Who is our best master?

admin   October 6, 2020   Comments Off on Who is our best master?

In the world of bike racing, everyone from the age of 19 to 39 is classified as a senior and they race together. This seems to work quite well in terms of physical ability. For example, the top three is this year’s Tour de France were aged 21, 30 and 35.

But when riders reach their 40s, although the competitive spirit may not diminish, physical strength does start to wane. So what can be done to level the playing field, and let us compare riders of different ages?

First Ards rider Ivan Robinson

Ivan Robinson in a club 10k

Cycling Ulster does this by introducing age based categories – M40 for master riders aged 40-49, M50 for those in their 50s, and so on. They then run championships for each age category. And Ards CC has done very well under this system over the years. Stand out rider this year would definitely be Ivan Robinson, who took gold in the M60 10 mile and 25 mile championships.

The benefits of this system are that it is easy to understand and implement. The downside is that the categories are quite wide, so a 49 year old might struggle to compete with a 40 year old. But then they only have to wait a year before they’ll be top dog in the M50s..

An alternative system has been developed by the Veteran Time Trial Association. They looked at thousands of time trial results, over several years, and drew up a set of “age standards” for riders of every age. This is the system Ards CC uses to calculate the club Master Best All Rounder (also known as the Vets BAR). The tables can be found here and some background on the club BARs can be found here.

For example, a 40 year old man has a standard time for 5 miles of 12:55. If our 40 year old does 12:30, then he is said to have “plus 25 seconds” on age standard. The age standards have been carefully worked out to “level the playing field” between riders of different ages. There are also separate age standard for men and women. The biggest “plus time” wins.

John Raverty at the Champion of Champions 25

Unfortunately this year we didn’t run enough events to justify awarding club BARs. And our top master riders didn’t compete directly against each other very often. Club Master BAR for the last few years has been John Rafferty, and although he had the biggest “plus times” at  10 and 25 miles, he didn’t ride a 5. And Ivan didn’t ride any club 5, 10 or 25 mile TTs. Just three masters recorded times at all three distances (Andrew Jess, Niall Brown and Steve Core).

So how to compare? Let’s pick a couple of races where three of these riders went head to head. First, the Ulster 10 mile championships on 2nd August.

Rider Time Standard time Plus Time
John Rafferty 22:00 26:54 +4:54
Ivan Robinson 23:13 27:38 +4:25
Steve Core 26:15 28:06 +1:51

And at the Ernie Magwood 10 on 6th September –

Rider Time Standard time Plus Time
John Rafferty 21:18 26:54 +5:36
Ivan Robinson 21:27 27:38 +6:11
Steve Core 25:23 28:06 +2:43

There are some our factors that also need to be considered, including –

  • Some riders (maybe John?) are consistently fast throughout the season. Others (maybe Ivan?) tend to peak for specific events, and use club races as preparation events.
  • Sometimes you can run up against exceptionally good rivals. For example, John Madden in the M50 class was still setting Ulster senior records a couple of years ago. But often having a rival can add excitement and spur on both riders – think Boardman and Obree or Kirk and McCann
  • Equipment also has a big influence in time trials today. But that’s a much bigger subject!

So – like all good sporting debates, there are no easy answers or clear winners. And that’s why we love sport. Perhaps the only thing we can be sure of is that if Steve Core keeps improving as rapidly as he did this year, he’ll soon be snapping at Ivan’s and John’s wheels.

Steve Core at the Champion of Champions 25.