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How Seeding Works

Seeding is a useful tool to assist race organisers place riders in the most appropriate starting batch of a race, thereby reducing (not eliminating) the chances of congestion (eg, faster riders getting stuck behind slower, or less technically able riders), and/or ensuring the riders are placed in a bunch of similar paced competitors (especially in a road event, where bunch-riding is quite critical). A seeding “index” is calculated based on previous results of all competitors, and is an arbitrary value (usually, but not always, a percentage) designed to be comparable between other athletes that have been seeded using the same system.

How seeding is done

  • Using available results for events registered on the ASG System, a seeding index is calculated per person. These events include :
    1. ASG races that you’ve taken part in, which are automatically plugged into the system, or
    2. External, pre-determined events, for which you can add your results on the ASG Events site. Add Event Result
  • This offers an indication of the person’s ability relative to other entrants of the same race in the event.
  • An index of “0” means you are of the same ability as the winner, while a “100” index means we expect you to do roughly double the time of the winner.
  • Everyone with an index between 0 and approximately 100 is seeded into one of the seeded groups with riders of equal ability.

How ASG seeding index compares to other seeding systems
There are a number of seeding “engines” in South Africa currently. Most of the systems have an excellent history of results, and therefore are robust and produce consistent seeding indices. However, although they are all aimed at producing a relative index per rider based on historical performance (and thus, by inference, current rider ability), they all apply different rules and algorithms. For example, rules (or combinations thereof) are applied that weight results based on the following criteria:

  • Age of the result ;how long ago it took place – obviously the older it is, the less one can infer CURRENT ability therefrom
  • Distance of the race ;where a marathon counts a bit more when comparing relative performance to riders who did a half-marathon
  • Difficulty/grading of the event ;which is extremely complex and even subjective to quantify
  • Number of riders competing ;which is an often-debated topic
  • Finishing time of the rider compared to the winning time of the race and the finishing time of other riders
The fact that different rules are applied, and approaches may differ, means that no two seeding indices will be the same. An index of 10.5, say, in one system may well be very comparable to an index of 19.7 in another. What is important is whether the relative seeding position of one rider versus another, using the SAME system, are comparable and consistent. So, if one rider is “top 25%” in one system, they should ROUGHLY be “top 25%” using another system. Comparing the actual indices makes no sense, and should be avoided. In fact, in some systems a low index is “good”, and a high index is “bad”, whereas in others the converse is true. So, a difference in indices between systems is not necessarily “inconsistent”, so long as over time your relative position/seeding in the “bunch” (or amongst your fellow riders) remains the same over time using the same seeding system (but, again, this assumes your performance levels, and of those competing with you, remain pretty consistent over time, which is not always the case.). Furthermore, there is not a single place one can go to see all your seeding indices, or compare across seeding systems (until such time as a national seeding system is in place…).

How to improve your seeding index
The more historic results you have for a rider, the more “robust” the seeding calculations become. Similarly, not having any results for a rider unfortunately means one cannot seed them, until such time as you have built up some history of their performance. ASG took the (difficult) decision to develop our own seeding engine, for a number of reasons including (but not limited to) :

  • The rich set of results data we had for ASG events
  • The belief that we could apply more considered “rules” to the datasets, which should result in improved seeding
  • The costs associated with buying seeding information for each and every event (with such costs impacting on the entry fee for riders)
  • The ability for us to handle seeding queries and changes in a faster, more efficient manner
We have had a few teething problems (almost exclusively related to not having sufficient historical results, particularly on the road side, as we previously relied on our timing and seeding partners to store such results), but the “coverage” of our results has increased dramatically in recent months, enabling us to improve our seeding as each event takes place. Thus to improve your seeding index on the ASG system participate frequently – the more frequent, the better your seeding (the older your results the less it influences your seeding) and ensure that your race results are always up to date on the system.

In conclusion then, seeding is NOT an exact science, and no two systems will “agree” with one another. However, by being diligent in the collection and storing of historical results data, and the application of simple but meaningful rules and weightings to the results, a system will be produced that allows organisers to batch riders appropriately, leading to a more rewarding and enjoyable experience for riders during a race. We at ASG are certainly committed to continue investing in such a robust seeding system for our events.

View Seeding Index