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  • Thu October 17 2013
  • Posted Oct 17, 2013

As posted by Jeff Mertz to the bikeiowa.org yahoo group on Oct 16th 2013.

Good morning all you happy Cyclocross racers, lets talk about everyone’s favorite subject... Getting pulled at a race. This is going to be a long one…

I will start by saying, that I do not know an official who enjoys pulling riders. We allwant people to go out and race their bikes and race the entire race. A positive experience means riders come back. Hey this first race for rider X and the rider gets pulled 20 minutes into a 40 minute race, will they come back…maybe, maybe not. Making the decision of pulling/leaving all the riders in a race has a complicated mathematical formula deep inside the officials head that must be computated, calculated, triginominatrated, and calculused to come up with the exact moment where riders should or should not be pulled.

By the book, found in Chapter 4 of the USAC Rulebook:

4G1. Before the start of a race, it should be announced whether lapped riders will be pulled or remain in the race. If riders are to be pulled, the following applies:?

(a) Riders who have been lapped shall continue the lap to a designated location before the finish line and withdraw, under the control of the officials.?

(b) The Chief Referee may, after consulting with the Race Director, impose the 80% rule. Under this rule, riders whose time gap to the race leader is at least 80% of the race leader’s time (calculated using the leader’s first lap) will be pulled by the officials except in the final lap. The number of 80% is merely an approximation based on a typical course; the intent is that all riders should be pulled before they are lapped.?

(c) Riders who have been pulled because of lapping or the 80% rule will be listed in the results based on their position when pulled and the number of laps remaining. The results will list the number of laps remaining after the lap on which they were pulled.

4G2. If lapped riders are permitted to continue in a race, they finish on the same lap as the leader, and are placed according to the number of laps down and then on their order of finish.


So the theoretical time cut is 80%, but part of the officials job that is pulling riders is to do time calcs at the designated pull zone to determine how much time riders are loosing per lap and then make the decision to pull a rider so they do not get lapped. So it might be 60% because they are loosing 3 minutes per lap, or it might be 90% because they are only loosing 20 seconds per lap.

We will try to do anything I can to avoid pulling a cat 5 guy, or a cat 4 gal from a race, or juniors, sometimes to our own sacrifice, but there are times when this is necessary. It might be a variety of factors that result in pulling riders, like a course that is way too short, or a super huge race field. The key is we want everyone to race and be scored as accurately as possible. But we also have to keep the event going, and not delay the event. We might be able to spend more time and not pull if there is more time between races, or more officials. But this might be cost prohibitive, or the Race Director might be constrained on the time the venue is allowed to be used.

One of the main intentions of the original rule is so that the leaders of the race have a "clean course" and the winners can be determined based on their ability, not being interfered with by a lapped rider. Lets say you are among 3 riders from 3 different teams and leading a race, and there is say 10 seconds between each of the top 3 riders. Then the team mate of the rider in 2nd place is getting lapped and decides to take a bad turn and delay the leader, then all of the sudden the rider in 2nd just made up 10 seconds and is passing you, but not because of his or her own abilities.

If you line up at a National Championship, they will be pulling riders, if you make an Elite race, they will be pulling riders. So how can riders, race Directors, and Officials help eliminate the need to pull riders in a lower category event? It all takes planningahead of time, and we work hard on this, but it takes cooperation, and at times it means breaking with tradition. Or it means that riders will be pulled.

Here are a few things riders, race directors and officials can do to help with this:

Course length: Get the lap times up to around 8 minutes, this reduces the overall number of laps in a race, and fewer riders will get lapped. By the book, the course should be 2.5 – 3.5 Kilometers. You would be surprised how short many courses are.


Time Between Races: You have a popular race with 85 riders in a field and there is 10 minutes between races. So lets say the race is supposed to end at 3:50 and the next race starts at 4:00. At 3:49 the leader finishes the race, but it takes 7 minutes for the last rider to get through the finish. There are 65 riders in the next race that starts in 4 minutes, but you also want to let riders warm up on the course. And in 4 minutes you have to know what rider finished 83rd 4 laps down. More time to work on results between races, means more time to not pull riders. Riders please be at the starting line to get checked in, this will help us start your race on time and not bottleneck the next race, or possible pull riders in your race.

Number of Races on the Schedule: Take the above scenario, there are 3 officials, and two of them are sorting through the 7 different fields that were on course at the same time, and the third is trying to get the next race started and the ….get the point. If we need 6 races to get the event off so everyone can race, great, but lets plan accordingly for everyone’s sake. Here is another consideration, there are 4 fields on the course and the 30 fastest riders in the fastest of those fields have lapped everyone in the other 3 fields. We are pulling riders, and the winners of the other 3 groups did not even finish the allotted time on course. That’s not the way any winners should be determined in my book.

Bib Numbers: Properly sequenced bib numbers make a huge difference! Properly positions bib numbers on the riders ALSO makes a huge difference. Or be original, the Night Cap Race in Des Moines added front number plates to help with scoring for faster results. This is an example where the promoter was willing to spend a little extra $ because of other circumstances that limits how long they have access to the venue and still get the scoring done with fewer official being needed.

Ok that was a long one; I might take next week off!

If you have a rule you are curious about, shoot the officials in Iowa a note and we will be glad to help out.

See you at the races! --


Jeff Mertz
USA Cycling Official
Waukee, IA

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