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  1. #1
    Style-challenged platypus's Avatar
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    Race Report - Early Bird Crit #4

    Today I raced in the 4th out of 5 Early Bird crits in Fremont, CA.

    The weather looked pretty iffy this morning, raining on my roof to wake me up. The rain stayed away from the race site, however, and the roads were pretty dry by the time I got there. Today was "meet the teams" day, and several local teams had booths set up letting folks know how to go about joining up.

    I went out for my now-usual warmup ride through Coyote Hills Park. The clouds made for some very pretty scenery as I rode along the bayfront. Once back at the race site, I sat in on the Mentoring session which covered "threaded pacelines" today, as well as a repeat of the cornering drills we had practiced a couple of weeks ago.

    In the race, I found myself off the front on the opening lap with 'nother and one of his AV teammates (didn't catch his name - sorry!). We were goofing around, joking about being off the front, and sat up after the first corner. There's no sense attacking on lap 1 of a 40 minute crit.

    Not that that kept another fellow from attacking on lap 2. This guy scooted up the right side and shot off the front. Some of the folks at the front of the bunch started to chase, but were quickly reminded that he was all by himself and it's a long way to go.

    The rest of the race was mainly characterized by an uneven tempo and generally low speeds. According to 'nother's cyclecomputer, the average speed was 20.8 MPH. Several breaks were tried, but nothing stuck.

    My main goal today was to finish in the bunch (something I hadn't quite managed yet), so I was largely sitting in trying to rest as much as possible. I vividly remembered the last-lap accelleration that I couldn't match last week, and I was determined that I wouldn't get left behind today. Except, it never came. On the last lap, there was no jump by the field. I waited to see when the jump would happen, maybe with half a lap to go? Nope, there was no big surge. Go figure.

    So, as a result of my rampant paranoia and sitting on, I finished in the main group. Mission accomplished.

    Next week, if there's no jump I'm going to jump myself and see if I can't make something happen.

    Next week's the final EB crit of the year, and this one counts for real live points. Regardless, since I'll have done all 5 of the EB's I'll have the necessary 10 mass starts needed to upgrade to cat 4. (The mentoring sessions also count as mass starts for upgrade purposes.)

    I'll be out there, suffering like a dog as usual.

  2. #2
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    1) Good work accomplishing your goal;

    2) I like your idea of attacking. Training races are for just that, and attacking will be great training and experience. Good time to try is in that lull that often happens with a couple of laps to go where no one's working in anticipation of the upcoming sprint. Remember if you're going to go, it has to be an absolute total commitment, as hard and as sharp as you can make it, to have any chance of success.

    3) Consider whether you want to upgrade to 4 immediately. If you've only been able to finish with the group once (and in a race that you describe as being pretty slow) you may still need to get a bit stronger.
    Once you leave Cat 5 you can't go back. Doing some Cat 5 races where you're one of the storngest riders, and can work on techniques it takes to win will be valuable experience, and you'll lose that opportunity if you upgrade too fast.

  3. #3
    OTB is imminent travis200's Avatar
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    Personally I would stay a 5 for a few moe races for more experience it helps I did 15 reces as a 5. Once you hit the 4's the racing in Nor Cal is tough and if you aren't putting in lots of miles then you will be suffering. I am a mid packer 4 that wishes I stayed in the 5's now. Just 3 more years then I can race 35+ 4/5's.
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  4. #4
    Hills are good
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    I strongly agree with the other posters that you shouldn't be too quick to upgrade to cat 4 just because you can. You should enter a couple cat 5 races (or 35+ 4/5 if you can) to see how you do. NCNCA racing is pretty hard in the "beginner" categories.

    In Saturday's early bird road race the cat 3's were just cruising toward the main climb when the cat 5's passed them (the 5's started 10 minutes back).

  5. #5
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    Interesting points about the time to upgrade. I too will have the necessary points if I'm able to attend next weeks race...so it'll be decision time.

    Regarding points - I spoke with Sean Mehaffey yesterday about the final "real points" race and was asking if we could expect a more competitive pace. His answer was, "Probably not, since most guys are already going at their max so there's no reason to believe the pace will increase significantly."

    Having said that, I think there's various chatter amongst folks out there who are looking to try different tactics in the relatively safe (from points, not crashing) environment of a training race - myself included :-)

    The other interesting thing I learned is that if you're a Cat.5...there's no such thing as points. All we get at this level is "experience" that can, if we choose, be used as an upgrade to Cat.4. Once in the higher category you have to earn an upgrade with points by placing in the top 10. Until I heard this I was seriously thinking of going all out next week to see how high I can place...having already managed to be in the top 8 of every race. Now that the points don't count I think I'll just do another relatively chill race that'll be more about training and learning than "winning".

    BTW - thanks to everyone who managed to keep a clean line in the <35 Cat. 5 race. It was much appreciated!

  6. #6
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    ^^^^^
    If you're consistently finishing top 10, I thinks its jut a matter of whether you want to hang on a little longer to win one. If you're just beginning to avoid being dropped, I think its too early, particularly if your experience is only 5 training races and a clinic.

  7. #7
    Style-challenged platypus's Avatar
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    Considering that most races (at least most that I've seen) lump the 4's and 5's together, why *woudn't* I upgrade to a 4 if I meet the qualifications? Win a race in the 5's? I don't care about that. I'd want to go up to the 4's to find a higher pace and push myself harder.

  8. #8
    Senior Member zimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simian
    Regarding points - I spoke with Sean Mehaffey yesterday about the final "real points" race and was asking if we could expect a more competitive pace. His answer was, "Probably not, since most guys are already going at their max so there's no reason to believe the pace will increase significantly."
    The OP said that the average speed was 20.8 miles per hour. If that's true, unless the course is quite hilly and technical (which I don't believe one would expect from a training crit) then that race was categorically not a competitive pace. I suspect most Cat5s would be able to go solo at 20.8 miles per hour on a flat course for 30 minutes.

    --Steve

  9. #9
    Senior Member zimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by platypus
    Considering that most races (at least most that I've seen) lump the 4's and 5's together, why *woudn't* I upgrade to a 4 if I meet the qualifications? Win a race in the 5's? I don't care about that. I'd want to go up to the 4's to find a higher pace and push myself harder.
    If they're always lumped together then there's no reason not to upgrade. If they're not and you find that you're just pack fodder in the 5s then you'll likely have trouble even hanging on with the 4s. And getting dropped doesn't really give you the experience you need. Ideally, you want to improve your race smarts and your engine in tandem.

    --Steve

  10. #10
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by platypus
    Considering that most races (at least most that I've seen) lump the 4's and 5's together, why *woudn't* I upgrade to a 4 if I meet the qualifications? Win a race in the 5's? I don't care about that. I'd want to go up to the 4's to find a higher pace and push myself harder.
    This is exactly what the 4s on my team are telling me. A 1st place in 5s is no different from a 31st place, but in the 4s, placings actually matter. Especially since 4s and 5s are frequently lumped together, the "get more experience" argument doesn't really apply, since it's going to be the exact same experience whether you are 4 or 5. If you're a 4, at least the opportunity is there for it to count for something, however unlikely that may be.

    Anyway as for the race, pace, etc. yeah it was abnormally slow this week. It seems like it's actually been getting slower every week. The first week averaged around 25 IIRC. My guess is next week it'll be amped up a little more and probably expect the teams to be working together even better. My team did not go into this week with any particular plan but we will for next week. And I know Team CS will as well -- they have been working together well every week and they just keep getting better at it.
    Can you pass the test?
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  11. #11
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by platypus
    Considering that most races (at least most that I've seen) lump the 4's and 5's together, why *woudn't* I upgrade to a 4 if I meet the qualifications? Win a race in the 5's? I don't care about that. I'd want to go up to the 4's to find a higher pace and push myself harder.
    Don't know about your area, but typical in a lot of places that 4/5's are lumped together in early training crits, and that there will be mostly Cat 5 only races when you get into your regular season.

    Whether you care about winning a Cat 5 race is really your call. My point is that its very hard to win any bike race. Even if you're strong enough, there are tons of ways to mess it up. Some actual pracitce in situations where you've got the shot to win will help you. thus some repottions at the front of Cat 5 races may give you some insight, that will be helpful going foward. You may find you won't have a chance for a while to be in the winning move if you upgrade too quickly.

    And lets be realistic here; you've been able to not get dropped in one rather slow race, and you can't wait to upgrade?

  12. #12
    Style-challenged platypus's Avatar
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    Actually, if you read my first post carefully, I never said I was upgrading, just that I could.

    Anyway, everyone will have an opinion on this subject. I don't know if I'll upgrade or not, but I'll have the option should I decide to.
    </thread>

  13. #13
    OTB is imminent travis200's Avatar
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    I would race a few of the early crits coming up as a 5 if you hang in there then upgrade. For sure do a road race as a 5 before you upgrade. Crits and road races are quite different. The 4's are packed with some fast guy's who don't want to upgrade and be just another cat 3 sprinting for 20th place.
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  14. #14
    Aut Vincere Aut Mori Snuffleupagus's Avatar
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    Upgrade as soon as you can. You don't get better by doubting yourself and your abilities. Ride hard and move up as soon as you can

  15. #15
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Tiger Woods played juinor golf, competing against his peers, and wining alot, learning to win, and is in the middle of a career that will likely end up the greatest of all time.

    Michelle Wie has never won anything of signifcance and has always 'cat upped' to play professional women as a young teen,and professional men, and hasn't won jack.

    Which is the better path? There's a value in learning how to win? Having a few races where you're in the winning move,and working through how it plays out, may be a hell of alot more valuable than finishing mid pack in a Cat 4 race.

    To quote Cat Stevens, " You're young, that's your fault."

    Unless you're the rare guy that's going to blow through Cat 5, 4, and 3, in less than a season, I think you may find on reflection that the desire to blow through CAt 5 is based moreon youthful hubris and ego, than on sound reason.
    Last edited by merlinextraligh; 01-30-07 at 09:23 AM.

  16. #16
    Style-challenged platypus's Avatar
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    i'm young? cool! I had no idea. Don't worry so much about whether I cat up or not.

    sheesh.

  17. #17
    Senior Member zimbo's Avatar
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    Don't sweat it. You post and people post back with their perspectives. Myriad opinions are cool.

    Keep those race reports coming!

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  18. #18
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by platypus
    i'm young? cool! I had no idea. Don't worry so much about whether I cat up or not.

    sheesh.
    Well i'm not, (I just have the need to convince people I'm right) and obviously you should do what you believe is best for you. Good luck whatever category you race.

  19. #19
    Aut Vincere Aut Mori Snuffleupagus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
    Well i'm not, (I just have the need to convince people I'm right) and obviously you should do what you believe is best for you. Good luck whatever category you race.
    But, don't you see, most people who are stuck on road bike racing are Type A personalities - and as such have the same lust for vindication that you have.

    In sum: I'm right

  20. #20
    Cubicle warfare
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snuffleupagus
    But, don't you see, most people who are stuck on road bike racing are Type A personalities - and as such have the same lust for vindication that you have.

    In sum: I'm right
    actually, all of you are wrong, all the time. this *is* the internets, after all....
    Got oil?

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  21. #21
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    Have fun...

    Quote Originally Posted by platypus
    i'm young? cool! I had no idea. Don't worry so much about whether I cat up or not.

    sheesh.
    Platypus, call it as you see it. Being young doesn't mean you're ignorant or out of touch with what floats your boat. I think there's some good advice to find out what it's like racing in the pack, flogging yourself on prime laps, contending with the main sprinters to the finish, helping team mates get to the front, bridge gaps, as lead-out rider, etc.

    I'm not young - I'm in the 35+ class - but I've been riding in the <35 Cat. 5 group in the last two EB races. Age has little to do with all this...it's all about experience. That's the whole point of Cat. 5...get experience cuz you can't even get points.

    If you find yourself only riding mid-pack and not experiencing the other elements of racing, I'd say (and this is just my humble perspective) stick with Cat.5 until you feel you've experienced all the different facets of racing. Once you, and I, move up to Cat. 4 it'll be harder to learn and get some deeper experience because we'll most likely be mid-pack for some time to come, if no the entire season.

    I'm on Team Oakland (current kit has Cycle Sports / Trumer Pils)...drop by and say "hello". We have a bunch of guys, including mentors, out each week.

    Cheers!

  22. #22
    Two wheels is two wheels pelikan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zimbo
    The OP said that the average speed was 20.8 miles per hour. If that's true, unless the course is quite hilly and technical (which I don't believe one would expect from a training crit) then that race was categorically not a competitive pace. I suspect most Cat5s would be able to go solo at 20.8 miles per hour on a flat course for 30 minutes.

    --Steve
    To be fair it was a little windy out there last Sunday. After turn 2 it was easy to get to the front because it seemed nobody wanted to be fighting the invisible hill. Most of my teammates are in the 35+ and so far every single training race their avg speed has been faster than the elite5's.

    This Sunday should be interesting to see how attitudes change in a real race. I personally also look forward to racing/riding away from that course in the following weeks. I miss hills and left turns!

  23. #23
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    That's not true based on what I've seen and experienced. I have a teammate that is a mentor and has ridden both... he said that the 5's have been much faster and less sketchy than the 35+.

    During week #1, the Elite 5 average was close to 27mph! Most of my teammates have dropped down to the Elite 5 race to get a faster, and safer practice race. During week #2 the 35+ race was even stopped due to crashes...

    However, except for week #1 the pace in both has been fairly mellow. We rode harder and faster on the 1 hour approach to the wall in the Patterson race last weekend than in any of the crits that I've ridden this year (which is all except last week).

    However, I believe that if you want to move to Cat 4, then go for it! All that matters is what you think you're ready for, and what you want to do.

  24. #24
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pelikan
    This Sunday should be interesting to see how attitudes change in a real race. I personally also look forward to racing/riding away from that course in the following weeks. I miss hills and left turns!
    No doubt! At the moment I can't see myself specializing in crits...
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhodder
    That's not true based on what I've seen and experienced. I have a teammate that is a mentor and has ridden both... he said that the 5's have been much faster and less sketchy than the 35+.

    During week #1, the Elite 5 average was close to 27mph! Most of my teammates have dropped down to the Elite 5 race to get a faster, and safer practice race. During week #2 the 35+ race was even stopped due to crashes...
    Just to clarify, are you comparing the Elite 4/5 race with the newbie 35+ Cat. 5's or the newbie Cat. 5's with the newbie 35+ Cat.5's?

    I've ridden both of the newbie races and have found the 35+ to be a faster race overall...but also a sketchier crowd. Well, I would've said that after week 3 but last week there were a ton of young guys who have yet to learn the subtleties of riding in a straight line

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