I have had the chance to meet many NICA coaches and parents over the past few months. As you can imagine, a lot of the discussion time has been dedicated to the subject of passing. Successfully executing a pass is always a challenge. Race related passing skill development is critically important in both passing and in being passed and needs to be approached from the safety, good sportsmanship and race result perspectives. Let’s share a few thoughts on how the rules noted in section 6 of the NICA rules book will be applied.
As an important point of clarification, when referring to the race course (normally 36 to 48 wide), we are talking about the total trail width, not just the worn/groomed middle path. Trails can become overgrown and can be narrower in technical areas, but most trails in our area are designed for accessibility by emergency equipment such as ATV’s and will in many areas offer sufficient width to allow for passing on either side of the worn middle path.
Key to the passing process is the concept of “the rider in front owns the race course”; more on that to come. Passing and passed rider responsibilities include:
Responsibilities of riders who are passing.
-- Communication is critical to the success of a safe and effective pass. The passing rider is responsible to plan the pass and then clearly communicate their intended actions. “I am planning to pass/lap you at the next opportunity” then “I am passing/lap right or left” are effective communications methods to announce a pass. The communication must be done in a manner that gives the rider(s) to be passed time to safely respond. Failure to properly communicate a passing plan may mean a missed pass and can create an unsafe situation and may result in penalties.
--The passing rider may not use either their bike or body to force their way past other riders; in doing so an unsafe situation is created and can result in penalties.
-- A passing rider may not mislead others riders on the same lap by claiming that they are being lapped. Doing so could result in a un-sportsman like conduct penalty.
Responsibilities of riders being lapped
-- The passing/lapping rider is the front rider and “owns the course”. Riders being lapped are required to safely and quickly yield the course to the passing rider once a passing request communication is given. In certain course situations, this could mean the lapped riders may have to dismount to clear the course for the lapping rider(s). NICA goals are to insure the safety of all riders in a passing situation and also to minimize the impact on the flow and pace of the race. Failure to yield the course could create an unsafe situation and therefore result in penalties.
Responsibilities of riders being passed by a racer on the same lap.
-- In addition to remembering the rider in front owns the course, it is a race. It is logical and legitimate for a rider in front to speed up to avoid being passed. It is also legitimate for the front rider to “take the best line”, especially in technical sections where passing lines are limited by terrain. Conversely, when the trail widens, it is the responsibility of the front rider to hold their line or preferably move to the side, allowing faster riders to pass.
--The front rider(s) may not move from side to side to block the trail to impede passing riders.
-- The front rider(s) may not use either their bike or body to impair a rider in the process of passing.
-- A following rider(s) may not assist the front rider by co blocking the trail to keep others from passing.
All of the above could create an unsafe situation and result in penalties.
Safe and effective passing requires training, race situation awareness and patience. Spend time in practice training the needed skills to insure safety and to maximize results.
Tim Walsh | MN League Referee firstname.lastname@example.org