for someone is a lap or more behind to start cheating just to get around one or two people. It should be pretty obvious if they don't keep speeding ahead. Cyclocross is supposed to be fun! I don't think we need more passing rules, although perhaps a clarification or rewrite of the current rule could be useful.

From John:
"Clearly at the Unicon course, not enough effort was made to divide riders up into equal groups, or to split that giant group so there would be more room."

I was the one who made the decision for the different groups, so I really don't appreciate being told what effort I did or didn't make. I'm not infallible, however I'm pretty happy with the decision I made in this case, especially considering the problem of how do you fairly split up groups with no best or seed time provided. Also, all three groups were approximately the same size, thus "equal groups".

Sure, I wish the course had been slightly longer, resulting in a more spread out riders, but I think the event was a blast and I received a lot of positive feedback from both riders and spectators (much more than any other discipline I helped to organize at Unicon).


As Scott said, what makes a good cyclocross racer is their ability to navigate the chaos and craziness of the race. I don't think that passing has really been an issue and would be in favor of either leaving things as is or removing the rule all together. I don't think we really need to overthink this or make cyclocross any more structured.


As for this past Unicon, I heard a majority of positive things from both racers and spectators. As a spectator, it was clear watching that the best racers did well because of a combination of speed, technical ability, and most importantly, smart and creative racing.


"Passing" is English, so maybe not the best in a mixed international environment. I used "BeeBeep" for its more universal nature. It's pretty effective as well. But I wasn't trying to distinguish between regular passing and lapping, just maintaining my best possible speed. I don't know that there's a way to accurately/honestly allow "formal" passing only for lapping, but not for people on the same lap. If possible, we should just try to address passing as a general thing, and realize it might not be as important on courses that are more spread out.

Sorry to come off critical about the heat sizes, I know how much work you guys put into these things and only could say I should have helped more. Stuff happens, we look back and see what we can learn from it, and if we should make adjustments based on past events to avoid negative outcomes. We did a bunch of that after the Unicon XIV XC race, to specify things you can do to make sure there's enough room for large groups of riders. In the case of this Cyclocross comp, I didn't remember the breakdown. For some reason I was thinking people could have chosen any heat and too many just went in that crowded one. Wrong! So it made sense. The race was a blast in any case, but one indicator that a course is overcrowded is if you have an early bottleneck where people are walking or barely moving until they get through it.


Thanks, Scott, for moving the discussion to a separate thread!

I agree that passing in CX does not need to be over-regulated and has worked quite well in the past races I attended, so to avoid any confusion I think it's best to just delete this one sentence.

Regarding too many riders / too short course, I think it's difficult to come up with something explicit ("XX riders - XX meters minimum course length") because it really depends on the features of the course like how narrow, what kind of obstacles, etc. Maybe just a general sentence that the heat size should be chosen in a way to avoid bottlenecks.



1) I think Cyclecross race should be left as is as far as passing. It's part of the race and it makes it fun for spectators the more crazy and chaotic it is. The world champion is not only who is one of the fastest but one of the best to figure out how to pass people along the way.

2) I do think there should be something in the rules to try to avoid too many people on a short course to avoid bottlenecks. There was one race that I watched and I swear after the start there was at least a minute bottleneck maybe more for those that didn't have a fast sprint start...which kinda sucks if you happened to trip or had a bad mount or just got behind a few slow riders. I agree it would be hard to come up a specific rule for this but like Ben said a "general sentence that the heat size should be chosen in a way to avoid bottlenecks."

As a side note, instead of dividing the groups into unlimited, standard, etc. I think it would be fun to just have a random draw of a mixture of everyone in every heat. This would help spread out the group and would be interesting as you wouldn't know during the race if you were winning or not due to the other heats. Maybe it's a silly idea but it is cyclecross after all and people were getting hit (and possible slowed down) by water balloons, beer, etc.


I don't think this would work to have random heats made because the number of laps completed is determined by the fastest rider so the times aren't comparable from heat to heat very easily. Also I'm not a fan of not knowing where you are as a racer in the standings during a race like cyclocross. Part of what makes it such a great race is the chase element of it.


Good point Patricia. Scratch the random heats idea. But we should try and avoid bottlenecks especially at the start. 


The rules must be simply to follow and easy to judge. It is effortless to judge passing in CX, so better no rules in this matter.


@Jamey: "...we should try and avoid bottlenecks especially at the start."
Yes, and perhaps one other detail that covers most of the issue. The other is the ability to pass. Going back to the Muni events at Unicon XIV, along with the bottleneck at the start, this was followed by a very long section of overcrowded doubletrack. Riding outside of the tracks could be done briefly, but not as a viable way to pass 200 other riders. There needs to be sufficient room to do passing. So the key points are bottlenecks and room to pass. In the San Sebastian CX, there was sufficient room to pass once riders got spread out, so it wasn't the big issue. At the Unicon XIV 10k, which was also on sort of a doubletrack road, passing continued to be a problem for most of the race with each lane being hindered by the slowest riders. I also remember a Muni race (Unicon VII) where, after nearly 1km of paved road (good for spreading everybody out but bad for Muni tires), most of the remaining course was singletrack. Much of the race was spent by me waiting for the person in front of me to dismount to give a space, and it's not nice to follow a racer while trying to mindread them into falling off!

So in the rule modifications we made after Unicon XIV, we tried to address course design to prevent those problems. This was done mostly by reminding course designers that the more people you have, the more space, and distance, you will need to allow them to ride fast and sort themselves out without getting jammed up. We can look at those rules and see what can be brought over (or shared) for Cyclocross.

@Maksym: "The rules must be simply to follow and easy to judge."
That should be Rule One for these committees. If it's too complicated, it's probably not an improvement. Only complicate things if there is an absolute need for it. And even then, assume that the simplest solution is best, unless it can be clearly proven otherwise.



Regarding bottlenecks, one possible way to avoid early bottlenecks and spread riders out some without increasing the total time the event takes is to have mini-heats within a heat.  It's pretty common in bike cyclocross to have 2-3 "heats" all starting about 30 seconds apart within the same race.  So maybe within male standard you'd have a self selected "expert" heat that would start, and then 30 seconds later a heat of the remaining riders start.  This would be really simple to do when the two heats aren't competing against each other, but it could get a little tricky if they are (because all riders finish on the same lap, so if rider from the first heat just barely crosses the line in time to do another lap, but in the second heat a similar speed rider just barely misses doing another lap due to starting 30 sec later they would get ranked below the first heat rider even if they were slightly faster).


Alright, it seems to be the consensus that CX passing should not be overregulated.

Therefore, delete: "In the case of a rider being lapped, the passing rider has the right-of-way."

Regarding the bottleneck problem, here is my suggestion:
Add: "The course should be designed to avoid bottlenecks and give riders enough room to pass each other."

I'll make a proposal if there is no strong objection.

Regarding splitting categories into smaller heats, Danielle is right that it is actually pretty tricky not to put any riders at a disadvantage. I think this point would need further discussion.


I agree with your ideas, Ben. I support you making a proposal. 


Once more I come late, sorry. I agree with all ideas of Ben's last post.

Regarding splitting categories into smaller heats, I also don't think this is a good idea because of the 2 reasons mentioned above: the fact that top riders of a heat won't know if there also are the top riders of the race, and the issue mentioned by Danielle "When must we stop the race if several heats started at different times?".

I found there was too much people in the 2nd head of San Sebastian CX (the one with the most people), I wouldn't have liked to be in it. Bottlenecks could be expected only by looking at the ratio number of riders/lap distance. The craziness of the last heat made it one of the best experience of my life, although I think the concentration of riders was close to the top limit we should expect on a CX race.


Add: "The course should be designed to avoid bottlenecks and give riders enough room to pass each other."


Maybe insert: " ...especially after the start..."


I agree with Paul's addition.

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