How can I race cat 3/4?

There is no assisting. If you fall back to the lower field you have to go to the back of the peleton. Can’t stay in the front.

Ok not going to claim this is typical and a bit hesitant to post. Last 3 years I’ve ridden with a guy on Wed night worlds and he started racing this year. I’ve only been out on Wed the last 4 weeks, and he is absolutely crushing it fitness-wise and excellent handling skills at speed in smaller (10-20) pelotons. Encouraged by some experienced racers on our Wed worlds, he registered USAC for first race a month ago and voluntarily upped to Cat 4. Mostly racing in masters 3/4 35+/45+ fields and in one month has done 3 weekend crits and the 35+ results keep rolling in: 4/22, 3/32, 2/23, and this past weekend 3/28.

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Sure, that certainly happens occasionally…guy comes in and starts racking up the results immediately.

But, as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data…and the data indicates that most people entering their first race(s) don’t enjoy that type of immediate success.

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Guess my point was that experienced racers can provide guidance you can’t get from the Internet, assuming you are routinely doing practice races with those experienced racers. It is why I’m still doing Wed night worlds and not paying to race.

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Have a friend who had a similar experience about 8 years ago… he got a bike (caad 10 i think) and started doing some rides…i think he was about to get cat 2 in less than 2 years racing… he had a massive accident and never raced bikes again… he now sticks to running (where with minimal training he can crush a 2:30 Boston marathon) :man_shrugging:

I’m not saying this guy is going to sky rocket to cat 2.

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Even that is against the rules. You are not allowed to take a draft from a different field. The higher cat rider in your example would not be allowed to go to the back of a lower cat group and hang on. They are by themselves.
3B5. Taking pace or assistance from any outside means is forbidden, including holding on to
a motor vehicle or taking pace from riders in a different race that is concurrently on the same course.

And I should clarify my example only applies to Crits and not Road races. Lapped riders can’t sit in on a road race course. It’s a tad different in a crit. If in a crit, a breakaway catches a drop rider; the drop rider can sit on the back of the breakaway and be pulled to the peloton. But the breakaway can not accept any assistance from the dropped rider. This is to prevent a team purposefully dropping riders off the back of a peloton to pull the break to the peloton. But a race official can also pull out of contention riders at their whim for the safety of all riders.

Agree with this, but also would caveat that most people don’t prepare for their first race by doing race-type rides with experienced racers. In my experience those that do and who have become competent and accepted by the regulars on those type of rides tend to do well in their first few races. Not necessarily in terms of overall placing, but at least in terms of coping with the group dynamic, cornering, surging, not being a liability to other riders, and overall enjoying it. @bpm sounds like he’s one of those riders. Doesn’t mean he won’t get dropped, but does sound like he at least has the group riding skills and fitness (and humility!) to hold his own and learn something from the experience.

What rang alarm bells for Alen was that he seemed to be assuming he could hold his own in a race based on OK power numbers, having raced triathlon, and perceiving himself to be a good bike handler. Didn’t seem to have validated those assumptions by showing up at a club or fast group ride and mixing it in with people who race to see how he got on. And then doubled down by entering a weekend stage race instead of a local crit where standards might be a bit lower. So it was always likely to be a baptism of fire!

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Thats how I feel, had no issues riding fast in a large group on my first couple of races in 2019. Just didn’t have the fitness to be competitive.

The other side of this coin is if you have the fitness to win or compete in higher categories and skip cat 5 (ne novice). You don’t learn race skills and eventually get to a level where you need them and are way behind the curve. I’d argue that it doesn’t matter if you’re a + pack handler or a + fitness rider - you shouldn’t upgrade before doing a bunch of races at each level

I was able to brute force my way to cat 2 without learning much about racing - I upgrade too fast. It is very hard to learn how to race in cat 2 and I stagnated for a while before I figured things out and was able to get the results to move to cat 1.

I feel pretty strongly that people are too focused on upgrading quickly instead of learning the sport and the skills necessary

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Oh, I agree that bpm would stand a better chance of surviving a 3/4 race than the OP…his numbers are better and his teammates seem to think he is capable of doing it.

But as @trpnhntr just noted, there is benefit to working your way up through the categories from an experiential standpoint. And even if bpm does finish with the pack (or even do well!), that doesn’t mean he should have done it.

In a 3/4 field there will be a lot of much more experienced racers…thinking mainly of the 3’s. Bike handling, situational awareness, etc are all more advanced and you are throwing a rookie in with them…it can be a dangerous combination.

Just my $.02…

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Definitely not saying he can’t race it, just that some races are making you have the upgraded license. So, don’t take for granted that a Novice can just show up and race either Novice or Cat 4 at their whim.

  1. Thanks for posting the update. Takes some stones after the keyboard pounding you took, and largely discounted between December and race-day.
  2. Anyone who has ever raced on the road has had their teeth kicked in. No shame in it.
  3. It probably was their first race, or their first race after an upgrade. Your experience isn’t rare.
  4. I’m not here to wail on you, or your mistakes, but:

Sure, road running races can be surgey, but in the first 4 minutes of a 5k at any pace, the draft doesn’t provide anywhere near the same benefit as sitting on a wheel for the first 38 minutes of 60 minute crit, let alone the first 120 minutes of 150 minute bike race.

But running races, even un-rabbited championship races on a track or open road, are much closer to a TT than any bike race on the road. Just remember the power (400w) you hit trying to stay with the group, that’s like surging to your mile or 2mile pace (or faster) during a marathon [I’m not re-reading this whole dang thread to find your estimated FTP]. No runner would every try that because the drafting benefit isn’t there to dig that deep at the halfway point of a 150 minute or longer race. If it was “just” your 10k pace, you probably could have hung onto the group, or you “just burnt too many matches” which equates to “this isn’t a TT or a spirited run from the high school to the college and back.”

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