New Zealand's national cycling federation BikeNZ has said it would consider changes to the format of the national championships, and particularly the road races, if the events could boast increased numbers. The elite and under 23 men's road race are currently not run separately because of insufficient partipants to make the running of two races worthwhile.
"A separate under 23 race would be preferred if we could assure numbers," said BikeNZ Sport Manager Ross Bartlett to Cyclingnews.
The 2012 championships saw the combined road race won by an under 23 rider, Michael Vink, in a course record time. Vink finished finished six seconds ahead of James Williamson, who as first elite rider was awarded the national title. Neither Vink nor Bartlett saw problems with this situation at the time as the rules are comminciated well in advance of the race start.
"Under 23s would only be eligible for the elite title if there was no under 23 title at all," said Bartlett. "Once the under 23 title is registered with the UCI, all riders on an under 23 licence are ineligible for the elite title. They can upgrade to an elite licence, but cannot then revert back to U23 – so once they’re racing elite, that’s that. Put simply you can only win the grade for which you are licenced, and you cannot 'downgrade' your age once you have elected to step up."
The event has similarities to the controversy that followed the 2006 Australian men's road race when Will Walker and Wesley Sulzberger finished ahead of Russel Van Hout, but were ineligible for the elite jersey. Walker was dismayed to learn he would not wear the green and gold of national champion, and Cycling Australia eventually moved to change the format, albeit with the benefit of a considerably larger combined men's field than in New Zealand.
"Will Walker has the honour of being the first person to ever win both [categories] and will also be the last," Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks said at the time. "The races will be run separately next year."
This year, and last year's New Zealand Road Championships had no more than 100 riders in both categories, but if that number grew in the future, Bartlett says a change would definitely be on the cards.
"Basically, we would love to run a separate under 23 race but we just don’t have the numbers to warrant it at this time."