The future of Masters Racing
I had a blast racing the Cascadia Criterium series. While I had no interest in the overall the structure did give me motivation to race for three weeks; my only regret is missing the first event in Woodinville. My best races were Freemont and Boat Street, both of which I felt good at. My worst was Tacoma; my body just doesn't like going hard for more than two weeks without rest.
Kudo's to the organizers of the races and the series.
As I races the series I noticed how much nicer it was to ride in a decent field; I've raced on Masters A/B race this year an there were only 15 riders. Yuck. And we only had 8 riders at Michelob Ultra. The A/B race was cancelled at Independence Valley and overall I've heard organizers begging Masters A/B to come out. The CascadiaCrits all ran Masters 35+ fields.
And perusing the results of the Cascadia Crit I can't help but notice that there were around 150 total riders in the whole series but it looks like maybe 25 did more than 2 of the races. Unsurprisingly the top series finishers were all Master A's (including me) and I have to wonder if that is sustainable. It looks to me like the Master's A fields has shrunk to the point were it needs the B-D fields to be sustainable. But the fields need to be competitive for everyone; a Master C rider who trains 9 hours a week needs to feel like he has a chance to do well if everything goes right. If riders feel like they are just going to take a beatings every time they show up or get dropped 20 minutes in they stop racing.
And that's without several of the top Cat 1 riders who are eligible to race Masters A but didn't in this series. What's going to happen if they start showing up? It seems likely to me that the Masters 35+ will self-select down a defacto Master A field of 8-15 riders again.
I mentioned this concern to some of the other Master A guys and suggested that it may be a good idea to make the fields Master 35+ Cat 2-4 t try to keep it competitive and got a lot of push back. Several riders brought up good points: there are quite a few Cat 1 Masters riders who aren't racing at the level anymore but need the Category to race Masters Nats. Point taken.
But I guess the question needs to be: who's opinion matters most? The guys I talk to are almost all Masters A guys. And since we are the ones benefiting form the combined field most I can understand why we would be reluctant to change it.
The real question, in my opinion, is what do the Master B-D's think? How can we keep them engaged and excited about racing Masters? While I understand Eric's point that the Masters Field is self policing I think we disagree on the results. I look at the field sizes in Masters and look at the number of riders switching to race their Senior Category and think "yah, they are self-policing.. and the judgement is we want to race a different field if we are going to get our heads beaten in".
I don't really have a good answer. Maybe a podium rule that says riders with certain number of points in the Pro/1/2 category can't race masters? I definitely understand why restricting Cat 1's would be problematic. Ideas?