Handicapping and grading

Recently on our Facebook page the issue of ‘Handicapping’ was raised and how decisions around this are made.
Handicapping refers to the gaps between groups that are racing in the same race with a view to all groups coming together towards the end, therefore giving everyone a chance of winning. The members of the handicap committee (with Paul Morgan as the Chief Handicapper) calculate the gaps between the grades depending on the riders present in the group. The Handicap committee also meet before feature races to allot groups and calculate gaps. The committee believes that this has been working well with most handicap races resulting in close finishes. This is not an exact science however and those doing the times do the best they can – there will be occasions when a group will not work well or another group will work exceptionally well skewing the result but overall, for the last three years, the results have been within what we would expect. This is evidenced by the spread of winnings across grades. We have years of worth of average speeds etc so there is some logic behind it.
What grade you race is a different issue and this, I feel, is what the majority of comments relate to. What grade you ride is the decision of the committee (with input from the handicapping committee) and where the committee choose to place a rider in is a fluid thing and there is not a set criteria because we are:
• trying to balance the racing groups,
• trying to place people in the grade that best suits their ability that we see
• trying to give people consistency to allow them to develop
• trying to balance the size of the groups
• being conscious of the impost on the volunteers when changes are made

These competing needs means making judgement calls and I can say that the committee discuss the groups and the various riders continuously. We look at:
• How many races they have won or placed in
• The type of winning
o Ie an obvious breakaway versus winning a tight sprint
o How many were in the group
• Current grade in CT races
• Performance in non-NVCC races
• Whether they have been away from racing
• Recovering from illness or injury
• Wanting to stretch themselves by racing in a harder grade
• What others perceive about their racing ability
We also discuss different ways to approach the allocation of grades, for instance reviewing Strava or identifying members within a grade that may move up or down depending on the size of groups on a given race day, but they have proved problematic for one reason or another.
I know that there are people that feel that someone else is the wrong grade (or even that they themselves are in the wrong grade) but unless we get something formal we are not going to operate on rumour. The committee is also not going to make a decision because a particular member feels it is a good idea as they may not be aware of consequences of moving riders.
Often these conversations are around putting someone up a grade but to do this we need to be conscious of how taking riders out of a group is going to affect that group ie moving me from C grade to B grade will take 1/5 of the riders that has been turning up to C grade over the past 5 weeks – and yes I am probably ready to go up but, as best as we can, we need to look at the connotations.
When I put my name forward to be president of the club, and I have articulated this as often as I could, I wanted to build on a culture of friendship while still recognising it is a ‘racing club.’ Most riders I speak with almost see winning as secondary to having an exciting race where you have competed in a safe atmosphere with your ‘mates’.
Finally and most importantly this club is made up of a lot of great people but is run by a relatively small number of volunteers who give their time to provide the racing opportunities you enjoy. We only have conversations around how to improve the racing and keep the club going and we do the best we can. We are open to suggestions but that does not mean we will adopt every suggestion as there may well be reasons to take a different path and as elected representatives we must look at the club as a whole.
We have also decided to formalise what was already happening – there will be a standard agenda item at our regular meetings to discuss rider movement.
If you do have considered suggestions we are happy to hear from you. Arrange a time to discuss it with us or put it in a letter to the club.

Yours sincerely
Luke Moore

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