I’ll just keep talking if you haven’t yet already had enough here and here. This is actually more of a rough draft that spawned those other two posts.
. . .
Some days I feel like 3 is the right move. I’m strong, I feel kind of competitive, and if I had better staging in the really big events, I could at least maintain it and come out with a respectable result.
Other days, not so much. Like right now, when I’m completely burned out, I feel like I’m just wasting my time racing 3 and should be a 4.
But you can’t go back and forth. You really gotta ride one horse.
I don’t specifically train for cyclocross. I doubt most racers do. For me to hold my own in Cat 3, I need to work really hard just to feel like I should be there. And this is just to race with guys who are at a much higher level, who don’t have to work hard to be there. They’re just there. It’s all a big circle though. It’s the same thing for 4s – I wouldn’t have to try nearly as hard to do reasonably well. And certainly there will be guys in that group who work their tails off.
This sort of leads into the one of the things I do know for sure – I don’t believe I should be racing in Cat 4 as it is presently constructed.
No doubt, there is an ability differential in every category. But 4s have the widest differential of them all, and it’s a pretty unfair one. At one end, there are guys who can easily be racing at the Cat 3 level and won’t leave, and at the other end, there are guys who are racing a bike for the very first time.
This is largely an issue of personal philosophy. I do not want to contribute to this inequity. It doesn’t make sense. My stance on the category system, and racing in general, is that you should be racing your peers. It’s a race if everyone in the field is of similar ability. Otherwise, it’s a race for some, and others it’s just lambs to the slaughter. You’re gonna get that in any category to some degree, but in 4s it’s the worst, and it doesn’t need to be that way.
You would think the solution is to cat people up and out of 4s. There has to be a reason why that’s not happening. I’ll tell you why it’s not happening – people like not getting their asses kicked! They know when they get to Cat 3, the party will probably be over. But getting your ass kicked, and the corollary – the challenge in avoiding the asskicking – that’s the point, isn’t it? I think that’s the point.
Well, but what a second. What does “the point” really mean. It’s different for everyone, right. For some people, the point of it all is to work toward advancing through the system. For other people, it’s about having fun. Can we have both? You’d think we should be able to. These are bikes. Kids ride bikes. Bikes should be fun. Kids don’t have pit wheels and skinsuits and glycogen management. Kids just ride. Bikes. For fun.
Maybe USA Cycling, creator and enforcer of this category system, can lend some guidance. They seem authoritative enough for me.
Here’s the USAC Vision Statement:
The vision of USA Cycling is to make the United States of America the most successful country in the world of competitive cycling.
Okay. I think that kind of spells it out. USAC and its governance does not exist to make cycling super fun and equitable to those who decide to participate in sanctioned events. It is committed to world domination of the sport. You don’t get to have both. If it’s fun, that is purely incidental to what they are trying to achieve.
I don’t think I’m being a cynic here – that’s really what this vision statement says. We don’t all hold hands, cup each others balls and trade slaps on the back. We try to win.
And when we win enough, we move up and try to win some more. We’re all trying to get to the top and reach a point when we can’t go any higher, and we’re all winning. Then we get old, we sit on the porch and remember how good we used to be, and then we die. But not before we get our master’s jerseys and channel our offspring into the system to facilitate the vision of world dominance.
Alright. I usually take it a little far but anyway, so knowing that, what does that do for my point of view. It tells me I should not preoccupy myself with this concern of inequity in Cat 4. If it isn’t fair, fuck ’em. It’s not supposed to be fair. It’s about trying to become the best in the world. And not even that – it’s not even really about me necessarily. It’s about creating the best cyclists in the world, whether that means I’m included or not. The system, the rules, the organization – it’s about getting the best cyclists to the top of world stage. My personal pursuits, ideas, theories, thoughts and desires are not relevant to the category system unless they concern winning races and moving up and winning races.
So right away, I’m thinking that catting riders up should be one of USAC’s primary concerns. That seems like one of the basic functions of a system designed to bubble the best riders upward. But I don’t really see that happening down here. I see loads of 4s not bubbling up and sitting tight. Cat 3 is fucking Omaha Beach. But this is allowed to happen, in spite of the vision. In fact, in spite of written rules governing automatic upgrades. It seems hypocritical. You can’t say your mission is to trot out the best cyclists in the world, and then let riders stew in a lower category because they don’t feel like advancing.
So let’s say we have this utopian category system where USAC swiftly and properly advances riders north through the category system, which seems like what they’re already supposed to be doing.. Does this change anything for me? Am I happy then?
Maybe. If I were to guess, there are probably more 4s ready to be 3s than 3s ready to be 2s. In the end, I think 2s get bigger, 3s get a little bigger, and 4s shrink. As Cat 4 is generally really big anyway, this helps
I’m not solving anything here. Apparently I’m just writing shit down and not making a point.
I think cyclocross may now at a point where a Cat 5 makes sense. I’m not even sure why it was omitted in the first place. If 5 wouldn’t fill back then, they could have combined 4/5 and scored them separately, as happens regularly with other fields today. Don’t kill the fucking messenger here – I’m a racer, and it’s my racer’s perspective. I’ve never organized or scored a race, so don’t treat me like a dumb asshole for proposing this idea.
I’d like to say I had fun this year, but probably half the time anyway, I didn’t.
Recently I was going through the USAC handbook and I learned that since I’m now 33, and have a November birthday, technically I can race Masters this year. That doesn’t really help me a whole lot, since the large majority of 3 Masters races are 1/2/3. I’d see the same results as my foray into 1/2/3 at MRC, only I’d be getting whipped by dudes my own age, rather than half my age.
When this season started, I was a nervous mess in Cat 3, riding with an unfamiliar, much faster group. And in time, I got over the nerves. But as I was gaining confidence and starting to focus on actual racing, I think I was just getting worn down. September and into October was pretty balls-to-the-wall for me. I was on the bike constantly, never having more than 2 days off at a time. After Gloucester weekend, I just didn’t feel snappy again.
Given that I had been going straight since January with base training, building up to Washington in August, and then right into ‘cross season, I guess that was bound to happen. If guess if you work all year to peak in August, you’re only going to have that peak fitness so long until the wheels start coming off. So it looks like I was clutching those wheels for at least a good 6 weeks. That’s not bad.
‘Cross is also a really hard transition for me. I have spent 4 years now building up a fitness for steady-state TT efforts, and that seems to be what my body really wants to do. Very calculated, linear progression of effort. It really doesn’t want to do what is required for cyclocross, which is not…that. It’s not even the opposite of that – it’s just it’s own thing.