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Old 01-15-08, 10:10 PM   #1
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A guide to racing categories.

I figured I would give my experience within the categories. I am currently a cat3, and could have my upgrade to 2 next season if I tried. In Montana, we race the 3's with the pro/1/2's due to field size. I have also raced cat3 only races as well, so that's where my upper category insight comes from.

Category (cat5) - The races are anywhere from 35-60 miles long. Usually you will race with the cat4's. Expect some fast guys trying to eek their way through to the upper categories... They will usually be the ones NOT pulling, but near the front. The guy that gets bored and takes massive pulls at the front will usually be dropped in the wind up for the sprint. If there are climbs in your race, there will be attacks on the first few ups, so be ready and near the front. If a break away succeeds, it's usually because it got away on a longer hill. As a cat5, try everything! Sit and watch, go take some pulls, shake things up with an attack or two. Get as much experience as you can in the 10 races you need to do before you upgrade to cat4.

Cat4 - Usually the same as the cat5's, but you know who's who and who/what to watch for. Try to be near the front. It keeps you somewhat crash free, and it's less work than the constant yo-yoing in the middle or back of the pack. Leave the attacking to somebody else! The only thing you need to do is make sure nobody of importance gets away. If you're in the front all of the time, you're not dropped. If you find yourself still in the top 10 in the last Km of the race, congrats! Now comes the fun. Someone is bound to get antsy and throw down a little past the Km sign. Depending on your strengths, that's your boy. Be 4 riders back from that guy. He'll realize the error of his ways, and probably slow down at the 600m, and that usually makes someone else go for it. Get on them, and wait for the 200m sign... It's up to you from there.

Cat3 - The races become longer - usually 60-90+ miles. Things can get strange from here on. Teams come into play, and tactics become important. Find a team and start training with them as you learn the game. Your first few races might see you working your ass off to get somebody else across the line, so don't expect much in the win category. If you don't have a team, don't waste your energy. Sit in and get near the front (recurring theme). Make yourself invisible until it counts! Riders are finding their strengths and they know how to make people hurt, and same goes for you. If you find yourself in a break and you're a climber, you have it easier. Wait for a hill, get on the front, and rain the pain. Climbing is slower (duh) so drafting becomes almost non-existent. If you hurt, they hurt. When the hill crests, let the other guys take over and save yourself for the finish.

Cat1/2/pro - These categories are fast on a whole new level - A level that can leave you scratching your head as the rest of the group rides into the distance. You're racing with pros. Think about that before you do anything stupid... But by now, you should have a team and know your responsibilities. If you feel like you can't do your job for a certain race, SAY SOMETHING, as your teammates are counting on you to do a job. Not doing that job can ruin the race for the team, and possibly send you looking for a new kit.

If anyone can add or subtract anything, I welcome it.

Sticky this maybe?
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Old 01-15-08, 10:15 PM   #2
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The only thing I could add is that the pack handling skills are noticeably improved in the p/1/2 fields. Much tighter than the 3's without the jostling.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:16 PM   #3
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True dat.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:37 PM   #4
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Cat 5: Expect to get beat by some dude on a bike that's worth 1/5th the value of your own, and expect to beat some dudes on bikes worth 4x your own. Then wonder why everyone is so worried about having nicer bikes.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:39 PM   #5
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Forgot to add that starting with CAT 3s you got to be careful when riding at the back of the pack... Folks are just now learing how to pee while riding and nothing will ruin your day than a face full of urine.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cypress View Post
I figured I would give my experience within the categories. I am currently a cat3, and could have my upgrade to 2 next season if I tried. In Montana, we race the 3's with the pro/1/2's due to field size. I have also raced cat3 only races as well, so that's where my upper category insight comes from.

Category (cat5) - The races are anywhere from 35-60 miles long. Usually you will race with the cat4's. Expect some fast guys trying to eek their way through to the upper categories... They will usually be the ones NOT pulling, but near the front. The guy that gets bored and takes massive pulls at the front will usually be dropped in the wind up for the sprint. If there are climbs in your race, there will be attacks on the first few ups, so be ready and near the front. If a break away succeeds, it's usually because it got away on a longer hill. As a cat5, try everything! Sit and watch, go take some pulls, shake things up with an attack or two. Get as much experience as you can in the 10 races you need to do before you upgrade to cat4.

Cat4 - Usually the same as the cat5's, but you know who's who and who/what to watch for. Try to be near the front. It keeps you somewhat crash free, and it's less work than the constant yo-yoing in the middle or back of the pack. Leave the attacking to somebody else! The only thing you need to do is make sure nobody of importance gets away. If you're in the front all of the time, you're not dropped. If you find yourself still in the top 10 in the last Km of the race, congrats! Now comes the fun. Someone is bound to get antsy and throw down a little past the Km sign. Depending on your strengths, that's your boy. Be 4 riders back from that guy. He'll realize the error of his ways, and probably slow down at the 600m, and that usually makes someone else go for it. Get on them, and wait for the 200m sign... It's up to you from there.

Cat3 - The races become longer - usually 60-90+ miles. Things can get strange from here on. Teams come into play, and tactics become important. Find a team and start training with them as you learn the game. Your first few races might see you working your ass off to get somebody else across the line, so don't expect much in the win category. If you don't have a team, don't waste your energy. Sit in and get near the front (recurring theme). Make yourself invisible until it counts! Riders are finding their strengths and they know how to make people hurt, and same goes for you. If you find yourself in a break and you're a climber, you have it easier. Wait for a hill, get on the front, and rain the pain. Climbing is slower (duh) so drafting becomes almost non-existent. If you hurt, they hurt. When the hill crests, let the other guys take over and save yourself for the finish.

Cat1/2/pro - These categories are fast on a whole new level - A level that can leave you scratching your head as the rest of the group rides into the distance. You're racing with pros. Think about that before you do anything stupid... But by now, you should have a team and know your responsibilities. If you feel like you can't do your job for a certain race, SAY SOMETHING, as your teammates are counting on you to do a job. Not doing that job can ruin the race for the team, and possibly send you looking for a new kit.

If anyone can add or subtract anything, I welcome it.

Sticky this maybe?
Hello Cypress,

In the holy land of criteriums, you could halve those numbers twice and they still might be a bit long. If I do a 50+ and a 40+ race on the same day I'm looking at 30-45 miles total at 25-27 MPH average.

Cat 4/5 races are not any longer than my races and sometimes they're shorter.

The few road races that we have here are longer but I can't think of any Cat 3 road races that are much longer than 100K and most are shorter.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:49 PM   #7
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Forgot to add that starting with CAT 3s you got to be careful when riding at the back of the pack... Folks are just now learing how to pee while riding and nothing will ruin your day than a face full of urine.
bah, my last cat 4 race someone stood up in the middle of the peloton, I just happened to be right behind him, and let it rip... I NEVER rode behind him again and I'll never forget who it was! go to the back first, please.
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Old 01-15-08, 10:51 PM   #8
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The few road races that we have here are longer but I can't think of any Cat 3 road races that are much longer than 100K and most are shorter.
I'm sure this varies a lot from district to district, most cat 3 road races in northern CA are 60+ miles, most cat4 RR's are 40-60.
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Old 01-15-08, 11:27 PM   #9
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Cat3 (Elites) can be expected to ride into solid objects for no apparent reason, other than they forgot to turn. Cat 4/5's will do the same, only with moving objects also.
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Old 01-16-08, 01:44 AM   #10
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As a 5 you can expect to have your ass handed to you by someone who may never have done a road race/crit before. Probably a triathlete or mountain biker. Maybe a professional tri or MTBer.
This comment can be completely disregarded if you ARE a pro tri or MTBer.
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Old 01-16-08, 02:23 AM   #11
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As a 5 you can expect to have your ass handed to you by someone who may never have done a road race/crit before. Probably a triathlete or mountain biker. Maybe a professional tri or MTBer.
This comment can be completely disregarded if you ARE a pro tri or MTBer.
True story. There is a guy I know here in SoCal who races Semi-Pro in the mountains, but hasn't done enough road races to upgrade to the 4's. The USCF won't let him upgrade based on his XC or Cross results. Lame.

BUT, he does have a sweet mullet and an incredible mustache.
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Old 01-16-08, 07:26 AM   #12
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Good description. Although I'd disagree with the "leave attacking to someone else" in Cat 4, why?

By attacking and even riding like a knucklehead to some degree you learn about your own strengths and weaknesses to apply at future and the next level(s) of racing. Also, in my opinion makes it more fun, especially if you get out of sight out of mind - even just once.
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Old 01-16-08, 07:33 AM   #13
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True story. There is a guy I know here in SoCal who races Semi-Pro in the mountains, but hasn't done enough road races to upgrade to the 4's. The USCF won't let him upgrade based on his XC or Cross results. Lame.

BUT, he does have a sweet mullet and an incredible mustache.
I did a few races against Jeff Shalk (pro mtb w/Trek) when I was a 4. I kept wondering who was the dude on the front laying down the wicked pace that no one could come around, I think it kind of cool to have been racing against that level fitness in a rider.
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Old 01-16-08, 07:48 AM   #14
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The guy that gets bored and takes massive pulls at the front will usually be dropped in the wind up for the sprint.
I see you've raced with me on numerous occasions.

/still learning to resist the urge to pull the pack around
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Old 01-16-08, 08:03 AM   #15
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In Ohio, the road races are nowhere near that long.
Cat 5 - 35-45 miles
Cat 4 - 35-55 miles
Cat 3 - 40-75 miles (ok, ONE race was 75 miles. They usually cap at less than 60)
Cat 1/2/3 - 50-75 miles


FWIW the cat 4 pack seems the biggest, with the 3's and 5's behind. No one wants to upgrade to cat 2 around here so their races are usually under attended (20-30 racers if lucky) and won by either Abercrombie & Fitch or Kirk of Texas Roadhouse.


Oh and take the miles, convert them to minutes and that's about what our crits are.
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Old 01-16-08, 08:52 AM   #16
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Good post Cypress!

Need to add M35+:
Usually faster than the 3s, but slightly shorter distance (45-60 minute crits, 40-50 mile RRs). Lead by Cat 2s who don't feel like racing 106 miles on Saturday. Decent field sizes (in TX, >40). A lot of varying abilities here, but the guys who are 3s can generally keep up with the main field. The 4s have a tough time. You find a lot of guys who aren't that strong, but are VERY smart doing well. Tactics are near the P/1/2 level, with many team members having assignments and carrying them out. This is where guys like myself end up -- I'm strong enough to get upgrade points in the 3s, but have no desire to race 106 miles on Saturday as a Cat 2.

M35+ is like a fantasy bike racing camp -- feels like the pros, but it's accessible.
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Old 01-16-08, 09:07 AM   #17
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Do I hear CAT6? I'd really like to downgrade.
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Old 01-16-08, 10:27 AM   #18
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At "35-60 miles" I figured the whole post was a joke.

I haven't raced a race longer than 35 miles in the last I don't know how many years and I'm a 3. Around here 5's get about 10 miles max. 4's maybe 15-20 miles. 3s get 15-25 miles. For crits anyway.

Road races... I don't enter them.

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Old 01-16-08, 11:18 AM   #19
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are you crits time or distance based? 10 miles = what, 25 minutes?
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Old 01-16-08, 11:41 AM   #20
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Our Cat4/5 road races are 40-50miles, ive raced as much as 60.
the crits are 45min to an hour.
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Old 01-16-08, 11:44 AM   #21
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For the grand ol' BF record, It ought to be noted that this is the American system. It's all subtly different o'er here.

It's the little differences. I mean they got the same s**t over there that they got here, but it's just - it's just there it's a little different.
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Old 01-16-08, 11:47 AM   #22
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As a 5 you can expect to have your ass handed to you by someone who may never have done a road race/crit before. Probably a triathlete or mountain biker. Maybe a professional tri or MTBer.
This comment can be completely disregarded if you ARE a pro tri or MTBer.
Or the random foreigner who shows up with his British Cycling Cat 1 license and gets blank looks from the race officials who don't understand that there are countries other than America or why exactly it is they've all got UCI numbers on. So he has to ride on a day licence as 'unattached.'

(no, I haven't got a British Cycling Cat 1 licence... )
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Old 01-16-08, 11:48 AM   #23
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are you crits time or distance based? 10 miles = what, 25 minutes?
Around there. We gave Cat 5s 30 min + 5 laps (of a 0.8ish mile course with a short hill). Two races each week since field limit for 5s is 50 and we'd get more than 50 usually. This year it'll be distance based, not time based, so perhaps 20 laps (which is what they'd do anyway).

It's also illegal to give Cat 5 prize money, primes worth anything (whether cash or merchandise), etc. Really sucks actually, being a 5. But I guess it's motivation to move up.

If I could be a Cat 5 road racer, I would. But even those guys out climb me because I've gotten dropped by them. So I'm a Cat 6, maybe a Cat 7, road racer

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Old 01-16-08, 11:54 AM   #24
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Need to add M35+:
Usually faster than the 3s
Around here the M35s are faster than the 3s by a long shot. If the race is shorter than the P12s then they might be faster than them (in NYC the M35s sometimes outpace the P123s for the first 3 mile lap or two).

M35s (and M40s and the like) seem to race more on fitness. They're not afraid of going out and trying to burn off wheelsuckers like me, and since the good guys are either 1s or 2s, well, their pace will be a 1-2 pace.

3s are more timid, more cautious, and more willing to sit. That plays into my hands. Plus I have a chance of finishing the race.

P12s are just balls out usually, except in longer races.

I almost always go with the 3s instead of a Masters race.

M40 qualified as of last year,
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Old 01-16-08, 12:03 PM   #25
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Around here the M35s are faster than the 3s by a long shot. cdr

Here also, plus they're way more smooth/skilled (except for Kelly Cup/Bikejam, which is the annual masters crash fest for some reason). Unfortunately, the #s in M30+ have dwindled in MABRA over the past few years as the guys who have typically focused more on Masters racing have started hitting 40 and the guys in their 30s seem to do more of the 1/2 thing. This has lead to most promoters either eliminating the M30 as they can add and fill another 4 or 4/5 race in its place, or combining the 30 and 40+ riders in to a separately scored race, which I hate. Although I find the M races more fun, as a 37 y.o. (racing age in 2008) C3, circumstance leaves me racing Sr. 3 most of the time.
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