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Old 02-17-16, 08:43 PM   #1
KingCat
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Last place in Cat 4's, Mid Pack in Cat 3's

I started doing cyclocross races about 3 years ago. For me it was just for fun and to support local races. I am not a racer. I don't train much. I ride about 500 miles a month and most of that is just slow miles.
I did some local training meet ups for cyclocross and then did my first race in Cat 4. I took last place out of 16 racers.
My next 5 races I took last place. The winner would always lap me but I was pretty close to the second to last place guy.

Then one race day I slept in a bit and got to the race late so I had to enter the Cat 3's. Out of 22 guys I took 14th place. I was shocked. I entered a few more Cat 3's and Cat2's and I would consistently place mid pack.

I started to wonder why. Here are my thoughts.

# 1 - I am not a morning person. Cat 4 races around here at always 8am starts. Cat 3 races started at 11am or Noon. This helps me.

# 2 - Cat 4 races are 35 minutes. Cat 3 races were 55 minutes. As I have gotten older I am better at slower paces and longer distance. I found the pace at the Cat 3's per lap was actually slower than the 4's. This helped med.

# 3 - IMO the top 5 racers in the Cat 4's were complete sandbaggers. In fact, I felt like out of the 16 guys in the Cat 4's only about 3 or 4 of them were beginners or first year racers.
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Old 02-17-16, 11:03 PM   #2
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Why did they let a cat 4 racer into the cat 4 race?

edited to add: obviously, I meant to say Cat 4 racer in a Cat 3 race.
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Old 02-17-16, 11:46 PM   #3
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Why did they let a cat 4 racer into the cat 4 race?
umm.....what ?
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Old 02-18-16, 12:00 AM   #4
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Why did they let a cat 4 racer into the cat 4 race?
Probably meant Cat 4 rider into Cat 3 race. MONEY?

I assume the course is the same. Any way to compare your average racing speeds?

That is an interesting thought that 35 minutes may degrade into a sprint.
55 minutes might get more plodders.

On the road, I can certainly feel the difference between say 10 miles and 20 miles.
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Old 02-18-16, 12:09 AM   #5
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Probably meant Cat 4 rider into Cat 3 race. MONEY?

I assume the course is the same. Any way to compare your average racing speeds?

That is an interesting thought that 35 minutes may degrade into a sprint.
55 minutes might get more plodders.

On the road, I can certainly feel the difference between say 10 miles and 20 miles.

Lap times were 7:10 in C4 and 8:00 in C3
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Old 02-18-16, 01:08 AM   #6
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Lap times were 7:10 in C4 and 8:00 in C3
I assume you mean your lap times, and not the winner lap times. But, that is odd. Perhaps the longer race also attracts more individuals that really shouldn't be cat 3 racers, but feel they wish to race the longer races, like the difference between doing a criterium race and a road race.

I've never been a fast cyclist. But on the road, I've been able to average about 25 mph for distances under a mile, a bit over 20 mph for a couple of miles, 19 mph for 11.5 miles, and perhaps 16 mph for 20 miles or so, and quite a bit slower for a century ride.

No doubt many cyclocross racers have a similar speed progression.

Perhaps you either hit the equivalent of my 16 mph pace for all of your rides, whereas others are able to hammer it much faster for the shorter distances.

There may be things like hills, descents, and muddy corners that slow you down, while other cat 4 racers are a bit wild and woolly. Have you watched a cat 4 race recently? Maybe get up early to check one out.
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Old 02-18-16, 07:09 AM   #7
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Probably meant Cat 4 rider into Cat 3 race. MONEY?
Maybe races are different where you are, but in the areas where I race, organizers aren't willing to violate USAC and insurance rules by letting racers enter races they aren't qualified for.
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Old 02-18-16, 03:12 PM   #8
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With fields that size it's hard to know what to expect. Around here the top third of every cat would do very well in the next cat up and the bottom third would be towards the back of the next cat down. I don't really think that means they're sandbagging. Serious riders who want to climb the ladder need to learn how to win at each level. If they moved up as soon as they could be competitive, they'd probably be middle of the pack for a lot longer.

Beginner races (I'm assuming that's what your Cat 4 is, based on the start time and duration) are a special case too. People new to the sport who have no idea how they compare often start there (even fast roadies with established results on pavement). A lot of these guys probably belong in Cat 2, but they have little way of knowing that. And I'm thinking that having fast guys at the front pushes everyone else to go faster trying to keep up. I would expect that if you look at the Cat 4 results from year to year you'll find different people there. After a year of racing, people move on. In my area, the beginner race is called "beginner" and so even the slower racers "upgrade" after a year or so. The back of the next group up tends to be a lot more stable from year to year. These people have raced for a while and have no real expectation of improvement (just doing it for fun) and know there place. The longer race holds more appeal and the start time is better. So that race will have a slow group at the back that aren't so fast.

That said, I'm one of the slow riders in that Cat 3 group (though we call it 'C'), and I'm pretty certain that I could beat the bottom third of the beginner field on any given Sunday and maybe as much as half if the course suited me. So your experience is a little odd.
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