Why I’m out of my mind (or, why I upgraded my cyclocross license from 4 to 3)

Having met the absolute minimum requirements, this year I upgraded my cyclocross category from 4 to 3.  I did this for a number of reasons, and they are uniquely my reasons.  I am not publishing this as a set of recommendations for others; I am simply explaining why I did something that appears so completely stupid.  I don’t hold anyone else to these standards, and I don’t begrudge anyone on their decision to stay in 4s if they are, by the letter of the rules, eligible to upgrade.  Everyone does this for their own reasons, and so here are mine, even if they are insane.

  1. First and foremost, 3s race much later than 4s, and I wanted to be able to sleep in on race days, rather than wake up at the crack of dawn.  As well, because of the time difference, people actually watch cat 3 races.
  2. The upgrade requirements for 4 to 3, per USA Cycling, can be met by simply participating in ten races.  I believe this exists to keep riders moving up through the system as they gain experience, in order to make room in the cat 4s for newer riders.  Cat 4 fields are a massive glut of riders, and I’m certain that a lot of cat 4s have absolutely no idea how trivial it is to upgrade.
  3. I also believe cat 4 is loaded with people who know full well they can and should upgrade, and they’re sandbaggers, and sandbagging is fucking irritating.  If you can cat up, you should.  This is why we have a category system.
  4. Think about it for a moment.  To move up from 4 to 3 requires a beating heart and a bicycle.  USA Cycling knows this, because they created the rules.  They clearly want riders to cat up.  And if you need a USA Cycling license for these races, you should be following the rules of USA Cycling.  Not your own personal set of rationalizations that selectively exempt you from the rules of competition.
  5. After two seasons of figuring cyclocross out, I am fairly certain that I would start finishing in the top half of the cat 4 field.  I would take some satisfaction in that, but knowing that an absolute beginner CX racer enters as a 4, not too much.  It would be a bit hollow.
  6. In 1996, I was a beginner mountain bike racer when I raced for UNH, and my best finishes were a 3rd place and a win.  Cyclocross is mountain bike racing with skinny tires.  Fourteen years later, I have no business clogging up a field that includes beginners.  It is completely unfair to those people who are entering the sport or feeling their way through the first few races of their career.  How does it build any confidence for them when they are not racing their true peers?
  7. As a general rule, I believe riding with people well beyond your level of experience makes you a better rider, providing you know what you’re doing, and I believe I do.
  8. In the end, cat 3s race maybe 1 or 2 more laps than the 4s.  Not a big deal.
  9. Whoever wins a 3 or 4 race isn’t pulling off a miracle.  They’re winning a category they shouldn’t be in, whether they know it yet or not.  You get your ass handed to you either way.  So why toil in 4s when 3s hold the same promise for the large majority of riders, myself included.
  10. Today I finished 56th out of 61 cat 3s at QuadCross.  Yes, I got completely decimated.  I got lapped, but I was a liability to no one.  I’m in completely over my head, but I’m f*cking psyched.  That is a win for me.

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