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Thread: Cat 5 Question

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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    The problem with an MTB Cat2 (Cat5 road equivalent) moving quickly to Cat3 is that they may or may not have acquired the bike handling skills to deal with a solid Cat3 field, or worse, a P/1/2/3 field. Racing single track is about as far removed from racing an NCC crit as it could possibly be. This is what is broken in the system. Fudgy will cringe when I mention this, but back in the 80's before the points system, the district rep did the upgrades. They got to know who you were and how you achieved your results. They got to know you face to face and through others they trusted. Their job was easier because there was no Cat5 and Cat1 was handled by Colorado. All they did was 4-3 and 3-2. Once they saw you enough in Cat4 races and knew you weren't a hazard, getting to Cat3 was straightforward. Upgrading to Cat2 was much harder then. You were under a lot of scrutiny. They would routinely hold back strong guys if they were crashing or they received negative feedback about them. Our fields on average were much larger then than they are now. Lots of people's livelihoods were at stake. They didn't screw around. Points have replaced that scrutiny and the sport is worse off for it.

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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexMac View Post
    Being in the same boat as you, i think nobody wants to take the responsibility to "hand hold" new racers. This is probably a thankless job and they would have to volunteer in undertaking this.
    Some of us do exactly that. I will be doing my second clinic this year starting in July. Gratis.

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    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    I'm not disagreeing with you. Though I do think it's mostly generation gap and selective memory, that's not my current point. My only question was "what's your measurement?" to know that it was better "back when" or if any changes to cat 5 structure make improvements. What's the metric?
    There's definitely a risk that this perception is result of the filter of time. (The older I get, the faster I was).

    That said, I think there are several things that actually are leading to a deterioration of pack skills amongst new racers.

    1. Emphasis on fitness. Lots of new racers are focused on specific training, and less focused on learning to ride a bike. Back in the day, most of the training was doing hard group rides, and most people had some pack riding experience before they started racing.

    2. Decline of the club system. Being in a club with mentors gives you a much better idea of what the heck you're supposed to be doing.

    3. Strava. People out chasing KOM's by themselves aren't learning to handle their bikes in a pack.



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    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    Some of us do exactly that. I will be doing my second clinic this year starting in July. Gratis.

    That's awesome. I'm a very long way from being experienced enough to do that, but I hope that if I ever get to that point I could find a way to help out. I mentioned before that I found a great team that is a big help to me, which is great because bike racing isn't the easiest sport to get going in without some direction.

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    Elite Fred mollusk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agoodale View Post
    This issue came up at our last local Association meeting. It was suggested that the local racers get together and submit a proposal on how they would like the Cat system to work. Here is what we came up with:


    Cat 5s line up at the back of the Pro 1/2 race. When they get dropped by the 1st or 2nd lap they will quickly learn what bike racing is really all about: humiliation & self loathing.


    For those that have the stones to come back 10 times they get moved down in categories gradually until they can complete an entire race.


    Upon reaching this ultimate category they will be awarded an official "Pack Fodder" jersey which they must wear until they can podium races consistently (or at least top 10 with a valid excuse*).


    5 podiums, 10 top 10s with a valid excuse*, or 8 top 10s with at least 3 awesome excuses** = UPGRADE!

    * Excuses such as "I'm tapering", "I drank too much last night", "I forgot my gel", "That dude didn't hold his line", etc... = Immediate Downgrade


    ** Awesome excuses would be: "My cleat broke & I had to sprint with 1 leg", "I swallowed my inhaler", "The follow car hit me", etc...
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    Elite Fred mollusk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    2. Decline of the club system. Being in a club with mentors gives you a much better idea of what the heck you're supposed to be doing.
    +1

    The greatest thing about my team is that on team training rides we "yell" in the Event Service's way (famous thread in the 41) at bone headed stuff done by the newbies when it is involved with safety. For the bone headed things they do that allow us older and less fit guys to still hand them their asses we mostly laugh and give gentle guidance.
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    illusoryly superior Ygduf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    There's definitely a risk that this perception is result of the filter of time. (The older I get, the faster I was).
    you set forth the same presumptions CDR did, without answering the only question I had. What's the measurement?

    All the talk about how to improve is a little silly if you don't know what you're trying to improve, and there's no way of knowing if an improvement occurred. One person's eyeballs are not a good measure of the skills of cat 5 riders across the system.

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    And cat 5 we have a guy show up for his first race, place first. Second race he got first, 3 mile time trial they make you do for the omnium, he did 6:14 which would put him in top 5 at cat 3. Since there isn't enough races in the area that will mean at least a year till he upgrades.

    It seems they need to make an upgrade path quicker for 5. When "new racers" show up to to a cat 5 race and have people averaging 23-24mph it is not benefiting anyone. 30-40 pack groups drop to 11 or less before the finish? I know the sponsors like a full cat 5 group to cover prizes and what not but this is not going to encourage anyone to get into racing.

    Also, talked my gf into racing her first race. Womens is even worse of a mix. You get 1-2's and college scholarship girls racing at cat 5 speeds and 1 or 2 women wanting to start getting dropped within the first 1/8th. They really should split them with the juniors as beginners and give them free entry fees to get the numbers up.
    Last edited by Christobevii3; 06-07-14 at 08:37 PM. Reason: add

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    You're comparing TT times of people that raced 30 miles and probably cruised for most of it to people that averaged 25 mph for 80 miles. You're not going to find a way to rid cat 5 of fit racers, and you really don't want those guys racing in higher categories before they know how to handle a bike.

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    All but one of the guys ride in a strict club so they know how to handle their bike. It is a waste of their time and ours to have us grouped together. The guy who shows up to his first race ever as a cross country runner and gets second though needs pack experience. Problem is: if you are riding off the front with the other guy, no club experience and what not he will never get pack experience. The 5's only had one crash between road race and crit too: guy ran into curb himself cutting too tight. The masters had multiple bad wrecks with one guy going to the hospital to check his shoulder after three of them crashed in a corner.

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    Elite Fred mollusk's Avatar
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    It used to be that if you were a new racer, but have been riding the local hard group rides with the well respected racers in the area and you showed good pack skills, the "cool kids" could put in the good word to the local upgrade official and you could get an early upgrade. To my mind it is the equivalent of doing clinics. Unfortunately doing things that way opens up lots of potential legal problems which I guess is one reason why it doesn't happen anymore. Sigh.

    Do they still allow sanctioned training crits to count as mass starts for the 5 to 4 upgrade? That is the cheap way to do it if there is a training crit series locally and it is still an option. 10 "full price" races can be a lot of $'s to become a 4.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christobevii3 View Post
    All but one of the guys ride in a strict club so they know how to handle their bike. It is a waste of their time and ours to have us grouped together. The guy who shows up to his first race ever as a cross country runner and gets second though needs pack experience. Problem is: if you are riding off the front with the other guy, no club experience and what not he will never get pack experience. The 5's only had one crash between road race and crit too: guy ran into curb himself cutting too tight. The masters had multiple bad wrecks with one guy going to the hospital to check his shoulder after three of them crashed in a corner.
    Doing group rides and riding for a club does not simulate racing.

    If the person you are referring to races a couple of races and rides away from everyone, they'll cat him up if he sends a request.

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    Senior Member globecanvas's Avatar
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    Maybe the 5->4 upgrade path should require a couple of crits. There are many cat 3s who still don't have the comfort level to race a crit, even though they can win road races off the front.
    Ninny

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    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    you set forth the same presumptions CDR did, without answering the only question I had. What's the measurement?

    All the talk about how to improve is a little silly if you don't know what you're trying to improve, and there's no way of knowing if an improvement occurred. One person's eyeballs are not a good measure of the skills of cat 5 riders across the system.
    That's obviously true, but I don't know of anybody that's done any actual measurements. So, we're pretty much limited to anecdotal observations.

    Most basic metrics would be crash frequency, and severity. USA Cycling, and its insurers likely have loss runs that would have data, but that would only capture accidents that resulted in insurance claims, which is likely a very small percentage of accidents.

    Crash frequency and severity, would also be subject to a lot of confounders, such as course design, and field size.
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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Every rider crash is supposed to be reflected in an incident report, with all riders identified. They know who is crashing. The only way to know why is to ask those involved. This is how it was done in the old days.

    I am absolutely 100% against Cat5 early upgrades for reasons I have stated many times.

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    Senior Member topflightpro's Avatar
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    Here are my thoughts on various comments:

    * There was a Pro Triathlete around here a couple years ago that switched to road bicycling. He dominated every Cat 5 and 4/5 race he was in. I remember in one 30-min. crit watching him lap the Cat 5 field three times, and he probably could have done it a fourth time if he wanted. There were lots of complaints lodged to local officials about his dominance, but the head official would not upgrade him early. Her reasoning: He had not shown an ability to be a safe rider in a pack. If she upgraded him early and he caused a big crash with injuries, she and USAC could be held liable for not following their stated requirements for upgrades.

    (Side note: He was a two by the end of the season, and he crashed a lot. After about a dozen crashes, someone finally commented to him, You know, you keep saying some other guy did this, but you seem to be crashing more than most. Maybe it's you.)

    * Per Shovel's comments, I was upgraded to a 3 by my local official. I did not have the points. But she had seen me race for many seasons. She knew me well and knew what I was capable of. She also knew what I did in races to help my teammates (not always a solo sport, but I digress) and how that affected my placings.

    * Pack skills are huge. My skills are a bit rusty after taking off a year due to injury, and I am actively working on regaining my confidence in cornering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    you set forth the same presumptions CDR did, without answering the only question I had. What's the measurement?

    All the talk about how to improve is a little silly if you don't know what you're trying to improve, and there's no way of knowing if an improvement occurred. One person's eyeballs are not a good measure of the skills of cat 5 riders across the system.
    I haven't been able to think about a response but now that the weekend is over I have a bit more time. Yes, you're right, there's no objective metric. Yes, it's anecdotal. Yes, there's an element of "the good old days". I try to be aware of them, I try to take that into account. If nothing else my helmet cam and working a finish line camera has really opened my eyes on how poorly people remember things, me included.

    With that in mind I think there has been two major changes in entry level racing - improved training methods and the lack of the "all-round" upgrade. The first is pretty clear - there are a lot of riders out there who are super concerned with fitness, diet, power, etc, as evidenced by the number of coaches offering training programs. The result is that there are many very fit riders out there.

    The second is less obvious. When I was as good as I'd ever be (late 80s, early 90s), you had to fulfill two requirements to upgrade. You had to earn places, and it was top 3 in 3 or top 6 in 6. A 7th didn't count. If you got 6th you had to get 5 more 6ths (or better) to upgrade. 7th counted for nothing.

    You also had to get your points in crits and road races, at least to upgrade from 3 to 2. I don't think it was a rule per se, but the district rep definitely wanted to see both types of races in your 3 or 6 places. For many years I had enough points to upgrade but I failed to place in road races so I couldn't upgrade, and in fact I pretty much never finished a road race with the group, forget about the lead break/etc.

    So, just to make things clear, everyone started as a Cat 4 back then. So the first upgrade was to Cat 3, and you had to do well to upgrade. To upgrade to Cat 2 was a huge deal. Cat 1, at the time, was meant to be sort of a National Team reserve, so there was a very limited number of Cat 1s (total 200?). I recall numbers in the 15-16k each for the Cat 4s and 3s, something like 3-5k Cat 2s, and the few hundred Cat 1s, which is about right for the 35-38k licenses back then.

    There was also a big emphasis on clubs, who both promoted races as well as spread (hopefully) better group riding skills. Most promoters imposed a hefty "unattached" fee, like $5-10 for a $15-20 entry fee (remember this is when gas was a dollar a gallon or less, and it cost $20 to fill our massive 1978 Pontiac Bonneville). With advertising very limited (measured areas allowed on different panels, defined by the rules), racers didn't form teams left and right to advertise their own thing. They belonged to a local club, learned from the patrons of the club, and that was that. In CT, a smaller state in the USCF days, there were only a few clubs, but at least one of them had something like 150 members, and I think all of New England had 1500 racers. Now if you have a club with more than 50 riders it's pretty big, and a normal club might have 10-20 licensed racers, if that.

    So back to metrics, etc.

    In the old day you had a pretty solid infrastructure for getting new riders to learn how to ride in the field. They immediately raced with relatively experienced racers. Think of all the Cat 4s out there that have been 4s for a while. Now add all the Cat 3s that upgraded on experience, not on places, racers that are typically fodder in a Cat 3 race. All those riders were "Cat 4s" back in the day. A new racer got to race with relatively experienced racers so they got to learn pretty quickly.

    Then the rules changed a bit. More advertising allowed. Team names could be the sponsor name (before it wasn't allowed - old timers will know that "East Side Wheelmen" was the club behind the amateur 7-Eleven team, but they were registered as "East Side Wheelmen").

    As cycling became more popular there were more fit people starting racing. A teammate of mine back in the day was a good runner, he'd consistently get 2nd or 3rd in the local races, and he was a super strong rider. However he was so bad on the bike handling-wise we called him "Weavin' Weaver". He cleaned up but for a while he was crashing all over the place (he broke his collarbone at least once).

    Back in the day I was a meek little rider. I got to eavesdrop on a lot of conversations because the patrons of the field would talk while I was around. The patrons of the time were early-mid 70s Olympians who obviously had both talent and skills, and many/most of them are racing today (and in fact one of them commented positively on my sprint Saturday, the first time this multi-time national champion has ever spoken to me, and I've been racing against him for 25? years). At any rate they were bemoaning the influx of strong but unskilled racers in the field, and in fact they'd ride differently in order to get rid of those interlopers.

    One "metric" that I use is cornering skills. I understand the bobble, the swerve, but I don't excuse the lack of education that leads riders to make up their own lines while cornering in the middle of a field. However that's what I saw happening at the back of some of the Cat 3-4 races I've done, the one B race I did a few years ago, and the B races I've done this year. The B races at the beginning of this year was pretty bad. The first corner of the race a bunch of guys had to ride on the sidewalk to avoid crashing. It wasn't much better the following week, and I was appalled.

    A number of racers asked me for advice, teammates and not, friends and not. I had a discussion with the promoter and the sponsoring (Junior development) club and said that unless they had problems with it I'd try to help out. I didn't want to step on their feet, but if they were overextended I didn't want to wait until someone crashed before anyone did something. They gave the go ahead, I put up a series of posts, meant for everyone, so that both teammates and others could read them.

    The following week the racers, except one, were cornering like pretty experienced racers. It wasn't lack of technique, it had been lack of knowledge. Previously one inexperienced racer was screaming at another to "follow the line of the curb" the first week. A disastrous method of cornering in a field, forget about cornering alone, especially in a sharp corner.

    That's probably not an answer to your question (well I did say that there's no objective metric). However that's not the point. The point is that there's a distinct lack of knowledge about basic racing craft locally and I want to fix it.
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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Excellent post CDR.

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    illusoryly superior Ygduf's Avatar
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    Why don't you guys start advocating for something concrete, like a crash/injury/incident reporting system for USAC events so there can actually be some metric.

    If you crash in a race, you or a witness fills out a form that says crash, # involved, incident type (flat e.g. flat corner vs. solo descent vs. wheel overlap vs. piling into downed riders) etc. Make it short, sweet, but start putting something to a measure other than "back in my day."

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    With that in mind I think there has been two major changes in entry level racing - improved training methods and the lack of the "all-round" upgrade. The first is pretty clear - there are a lot of riders out there who are super concerned with fitness, diet, power, etc, as evidenced by the number of coaches offering training programs. The result is that there are many very fit riders out there.
    I keep hearing this.

    While I don't doubt that people are better-trained these days, what I wonder is did everyone suck in the good ol days?
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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
    Why don't you guys start advocating for something concrete, like a crash/injury/incident reporting system for USAC events so there can actually be some metric.

    If you crash in a race, you or a witness fills out a form that says crash, # involved, incident type (flat e.g. flat corner vs. solo descent vs. wheel overlap vs. piling into downed riders) etc. Make it short, sweet, but start putting something to a measure other than "back in my day."
    What did back then is as relevant today as it was back then. Don't dismiss it so willingly. We're talking about observation and expert reasoning. It can be quantified somewhat but it's not going to be condensed into a chart.

    We we can advocate whatever we want to at the local level but USAC has to be on board or it will have a minimal effect. The proper way to start in my mind is at the LA officials meeting over the winter. Let's see how this is received.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TexMac View Post
    Being in the same boat as you, i think nobody wants to take the responsibility to "hand hold" new racers. This is probably a thankless job and they would have to volunteer in undertaking this.
    Honestly if was a coach, i would take this opportunity to educate new racers and let them decide if they can use/need your services. I've been to Crits and seen guys who just get off work, come to race with no warm up or anything of sorts. When i get to CAT3, someday, I might start volunteering to educate new racers
    I don't understand the bolded part, the implication of it.

    I almost never warm up for a race, hence my question.
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    Maybe he's saying that if someone just shows up, pins on a number, races, and leaves, they're not going to have time to "hand hold" new racers (assuming they're in a different race). Obviously isn't aware that that's precisely what you're doing in your races by riding the B race with your newer teammates rather than the A race. Or maybe there isn't someone doing that in his area. Or isn't connected enough in the scene to know who that person is.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


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    Senior Member TexMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    I don't understand the bolded part, the implication of it.

    I almost never warm up for a race, hence my question.
    Maybe you are the exception but I believe warming is very important before a race. Someone had posted a detailed research on this earlier.

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    Senior Member TexMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Maybe he's saying that if someone just shows up, pins on a number, races, and leaves, they're not going to have time to "hand hold" new racers (assuming they're in a different race). Obviously isn't aware that that's precisely what you're doing in your races by riding the B race with your newer teammates rather than the A race. Or maybe there isn't someone doing that in his area. Or isn't connected enough in the scene to know who that person is.
    I meant these folks had no idea that warming up was important, hence got dropped first lap.

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