More on upgrading (if you read that quickly, it says moron upgrading)

I haven’t done a race report in a few weeks.

Here’s one for Shedd Park – it was fun.

Here’s another one for Baystate – f*ck Baystate, it’s dangerous.

Now let’s talk more about this upgrading conversation.

Listen – I don’t blame you as a rider AT ALL if you don’t want to pull out of Cat 4.  I really don’t.  Why?  Because in order for what I’m advocating to work for everyone, EVERYONE needs to do it.  4s need to upgrade, and 3s need to upgrade as well.  If only a few people do it – which is the status quo – you’re going to go through what I’m going through.  Which, admittedly, can be about as fun as a punch in the balls.  If you’re stronger than me, obviously you’ll have a much better time.

That said, even if in a perfect world all the 4s and 3s upgrade as they should, I think we have a bigger issue to deal with.  I think there are far more 4s in need of upgrading than 3s.  And what is the net effect if we have mass upgrades?  We’ll now have two swelling fields on race day instead of one, and arguably we already have that now.  The Cat 3s at Cycle-Smart were just as big as any big 4 field, only faster and more fancy.

Do we really want that?  Probably not.  I can’t speak as a promoter/race organizer/scorer/race official but I can’t imagine that massive fields are particularly easy to deal with.  As a racer, I find them a pain in the ass.  Some courses you have a chance on; but most of the time you are just completely screwed.

I stood at Shedd Park and watched the Cat 4 race two weeks ago.  Here’s the anatomy of a Cat 4 field:

  • Leaders who have gapped the field, all of whom are leaving a trail of sand so deep it’s almost comical.
  • Let’s say not quite half of the field are good riders who will never catch the leaders, in spite of having good engines and respectable skills. 
  • Left are the majority of riders who are not particularly familiar with cross or are not all that comfortable on a cross bike.  Some of these riders will literally drive around course features, rather than attack them.
In my perfect world, I think the 4 field should consist of the riders in the middle.  The riders at the bottom are given their own Category 5.  The guys in the top bullet go up to 3.  
But since Cat 5 doesn’t exist, I have to advocate that everyone in the top two bullets upgrade to 3.  It’s not what I really want to recommend, but that’s what we’re left with the way things are presently constructed.  
Is a separate Cat 5 race even realistic?  Not when the biggest races of the year are already starting at 8am.  Is there a creative compromise?  Maybe a consolidated 4/5 field can work.  That way the same riders I described above can share the same race, 5s can learn from the 4s, but the beginners aren’t getting beaten to a pulp by riders who are out of their league.  This at least establishes some equity, and at the same time encourages growth in the largest fields of the sport beyond just number of entrants.  From Cat 3 onward, there can and should be top-to-bottom asskicking like there is today, no holds barred.
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