Friday, November 5, 2010

Thoughts on staging.

This started as a comment on RMM's latest diatribe, but I figured I should move it over here and blow it out so I could fully cover my views on the subject.

Part One: Staging protocols.
The correct way to stage is based on the speed of the racer. With this in mind, let's list and evaluate various staging protocols.

1) Perfect staging. You run the race on day one. Everyone comes back to the same course on day two and gets staged according to day one's results. Then everyone comes back to the same course on day three and is staged by day two's results. Keep doing this. Day 12 gets staged by day 11's results, etc... After two or three weeks you'll have the perfect staging order. Let's just agree that this isn't practical (or perfect).

2) Time trial. "...the starting position of each race will be determined by the racer's time in an individiual [sic] cyclocross time trial performed the day prior to race day." This is the protocol being used at nationals this year. This is not perfect since a short time trial effort isn't the same as a full race effort, but it is effective since it is based directly on a measure of the racer's speed.

3) Results based. If you don't have the current measure of the racer's speed provided by the first two staging protocols, a racer's results are the most accessible indicator of their speed. Whether it's UCI points, Verge points, or Crossresults points; staging based on an indicator of the racer's speed is effective. (ignoring the effect of points that reward participation)

4) Order of registration. Not based on the (on bike) speed of the racer. Ineffective.

5) Start line stalking.  Not based on the (on bike) speed of the racer. Ineffective.

6) Random. Not based on the speed of the racer. Ineffective.

The first point of this post is to establish that auguring between the three ineffective staging protocols is futile. They are all essentially random, they are all ineffective. Stop arguing about which is "better".

Part Two: Why stage?

To the racer, there are numerous races within the race: The race for UCI points (top 10) the race for series points (top 25) the-race-not-to-get-beat-by-Ryan-Kelly (top 55), and the race to not get lapped. To the racer, winning any of these races is reason to celebrate, just don't expect a CyclingDirt interview because you didn't get lapped.

To everyone not in the race, there is one race: The race to cross the finish line first. The media and the spectators (for the most part) don't care about the races within the race, they care about who crosses the finish line first. This is a nice way of saying that this is the only race that matters, and the only race that staging should be concerned with.

The second point of this post is to establish that staging is done for the benefit of the contenders. Only the best deserve to be staged. The promoter has no obligation to stage the-race-not-to-get-beat-by-Ryan-Kelly. If you are bitching because the race for the last Verge point wasn't staged correctly, you need to stop. The staging of any racers beyond the actual contenders should be appreciated for what it is: a courtesy extended by the promoter.

Staging entire fields by points is fucking beautiful, but giving the pack fodder a taste of the good life seems to have conditioned them to expect nothing short of the good life. It's racing; passing people is part of the game. Appreciate races with deep staging, but don't expect it.

In summary.

Staging is a privileged extended to those that have earned it. The fastest are placed in the front, and the rest fight like dogs for the privileged to be staged next time.

(I don't know it all, I just like to pretend I do when I blog.)