Clydesdale ethics - did I sandbag?

A few weeks ago, @IvyAudrain said on the podcast that “the spirit of gravel is inclusivity”, I really want that to catch on. I feel like all the people laughing at the very idea that gravel is different somehow are those middle age skinny guys with the super expensive bikes (present company excluded, of course). As a cyclist pushing 110 kg (who doesn’t think you were sandbagging, btw) I’m excited to see more welcoming events on the calendar. More spirit of gravel, please.


You are literally a big fish in a small pond. :slight_smile:

There is no cheating, sandbagging, or ethical issues here. That would be weighing 198 and still racing the 200 plus group.

It does bring up philosophical issues like what does it mean to race. What does it mean to win against the big/slower group? What does it mean to get top 10 but never podium in the faster group?

The point is to have fun so you should do whatever is fun.

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Sports have an easy way to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, you either play by the rules or you don’t :+1:

Some people always want to argue “the spirit of the rules” and there’s no rational way to conclude that unless you reject it and stick with the actual rules.


Agreed, maybe it was an innocent jab by the wife and friends, but it seems to have bothered the OP enough to make a thread about it. Something to consider. @rchacon you didn’t sand bag this one, if you’re really bothered about this feeling, it’s best to simply cat up next time around.

I wish more races had this option (I think it’s usually called Athena for women).

We just had a discussion about this in a lady’s gravel group I belong to. I would love to be even kinda, sorta, semi competitive in a race but the reality is that, with the fitness level and cycling experience here on the Front Range, there’s just no way that is ever going to be possible without that additional category. And I haven’t seen it yet.


I get that, and I don’t disagree. But, in this instance, the rules permit me to race either as a Clydesdale or in my age category. So, I am not so sure the rules provide a definitive answer as to which category I should race in.

So, I think this is a question about sportsmanship and ethics, both of which turn on community standards and not a rulebook. I think a similar analogy is the law – somethings might be legal, but they are not right. Maybe my decision to raise and Clydesdale was right, but maybe it was not even if within the language of the rules.

Maybe, as others have suggested, participation in the Clydesdale class by athletes who could otherwise participate in other classes could result in greater participation by cyclists who otherwise would not show up on race day. Maybe that is far-fetched. I’m not sure.

I mean then why is it an arbitrary number, usually 200lbs? Shouldn’t we use like BMI or something? I’m 5’7" 180lbs, built like a running back and have no chance against most people my height that are <140lbs. I’m not so sure it is directly discouraging. Racing is still fun

The social dynamics may be even worse on the Athena side. A lot of women have emotional baggage around weight, and less institutional access to sports where weight is neutral or an advantage. There’s often an internalized association of athlete = skinny. The more weight classes are understood and normalized in cycling, the more inclusive the sport will become. If you look at the Athena/Clyde categories for large events like Ironman, you’ll find they are very competitive.

Mass is mass. It takes the same amount of watts to move 200 lbs of muscle, fat, or water bottles up a hill. Weight is going to be the biggest factor when it comes to the physics of cycling, not height. BMI is actually a worse calculation for this. There isn’t a competitive sport I know of which uses BMI. Yes, height can have an effect on one’s CdA, but it is rather small in comparison to the effect weight has on cycling performance (assuming a non-trivial amount of climbing). There may be a mechanical advantage from longer legs which more or less cancels out the disadvantage from CdA. (Average height has also been increasing in Tour de France winners, so height may even be a slight net advantage?) The exercise here is to find the most significant variable and create categories using that variable to improve parity. We universally do this with the biggest differentiator in performance–sex.

The solution to your 180 lb woes is to have more than two weight classes. Imagine if wrestling only had two weight classes. There are a lot of people who get screwed by a 2-weight class system, but it’s still a better system than having no weight classes. There’s a bit of a chicken-egg issue. You need enough people in each class to have a competitive field. Because races rarely even have a Clyde category, it discourages people at higher weights from picking up the sport and competing. I could imagine a future where Athena/Clyde divisions were the norm in cycling and it drove a lot more participation from heavier cyclists. Then the next line of business may be discussing a middleweight class.

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I guess the question becomes how many ways can you subdivide classes before there are no large fields left. There is already racing categories, gender, as well as age categories, then age+race categories. If you subdivide those again into weight, then you quickly have categories that have less than a handful of racers.

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Right. Something has to give. I would bet a large amount of money that weight is actually a bigger factor than age when it comes to parity in cycling. Having 4 different age groups probably produces less parity than 2 age groups x 2 weight groups. But it’s a big social hurdle to get past the “just lose weight bro” mentality. (Imagine if we did that in wrestling or boxing–“just gain weight, bro!”)

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Actually, I think you are disagreeing and you are opting for trying to interpret the spirit of the rules, which I believe to be a hiding to nothing.

You are within the rules to opt for Clydesdale, so you have nothing to worry about…Is my position, but you are welcome to your own approach. :slightly_smiling_face:

I had a similar moral quandary this summer. My running club put on a series of 1 mile handicap races, the overall winner being the one who beats their handicap by the biggest percentage. The handicaps were set by our very experienced and knowledgeable coach, but it’s based on judgement as much as actual performance. I am currently in the lead because my handicap - 9:00 - is way slower than a 1 mile race I actually ran this spring - 8:09. I thought about asking him to recalculate based on this time, but all the results on our club’s website for him (and everyone else) to see, my form dropped a lot after that race and I trust his expertise. I also won two heats, because I didn’t get bumped up a group after my first win - almost every other heat winner got bumped up but the field was much bigger for the 2nd heat I won, there were five races instead of 4. I feel slightly bad for getting better results because of choices others have made, but them’s the breaks.

In which case you are better of racing in categories where you have some close competition around you.

You need to ask yourself

“Do you want to have a good race, or do you want to win?”

The two are not necessarily the same.

Of course you may get your arse handed to you on a plate in the next Clydesdale category event you enter.

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