With the US cyclo-cross national championships almost upon us, there remains confusion over what tires are and are not allowed for non-elite competition. The latest answer is that big tires are okay for Masters competition this year – up to 35mm – but not for the 17- to 18-year-old junior, U23 and Elite categories. Spikes or studs are still banned for almost everyone.
The four days of national championship events are due to start in Bend, Oregon next week (8-12 December). The confusion is rooted in the mid-November reversal on the rule holding Masters classes to the UCI’s new 33mm tire width limit, which USA Cycling originally said it would uphold, but only at nationals.
The governing body’s back and forth on the tire width rule has caused contention among many serious Masters racers. Those who purged or did not restock their quivers with 34mm tires were left scrambling three weeks before the championship races.
“USA Cycling needs to be more clear with their communications on items like this,” said Peter Webber, the 2009 masters 40-44 national champion. “Any rule change should be fully explained, justified and made very clear; especially one made in the middle of the season.
"In this case, it wasn't explained when announced initially last summer, it was [also] confusing with regard to whom it applied to, and was never justified. When they flip-flopped in November, they again didn't explain.
“This highlights the underlying issue of UCI governance of cyclo-cross versus the sport in the United States. There are many UCI rules that don't make much sense in the US: length of sandpits, number of obstacles, height of obstacles, number of categories allowed in a day, tire width, disc brakes, etcetera.
"These rules have come and gone, changed without warning, and force riders, race promoters and manufacturers to continually change races and equipment without justification or understanding.”
Studs have never been allowed
Last year the best tire to have, based on our experience in the Masters 30-34 category, was Dugast’s 34mm Rhino; it seemed to handle both the mud and the continually thawing and freezing terrain with aplomb.
Rumors found in forums and social media regarding the Dugast Diavolo and other studded tires being allowed are false – unless you're a 16-year-old junior. USA Cycling states: "There are no bike restrictions for juniors 16 years old and younger."
“In general, UCI rules are in effect for all national championships for ages 17 and up,” said Shawn Farrell, USA Cycling’s technical director. “The only exception made this year is that we aren't enforcing the new 33 mm tire rule due to the lateness of its announcement. All the other UCI rules are in effect for Masters. This means they must have tires of 35mm or less, drop bars and no studs.”
When asked if the tire-width rule exemption for masters would extend into the 2011/2012 cyclo-cross season, Farrell said: “That’s a question for next year at this point.”