I've been trying to decide whether to race Sport or Expert next year. I have definitely gotten faster over the last three years, but I'm definitely not dominating sport. I'm not sure I'm ready for the additional time and miles required to train for expert. My skill level is definitely on the bubble, good for a sport, but low for an expert. I wrote an article about the factors in my decision. Have you struggled with this same decision? What factors were holding you back from moving up? Did you regret your decision later? Do you have any advice for me?
I started riding and racing again in 2012 after a 20 year hiatus. I felt I had enough fitness back to race Beginner after 7 months. Of the two races I entered the first year, I was able to podium my first race (3rd) and get a 6th in another. Not being able to train much and after seeing the times for Sport and the extra distance, I stayed in Beginner my second year. This series was a small field and it was the same 8-13, 50 yrs+ guys. The general talk in the group was that we couldn't handle the extra laps and speed of Sport at our age (lol!). I started seeing the same faster guys take the top 3 each race and I got fed up when they didn't move up the next year. I decided to jump up to Sport after my first Beginner race of my second season. I figured that if I was going to lose to faster guys, it'd be guys who manned up and raced in the proper class. So, I now ended up finishing in the lower half of the Sport field but I was fine with that. Those fast beginner guys who sandbagged are still in Beginner but act sheepish around me knowing I moved up and am completing races they feel they can't (woot!). I then started racing Sport in a new series with bigger fields and faster guys. I now finish in the last 4 places out of 20-30, lol! But, I'm getting stronger and am looking to place better this season.
I guess my rule for moving up is, stay in your group the whole season unless it's obvious you're killing everyone else (like finishing 20-30 minutes ahead and on your 3rd beer), or move up if you finish in the top 5 overall at the end of the season or if you podiumed a lot. Don't move up after doing well in just a couple races--someone has to be in the top. However, I have a buddy who raced Beginner as he'd never raced before and had no idea how he'd do. He won his first race by 5 minutes or so--not a huge gap. But he moved himself up to Sport for the rest of the season and finished 5th overall with never a podium placing. He will probably stay in Sport for the fact he never podiumed. From what you wrote, no one should call you a sandbagger if you win a few or place high in a few. Usually, you're allowed to complete the season in the same cat unless it's obvious you're too fast like I wrote above. I should say that when I moved up, I too was almost demoralized but the others were very encouraging and impressed that I moved up saying more guys should. So if I end up finishing in the top 1/3 each race but never podiuming, I'll stay in Sport. I think you're ok to stay in Sport for another year unless the race organizers make you move, then move up like yiou said, overall win or not.
I started riding and racing again in 2012 after a 20 year hiatus. I felt I had enough fitness back to race Beginner after 7 months...
Thanks for the thoughtful response. It's great getting different perspectives and you can obviously relate to some of the issues that I've brought up. One thing I've decided for sure is that I am going to attempt expert in 2015. I still would like one more shot at reaching my intermediate goal of winning my sport class, a goal that I have been working on but falling short at for 5 years. I haven't decided on whether I will do that or jump to expert this year. I still have seven weeks to decide.