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First Road Races - Enter Cat 5 vs 45+ Cat 4/5

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First Road Races - Enter Cat 5 vs 45+ Cat 4/5

Old 09-28-16, 11:15 PM
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First Road Races - Enter Cat 5 vs 45+ Cat 4/5

I'm a newbie road cyclist (late bloomer starting at the age of 52) that would like to do some races in 2017.
I did get a chance to enter a race late in the 2016 season, just to gain some initial learning and experience.
Not surprising to anyone on this forum that has raced, I got dropped from the pack. Of course I wasn't happy about it, but from reading through other forums, I wasn't really surprised either. The biggest question(s) I did ask myself a few days later was if I would have been better off racing in the Cat 5 category. Also from this race I came to a few observations and more questions that maybe folks in this forum can chime in their opinions.
1) Not probably the smartest idea to enter your 1st race at the end of a season. Even Cat 5 will have racers who have already been in several races during the year and are probably at their peak performance.
2) In looking at the final results of the race, 19 of the 20 45+ racers were Cat 4 - I was the only Cat 5 in that group. Many of the Cat 4 guys have been in 20,30, 40 or more races over the past few years. Being a Cat 5 in my first race ever at the end of the season and against other racers with that kind of experience - I was doomed from the start and didn't even know it.
3) Is it normal for a 45+ Cat 4/5 race to be made up primarily of Cat 4's? If that is true, then does that make it a very clear case to race in Cat 5 initially vs struggling vs all the Cat 4's?
4) I know average speed is relative to each race and tactics in the pack. With that said, the 45+ 4/5's seemed really fast. Even faster than many other categories in the race that day. Are many of these 45+ guys really Cat 4, or should they be up in Cat 3? Especially many of them who have multiple years of racing. Do they stay in Cat 4 due to the fact that many of the 45+ races for Cat 3 are structured 45+ 1/2/3 and they don't want to be racing against the incredibly strong 45+ Cat 1 racers?
Appreciate anyone's thoughts to the above. Overall the first race was a great learning experience and will just motivate me to spend more time riding and getting in shape for 2017.
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Old 09-29-16, 11:46 AM
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Welcome to racing, Sodapedaler!

You might want to check out the race forum too. There are a lot of really experienced racers who post there and a lot of good advice to be gleaned.

Yes, your observations seem right.

1) and 2) Late in the season, even the lower categories will be fast, and you may have been doomed from the start. It's also possible you would have been doomed in the Cat 5 race too. It's just something you have to experience for yourself. The good news is that you made the leap from rider to racer; you have a race under your belt and you have some information about where you need to improve for next season.

3) Maybe. It's possible it's just because it's a late season race. Racers started racing that category early in the season as 5's, got their 10 races and upgraded, but kept signing up for that category. Also, you might have guys who have the points to upgrade to Cat 3, but they want to stay 4 in order to help teammates get their points too.

4) Masters racing is tougher than most non-racers realize, even in the 4's and 5's. It's even worse in the M123. I always find the 45+ race harder than the E3 race. Much harder. So, you might find it easier to race the E5 race; plus you'll often have mentoring.

A couple of thoughts: Keep working on bike handling and racing in a pack. If you're not already doing this, find the gnarliest Saturday race ride and do what's necessary to hang on as long as possible. If and when you get dropped, tempo ride back home and call it a good workout. Next week, hang on a little longer.

While you're on those race rides, talk to guys on a team and see if they're taking new riders. Getting on a team gets you plugged into a group of training partners, etc.

Try to do the Early Birds in Fremont in January. Those are excellent for new racers. Highly recommended.
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Old 09-29-16, 01:27 PM
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I started racing at age 50 and asked the same question. The short version of the answer is "if you have to ask, you want to be in cat 5." Once you've done enough races to have a better handle on how good you are, you'll be in a much better position to decide whether you're fast enough to hold your own in the 4/5 and/or whether you can hold your own in the shark pit that is Masters 1-4. Just keep in mind that masters is full of guys who've been racing for years, if not decades. Don't be fooled by the grey hair - they have experience and technique that more (MUCH more) than make up for whatever wattage or raw power age may have taken.

Formerly fastest rider in the grupetto, currently slowest guy in the peloton

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Old 10-03-16, 04:12 PM
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The NorCal racing scene is ridiculous. Seems like all the best riders are in their 40s and 50s. A guy I work with races Masters 45+ 4/5, he was a star triathlete in college, can do 300+ watts for an hour, just finished the Diablo Challenge under 55 minutes, and yet is usually top 10 only in his races. He's podiumed a couple of times, but any big race, forget about it. Also, go ride up Diablo sometime...you'll see the reigning National Masters Hillclimb champion on the mountain. Yeah...all these guys are insane.

I agree with caloso, the easiest category is the regular cat 5, although there are virtually no tactics employed, and it can be a clusterfu__ of clueless, bad bike handlers. Masters 4/5 is much better organized, like a regular race, but is almost unfairly hard. It is strange that E3 is sometimes not as competitive as Masters 4/5.
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Old 10-03-16, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn
Also, go ride up Diablo sometime...you'll see the reigning National Masters Hillclimb champion on the mountain.

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