Voluntary Upgrade to Cat 4?

Hey TrainerRoadies,

I started road riding in 2009 and did a little racing in 2010-2011 but then didn’t race again till 2021. I’ve been using TrainerRoad for a year now following either MV or LV rolling road race plans with no problem. I’ve seen major improvements from the structure and consistency. I’m about 170-175lbs and my FTP was 305 as of a month ago. I was at 315 last October right before getting hit by a car but I’m almost back to where I was.

I did 4 races last year and have 7 scheduled this year. I typically enter as Cat 5 (usually in top 10) or Mas 40+. I’m also interested in Mas B, which I’m assuming is like Cat 4 or 5 for Masters, but haven’t done one of those yet.

This brings me to my main question. I recently discovered I can do a voluntary license upgrade to Cat 4, which I initially thought a “no-brainer” but then started wondering if should wait to get more experience. I’m still leaning towards upgrading now so I can start racing with the 3s and 4s, but would like to know your thoughts.


If you want to win, wait for mandatory upgrade. If you want to be pushed by better riders, do the voluntary. Winning can be pretty fun


CAT 4’s will have more experience and will likely be much safer. They will also be faster. I upgraded after about 5 races as a 5.


once you podium in the 5s, cat up, you probably won’t learn much in 5s

if you can’t do that, i’d be wary of jumping into a 3/4 race and not getting dropped

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If you’re feeling pretty comfortable in the field than upgrade. If you’re not than wait a few races and your future 3/4 race mates will thank you. For 5 → 4 It’s more of an experience/safety decision than fitness.

Past that, I’d wait until you have to. I won a couple races (well, a TT and a road race) and upgraded to cat 3 and regretted it almost immediately.

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I took it immediately without racing as a cat 5. My reasoning: my area doesn’t have any cat 5 races. Literally all the races within 200 miles are cat 4/5 mixed. So for me, there wasn’t any reason to stay a cat 5, I had to race in the same fields anyway.

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I took it pretty quickly as well. In many cases it opens up more options as you can race either/both the 3/4 and the 4/5. In some local crit series it’s a great opportunity to get additional race reps. This is assuming, of course, that you can ride safely in a race, otherwise you don’t need to be upping the speed and intensity by jumping into 3/4


With almost a 4kg/w ratio and that’s a basis of 315FTP there is no reason why you couldn’t hang in a C3 race and even assist in making race driven decision. Podium will be more difficult but possible still with specs like that assuming you have a decent 1-min power.

That being said this is very depended on skill sets and confidence, cat 5 can be very dangerous from the fact its open to anyone and they may have poor handling skills or tactics. If I was in your situation, I would take the 4 upgrade and get as much experience as possible rather its your own skill training or tons of aggressive group rides or simply lots of racing.

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Snag a podium or 2 and make the jump. There’s a fine line between learning to race and sandbagging. At your power, I think you know which side of that line you’re on/heading to :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Congrats btw, that first cat up is a good feeling!

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I’m hoping my fitness level will allow me to control the race a bit. My 1 minute power is 544w and my w/kg is 4.07.

A few years ago, the 4s were safer and more experienced than the 5s. Not so anymore. Many 4s have no race experience at all. I did 10 races as. 5 back when it was required, moved up to 4 and the races felt no different.

Honestly, I see less crazy stuff in Masters. Having now raced everything from 5 to P123, I’ve broadly seen that the juniors cause a lot of problems. Just about every time I’ve had an issue with a rider doing something just totally uncalled for, it’s a junior, and usually an “old” junior. And I’ve seen that all the way up to Cat 2.

Ironically, the only crash I’ve had in a USAC race was in a P123 field. Go figure.

All that said, I don’t think it really matters if you’re a 5 or a 4 these days. The races seem about the same, 4 fields are outright huge out here, so yeah, probably easier to win in 5 if you’re looking to do that early on.

I think it’s good to spend some time in each category until you really know what works and what doesn’t for you at each level, and then continue to develop other skills. What works for you to win in 5 May well work in 4, but it probably won’t work as well in 3 and above. You’ll probably have to reinvent your racing and try other things.

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Your numbers are similar to mine in cat 3 (I have a bit more 1min power). And yeah, you’re probably not dictating the entire race, but you have plenty of cards to play at that level to stand on a box or win in Cat 3.

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I figure I’ll try to win a Cat 5 race and then move to 4. Not sure I’ll ever try to go above 3 at my age. I can race Mas 40s now too. That’s what I meant about being at a fitness level that would allow me to respond well to how the race unfolds.

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At just under 4 and good anaerobic power I was able to podium some masters races last year including against some guys that are 1s and former national champions. Your numbers are good and you should be competitive whatever you choose to race.

Agree with what others have said here, cat5 to 4 is about having enough experience to feel comfortable moving up. Used to 10 races and now it’s go when you are ready. Cat4 races should be pretty comparable but you may get a longer race or the occasional 3/4 field to make it more interesting.

I think the win before taking the upgrade philosophy applies more in the cat4 and 3s. where there is a big jump up to the 1/2 field and taking the upgrade on bunch finish experience might set you up with the experience to be able to have fun and get results once you move up

Yes! You should be competing for the podium just about every time out before upgrading from 3 (or even 4). Doesn’t mean you have to win or always podium, but you should be a mover and a shaker in your races or else you’re just pack fodder at the next level (or worse).

And if people are asking you when you’re upgrading, it’s probably past time. :rofl: