Chris Black posted the email below (scroll down) to the NCNCA email list. I'm bringing it into the forum for discussion, and expansion:
I agree with your sentiments and would add one comment, and one additional proposal:
1) One drawback is that promoters may not be able to support all the fields for races in one day. There are already decisions to offer women categories vs. junior categories vs. masters categories vs. men categories for every race day. (Fortunately, we have a lot of races in this district, so the impact might be less).
2) I would extend this to say that it should be mandatory for a rider to complete one full-day skills clinic (or two half-day clinics) in order to upgrade from cat 5 to 4. (The same requirement could be made for women to upgrade from cat 4 to cat 3).
I strongly believe in #2 because of the numerous crashes that result due to poor riding skills. We're not just out there riding century benefit rides...we've got fields of 80-100 riders in a peloton on a tight crit turn with guys trying to defy the laws of physics...and that sucks for everyone trying to get to work on Monday and/or with a family that depends on them. It's really a question of safety. Would this be a barrier for entry into racing...turning away prospective racers? No, I actually believe it will bring more people into racing. I've volunteered at clinics in the past and noticed that those who learn some skills and lore about racing are very likely to stay in the sport. (Sorry I don't have the data to backup this claim).
----- Original Message ----
From: Chris Black
To: Luke2@ix.netcom.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org 
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 4:08:57 PM
Subject: Re: [NCNCA] New Upgrade guidelines
Speaking of upgrades:
I think it is time to revisit the male racing categories. A few of us can remember when the beginner category was 4. Category 5 was introduced to give new riders a chance to race, with no prizes, without the prospect of being pulled in a criterium after one lap. I vividly remember being left behind at the starting line in the Merced Criterium (my first race). And yes, we had down tube shifters and toe clips and straps. I was in the second group and we were pulled after something like 12 laps. Experiences like that cause some people to quit, and never return to bicycle racing.
Now, a lot of races group the 4's and 5's together. Why even bother having category 5 if we are going to make the beginners ride with more experienced guys? The whole point of cat 5 is go get racing experience and make races safer.
I know this will not be popular with promoters, but I am calling for new (actually the original intent) way to provide races for beginners.
1. Category 5 cannot be combined with any other category.
2. Category 5 riders cannot win prizes of any value. No primes.
3. This would prevent races with "Master 35+ 4,5." If you are a 5, you race with the 5's. To keep promoters happy, they could have a Master Cat 5 race.
4. Completion of a certain number of races results in an automatic upgrade.
5. Skills clinics and coaches recommendations would be considered for 5 to 4 upgrades.
Thanks everyone for your time. What do you think?
Morgan Stanley/24 Hour Fitness/ Specialized Cycling Team
San Luis Obispo, CA