USA Cycling Officials

April Rule of the Month
Post: Apr 11, 2013 by Tom Mahoney under category "Rule Interpretation"
The rules of the month have to do with youth races. We recently began licensing riders under ten years old. That was a change from the old USCF days, but was nothing new to the old NORBA days. However, when we created a class called “youth”, we put some restrictions on it that would address the reluctance that we had always had to have riders so young in a road environment.
Racing Age:  The age the rider shall be on December 31 of the current year except in cyclo-cross. A rider’s racing age in cyclo-cross is his age on December 31st of the year that the cyclo-cross season ends. References to age of riders, race age groups, or age class shall be interpreted as referring to racing age*.  The following terms refer to specific age groups.
Racing Age       Age Group Class
6- 9                  Youth
10-18                Junior
19-22                Under 23
23-29                Elite (i.e. senior)
30+                  Master  
*The only exception is that for the minimum age for a licensee of 6 years old, this refers to chronological age, not racing age.
So, this glossary item for racing age provides for the new class of youth, and stipulates that unlike the rest of the ages mentioned in the rulebook, it is chronological age, not racing age that determines the minimum. In other words, we don’t license someone until their 6th birthday.
Youth Race:  An event held on a closed course with a circuit length no longer than 5 Km that is open only to riders with ages between 6 and 9.
This glossary definition of youth race stipulates that to be considered such, the race must be on a completely closed course with a circuit length of 5 km or less. Thus, a criterium, a cyclo-cross, or some MTB races would certainly qualify. To be a youth race, it also has to be just for that age group. You cannot lump riders 6-14 together and call it a youth race.
1H9. Mixing of Classes, Categories, and Genders
(e) Youth riders may enter only youth races.
This is the critical piece. Unlike other classes that have many and varied ways they can ride with other classes and categories, if a race director wants to have an event for youth riders, great. That is what we hope to see. However, you do not put them with anyone else. Youth is not the same as “young junior”. Youth riders are not juniors. They are youth.
The reason I bring this up is because I was reading a blog recently where someone was describing the nature of youth racing and commented that this restrictions is rarely enforced and went on to mention that the reason not is that the officials are nice and want to see these kids get to ride. Well, we all want to see them ride, but if it is outside of the parameters of a youth race, then we have a serious risk management issue. If you are the official about to let youth riders ride with juniors, think of it the same as if you were about to let them ride without helmets. It is about the same. There is no grey area here. We all hope that race directors will embrace the concept and put events on for youth riders. However, imagine what happens to us in court if a youth rider is injured in a race that our own rules say he or she should not have been in. The parent that begged you to let his son race will no longer be patting you on the back. Instead, you, the race director, and USA Cycling will be talking to his attorney.