Quickest Cat. 3 upgrade possible

So, I am trying to prepare for the quickest Cat 3 road upgrade possible. The USAC calendar hasn’t been released yet, but I want to plan as thoroughly as I can.

Little background…I Raced road for about two years (2013-2014), and accumulated about 35-40 race finishes in that time. Both criterium and road race type, with a couple local stage races mixed in, although I always raced my road bike in the TT. I quickly lost interest in road racing due to the fact the perceived fun factor wasn’t there for me as compared to other types of riding and “events”. I traded in my road race time and training for a mix of road, MTB, cross, and of course all these great regional gravel events. Nor Cal is awesome for them.

Well, I want to race road again and I want to Cat. Up as soon as possible. When I raced I never moved past Cat. 4. Partly because it was really hard and partly because I didn’t really have any desire, as most of my friends were in the Masters 35+ Cat 4 group. Now, all my friends are Cat 3 and Cat 2, and I have found myself “in the dust”. I will also be racing in the 45+ group this year. I ride with all these same guys and find my fitness and strength on the bike is very comparable to many of them, and in many cases I find I’m stronger. We have a few very fast local group “race rides”, and I am often able to perform at a very high perceived level.

I feel like I have a very good base. I have just over 7200 miles so far this year with a mix of about 25% MTB and gravel and the other 75% road. I love riding outside when I can, While the outside time is not particularly structured, I ride hard and consciously minimize “junk miles”. I have spent a month here and there on TR, and plan to hit the trainer again as winter quickly approaches. I have a nice Wahoo kicker “pain cave” set up and ready to train.

I am 6’ tall and 170lbs or 76.7kg… FTP is 271, and that is 3.54 w/kg. With a VO2 max of 60

I was looking for the TR upgrade document I heard of on the podcast, but can’t find it. Can someone please send it my way? Also, any. pointers on how to Cat up as quick as possible would be appreciated.

I am planning to start a SSB mid vol plan in a couple weeks, and roll into the Coast ride mid Jan for a full base session and then hit the build phase. Any pointers on how to maximize my training and preparation with a goal to upgrade ASAP is also appreciated. I’m also reading the Endurance Diet.

I’m grateful for any info, and for the science that is available now a days to make us stronger on the bike. I also love the podcast and the app. Thank you, and keep it up.

Blog post: https://blog.trainerroad.com/from-cat-5-to-cat-1-how-usac-road-upgrades-work/

I raced in NorCal and I think I went 4->3 in two weekends.

Since your 45+ you can race multiple crits in the same day. That helped me.

If you look at our YouTube you’ll see all of my races last year with analysis and links to the full race.

Try to do well at the Norcal road races too, that’s where the most points are had.

My FTP in Reno was around 330 and I was 185 lbs. so at sea level that’s probably a 347 FTP. I also had decent one minute power but a poor sprint (I started the year doing them all seated :laughing:).

There’s also an early bird training series we’re you can get one or two points, I forget exactly how many. That blog post outlines it.

Good luck!


You can get 100% of your upgrade points from 4->3 from masters races - so if you really want to move up quickly just find weak fields like a 3/4 45+ or a 4/5 40+ and cherry pick those types of races. Easiest way to get upgrade points is to feast on comparatively weak fields

Road races preferred since there are more points on offer, but honestly any event with that type of field should be something you make a point to go hit. No clue which of your promoters in NorCal will offer those types of things, but there are a couple floating around in my area so I assume it is the same in that region

1 Like

Thank you. I definitely feel more confident with these tips and resources. :muscle:t3::muscle:t3:

I would do the 35+ or 45+ 4/5 races before a 3/4. Norcal also has 4/5 open races.

I’m my experience the open 3s in Norcal is super fast. Lots of guys who are walking through the ranks and soon to be cat 1 racers.

In the few Masters 35+ 1/2/3 races I’ve done, the open 3 was faster compared to the 35+ 1/2/3.

1 Like

Great point. I’ve found that the guys locally are quick. Sometimes, the 45+ guys are quicker than the 35+ guys. I’m pretty dang anxious to make it happen. Just waiting on the races to start. Nate, I expect my upgrade to take no longer than 2 weekends… ha

When you get to 1/2/3 45+ it’s pretty stacked. You’d be racing against Jonathan Baker who is an absolute beast.

1 Like

Completely agree - my post might not have been clear but I was suggesting he race fields limited both by age and by category. We have some in my area that are 3/4 45+ or 4/5 45+ (age differences seem to be based on the state more than the promoter) - so fields with no 1s or 2s and all 45+ guys should be (comparatively) easy pickings for upgrade points


Yeah, John is an animal…next level for sure. Basically wins everything around, including all the local cross races. I was fortunate enough to ride “with” him a little bit last year on the Coast Ride. he’s a good dude to follow on Strava because of all the year round gravel he smashes. I’m close by, In Auburn/Folsom, so variety rules.

Around here (central TX), the masters open races are just as fast (or faster) at the pointy end compared to the 3/4’s, but the the fields are generally deeper in the 3/4’s. I also don’t see guys taking risks to sprint for non-podium positions in the masters compared to guys taking risks to get 15th in the 3/4 races. So, podiums can be hard to come by in masters, but top 10’s can be easier (in my experience).

You might also check to see when USAC started allowing points to roll over for upgrades. I can’t remember when that started, but maybe some of your old races/points would count. My understanding is that they never expire and I think the rollover policy came into play around the time you were road racing.

1 Like

That’s a good point. Thanks

Are you on FB? There’s a FB group for the NCNCA where they shared a preview of the upcoming 2020 road calendar. Here’s a link:

Also note that there was a survey to NCNCA men’s Master’s racers recently (now closed) that seemed to focus on whether the age splits should change to 30+/40+/50+ (for races, not for championships). I am not 100% sure about this, as I am not a male master’s racer and didn’t look at the survey, but this was the chatter I heard about it.
Anyway, I agree with @Nate_Pearson that road races will give you the most points per race, although men have a huge advantage over women due to the size of the field.

BTW, if you haven’t raced in awhile, I highly recommend the Early Birds series if you can trek over to Fremont in January. (I think there was talk about restarting the EBs in Clovis… they’re on the calendar… but I suspect Fremont is closer to you than Clovis.) You can apply a max of 3 points from these [clinics / practice races / post-race debrief with mentor] towards your upgrade, but at a minimum it will give you a refresher for what it’s like to race in a crit again. I’m sure the race-type rides you do in your area mean you’re pretty comfortable in the pack, but crits are different from road races.


Awesome. This is excellent. Thanks for the info. I certainly want to tune up my race craft. Nothing like the concentrated tactical experience of a crit. Lots of bang for your time. With the early bird crits, I hope to upgrade by the end of Feb, early March. I hope to hit the meat of the season in the 3’s. :+1::muscle:t3:


Keep us updated and good luck :+1:

1 Like