USA Cycling has rolled out some changes in Upgrade Guidelines as part of the new 2010 Rule Book. Two minor tweaks are that the minimum times for qualifying criterium and circuit races have been lowered so that virtually all events will award upgrade points, and racers are now awarded upgrade points for participation in USAC Development Camps as well as races.
This most significant upgrade change is listed in section 1D2g of the rule book, under "Qualitative Upgrade Assessment." The rule states that "Upgrade points accumulated through qualifying racing and development events will be considered along with personal qualitative assessments of the athlete, provided by coaches, teammates or by the athlete him/herself. These assessments must be attached to the upgrade request as PDF documents or URLs (eg http://bikeracerABC123.blogspot.com).
GamJams contacted USAC's Director of Communication Andrea Smith for clarification on the rule, and in particular on the "self-assessment" component. We read the rule and it sounds like racers can write race reports in their blogs, and get upgrade points. In an email response Ms. Smith confirmed, "Yes, that's correct. Racing is as qualitative as it is quantitative. If a racer is fit, strategic and safe, but works for a teammate who gets a top 10, while s/he finishes mid-pack, USA Cycling believes the racer should be rewarded."
Like several over the past few years, the ruling will help accelerate upgrades and open access to the upper categories as a function of racing tenure, more than success. Said Ms. Smith, "We're very interested in developing cyclists and graduating more of them into the elite ranks. Our research indicates that 2nd year racers competing as Cat 2s relate themselves more closely to Lance Armstrong than 2nd year racers competing as Cat 4s. And our membership trends strongly indicate that the more racers feel like they're Lance Armstrong, the greater USAC's membership revenue."