It's utterly insane for "experienced racers" to recommend that their cat 5 buddies RUSH through the "lower' categories and that racing doesn't start until you're a cat 3. I rode 30 races the year I upgraded to cat 3, and found the Elite 3 field's strategy was solo break attempts followed by sitting in waiting for the sprint. That tactic often leads to crashes in the final lap. In fact, one year EVERY Elite 3 race I rode in had at least one crash, and it was usually taking lines that weren't there or trying to create holes that couldn't exist.
The master 4/5 races I rode at least had breakaway groups and less stupidity approaching the final stretch. Serve your time as a 5, then as a 4, before upgrading and enjoy your success. Listen to others, watch the veterans, be a student of strategy, courtesy, and common sense. Then you'll less likely to be yelled at and/or intimidated by the faster, smarter, and more experienced peleton.
I cannot speak officially for the USCF Board of Trustees, so the following
is my take on our discussions. We see cat.5 as *not* just another racing
class, but rather a special class for beginners. That is the reason for
our current rule banning prizes for cat.5 riders, and the smaller max field
limit of 50.
There were legislative proposals to ban combining cat.5 riders with any
higher categories. These did not pass because of the nature of our rule
making: our rules have to work in all areas, both those with lots of
riders (like our area) and regions where there might be 125 riders across
all categories for the entire day. Also note that there are problems for
older masters with such a rule.
Our thinking was that *if* there were enough riders to support separate
category 5 events, then we preferred those over 4/5 or 3/4/5 races. In
particular, in areas like Northern Cal we had a typical scenario at a
large crit of two fields of 4/5's - elite and 30+ or 35+ with very large
field limits - 90 to 125. Many of the same riders rode both events. The
better category 4 riders, particularly those over 30, were being well
served. The new riders were getting a bad deal.
I drafted a rule change (in consultation with Casey) a couple of years ago
that put in a max field size of 75 for races that included cat.5 riders.
This reduced the financial gain to an organizer of running combined races.
I actually went through the reg sheets from Burlingame one year to confirm
the high amount of double dipping, and to confirm that yes, we did have
the riders for a separate cat.5 event.
One thing that I have learned about bike racing is that diversity in
events is good. Not every race has to be the same. Combining categories
exposes the lower category to other riders (e.g. cat 2-3 races). There is
no harm in having some events combine cat 4/5 riders. I think that this
should be the exception, rather than the rule. Not every event must have
races for cat.5 riders. Those that might not have them are higher
visibility events, and those with courses that might overly difficult or
hazardous for newbies.
As is happens, most of the events in this area are put on by local clubs.
Some of the promotional decisions, including those about which class to
offer, are made as much for "what is good for the sport" than purely
financial decisions. A prime example is junior events that have light
turnout. I hope that our local cycling community can see that separate
races for cat.5 riders are a good thing. Yes, this may make it harder for
cat.4 master riders to double dip.
It might seem like I am asking clubs to take a financial hit for
altruistic reasons. This might be true in the short term, but not so much
in the long run. Our sport depends on welcoming newcomers to the sport and
encouraging them to persevere. Having separate events for cat.5 riders
will give them a more positive experience, and is likely to help grow our
sport. This is quite similar to our having mentoring programs to help
integrate new riders into the sport.
Thus I agree with much of what Chris Black wrote to start this thread, but
I see the need for us to recognize the value of separate cat.5 races and
persuade our organizers to have them, rather than any specific rule.
Tom Simonson (Tom@tsimonson.com)
USCF Board of Trustees, Legislative Chair
A number of items:
1) The market will find itâ€™s own way â€“ With the change in demographics to the older rider, we have seen 45+ 4/5 races increase these past two years. 35+ 4/5 races have, logically, preceded this. Add to that a trending up in membership (and I am guessing based on my area) probably significantly due to 35 and older riders, we have a lot of riders who want to race in an equitable setting. Promoters, to keep putting on races, need to make money. Any restrictions placed on promoters can have unintended negative effects.
2) This is why I agree with Chris â€“ Action Sports/SSC Racing team is focused on entry and mid-level racers with clearly most of our team being 4â€™s & 5â€™s. We have increased our membership from last year by a bit over 50%. This increase has been partially made up of women, but mostly of 35+/45+ age group men. SSC in January and February had conducted 3 clinics in the Fresno area, that were open to the public: One entry level Womenâ€™s riding clinic and two new racer clinics. The knowledge they gained would have taken them a good Â½ year to acquire with consistent racing. I only wish Fremont was not so far away so that they could participate in the early birds to gain more valuable knowledge & experience. In order to have the best chance of keeping these new riders in the sport, I believe there are three things that must exist: 1) They must be matched up with a supportive team specifically addressing entry level rider needs, 2) Skills clinics, even at the most basic level, to give the entry level rider a heads up on what to expect thereby making their racing experience much more fulfilling, and 3) Providing equitable race situations via cat 5 only races
3) The solution â€“ You got me. We will have to be creative. We had to be concerning trying to get riders to our races in the central valley (CVC Classic - Fresno and SSCâ€™s Clasic in Visalia). With the option of restricting other promoters from putting races against us on the calendar not available, we teamed up with Merco to create the highway 99 series with itâ€™s separate series prize list (along with day of race prizes) to entice riders to come. During March, we will know if this will work out for us. (Please forgive my commercial in making my point.) If it is deemed that cat 5 only races are the way to go, then find an enticement for the promoters to do just that. I am guessing that a few cat 5 only races in the beginning of the year with a sprinkling of them later in the year will be sufficient. Those that will want to move up, will.
Rubber Soul/CSC Racing Team
On the issue of Cat 4/5 races. I don't think that having Cat 4/5 race is so bad as long as the total field size is 50 riders or less. At smaller races where they have never had more than 50 riders in a 4/5 race I think it is OK to combine the two group. If a race is popular and history has shown that the 4/5 race will fill up with 75 riders then I think combining the 4s and 5s is a bad idea. The early season Velo Promo road races are good because they have a field limit of 50 riders in most of their 4/5 events. In some races like the Early Bird RR and Copperopolis they often have the ability to split up the 4/5 races into two groups if they have more than 50 riders.
From my timing laps at the Early Bird Crits there often isn't any real difference in lap times between the 4/5 race and the Cat 5 only groups. I don't think race speed is the problem in 4/5 races. The real problem is field size. Smaller fields are better for less experienced riders. At the Early Birds this year the only real crashes we had was the one week where the Cat 5 new elite riders had two groups of 50 riders each. When the field sizes were smaller we didn't have any serious accidents. Even a 75 rider field of 4/5s might be OK if you had a lot of strong riders who kept pushing the pace at the front and kept the field strung out. Unfortunately most Cat 4/5 riders are being told from the sidelines that they should get off the front and grab a wheel. This type of advice tends to lead to slower paces and a bunched up field where most of the serious accidents happen.
So yea if the field will have more than 50 riders then a combined 4/5 race is probably a bad idea. If the field size will be 50 or less then I don't have that much of a problem with a combined 4/5 race, especially if the more experienced Cat 4 riders will ride more aggressively and help keep the field strung out.
I agree as well. Just so you and others know, I will be putting on six more clinics during the racing season at my new venue in Hayward. I should have these posted on the ncnca.org site next week. Hope that will help some.
USA Cycling Level 1 Coach
NCNCA Men's Category 5 Mentor Coordinator 2008/09/10
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Coach, CYCLING SYSTEMS
I would love it if we had enough coaches and clinics where we could require Cat 5s to take a clinic before upgrading to Cat 4. Unfortunately we do not have nearly enough clinics currently going on to make this a requirement. When we get to the point of having 2 to 3 skills clinics being offered every month from Jan thorough Oct then maybe we would be at the point where we could require clinic participation to upgrade to Cat 4. If we don;t have enough clinics then we just create a huge logjam for the 5 to 4 upgrade and if riders have to wait for a year to get their clinic this will be a turn off to new people coming into the sport. Last year I did just over 400 5 to 4 upgrades. I don't think we have had enough clinics in the past 12 months to handle 400 riders.
Another big problem is most of the clinics currently offered don't happen during the heart of the racing season when a lot of riders are looking to upgrade. This is to be expected since many of the coaches who offer clinics are also racers who are racing themselves or working with a team that is racing.
I personally think that current racers help create a huge problem with new riders. This is the situation that I see. ON training rides where experienced racers take part there are often non racers who go on these riders. The experienced racers will often encourage these non racers to get into racing. The problem is that the experienced racers often downplay the importance of working through the upgrade system the right way. I have had brand new racers say to me that their Cat 1/2 or 3 riding partners say there is nothing to learn as a Cat 5 or Cat 4 and so the new racer should upgrade to Cat 3 as quickly as possible. This is why a brand new racer who has never been in a mass start race asking to be upgraded to Cat 3 because they can keep up on a training ride where 1/2 riders are participating and because their riding partners are telling this rider they are good enough to start off as a Cat 3. Naturally I turn down these upgrade requests and try to explain the importance of working thought he upgrade system the proper way. The problem is now these new riders have it in their minds that riding as a Cat 5 and 4 is useless and thus these new riders are looking to upgrade as quickly as possible. I think we would all be better off if experienced riders would tell new racers that no matter how strong they are it is important to gain the proper pack racing experience and they should only upgrade when they have learned what they need to know as a Cat 5 before moving up to Cat 4 and likewise when they have learned what they need to know as a 4 then they can move up to Cat 3.
I am all for CAT 5s always racing separately. It just makes too much sense, which is why it will probably never happen
Coming from a coach who promotes the Racing Skill Fundamentals clinic and also the Tactics! Tactics! Tactics! clinic, I love the idea. However, that isn't why I am replying to this.
I actually do believe that there should be some sort of requirement for the beginning racer. A clinic will give them just the frame of mind and the necessary skills to become safer, more relaxed in the peloton and more skilled in their maneouvers.
The current upgrade requirements to a cat 4 allow for a racer to be able to take a clinic, get some experience points and learn more than he/she would have by racing the same amount of experiences. Casey, I believe, looks at this very positively, knowing this is the better course for the racer in their upgrade.
Making it mandatory for a new 5 is a good idea. One problem is, how do you rate a particular clinic? My clinics are different than someone else's...I have the racers practice bumping drills and wheel touching on grass...someone else may not feel comfortable teaching with these techniques. So, what must the beginner learn to be able to race?
Just to get this moving a little more...