Ability Based Racing - Pilot for 2017 Racing Season

For the 2017 season, the Minnesota High School Cycling League will pilot a program dubbed “ability based racing”. The objective was create a category and upgrade system that was based on rider ability and not solely their age. The NICA category placement system was developed almost 20 years ago and while it has worked well, has seen little change.

As our league has grown and coaching philosophies have changed, it became apparent that we needed to alter how student-athletes are categorized. While making these adjustments, we took the opportunity to improve upon other race structure and operations. The major changes include:

  • Eliminate 2-lap increases in race distances for riders when they are “upgraded”
  • Bring race times in-line with current coaching standards (all races under 90 minutes)
  • Keep middle school racing focused on physical literacy, not performance
  • Provide Junior and Senior athletes new to racing and appropriate racing category
  • Eliminate division racing for individual scoring (still applies to team)

This decision was not made lightly nor in a vacuum. A panel of parents, student-athletes, coaches and core staff evaluated the proposal, researched how other leagues/sports addressed this challenge, brain stormed and evaluated solutions over the course of several months.

Below are the changes adopted by the league, based on the information gather by the committee. Collectively, these rule changes are Ability Based Racing.

New Category Structure

Category Duration
7th Grade 20 to 45 minutes (1 lap)
8th Grade 20 to 45 minutes (1 lap)
Freshman 40 to 60 minutes (2 laps)
JV 2 40 to 60 minutes (2 laps)
JV 3 60 to 90 minutes (3 laps)
Varsity Under 90 minutes (4 laps) 

On the surface, it may look similar to the past structure, however race duration (estimated laps shown) has been revised significantly. Male and female student-athletes will now compete with the same athletic windows. More significantly is how student-athletes are placed into a category.

7th Grade 7th grade student-athletes only
8th Grade 8th grade student-athletes only
Freshman 9th grade student-athletes or middle school athletes who petition into the category
JV 2 Sophomore, Junior and Senior student athletes
JV 3 Freshman student-athletes who:

A.     Placed in the top 10% in any two races, or

B.     Placed in the top 15% of the overall season standings, or

C.     Petition into the category.

JV 2 student-athletes who:

A.     Placed in the top 25% in any two races, or

B.     Placed in the top 30% of the overall season standings, or

C.     Raced in JV3 the previous year but did not upgrade to varsity, or

D.    Petition into the category.

Varsity Freshman student-athletes who:

A.     Petition into the category.

JV 2 student-athletes who:

A.     Petition into the category.

JV 3 student-athletes who:

A.     Placed in the top 25% in any two races, or

B.     Placed in the top 30% of the overall season standings, or

C.     Petition into the category.

A key change is the creation of the JV2 category. This is now the starting point for all student-athletes in 10-12 grade. Students will only be moved out of JV2 once they have reached a high performance level or petition. There are no longer 2-lap increases for student-athletes that upgrade a category. Also worth noting, middle school athletes are not subject to the mandatory upgrades previously applied.

New Division Structure
Division 1 and Division 2 athletes will no longer race separately, however, team points will still be awarded by division. Eliminating these waves will increase field size, so Minnesota is adopting a policy from Colorado creating a wave structure within a category. Call-ups will continue to be all student-athletes where a racer without any points starting the rear of the field.

Waves will be limited to 50 student-athletes and separated by 1 minute. The chip time based of the gun start of the wave will determine the finish placement, not the person who crosses the line first.

Points & Awards
To accommodate the change in race waves, individual race medals counts will be modified to:

  • Under 50 riders – Top 5 will be awarded
  • 50+ riders – Top 10 will awarded

Point structures for each category will be as follows:

Category Points
7th Grade 500 and descending
8th Grade 500 and descending
Freshman 500 and descending
JV 2 500 and descending
JV 3 545 descending
Varsity 570 descending

All categories will be awarded 500 points for completing two laps. Those categories competing in 3 and 4 laps will receive “bonus points” as highlighted above”. The interval between placements will be the same as currently documented in the NICA rule book.

Conversion to Ability Based Racing

The first year of Ability Based Racing will present a unique challenge, converting to the new upgrade format when student-athletes have been racing in other categories. A new category placement (CPT) will be released the first week in May listing where your student-athletes from 2016 are placed for the 2017 season.

  • 7th, 8th and freshman will be placed by grade per the new rules
  • Sophomores, and the bottom half of JV (2016) will be placed in JV2
  • The top half of JV (2016) will be placed in JV3
  • Varsity (2016) will remain in varsity

All riders are subject to upgrades per the rules. Please remember, student-athletes may petition up or down.

New Rule Book
There is a lot of stuff and this can get confusing. We have worked with NICA to make a Minnesota edition of the rule book. You will be able to download this the first week in May. Watch for the announcement!

Before You Go
Ability based racing is a pilot program in Minnesota for the 2017 season. While we firmly believe that it will be a major step forward for the category system – it may not be perfect. I want to sincerely thank you for participating in this pilot that hopefully will be the start to a much more appropriate category structure for your student-athletes.