New racer advice (category)

Hello all, I’m need of advice for this upcoming year of racing. Very new to cycling and trying out different disciplines. This year I’m planning to race more road including criteriums. I have done some gravel and mtb races last year.

Need advice on what category to race in. I’m 35 years old so my questions is master 35+ or cat 4/5 division? Thanks in advance

If it is an open masters 35+ than I’d suggest the 4/5. There’s probably going to be some pretty fast guys in the open masters field.


Yeah a few races have open and some have master 35+ 1/2/3/4. So that would make sense to avoid open fields. Thanks!

Yeah masters is most likely going to include some very experienced racers. So not only will the race be faster but things like super close riding that might be nothing for a Cat 2/3 masters might cause a newer racer to react in a dangerous way. I would start with the Cat 4/5 race before moving to the Masters if you feel comfortable in the group and the potential speed of the masters race.

I think the danger of 4/5 races is a bit overblown so I wouldn’t worry about that. They can be a bit more erratic but the racing is generally also slower and the racers more spread out so there is a bit more of a cushion.

Best case, you are comfortable and confident to race in the Masters as well as the 4/5 so you get twice the racing opportunity on a given race day. Nothing will make you a better racer like getting to learn a lesson or two in the first race and then immediately getting to apply those in the next an hour later while it is fresh.

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Of course it depends on the day and where you are but, generally the Masters 35 field is the 2nd strongest field after the P12’s. A typical M35 field includes almost everyone 35 and over who is also doing the P12 race too later in the day (almost everyone who can doubles up at the crits) and the rest of the field is a bunch of 35+ cat 3’s and the fast dudes from the 45+ and 55+ fields doubling up.

That being said, as a general rule the Masters guys are highly experienced. They can be safer in one sense but they’ll also be expecting 100+ race experience behavior from you and those around them and that can sometimes lead to folks not being on the same page if there is a wide span in experience and causing close calls or crashes.

If you have some skills and are fast, you can try masters but its definitely not going to be easier than a 4/5 race.

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Aren’t masters races usually 1-2-3-4? You wouldn’t be able to do them until you bump from novice / 5 to 4.

If its M4/5 vs 4/5, I’d go M4/5 or double up for the extra experience.

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I believe you can go straight to cat 4, no?

Cat 5 / Novice upgrade to 4 is voluntary or mandatory with 10 points. I guess one could technically get their Cat 5 / Novice license and immediately upgrade. (Assuming US / USAC policies apply.).

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I wouldn’t recommend skipping the novice category unless you already have very good watts/kg and/or a lot of experience with group rides or other forms of racing.


Thanks all for your input. Looks like cat 5 will be the best choice this year.