Opinion: Why juniors and points structure are killing A3 racing

Posted on: July 20th, 2017

Opinion: Why juniors and points structure are killing A3 racing

Mark David Heather winning the A4 event in Bohermeen. He has moved up to A3 this year. But he says A3 racing is stuck and needs to be reformed (Photo: Sean Rowe)


A comeback man this year aged 36 years, Mark David Heather has won two A4 races and been promoted to A3.

But he says the A3 category is stuck; it’s bunches getting bigger as juniors mop up points and prevent A3 riders moving up to A2.

He believes simple changes by Cycling Ireland could help; reducing A3 bunches in size and making a more meaningful category of A2 at the same time.


Why juniors and points structure are killing A3 racing


By Mark David Heather

You’ll forgive me for putting my thoughts down on paper; it is only my first full season of racing. And it has been thoroughly enjoyable.

Some days on the bike are effortless and rewarding. Some are more akin to masochism, but somehow equally as rewarding.

Undoubtedly, the hardest days I have had on a bike this season have been the Bikeworx races in Mondello Park and the Stephen Roche GP. That’s not to belittle my struggles elsewhere!

In all of the above I started with my category, and set off either fleeing the groups behind or pursuing the groups ahead.

And now because I am A3 I’m doing the unenviable task of both pursuing and being pursued in handicapped events.

Inevitably in these races the more talented riders catch us mere mortals.

And we get flung into the hurt locker for the rest of the race. Often the catch from behind by the A1-A2 group is made a lot sooner than expected.


Why juniors are damaging A3 races and how to fix it

Riding in Mondello; he says those races are among the hardest he does as an A3. Yet there is not even a point or two for winning the A3 prize there (Photo: SeanRowe)


Thankfully the flat and fast circuits suit me. And despite the average speeds jumping by 3-4kmph when the A1-A2 riders reach us, I somehow manage to hold on.

And on occasion I can even hold my own.

So far this year I have managed a string of first unplaced A4 prizes in Mondello and Stamullen.

And more recently I’ve had two 2nd unplaced A3 prizes; in The Stephen Roche GP and Balivor GP.

I even picked up a few quid for my troubles.

But are any of us in this for the money? The fun, yes. Personal ambition yes. But money? Definitely not.

The A1 riders started 50 seconds behind us in the Stephen Roche GP, and it was less than 10 minutes before they caught us and set the race alight.

My average heart rate for the race was 178, out of a max of 200.

It was by far the hardest day I have ever had on a bike. I finished, and finished in what was left of the bunch. And I was 2nd unplaced A3.

There were no A3 riders on the podium to the best of my knowledge.

There were A1, A2, A3 riders and juniors behind me, and those who had abandoned.

I got a prize. I got to meet Nico Roche on the podium. But I don’t get any points on my licence towards be regarded upwards again, this time to A2.

It seems bizarre to me that races where I have to compete with the fittest and fastest guys in the country, I get no points for my efforts unless I can outride them.

If there are prizes for the first of second unplaced riders in a category, how come there are no points for those placings?

The effort surely deserves the reward? I will trade in my €25 for a point or two.

The A3 category seems to be a swelling category; numbers getting ever-bigger. At the same time the A2 category is lacking in numbers.

But it is incredibly hard for A3 riders to get points if:

  • No points are available for first or second unplaced positions (even if reduced points).
  • The current crop of exceptional junior athletes hoover up all the wins (juniors themselves are not to ‘blame’ of course)

An incident at the recent Sean Nolan GP speaks volumes about the current crop of juniors dominating the A3 category and making it extremely hard for A3s to score points and make A2.

At that Sean Nolan GP, the race officials announced at the start of the A3 race that there would be prizes for the first two unplaced A3s, in the A3 race!

Get your head around that one.

Of course they knew well the best juniors would mop up most, if not all of point-scoring placings.

Outside of my own club league and the Mark Mullen League in Drogheda this year I have had

  • Three 1st unplaced A4 prizes
  • Two 2nd unplaced A3 prizes
  • Two A4 race wins

But I have only got 16 points. And I scored those points in what my Garmin would tell me are the two easiest races I have done.

I don’t think a first or second unplaced A3 prize should carry 7 or 8 points. But I think the effort required merits at least 1 or 2 points?

Perhaps I am alone in this thought. But A3 racing is an incredibly competitive category, with swelling numbers and with juniors sweeping up a lot of the points available.

Those conditions are only set to continue. It might be time for a rethink and to have a more liberal points scoring system to get the strong A3 riders up to A2.

It is a development that would benefit both categories.