Staggered start for 10k

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Comments about this discussion:


An idea that seems to have support in the muni committee is to have longer intervals with the first heats to avoid racing conflicts between genders. This is currently something being voted on in the muni committee. I am suggesting that we seriously consider this for the 10k as well.

A little background for those who aren't in the muni committee also:

The idea is that the first heat is devoted solely to the top males. After the top males start there would be a five minute interval pause before the second heat starts. The second heat would be devoted solely to the top females. There would then be another five minute interval before the third heat would start. After that the heats could continue with shorter intervals in between.

This idea adds 10 minutes to the total time of the race and allows for much fairer competition for both the top males and top females. These are the riders competing for the world title and should have the fairest and most professional races. With five minutes gone by, the course would essentially be completely clear for the top females. They would not have any interference from males and this would also make it so that the top female couldn't draft off of a faster pack of males. There are many times where the races of the top female riders have been affected by male riders who are not in contention for the expert podium.

Because of the nature of the marathon having fewer participants and the start being not-so important I am suggesting this idea for just the 10k. This would be for both standard and unlimited.




I agree.


Solid. I also agree. 


This seems reasonable, but for courses where there are multiple laps, like in Montreal, a 5 minute delay wouldn't help.  In Montreal they did completely separate heats where they didn't start the next heat until the previous one finished, which I thought worked well.  Do you think separately run heats should be required for lap based courses?  That could run into issues with extending the total time of the race significantly.


For big championships like Unicon were the courses has only one lap I would agree that the idea is reasonable. But I also agree with Danielle that a fixed five minute delay would be no advantage in case of courses with multiple laps.

Furthermore I think that it isn't a good idea to split the top males from the top females (at smaller competitions), because if there are less top riders it makes more sense to put them together in one heat. In my opinion a five minute delay is also not necessary at smaller competitions. As  I said in the gravel surface discussion: We should always keep in mind that the rulebook is not only for Unicons.


I like this idea. But I would make it a recommendation rather than a fixed rule.

And the 5 minutes seems a reasonable time to me, but I would say "e.g. 5 minutes". If some convention host has reasons to use 3 minutes or 8 minutes, that should be up to them.

You write that you don't suggest it for the marathon as the start is not so important. But this whole idea is not really about the start, is it? Even a one minute separation is enough to ensure a fair start. Rather, the issue is the interference of first heat and later-heat riders that may occur somewhat later in the race. This, I think, is even more of an issue when the race lasts longer (i.e. the marathon), as there is more opportunity for start groups to spread out. So if this modification will be introduced for 10k, I suggest to also introduce it for marathons.

Also, I don't see why fewer participants (in the marathon, as compared to 10K) would make it less important to have the top male and top female heats separated by 5 minutes or so. The arguments about interference and drafting still apply.

The purpose of this proposed rule, as I understand it, is to avoid interference between the top male and the top female riders, by having more time between their starts. This works equally well in single-lap as in multi-lap races, as the top heats won't lap 'themselves' anyway. The objective is not to avoid that top riders have to lap slower riders. This is not prevented by the proposal, it depends mostly on the number of laps. So if this is introduced, it should be both for single-lap and multi-lap races.

@Danielle: was every heat in the 10k in Montreal only started when the previous one had finished? My memory is different.

@Jan V: I think the arguments to separate top male and top female heats, and to have 5 minutes between them, are as valid for smaller competitions as they are for Unicon. But giving the organisers of smaller events some leeway is part of the reason why I would like this more as a recommendation than as a fixed rule.


I am happy to have it implemented for the marathon as well. I was actually like the idea of having it for both but didn't want to be too controversial.


As for the comments about lapped races. It actually still makes a huge difference who you start with. If there is a race that has multiple laps and the heats are starting at intervals there will always be passing. But the slower riders must go to the right and the faster riders will be on passing on the left. Also, you don't draft off of people slower than you so you could be a top female in a pack of top boys and draft off of them and all of you would still be passing slower riders the whole race. Obviously if this is a race where the heat completes the whole race before the next heat starts (like the 10k in Montreal), then this would not be necessary. I think we can write the rule in away that makes it clear.


I would propose that we make this rule required for Unicon and recommended for other competitions. I completely agree that we need to keep in mind that this rulebook applies to many competitions but we also need to make sure that Unicon is held to the highest standard since it is the world championship. Many other rules have things that are required only at Unicon and I think it works well.


@Klaas, I think we should say at least 3 minutes for the 10k and perhaps 10 minutes for the marathon. I don't think just having eg is effective enough as people could just have 1 minute and that would not solve the problem.


It doesn't become any more controversial if it is for marathons as well. Actually, I don't think it is controversial at all, just different from the current rule. But that's why we have this committee in the first place.

I'm not sure I understand your response about lapped races. I am assuming that the first two heats are top males and top females respectively. Then there is no debate about the effect of who you start with. Oh well, it may be beneficial for any rider to start in one of those heats, but deciding who starts in which heat is beyond this discussion.
Granted, there will be passing in multi-lap staggered-heat races, but that hardly relates to your proposal. (In fact your proposal makes it a little bit worse, since the heat starts are more spread-out.)

I am fine with make this a requirement for Unicon and a recommendation for other competitions.

I meant to say "longer, e.g. 5 minutes". But that was in connection with my desire for it to be a recommendation.
For a requirement, there must indeed be some 'hard' number, like "x minutes" or "at least y minutes".
For a recommendation, I think it would be sufficient to recommend longer intervals between heats 1/2 and heats 2/3 without specifying how long. But I would not object to "(at least) z minutes" for a recommendation too.

As to numbers:

  • For 10K, I think you would need 5 minutes to be reasonably sure that riders from heats 1 and 2 are not overtaken by any rider from a later heat. 3 minutes may not be enough, especially between heat 2 with top females and heat 3 with 'sub-top' males.
  • For a marathon, 10 minutes is maybe not really enough to ensure no such overtaking takes place, but then again, a longer delay is probably not reasonable if you think about event flow at the start. I would settle on 10 minutes.


Now that you mention is Klaas, it may have been in batches of 2 waves.  I know they definitely completed some heats before starting other ones, but it could have been heat 1, wait a minute or so, then heat 2, and then they waited for heat 2 to finish before starting heat 3.


The issue with a lap-based course is if you require 5 minutes and laps only take roughly 5 minutes (there were 4 laps in Montreal, so that was the case there), then the top males could be completing their first lap as the top female start, so then that doesn't get rid of the drafting issue.  I like the idea of 5 minutes for non-lap courses, but having a hard cut time for lap-based courses could cause issues depending on the course length.


The whole event (10K Montreal) was done in 16 waves including both unlimited (7 waves) and standard (9 waves), I still have the start lists on my pc. The start lists don't state start time but the total event was planned within 4 hours (08:00 to 12:00) according to the unicon 17 website. If the slowest rider per wave in unlimited needs on average 30 minutes, and in standard on average 45 minutes (this is probably optimistic), then having all 16 waves separate requires at least 7*30 + 9*45 minutes = 10 hours and 15 minutes. Not even counting time needed to set up the next wave. Clearly, it hasn't been done this way. But probably not all of them were closely spaced either: it would be hard to start 7 waves in unlimited before the first riders have done 2.5km (and similarly hard to start 9 waves in standard).

Good point about the lap length. Perhaps a way around this is to maximise my numbers above by half the expected time it wil take the first riders to complete their first lap and cross the start line again. Maybe this is not enough to prevent drafting. The only thing you can do about it is not to have such short laps. You would need at least 5km laps in the 10K, and about 10km laps in the marathon, to set up the spacing optimally. But even then, you may not be able to start all waves before the first wave returns near the start.

In short, we should carefully think about such issues before prescribing a hard rule that may be too hard to implement in practice.


Unicon 17 10k starts:


Heat 1  Start time 8:00am  Top Male 50 Riders

Heat 2  Start time 8:03am  Top Female  48 Riders

Heat 3  Start Time 8:40      Slower M/F  39 Riders    

Heat 4  Start Time 8:41:30 Slower M/F  36 Riders  

Heat 5  Start Time 8:43      Slow M/F    44 Riders

Heat 6  Start Time 8:44:30 Slow M/F    46 Riders



Heat 1  Start time 10:00am Top Males        24 riders

Heat 2  Start Time 10:25am Top Females    14 riders

Heat 3  Start Time 10:27am Sub Top Males 23 riders

Heat 4  Start time 11:00am M/F Slower      25 riders 


Heat 5  Start time 11:03am M/F Slow         25 riders


This was designed as follows: For standard, the difference is speed between the top males and females is not great, and passing is much less dangerous on small wheels. Thus the top males and females were on the course at the same time, with no slower riders on the course to be a hinderance. After they finished completely, all of the slower standard riders were started. The starting times between the groups were reduced here such that Heat 3 would not finish lap 1 before Heat 6 started (which would have cause a traffic jam). For unlimited, there are fewer riders and the variation in speed is greater between the faster and the medium riders. Thus the top males got their own entire heat free of obstructions. After they finished, the top females and sub-top male (which are similar speeds) were sent off, with the females going first to provide them with the advantage since they are competing with for the WC. Looking back, they were not given quite the same advantage as the top males, because they did not have their own heat entirely. However the number of top females was too small (only 14 riders) to allow for an independent heat given the time constraint. After these riders were finished, the following slower unlimited riders were started.

This setup was created mostly by my own ideas (with the suggestions of others) for how to run the race as fair as possible for both the top riders and all riders. The setup was not influenced much by the rules for starting heats, except that they provided the suggestion on how big the waves could be.


I think that we are in a general agreement about the rule for the 10k and the marathon in non-lapped races.


For lapped races I agree that we might need to be flexible. We could say:

The top females should start in their own heat and have racing conditions equivalent to that of the top males. The time intervals between heats should be set up such that following male heats will not impede the top female riders.


This allows for the organizers to have flexibility in how the race is organized but keeps the principle of what we are try to accomplish. I feel strongly that this new rule needs to be required for Unicon but can remain optional at other competitions.


Thoughts? I'm about ready to make this a proposal.


Three comments on
The time intervals between heats should be set up such that following male heats will not impede the top female riders.

  1. Let's not only 'protect' the top female riders, but also the top male riders. :-)
  2. I would change 'following male heats' to simply 'following heats'.
  3. In races with relatively short laps (e.g. four loops as in the last Unicon marathon) it is probably impossible to set it up so that there is no interference with following heats. And an organiser may not be able to avoid that many loops (permissions, traffic regulations etc). The wording must be a bit weaker. Maybe:
    The time intervals between heats 1, 2 and 3 should be set up such that following heats have the least chance of interfering with the top male and female heats.


Okay so for lapped races how about:

The top females and top males should each start in their own heat. The top females and the top males must have equivalent racing conditions. The time intervals between heats 1, 2, and 3 should be set up such that following heats have the least chance of interfering with the top female and male riders.


Two remarks:

I notice you have swapped male and female, putting females first on three occurrences. While I am generally a proponent of the 'ladies first' principle, I do acknowledge that top male riders are generally faster than top female riders. In order to minimise interference between heats, it makes sense to have the top males starting before the top females. It is a bit confusing if 'female' is consistently in the rule before 'male'. I prefer male before female here.

Your proposed text only applies to races that start in waves. Section 4D.9 in the rulebook recognises three possible formats for the starting configuration. Your text does not apply when a mass start is used, nor when each rider starts individually. This can be solved by preceding your text with "In case a heat start configuration is used, ..."


@Patricia: The time intervals between heats 1, 2 and 3 should be set up such that following heats have the least chance of interfering with the top male and female heats.

Are you using "1, 2 and 3" to be specific to those heats or just as an example? Is there something special about heats 1, 2 and 3?


I created a rule for this. Please comment if you see edits. I decided that this rule probably belongs specifically in the section talking about heat starts. It's not relevant to individual starts or mass starts and those are rarely used anyways.


@Kenny: There is something special about heats 1, 2, and 3. Heats 1 and 2 hold the top racers (1 being top males and 2 being top females). The idea is that the time intervals between these heats are the most important because these are the riders competing for titles. By having a longer time interval between heats 1 and 2 the top females get a clear course and there won't be any interference with the top men which creates a fairer race for both parties. By having a longer time interval between heats 2 and 3, it ensures that none of the following riders will catch the top females and interfere with their race.


I have no further edit suggestions for the proposed text.

Just a remark about "those are rarely used anyways":
Heat starts are indeed the most common form, the other forms are rarer but still need to be ruled correctly.
I have been in at least one road race mass start in Unicon (10k Unicon 14).
I have also been in a road race semi-individual start (10k Unicon 16) where about three riders were started every 60 seconds. This is not 'legal' (anymore?), it's either single riders or heats of at least twelve.


I disagree.  

Why the need to separate male and female in the standard 10k?  There is little to no difference between the top male and female riders. When we are racing, we are racing for the world championship, but we are all going about the same speed-  male and female.  I know that at the last two Unicons we spent considerable time drafting off each other male and female.  And even though we are not racing in the same category, we are still trying to beat them.

I also don't agree with the idea of eliminating drafting advantage. This is a road race, not a time trial. Drafting is part of race strategy.  At least in bicycle racing, motorbike racing, car racing, running, and most racing sports.  If you try to eliminate drafting (as triathlon did many years ago) and turn it into a time trial, you will need a lot more officials to enforce this.



@Ken: Drafting is definitely a huge part of racing, this proposal does not change or discourage that. What it is trying to achieve is for there to only be drafting between racers that are going to be awarded together in the overall standings. There have been instances where a top female has been able to draft off of a pack of male riders allowing the female to have an unfair advantage. The top male doesn't get anyone to draft off of unless it is his direct competitors so it should be the same for the females. Yes some male and female riders are similar speeeds but they are NEVER being awarded in the same category. 

Additionally this proposal is hoping to minimize interference between male and female racers so that their races are not affected (usually negatively) by racers who they are not being awarded with. 


I'm not sure why that would be the case for the standard class.  All the top females are in the same position to draft as the top males.

If you look at Unicon 17 Standard Marathon- the lead pack consisted of three Japanese girls and two male riders (Rolf Leonhardt and myself).  The lead rider for 3/4 of the race was a Japanese girl who had 30m on the chasing pack, and it wasn't until 30km that we managed to reel her in, and then anyone in that lead group could have won it.

I spent the majority of the race drafting off those very fast girls.  It allowed me to make a break on the penultimate lap, otherwise it could have been quite easily won by a female rider. We may not be in the same category, we were definitely racing each other.

No female rider had access to advantage that other female riders did not.



Apparently top males and top females did not have separate heats then. In the current rulebook that is not permitted. If genders are in separate heats, then this drafting would not have occurred this way.


That aside, I want to race females (really, just anyone fast), and I'm sure the top females are keen to race the top males in standard class.  They certainly looked like they were.

Has anyone asked females who race the 10km standard what they would like, or is it assumed that they do not want to race against males?

The times are very similar.


The times are not so similar in 10k unlimited, or in the marathon. In my opinion it's better to draw a single line for all road races ("no mixed heats") than to have it depend on historical similarity of results. And then again: females might like to race against men but the question is whether we as rule makers should allow that, recognising that it might bring them an unfair advantage. (One can argue about 'unfair' but that's the way I see it.)


I agree with Klaas. I think that it's important that these rules represent the fairest and safest racing conditions, not necessarily the rider's preference.


@Ken: This is a road race, not a time trial. Drafting is part of race strategy.

If there is one women drafting in a pack of men, she does not care to cross the finish line in front of them. She just take a train to the finish. 
Drafting is a nice strategy if you are competitive with other riders in a pack, or other packs in front or back, but it does not bring fair condition for single riders from other gender.

I agree with proposal. Maybe Ken has right in standard categories but situation in unlimited is very different. 

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