I wrote It’s Almost December last year. Fifteen hundred of you read it, and the video has been seen EIGHT THOUSAND TIMES. I put that shit ON YOUR RADAR and you were like HELL YES. And dudes did right. They put in a quarter, they got on the horse; it goes up and down and around. Circular. Circle. With the music. The flow. All good things.
I had planned to write a follow-up this year, and I wanted to wait until December. But gentlemen and it’s unlikely that ladies read this blog, events have forced me to communicate with you on this topic much sooner than I expected. So let’s get right to it.
WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING IN CAT 3 RIGHT NOW?!! WHAT DID YOU DO!?
It’s a fucking romance explosion up in here now. Cat 3 was the first field to fill at Gloucester this year. 138 racers, biggest field of the weekend. I mean, look at this merry go-round of FUCKING BULLSHIT! I’m in this photo, very bottom right corner with the red dot on my back. You know what I should have done instead? Ridden in the exact opposite direction, hopped the wall at the beer tent, and gotten PLOWED.
Now Providence is tipping the scales at 159 pre-reg’d. Sunday’s pre-reg’d Cat 4s have 80. In Northampton, you’ll be able to start at the back, take that little choo choo train for a spin around the park, pet a goat, and eventually get back to the queue at the run-up and have lost PRECISELY NO SPOTS. You’ll probably have time to order one of those goddamn waffles and actually get it before there is actual racing of bicycle.
EVERYONE is in this field now. And you might say that is exactly what I asked for, and you may be right. But the other half of the equation is still BLANK. We put MORE TURDS in the bowl, but it still only flushes HALF WAY. LOG JAM.
And we all know by now that USA Cycling isn’t going to save the situation any time soon. But truth is, it’s on their radar. I had the good fortune to chat with Marc Gullickson, USAC’s “cyclo-cross” program manager. The man in charge. The BOSS of CROSS. He doesn’t know I’m nobody, so he talked to me.
A fifth category was the topic of conversation, and I get the sense he thinks that makes sense. LOTS OF SENSING. But how the hell do you implement it; the day is only so long. He has much to discuss with promoters, and his parting advice was “USAC is working hard to make sure the racing stays fair and fun” and we will take that as direct quote gospel and KNOW better days are ahead. Are you relieved? Me neither. But listen, in the meantime, I have to do something. So I present you with this.
THE CATEGORY 3 CYCLOCROSS SURVIVAL GUIDE
Cat 3, for the foreseeable future is going to be a massive innavigable rolling expanse of fanciness. Use these tips to improve your experience.
1. DON’T SUCK. Once you upgrade, you have to stay fit. You can’t not ride all year and then roll up in September and think you’ll just “sort of do okay”. Doesn’t happen. Dudes will flatten you LIKE A CRÊPE if you do that. I took most of this year off and I’m getting DESTROYED. Also you need to stay away from shitty habits like not drilling it out of every corner. If they don’t have the skills, 3s at least have motors, and MOTORS CAN BEAT SKILLS.
2. DON’T FORGET TO PREREG. You know where you get to start if you forget to register before the day of the race? RIGHT IN THE RACE’S ASSHOLE. You can almost get away with this at the lesser attended races, but at the big shows, forget it. You’ve just screwed yourself. I just did this at a big 3/4 event. I started DFL, picked off more riders than a lot of my friends who staged mid-pack, and still ended up with atrocious points because THE BACK. Which leads into my next series of points, which are about…
3. POINTS. Crossresults is like a video game; it will kick your ass sideways to Tokyo if you don’t know how to play. Some bad decisions, some bad results, and you are lining up in toilet country, swirling the rim and going nowhere. Here’s a breakdown of the fields you can enter as a Cat 3 FANCY 4.
3 Also now known as ROLLING ARMAGEDDON. If you aren’t in the first half of this field, you’ve just signed up to not race. You can have a nice casual spin around the grounds of Stage Fort or Roger Williams Park with a number pinned to your back, casually engaging in competition with happenstance others of similar misfortune. It’s a lot of money to pay to go nowhere, so assess your chances accordingly. If you get strung out at the back, the point drop combined with the sheer size of the field will leave you with a result you’ll probably have to wait 12 months to get rid of.
3/4 This can be a sucker field. These seem like better opportunities for 4s than 3s. Because there’s usually a 1/2/3 field at races that hold a 3/4, there’s a better chance the 3/4 top 5 will be filled out with higher points, because 3s with better points will probably man up and do 1/2/3. Check the entries carefully. You don’t want to mid-pack and think you did well, only to find out some super fast 4s with astronomical points found the podium and blew up the average.
1/2/3 The world of hurt. Technically you are eligible to race in this field, and technically you will get destroyed. You know when a Nintendo game has EASY or HARD, and you can barely beat EASY with a strategy guide and savestates and HARD is just fucking inhumanly difficult like the original Mega Man? That is 1/2/3. You will be left behind with the tumbleweeds, unless you convince a few of you friends to come up and take the beating together. These races are also longer – 60 minutes – which means you’ll probably be racing even longer than that, providing you’re not PNP’d. But you do get one great, and very special reward: AMAZING POINTS. Masters is no exception. When you do your time here, the return is worth your while in both fitness and future staging.
Now as I mentioned earlier, Cat 3 still isn’t that idyllic throne you see at Home Depot that will flush a bucket of golf balls in one shot. It’s still packed up with guys who won’t take the jump to the Deuce (man, the toilet humor is coming so easy right now, and I don’t even have to go). So what’s the deal with these guys? I’m not them, so I interviewed a couple of anonymous contributors who HAVE been there. I wanted to know what the hell is going on. And you know what they told me?
YOU FAST 3s need to MAN UP AND CAT UP. Just like the 4s who followed my trail of sand over the invisible walkway (not a sandbag reference; sand is just coincidental to the Last Crusade reference), speedy 3s have to do the same thing. A LOT OF YOU DO. I have it on good authority that there are a considerable number of you ready to slug it out in the big show. Will you get smashed to bits? Maybe! But you’ll be doing it together, and you’ll be racing AT THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE LEVEL AGAINST AMAZING SUPERSTARS FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC. I can’t even UNDERSTAND who wouldn’t want this opportunity. This is literally as confusing as someone who refuses sex because they’re “too busy”. YOU WERE BORN TO DO IT.
Feeling like you shouldn’t move up because the juniors are working you over? GUESS WHAT, THEY CAN’T EVEN VOTE. WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THEM. Juniors are basically children of Professor Xavier and you need to just let them go because they have genetic capabilities you and I aren’t going to have EVER. It’s apples and oranges. It’s Wolverines and dudes from The Town who can rob banks good. DIFFERENT.
“Most 3s are being pansies, and they should fucking upgrade.”
These words were ACTUALLY SPOKEN. That means IT IS TIME. When dudes FASTER THAN YOU say that you are ready, you were ready WAY BEFORE THIS.
So I say now to all 3s who actually do not suck at cyclocross bicycle racing, COMPLETE THE CIRCLE OF LIFE. Your brothers in arms have pulled themselves up from from the guts of 4. You have friends in P/1/2 that will help you. YOU ARE WAITING FOR NOTHING. You know what Apollo’s old trainer says to Rocky before he starts his totally ridiculous and intense series of training montages in Russia? YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. DO IT.
Then next year happened…
13 thoughts on “December Comes Early: It’s Not the Title of an Adult Film, it’s a Midseason Cat 3 Intervention.”
OK, I just watched the vid from last year. I died LOL on this line: “But in Cat 4, I can look like a homeless man on wheels.” I can relate!
However, if there are only 80 Cat 4s, wouldn't it make sense to have 40 or so of the Cat 3s downgrade. Or maybe they shouldn't have upgraded yet? Then each field would have 120 or so riders, and there probably wouldn't be any lapped riders in the 3 race.
Everyone is in such a hurry to upgrade, but the truth of the matter is, a lot probably aren't ready, including some of the guys at the front of the 3s.
Chan I still don't think – and I'm a bit of an idealist about this stuff, maybe to a fault – that this addresses the greater inequity issue we already have in the 4s. I think if there were a proper 5, more present-day 3s would come back to 4. This would leave the system with a well-defined, maybe more natural 3-2-1 progression to the elite level.
It's not that easy to upgrade to 2 if you are in the 6-10th place range @ a Verge B race, and those riders, IMO would be in the towards the rear of the Elite field, but not DFL. The upgrade point “purse” maxes out at 6 places for 50+ racers. I think getting 8,9,10 in a 140 person race should be worth a few points, but it's not. The super-sandbaggers are displacing the people who want to upgrade to 2 from scoring upgrade points.
I am one of ^^^those guys in 6-10th place. I am forced to sandbag local races in 3/4 to get upgrade points. I'd much rather race the local 1/2/3 field to fill it up and get a better workout. If things go as planned I won't have to much longer.
Biggest reason to upgrade is the HOURS of stress free pre-ride time the elite field gets. Oh, and not having to decide between eating lunch at 10AM or 4PM (after cross gut subsides).
Look at the ages of the cat3 field and you'll see that a large percentage are masters eligible racers. They race cat3 as to avoid getting pulled from a masters elite race that is almost as fast as the elite race. Everyone pays the same amount to race and you should put yourself in position to get as much value no matter how fast you are. It's not the fast jrs and the baggers that are bloating the cat3s fields. Remember a few years ago there was a 2/3 race but that was done away with by Myerson due to the need to grow the Elite field. That was a sound decision that was intended to have a two pronged effect. Problem is the other part of that idea was that the masters field would grow too when the masters eligible cat4s upgraded. From what I can see that has not happened and is likely the reason for your bloated cat3 field. Maybe if there was a cat3/4 masters 35+ race instead of just a cat4 35+ you might see the cat3 numbers go down. The weekend warrior dads would be all over that if they had a decent time slot, because again – no one wants to put in the effort and money to get pulled form a race against the masters elites, and who can blame them. That is unless you can convince the best masters racers to consistently race the open elite race – but that is a whole other can -o-worms and likely a losing battle…
As one of the ladies who reads this blog, I find this whole concept really intriguing. We have a similar situation in women's racing. At Series races, the top Cat 3/4/35+ women are racking up points that far exceed the legal limit that results in an automatic upgrade, and yet they don't upgrade. When I started racing cross in 2000, we had one race for women and it had around 20 people in it most weekends. Now, we have anywhere from 60-120 women in the 3/4 race every weekend, but the Elite races are stagnant with 25 riders at smaller races and 40 if we're lucky at the big UCI events. It makes no sense that we went from no beginner/amateur field for women 10 years ago to having one that is 100 riders strong and yet the elite field stays the same. How can we have people placing top 6 every weekend in 3/4 races and yet no one upgrades? I'm a cat 2 and I finish at the back of elite races. It would be nice if the sand bagging cat 3 women who man up and upgrade as well. Yeah, it sucks getting lapped sometimes, but this isn't triathlon..Cross shouldn't be about feeling good about yourself because you're beating up on people who are beginners.
If you want to see the sad mental state of women's cycling, read the comments on my latest post. We get AT MOST 40 women in our Elite races. I suggested an alternative race format that would put Cat 3 in with Elite and a Cat 2 woman FREAKED OUT at the possibility of having a few extra bodies in our race. She seriously said that if we allowed 10 Cat 3s into the Elite race (which, technically they are allowed to race in if they buy a UCI license), those 10 cat 3s would line up in front of her and prevent her from a top 10 placing. Seriousy…we have dudes racing in 125 rider fields in Cat 3, and a Cat 2 woman is convinced that 5 people lining up one spot in front of her at the start is what is standing between her and the podium, in a field of 35 people. I can't make this shit up.
Does USA Cycling ever force someone to upgrade? It seems there should be some cap on the upgrade points (either for a season or lifetime) and once you hit it you get upgraded no matter what.
I just upgraded to cat 3 btw, but don't worry. I'll be getting my ass handed to me in the 35+ race. Killing myself to not get lapped looks like a lot more fun the having a group ride on a cross course.
There used to be a B-Masters (3/4) 35+ race in the Verge Series. It was done away with to encourage the Cat 3s to race A-Masters (1-3). As suggested above, many of the Cat 3 masters chose to race the Cat 3 B-Men race. That's what I did. Most of the guys I was competitive with in B-Masters did the same thing.
The main problem is that cross was not a sport designed around 125 rider fields. Look at a cross course, look how it is designed, and you see that it cannot realistically accommodate more than 75 people without major traffic jams. The sad reality is, if you do not line up among the top 50 riders, you are fucked from the start. While I think it is great that the sport has gotten so popular, it's created a situation where the big races are a clusterfuck of epic proportions for every field with the exception of the elites. It might be far more appropriate to cap fields at manageable sizes, like 75 people, and then figure out a way to stage multiples of each category. That mean you need two cat 3 fields instead of one massive one. If you do a small local race, you can race in a manageable sized field, but the series raced are too popular (for reasons that are unclear to me). It's not even the courses – Providence was a grass crit with a barrier – that are the problem. You simply cannot put that many people into a course and expect them all to have an equal chance at moving up. It defies the laws of physics.
There isn't 1 rider in the cat 3's thats ready for the pro race. Not even close! In fact there are 10 or 15 guys in the pro race that have no business being there. It's the same as the description of a cat 3 riding around a cross course with a # pinned on, only it's way more expensive (both lisence and entry fee), and you get home way later.
The best suggestion I've heard here, is to make the masters 35+ cat4 into 3/4. I say bring back the Killer B's. That was great racing and if a cat 2 started to win a lot, then an upgrade to the pro race is somewhat reasonable. Going from cat 3 to the pro race in New England is like pulling out of your driveway onto the Indianapolis Speedway. Or worse….trying to pull onto rt. 1 in Saugus from one of the billions of establishments there….you get the idea.
Is having a bunch of pack fodder in the pro race adding anything to the race? No one gives a shit about those poor bastards except their friends who are usually drunk and heckling the shit out of them. Ya, that can be funny sometimes, but this isn't the beer softball leauge….or is it. Are we patronizing them by sprinkling dollar bills in the mud so they can make fools of themselves? Yes.
There were only 90 in the GMCX 3 race, and only 37 signed up for Maine so far.
I race in TN and NC so this is not a problem, yet, but I have two criticisms.
First, the toilet is a bad analogy. Playing the Asshole drinking game and not being smart enough to cheat is better.
Second, I'd suggest the USAC is contributing to the problem, and should never be expected to fix it. If you did not have officials pulling lapped riders in the higher cats, and just letting people race, I think a lot more people, especially masters, would move up. Since USAC is obsessed with pros, and essentially views the rest of us as a funding mechanism, I would not pin any hopes on them even considering changes that benefit the great mass of racers.
The only clear solution I see is to offer more races. Let Providence and Glocester charge outrageous entry fees, then allow other events in the region to take place the same weekend. If you get rid of the UCI overhead, and heck, not even offer a P12 race, you can stage a great event for comparably short money, then, if people really want to go to the show, they can, and the rest of us mere mortals can have fun actually racing somewhere else.
Ugh, as someone about to start their first cx racing season…this doesn't make me that thrilled. Should be exciting, at least.