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50YO and racing

Old 01-01-12, 09:28 AM
  #1  
Butcher
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50YO and racing

One of my goals this year to to start racing. I have spent a couple of years group riding with a team but now it is time to go on a real race. At 50, where would I start, CAT5?, Master 4?. I have no racing experience so when I sign up for a race, what catagory would I choose.
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Old 01-01-12, 09:45 AM
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Generally, age doesn't mean anything in cycling. We all started out in category 5 on our racing journey's. I would definitely suggest looking for a skills clinic, as racing on a bike has the potential to introduce situations requiring skills you won't practice as much during training rides (i.e. bumping other riders, holding your line cornering at speed with someone directly on your inside, while someone else is directly on your outside.)

Good luck!
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Old 01-01-12, 10:10 AM
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Cat 5. Most Likely you can't do any masters racing as a 5 unless you find a specific masters 5 category at a race.
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Old 01-01-12, 10:21 AM
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Everyone is classified in a few different, independent category:
1. Sex (M/F - no transgender classification that I know of; baseline is male)
2. Age (up to 99; baseline is 18-34 years old)
3. Experience (Category; baseline is Cat 5)

Everyone falls into some section of each classification.

You start at the baseline of the three for race entry purposes. In other words, if you're a male, it's very unlikely you'll be able to enter a women's race (I've seen a transgendered male race women's). If you're a 5, you cannot enter a Cat 4 race. If you're 18-35, you cannot enter a M50+ race.

As a new/Cat5 M50 male racer, you'd be doing Cat 5 races for men (women don't have Cat 5 since there aren't enough women). You can do an M50+ (or older, like M55+, M60+, etc) only if your other baselines meet their criteria (Category, sex).

For example at the Bethel Spring Series, we do NOT allow Cat 5s into the M45+ race. Any age Cat 5 at the Bethel Spring Series has to do their category race.

As a Cat 3 (and, for a brief time, a Cat 2), I can tell you that the Masters races are, in general, very, very tough. Think about the guys in the race - they are the guys who have been racing since they were 15 or something (me), have been racing for a gazillion years, are super savvy, and, for many of them, CURRENT Cat 1s and 2s. My very strong Cat 3 teammate said something about doing M35 or M40 races this year. I started rattling off names of former pro racers, guys who could hold their own against any crit racer on the east coast.

"Who are they?"
"They all race Masters now."

The most famous of the "old" (M50+) masters is Thurlow Rogers, a former National Team member, a rider that single handedly placed 3rd in the Peace Race (Eastern Bloc Tour de France), was part of a medal winning TTT squad in the 84 Olympics. Enter a Masters race in his area and some of your other competitors would include Steve Hegg (gold medalist pursuit 84 Olympics, with a time that would do very well even now), Greg Demegen (bronze medalist in Junior Worlds with Greg Lemond in the TTT), and a slew of similar caliber racers.

As a 3 I could romp around in flat Cat 3 races, placing even in some less-ideal races, and spending a lot of time at the front of non-goal races. As a 2 I hung on grimly in P123 or P12 or 2 races, doing M35 or M40 races for any attempt at relief. I placed 10th once in an M35 race, and it was relatively non-competitive and it was on my ideal course (I won there once? and placed second or third there many times).

I entered a Masters race in Thurlow Roger's territory (I was a 2; the prior year I think he did something like the M45, M35, and P12 races). I was relieved to see that he wasn't racing (he was there but ill). Steve Hegg registered in my race right before me. In that race Hegg couldn't stay with the break, they dropped him on the last lap, and the field ate up the break in the sprint (but the break won I think). I don't know what happened because I got shelled with 4 to go.

Masters racing is hard. The only harder field would be the P12s.

I was very proud to do well in this race here.


I earned the title of Cat 3 CT Crit Champion, something I had promised to do for my mom just before she died. The two guys that beat me were over 50 years old. They played with the Cat 3s. You can see one of them move up in front of me about 30 seconds before the finish.

If you're not ultra race savvy and superbly fit, skip the Masters. When you can play with the Cat 3s like they were nothing, think about entering the Masters. This is the impression I get when I saw gsteinb in the 3s (he's a 2 now). He could attack all day, drive breaks, and still kill it in the sprint. This went for both Masters and Cat 3s.
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Old 01-01-12, 10:50 AM
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I looked at the Washington State bicycle association website and it appears your state has a 50+ category that allows Cat 1-5 to race. Generally speaking this is a lot safer than racing as a 5 or 4, but the level of competition would be tougher. If it was me, I would race 50+ and get better that way. Most associations will still let you cat up (especially 5 to 4 and 4 to 3) using Masters races. Also if you have a local club that has 50+ racers that might be a good place to start as well as you would get to race with teammates who have experience.
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Old 01-01-12, 11:47 AM
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I would definitely race with the Master 50+ group as opposed to with "Elite" cat 4 or 5's. Masters racing has the reputation of being safer, presumably because older riders are more experienced and smart enough to stay off the ground. Yes, in WA State the Masters 50+ class is open to ALL elite categories (1-5). The advantage there is that as a new racer, you can jump right into racing with the Masters. The disadvantage is that the racers aren't as experienced as they would be if the fields were limited to elite cats 1-4, or 1-3, as is the case in some districts.

Anyway, in Eastern Washington our Master 40+ and 50+ fields keep getting bigger and are quite competitive. We even added a 60+ classification last year because there are so many "old guys" that ride and we want to see them continue to race. You'll be entering a big and strong racing scene in Western WA. But if you get a chance you should check out what we're doing in Eastern WA. We've got a small and tight group of grass roots racers and promoters that make for a pretty cool scene. We're always looking for more people to join the fun. Our races are linked below in my sig.

Good luck with your season!

Last edited by Mtn Mike; 01-01-12 at 12:08 PM. Reason: grammer
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Old 01-01-12, 03:24 PM
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Welcome to geezer racing!

If your races have a 45 or 50+ cat 4/5 or cat 5 field, do that. (a lot of our races in NorCal have 45+ 4/5 or split 45+ 4s and 45+ 5s... 45+ is one of the larger age groups). Otherwise you should race cat 5 for your first races. I think you'll find that easier than stepping into the deep end of the pool with the open masters, and the danger is overstated. The 5s know they're novices and generally ride accordingly. I see plenty of crashes among experienced masters racers.

If you have been riding with a team those are the people to ask, unless none of them are masters.

If there are any practice or instructional races in your area, do them. We have a series here that's pretty good at teaching new riders how to race safely.
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Old 01-01-12, 03:43 PM
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My $0.02, even though you didn't even pay that much. Don't race Masters (50+ or 45+) right out of the box. Race Cat 5 for a minimum of 10 mass starts first. But while being a "5" race just for experience and take no serious risks. Once you start racing Masters you will find it smoother, but harder.
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Old 01-01-12, 04:11 PM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Butcher View Post
One of my goals this year to to start racing. I have spent a couple of years group riding with a team but now it is time to go on a real race. At 50, where would I start, CAT5?, Master 4?. I have no racing experience so when I sign up for a race, what catagory would I choose.
I've got to ask. You say you've been riding for a couple of years with a team. Have you asked them these questions? Wouldn't they have more insight into the local racing scene and your riding than those of us here?
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Old 01-01-12, 08:44 PM
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You'll get better advice in the 50+. Plus you won't have to deal with disrespectful children who weren't even sperm when you started paying into SSI.

Ont he other hand you stand a better than average chance of being dropped.
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Old 01-01-12, 08:47 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
You'll get better advice in the 50+
I haven't ventured there in years. If what you are saying is true, then things are a whole lot different now.

Added in edit: I did go over there (50+ forum) and was very impressed with the race training for 50+ sticky thread. A lot of "33" activity giving good advice. Well done!

Last edited by mollusk; 01-01-12 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 01-02-12, 07:35 AM
  #12  
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Thanks for all the replies. Carpediemracing, thanks for the simple explanation about the rules/guidelines. Being my team is full of masters [One was a Nat Champ and World Champ] I understand the toughness/experience that an old man has. My issues are the lack of experience not the strength/endurance. That and I do not want to be 'That Guy'.

Time to get my license.
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Old 01-02-12, 07:48 AM
  #13  
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get really fast...you already have the nickname to inspire fear




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Old 01-02-12, 07:57 AM
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thanks for that NSFW pic........
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Old 01-02-12, 08:00 AM
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which one? the movie poster, the book jacket, or the phony wrestling promo photo?
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Old 01-02-12, 12:08 PM
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I started racing 4 years ago at age 58 so this will be my 5th season. I joined a racing club and USA Cycling and started as a Cat 5. I hired a coach and began training and I did several time trials and started mass start races. Formerly, I was an okay cyclist but no racing. However, I have always been an athlete and in great physical shape.

I spent two years as a Cat 5 and did mostly elite Cat 5 races. I had a lot of fun racing with the Cat 5 men. I raced with the masters 55+ a couple of times. In our district, Cat 5 fields are limited to 50 versus 100 or more for other categories and many times we had mentors that rode with us to provide advice and try to keep racers out of trouble. We also have an early bird race program that is designed for beginners where mentors ride with the pack and teach skills. I did not do the early birds but took a skills course from one of the approved district instructors. The skills clinic, IMO, are fun and invaluable when racing to improve results and for your own safety as well as others.

I have upgraded to Cat 4 for road and track. I started track racing in 2008 and did mostly track events last season.

And I am at it again this year and competed in the Mount San Bruno Hill climb yesterday which is the first USA cycling race of the season in the Masters 45+ 4/5. Here is my race report...that was hard.

Last edited by Hermes; 01-02-12 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 01-02-12, 12:17 PM
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Beginner racers may purchase a one day Cat 5 license at the day of the race so you do not have to join USA cycling immediately. Another idea is if you want to take a smaller step into racing is to do a sanctioned hill climb. The one I did yesterday is a mass start hill climb and each race category went off at 1 minute intervals. It will give you some experience lining up and starting with other racers but the speeds are slower and the field breaks apart so it is pretty safe race. However, hill climbs and time trials do not count toward your Cat 4 upgrade.

Some hate hill climbs but they are a great way to work on FTP and climbing. I set a new 20 minute power record yesterday that I doubt I would have done without competition.
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Old 01-02-12, 12:33 PM
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Elite cat 5 races?
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Old 01-02-12, 03:00 PM
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That's what USAC calls it. Elite seems to mean "not junior or master" to them. Maybe it's some UCI word.

Mass start races count for a cat 4->5 upgrade. A mass start hill climb is a mass start race. Arguably it's not that useful an experience as far as learning to be safe in a pack goes, but it counts. However if it's not long enough then it wouldn't count for upgrade points from cat 4 up. BTW the cat 5 winner was fast enough to have gotten 3rd in the p/1/2 race. Natural talent, yo.
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Old 01-02-12, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
That's what USAC calls it. Elite seems to mean "not junior or master" to them. Maybe it's some UCI word.
Yes, "Elite" seems to mean ages 18-35 or so, regardless of ability or elite-ness. Rather odd word choice to designate an age group.
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Old 01-02-12, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
Yes, "Elite" seems to mean ages 18-35 or so, regardless of ability or elite-ness. Rather odd word choice to designate an age group.
Yes, in USA Cycling terminology Elite = not a Master or a Junior. Depending on where you race the Masters cut-off starts between age 30-40. To confuse new racers even more, the term Elite is also used interchangeably with the term Senior.

So all racers fall into ONE USA Cycling Category (1-5) and AT LEAST ONE USA Cycling Classification (Junior, Elite/Senior, or Master). Also, FYI, Juniors and Masters can choose to race in their Elite category.

Butcher, so what is your first race going to be? Lot's of good options here in WA State.
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Old 01-02-12, 06:53 PM
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Occasionally you'll see a M35 open field, but my advice is not to do it. I started racing at 37 and my second ever race was an open M35 race. I'd done the Cat 5 race earlier in the day and did fairly well. I figured since I was eligible for the 35+, what the hell, I might as well.

Holy crap, was that a hard race.
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Old 01-02-12, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
Yes, "Elite" seems to mean ages 18-35 or so, regardless of ability or elite-ness. Rather odd word choice to designate an age group.
Hmmm. I thought the Senior designation means not Master or Junior and that Elite refers to P/1/2.

Anyway, OP I am 52 yo, in my 3rd year of riding. I hired a coach and began racing at the end of this past season. Here in SoCal, there are USAC sanctioned season end/upgrade crits that served as unofficial clinics for me and I presume many of the other Cat-5's. A couple of the other racers with seemingly more experience served as mentors as described above, "coaching" through corners, checking with me between races asking if I was okay since I was a new guy, etc. I owe them and look to the time when I can pay it forward to other new older racers. I was able to complete 9 mass starts so technically I have one more before I can upgrade. However, in keeping with the 2012 rules that state one must finish ten mass start races to upgrade, and being conscientious, I have decided that I have two starts to go since my first race was a DNF. (Let's just say I was mentally unprepared for the intensity, lol.)

Also, I'm undecided about upgrading simply because I feel I need to continue to learn how to race. Each race was a new learning experience. I clipped a pedal (stayed up and didn't crash anyone else out, thank goodness) in one race. My coach let me know that in a Masters race I probably would have been yelled at for not minding the corners better. In another race I locked handlebars with another racer, leaned on him at pace and was able to unhook and stay up. (Even got props from a couple of guys behind us for "superior" bike handling skills, though it was pure luck IMHO.) I also apologized to the guy for overreacting a bit. Like I said I'm just learning.

Here in SoCal I could stay a 5 and race 30+ 4/5, which seems to be a common class, and Cat 5. Of course, upgrading provides more options but as mentioned above, harder racing with the presence of elite masters where team tactics and strategy are at play (for the foreseeable future I’ll be racing unattached).

Also, I would suggest fast (read race pace) large group rides. Not sure how big the groups are on the team rides you mentioned. But this really prepared me for feeling comfortable riding in close quarters at pace. Still, not even these rides prepared me for the intensity of a real race.

Good luck!
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Old 01-02-12, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
I haven't ventured there in years. If what you are saying is true, then things are a whole lot different now.

Added in edit: I did go over there (50+ forum) and was very impressed with the race training for 50+ sticky thread. A lot of "33" activity giving good advice. Well done!
I meant the race, not the forum. It was a bit retirement home last time I was over there. Maybe need to revisit.
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Old 01-02-12, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
I meant the race, not the forum. It was a bit retirement home last time I was over there. Maybe need to revisit.
The training for racing thread is a sticky.

The rest is about the same as the last time I was over there.
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