5B.5.2 Downhill Race - dismounted riders (Closed for comments)

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5B.5.2  Downhill Race “A Downhill muni race is a test of speed and ability to handle terrain while riding downhill.”


To avoid making a downhill race just an extension of cross country races, what about adding an option to make riders attempt to ride the whole course or accept time penalties? One idea is to have an option of 2-5 very short sections marked with start and finish lines. If a rider attempts at least to ride it but then falls, then no penalty. But if a rider dismounts before the start line of a difficult section and walks to the end of a section, there should be a penalty added.


So the basic premise of this is to (generally) have the XC race be longer, and presumably the UH and DH be shorter distances. That doesn't have to be the hard and fast rule, but your idea would make it possible to have a "conditional" no-dismounts rule for a race that's long enough to not be observable over its full distance.

I would like to assert that we should not feel obligated to provide all three of those races if we don't have terrain to fit. Usually we can fit, by shortening the UH and DH if necessary. XC should be thought of as the longer race, unless local terrain offers "better" options. In the past we have run our DH race over multiple kilometers, down a ski mountain, but also had a shorter, no-dismounts UH race that worked pretty well for that time period.

Your description above sounds like the idea is to focus on-track officials around those extra-technical areas, where dismounting would still be allowed, and I assume follow the existing rules, but would rule out someone (theoretically like me) who opts out of a whole section that's too technical. Using myself again, in the example of how I "rode" the DH course in Spain (I walked a bunch of technical spots), I still could complete the race, and it would not be getting away with anything, since I would lose a lot of time anyway. In other words, if the rule was to not walk the entirety of a marked section, I would find a way to ride part of it. So that would need to be factored in; these sections should probably focus on specific trail elements that are hard to partially ride? I hope that made sense.

As a guy who's not into big drops, for instance, I would hope to still be able to participate, and able to finish legally. In truth, a time penalty for not riding a whole section would have to be more time than it would take to walk it.


I am in favor of this.

A suggestion for the time penalty could be that if it takes the top riders 10 seconds to ride the section cleanly, there should be a 10 second penalty added to those who do not ride it.


I like the idea that riders are penalized if they don't attempt to ride the whole course. Defining a few key sections seems like a reasonable way to achieve this goal. A 10-second penalty for walking such a section sounds good to me, just like for false starts.

It would also make it easier to position judges along the course. They would just have to monitor these specific sections.

The start/finish lines of these sections have to be chosen carefully. For example, at a jump, the start line must not be somewhere on the ramp, but exactly at the lip. Otherwise, people can cross the start line, dismount on the ramp and walk down the drop without penalty. At a rock garden the start line should not be before, but after the first rocks. It is usually easy to clear the first rock, even for inexperienced riders, but the second and third rocks pose the actual challenge.

Actually, maybe we could also say that an unplanned dismount in such a section would give a 5-second penalty to give even more incentive for riding without dismounting.


A 10 second penalty seems fair, assuming the course is long enough. At NAUCC we have had some downhill races that take less than 2 minutes for the top riders. A 10 second penalty here is much bigger than a 10 second penalty on a course that takes the top riders 5 minutes to ride.

I like the intent of this rule, but have some problems with it in practice. It allows a rider to be able to preview the course and make a plan for themselves. If they know there's a section they can't ride quickly, they can make a choice. However, let's say a rider normally is able to clear a drop, but in the race their foot slips and they fall. If they don't want to risk a 10 second penalty they now have to back up and try again. This could take longer than 10 seconds. However, if they don't back up and try again they now have the 10 second penalty plus the natural time penalty for falling. Whereas a rider who never attempted the drop will only have the 10 second penalty. This makes is so that the rider who attempted to ride the drop now receives a worse time than the rider who didn't attempt the drop. 

It seems like anyone who attempts to ride the course should not be given a time penalty, the natural time accumulation for falling is enough. However, how do you determine a planned dismount versus unplanned? It could be very easy for someone to fake try for an obstacle and fall just to avoid the penalty. This seems really complicated and not fair.


Patricia brings up a good point. The intent is for rider to attempt the marked sections or be penalized, but this could be seen as incentivizing riders to try stuff they're not comfortable with. For elite riders, no problem. But for a lot of riders, could end up in people being unhappy if they got injured trying something that they might have walked otherwise.

Current rules say you are allowed to dismount as needed, but this usually give you a "built in" time penalty due to your loss of motion. The problem is, in Downhill you don't have to walk, and we prefer to reward people who ride. Maybe having those marked sections would put the pressure on, to create the potential problem above. But not having those marked sections is a problem because if it's a long course, you can't have observers to cover the whole thing and people can get away with not being penalized.

So maybe instead of having marked sections, we can just station our observers/judges in the obvious places where some riders would dismount, but others would fly through. Depending on the nature of these obstacles/drops, a rider might not lose much time by dismounting, so an additional penalty could fill in the gap. The sections where penalties could be applied would have to be marked somehow, like with cones or different colored tape, and would, in theory, be easy to tell where they start and end. That might work as a simplification of the original idea. There would still be the incentive to attempt everything, so this wouldn't be very different. In fact, it would basically still be marked sections. So I suppose we should start by coaching the riders (at the start) of how it works, and having the penalties be mild enough that the riders are less encouraged to attempt things they might otherwise not try.

How much to penalize would always be a factor of how many of those spots there are, as well as the overall length of the course. To do it well, it should probably be a percentage, based on the average race time of at least three riders. But how to to that, if the race isn't set up until the last minute?


To clarify, my suggestion for the amount of time for the penalty was that if it took the top riders 10 seconds to ride the defined section, then the penalty for not riding that section is 10 seconds. But if the top riders took 20 seconds to ride a defined section, then the penalty would be 20 seconds for dismounting before the section starts. So the amount of time for the penalty would vary based on the section. I realize there big flaws with this (who are the riders that determine the length of time? when do they 'test' the section to determine the penalty time? do you average their times or take the shortest/longest?)

To the second point, a rider would only receive this penalty if they dismount before the beginning of the defined section and walk it. If a rider were to fall during the section, they would not receive the time penalty.

If there were to be a standard time put in the rulebook, a larger problem is that 10 seconds is a huge penalty depending on the length of the course. It has the potential to knock top riders off the podium. So perhaps a better consideration is that if the DH course is shorter than 1k then penalties are 5 seconds maximum. If longer than 1k, then 10 seconds. 


So if I ride into the marked section, I only get penalized for my own dismounts with nothing extra. Does that mean I can ride off the edge of the precipice (a logical starting point for a tech section) and land on my feet, does this count as riding in? Using myself is not a great example, because I'm old enough to prioritize not getting hurt with trying to shave a few seconds.

Also agreed that the time penalty needs to be proportional to the course. But course length is not the deciding factor of this; it's really time to ride it. Some courses are mostly down, which makes them faster, but some might have more flat or ups, to string together the good downhill sections. Those might take considerably longer to ride.

So if we aren't picking an arbitrary time for each tech section, we will have to get some estimates of how they ride, as well as a rough estimate of how long the course will take to ride. If we're allowing people to practice on the course (highly recommended for Downhill!), it should be easy to collect timing samples if there are people available to to that during practice hours.


I think there should always be credit given to riding a section and because of this I approve of the principals behind this suggestion. 

Giving a set time penalty (10s?) for a section I do not think is always fair.  What defines the length of the section, what if a big drop of 1m that takes 1second to cross? or what if it is a boulder field of 30m that takes 60 seconds to cross?  

One thought... is relevant to look at the times that the fastest riders take to "clear" the section.  A walker of a section should be penalised in time greater than the slowest person to clear the section (I can not think of a way to do that though).  I say greater because a boulder section can be sapping to ride and anyone walking it can get a rest.

Maybe X seconds per meter? 




I also  like the idea for penalizing walking, or not trying to ride at all. However I think that proposed system is complicated, difficult to adjust to trail character thus vary often unfair. 

I would suggest this way:
1* set up non walking sections (the sections where walking will be penalized), and mark with ribbons or spray 1 meter intervals.
2* give 1 second penalty for each meter walked. 
3* dismounts should not be penalized, but in doubts that rider start in front of dismount place the penalty per meter applies.

Referees will need to count number of meters walked. Riders can dismount as many times as they like, and that is what we want, we want them to try to ride and mount unicycle as soon after dismount.  Walking fast can be beneficial with current existing rules, adding 1s penalty for each meter will virtually reduce walking speed. I think that 1s/m is strong penalty. Sections where riding is slower than 1 m per second should be rather considered as trial sections not a downhill.


If we have to use a formula, Roger may have a good starting point. But Maksym's method may be simpler to do in real life, with the difficult part being measuring how many meters a rider walked. This would have to be "eyeballed" to a certain degree, but overall may work well. Remember the rider who walks not only gets penalty seconds, but also loses time on the "main clock" by not riding.

If a 1 second penalty is the measure, we should also add that any dismount in a marked section counts as 1 meter, unless it's in the same spot twice. So if you miss the mount, you don't get penalized again, but if you go half a wheel turn, it's a new dismount and another 1 second.


Since there have been so many different suggestions, I think it's hard to come up with a suitable proposal. I guess it's best to save this for the next iteration of the rulebook. I will close this discussion.


This could a bad precedent. What if other events want this clause?
I also disagree with part of the premise: “It is in the interest of the sport, audience, sponsors, etc. that the strongest riders compete in the finals.” The strongest riders may not even be at Unicon because of life, finances, interest in competing, etc. 
Lastly “The concept of protected riders is also used in other sports.” In the mountain bike DH world cup, the top riders are often sponsored and prizes for top 10 riders totals over €10,100." Unfortunately unicycling is not even close to this level of prize money.

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