The Master 45+ field caught the JR 15-16 group of three within the first 10 miles and they were able to safely stay with us to the end. The official on motorcycle confirmed on lap two that they were in our group, as there weren't any JR 15-16 riders entered. He explained clearly that they could ride with the masters (eg. breakaway) and from my vantage point didn't interfere with our 45+ race. At one point, they tried to separate from us by riding off the front when our pace was slower, but couldn't stay away when another attack formed. Perhaps at that point (8 miles to go) they could've drifted behind us and let us speed it up, as to avoid confusion at the finishing sprint.
As a current 15-16 rider, I think that juniors should start racing with adults as soon as possible, mainly because it makes a race worth going to. Junior's races are generally very short, and are not worth the long drive to race for 25 minutes in a crit. These events often become solo time trials, especially in the younger categories. Therefor I think that going out there and slugging away at the Cat 5 races is neccesary to develop speed skills, to keep riders interested in the sport, and to gain pack experience. While a 12 year old probably won't be able to stay with the peleton the whole race, but ages 13 and 14 a rider should at least be able to sit in for the entire race. As a bonus, if riders start riding these races in junior gears, they will develop a good spin, though as they become more serious about these races, they may want to put on adult gearing.
Gearing: I don't see any need for a junior to switch gears until long after he starts racing with the adults. A 52x14 (typical max gear for juniors) is plenty for anything except the occasional high speed descent. If you can't sprint with the Cat 4's or 5's, it's probably your spin that needs work, not your gears.
Trash: yes, I wish it would go away. Learn to treat things said in mid-race a little differently. Remember that the same person probably wouldn't say those things to you anywhere else. He's dealing with pain, oxygen debt, and probably fear. For your side, communicating is good but complaining and trash talk is bad. Try to learn the difference.
Skills: The same as an adult. When you can ride with people on both sides of you and not get nervous. When you can follow other riders through a fast corner without braking or suddenly changing direction. Stuff like that. Club rides and junior races will help, though there's nothing quite like a big pack of adults in an actual race. If at all possible, do the Early Bird races in January.
Speed: That's hard to tell. You don't need to pass everyone you see on the road to be a racer. Give it a try. If you are completely blown away by the speed, maybe it's best to train another month before you come back. If you just wear out a little faster than the other racers, keep trying. You'll get stronger, but you'll also learn to waste less energy and soon you'll be competing and not just hanging on.
Junior races: If you are winning in 13-14 junior races, you are probably fast enough for Cat 5, but the junior races don't have big packs. That's the part you'll need work on. If you are in 15-16 or especially 17-18, don't be discouraged if the fastest riders drop you. Most of those riders are Cat 2 or Cat 3 racers. You may actually have more success against the adults.
diskzero wrote:seeing a 15 year old get chewed out by a 29 year old is no fun.
i'll second that comment of dzero's.
The topic of juniors racing out of age category is probably too complicated for my brain to put forward a coherent opinion ... but, I would just like to return back to that idea of not chewing-out people.
Seems that should probably apply to racers of all genders and ages.
ms.manners michael hernanadork
Safeway Geezer squad
I'll post my thoughts, for what they are worth.
I jumped into "adult" races as soon as the race promoters would let me register. I think I was about 15. There is no hard and fast rule in my opinion. Junior gear limits have come and gone and then come back in my time racing. When I would race the senior races, I would change my gearing and grind it out with everyone else. I personally had no concept of the gearing rules except as a means to make my racing unpleasant.
Psychologically, each junior racer is different too. (I guess we all are.) If you are somewhat insecure, or underachieving, jumping into a pack of adult racers may be traumatic. A lot of us develop a thick skin racing and are used to the trash talking, pushing and general grumpiness that seems to permeate some races. It didn't bother me a whole lot, but it probably would bother some some younger racers. You will encounter it at some point in your racing career, but seeing a 15 year old get chewed out by a 29 year old is no fun.