First local SMOKED

So, I’ve really only raced a couple times in the past and man, I was probably 180 FTP at that time, no training, 30 years old, but nooooooo chance of winning, not even the beginner group.

So I registered for the sport 19-39 (I’m 38) and got SMOOOOOKED (lol). It was clear I was smoked after 30 seconds. 4 laps at a trail I have never ridden.

I had fun and felt good about my effort. By the 3rd lap, I felt like I was starting to carry speed where I should be and that made things a little easier.

Total race time was about 1:24, first place in my class was like 1:05.

I feel like I just registered above my ability - though, I really had no way of knowing. I talked to a guy who said if I really haven’t raced much, just do beginner…there’s plenty of fast people in the beginner class…he’s right.

I did compare my 3 laps to the beginner class and I would have been 4th (1 minute, 5 seconds from 1st place). Actually, I kept telling myself the 3rd lap to pace and leave something in the tank, so I could have certainly pushed harder. I typically ride 5-8 miles and this was 15, so I just didn’t know what to expect.

I think I will be registering for the beginner class for the rest of this season so I can have fun competing and maybe next year I can step back up to the Sport class. It just threw me for a loop calling it the ‘beginner’ class.

I know road has more of a clear “you’ve earned the next class” but I’m not sure how it works for MTB. This is just a local series not a USAC event…

What would you do?

PS - I’ve been doing TR for about 2.5 months, low volume and only hitting about 2 workouts per week + 1-2 outside rides and went from 198-253 FTP! Felt good after the event! Thank you TR!!

Everybody who’s ever raced has been smoked at some point, all part of the learning curve!

I don’t know the ins and outs of MTB race rules in USA. If you’re allowed to enter as beginner and you’re going to be a podium contender there instead of being an also ran in Sport, then that sounds perfect. Race beginner, learn the ropes, move up when the rules require you to and/or you’ve got yourself on a few podiums and feel you’re ready to make the step up.


Yeah you can race either category, both beginner and sport are gonna be filled with sandbaggers. I got smoked at my first race but won the second. It depends on who shows up too. You can race beginner, do one last lap and certainly you’ll have a better result. Or stick with sport, put in the work and get faster. Do you need the motivation or a result or do you enjoy the challenge of riding above your current level? No wrong answer, try both. Might be good to get the motivation from a better result in beginner but don’t stay there long.

The progression in MTB XC racing is a bit different than road, much more lenient in terms of what category you can race. Pretty sure if you pay for an annual USA cycling license you can jump right into a Cat1 field.

Take all of the positive learning that you’ve acquired from this race and build upon it. Enter yourself into the Beginner Class next time and implement what you’ve learnt.

1 Like

A common misconception is that beginner refers to beginner rider rather than beginner racer. Most people who race in the beginner class will be much faster than the average trail rider.

I’ve also noticed that the pace of the people winning beginner and the people racing sport isn’t all that different. The biggest difference is the strong sport riders can maintain the pace longer without fading or even pick the pace up toward the end of the race, where the beginner racers are totally spent at the end of their shorter race.


Makes sense. For reference, the Sport winner turned his 3rd lap 10 minutes faster than the beginner cat. winner (beginner = 3 laps). So pretty big jump.

I think its clear I’m a cat 3 racer at this point. I think I’d rather be competitive and have fun racing vs. just running in the back. If (IF) I start winning or running consistently at the front then I will think about sport.

LOL, when I lined up with the 10 sport guys, they were all full lycra and I was rocking baggies and a MTB tee lol. Maybe the lycra’s worth 10 minutes hahahahaha

I haven’t raced MTB or Road in a few years but getting smoked is part of learning curve. The way I approached racing was if I was going to travel and pay to race I may as well ride in the Sport Class so I could race a little longer and make the experience/trip worthwhile. It didn’t make sense for me to drive over an hour for a race that was less than 10 miles. Ride with the “faster” group, watch and learn. Either way stick with it. It get’s better. Awesome FTP increase in only 2.5 months.


Absolutely! I honestly didn’t know what to expect…last race I did like 8 years ago was beginner and I got smoked, so for sure I’ve progressed. It also didn’t help that the course wasn’t too technical. My strength is the techy stuff, it was pretty smooth and flat and those guys just left me!

I did a trial run on my prep, nutrition, etc. So it was a great trial run and I got 15 miles in at a new place! All in all a great day. Also my kids and wife came out and they had fun. I think we may try to do a tailgate at the end of the next race, seems like everyone cracked a beer and some were grilling out. Pretty fun vibe!


Good deal. I couldn’t really find a progression online anywhere so this makes more sense. I think I will step back to cat 3/beginner since I’m pretty competitive there for now…then progress from there…but boy did I get a glimpse of how far I have to go!


A lot of the races I’ve looked at classify Beginner mtb racing as the category you enter when you’re new to racing not new to the sport. So I would do a full season of beginner and then take those learnings to Sport.

1 Like

I’ve done pretty well at some longer races with baggies. Fontana uses baggies. Do what feels right. :slight_smile: I like lycra for most of the time but baggies have their place even at races, it’s nice having an extra layer of protection sometimes especially in colder months!

It was 89 degrees lol!

1 Like

I dont have any experience with mtb…but i noticed the same thing in cross races. Cat 5, 120 person field…all of them legitimately strong rider and going hard, save for maybe 5-10 guys at the back that are truly beginner.

Totally open, totally welcoming to anyone capable making a 2 wheeled object move…but yea racing is tough haha.

1 Like

They discuss this phenomenon a lot in the TR Podcast. A big part of racing beginner class is learning how to race. There are a lot ins and outs that you can’t learn in other environments.

1 Like

I started year 1 racing as a beginner, years 2 and 3 in Sport. I Finished year 3 in Expert (last 2 races) after winning Sport overall.

Anyone New to racing should absolutely start in beginner (unless fit from another discipline). If you podium in 3-5 races you can move up, but you don’t have to unless you’re ready. If you podium in the overall series you should move up.

Racing and winning is a skill that needs to be learned. If you’re always chasing you will never acquire those skills. You’ll know when you’re too fit to be in a category.


That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the advice. I agree, I’d rather be in contention than just somewhere in the back. In theory, I was top 4, but if I had passed the guy for third, he might have pushed me or beat me up a climb and I would have had to attack…I just freakin’ rode around for an hour and half lol


I think the speed of the field also depends on where you live. I did some expert races in the Chicago area where I used to live and came in about in between 1st and 2nd quartile in a big field.

I moved to Colorado and did an expert race where I came in dead last!


Well, finally got to race again. I registered for the beginner/cat 3 class and finished 3rd! Someone mentioned above about local races being dependant on who shows up…my time would have been first overall at the last race by 2 minutes. I lost by 1.20 to my buddy in his first MTB race! HA! I don’t feel bad though, he’s really come a long ways in the last 6 months in terms of bike handling and he’s a freakin’ beast - former college BB player, owns the CrossFit gym I go to and squats 450+ and deadlifts 600+.

Over the last month, my business has had me running like crazy - which is great - but my training has dwindled down to 1-2 30 minute rides per week and on average about 5.5 hrs of sleep…so I just didn’t have enough in the tank to mount a big push…


Dude you entered a race and that in itself needs to be acknowledged with some kudos :+1:t2:

Just stick it out for the rest of the season and learn as much as you can (about yourself / actual racing etc).

You’ll get a fitness bump from the races now doubt and also it will be fun to compete against yourself.

Maybe set some process goals that keep getting mentioned in the TR podcasts all the time.

Good luck :grin::call_me_hand:t2:


Good point about the process goals. My biggest goal at this point is to find time to hit my training plan. I haven’t been consistently doing this!

My bike shop has finally gotten word that they can get me a Wahoo Snap, so I’m looking forward to getting it since the trainer I had was pretty old. I’m in the process of swapping from a 1x10 XT from a number of years ago to SRAM GX eagle :slight_smile:

Once I have that setup, I’ve got to swap cassettes on my extra wheel and then I will be using my XC race bike on the trainer! So it should be nice to train on the race bike!

Thanks for the encouragement!