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  1. #1
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    Thoughts on catting up...

    I'm come to you sages of cycling because I find myself with a bit of a dilemma as the 2013 racing season draws near. Last year I did 5 sprint XC races, all in cat 3. I wasn't terribly competitive as I was really just getting into it. I finished right around the 50th percentile in most races but did secure a top 10 in the last race of the season in November.

    This fall and winter I've made significant strides in my fitness and have been training very hard. I'm confident that I can now be a top 10 guy in our cat 3 series. That being said, I've done a few of the longer marathon races and have really found that I enjoy the longer races much more so than the shorter ones and it feels like I perform better over a longer distance than the short stuff. For one reason or another (training style maybe?) I'm a faster stronger rider 10-20 miles into a ride/race than I am for the first 10 miles or so of a ride/race...

    So now that we're coming up on the start of the race season (first race is in early Feb here in TX) I find myself struggling with the decision to stay in cat 3 or make the jump to cat 2. I fully expect to be a backmarker if I was to jump to cat 2, but I really prefer racing a longer distance. Not only is it more bang for your buck (yes, I'm cheap ) but I feel like it would continue to push me to improve more and quicker.

    I just wanted to get some thoughts from folks on here who maybe have experienced something similar when catting up. Or just general opinions on my logic (or lack thereof)...
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    I'm come to you sages of cycling because I find myself with a bit of a dilemma as the 2013 racing season draws near. Last year I did 5 sprint XC races, all in cat 3. I wasn't terribly competitive as I was really just getting into it. I finished right around the 50th percentile in most races but did secure a top 10 in the last race of the season in November.

    This fall and winter I've made significant strides in my fitness and have been training very hard. I'm confident that I can now be a top 10 guy in our cat 3 series. That being said, I've done a few of the longer marathon races and have really found that I enjoy the longer races much more so than the shorter ones and it feels like I perform better over a longer distance than the short stuff. For one reason or another (training style maybe?) I'm a faster stronger rider 10-20 miles into a ride/race than I am for the first 10 miles or so of a ride/race...

    So now that we're coming up on the start of the race season (first race is in early Feb here in TX) I find myself struggling with the decision to stay in cat 3 or make the jump to cat 2. I fully expect to be a backmarker if I was to jump to cat 2, but I really prefer racing a longer distance. Not only is it more bang for your buck (yes, I'm cheap ) but I feel like it would continue to push me to improve more and quicker.

    I just wanted to get some thoughts from folks on here who maybe have experienced something similar when catting up. Or just general opinions on my logic (or lack thereof)...
    Move up to CAT II. You did 5 XC races already in CAT III, so you are no longer a "beginner" racer. 1 season in CAT III is enough for anyone.

    As you pointed out: you are training better during the off season; you want more bang for your buck; you want to race a longer distance. It all adds up to CAT II for 2013 and I doubt anyone here would even question your desire to move to CAT II.

  3. #3
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    cat 3 in the northeast i think might be a little different. i don't think they define it as a beginner class here because we have a first timer beginner class for people who haven't raced. if you are in as good of shape as you think then the first race of the year you will place very well and know for sure you should move up. i think catting up should be earned, a reward for your work. i would at least wait until you get a top five finish.

    how many people are usually in your class? what age group are you riding?

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Between sprint races, marathon races and short track sprint/time trials I did 12 events in 2012. So I'm not a beginner race... but then again I'm not the fastest/most experienced guy out there.

    I struggle to agree with the "cat 3 is for beginners" philosophy. Sure, there are a few folks every race who are very inexperienced, but there are several very fast guys contending in the championship (TMBRA). Some would refer to them as sandbaggers. And frankly I'm sure they are still faster than me despite the gains I've made.

    I race in the 30-39 group which tends to have the largest fields in cat 3. The smallest field I was in was around 25 racers while the largest was over 50.

    All in all, I realize that if I were to go to cat 2 that there would still be several guys in cat 3 faster than me... I just like the longer distances of cat 2 and feel they will help me progress faster.
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  5. #5
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    The problem is there are always going to be guys in Cat 3 who could easily finish top half in cat 2. I had a some good results in Cat 3 this past year, but still never got a win. This year im going to race cat 2 in the mtb races I do. I know ill probably be in the rear but its time to go and chase the fast guys in the right category rather than staying and making cat 3 races short cat 2 speed races.

  6. #6
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    Sounds like you already want to do Cat. 2. So let's put another spin on this. What do you get if you race in 3? You're likely to finish in a higher percentile, from what you're saying, and behind some guys who need to sack up and race in a higher category themselves.

    I noticed in the past that I was also more in my element in the second hour. There are two solutions for this: Warm up better, and do more speed work and stuff.

    I actually never raced beginner/3. I'd been doing some 'cross racing before I finally did some MTB XC, and the first time I went XC racing I planned to do beginner, but the organizer said nobody else had showed up for it and suggested that I give Sport a shot. I actually won my age group, which says more to do with where the race was held in relation to the more serious racers and who showed up, but I did okay for the rest of the season in Sport. I figured I wasn't going to win a Sport race, even in a less competitive field, and then go race Beginner.

    I had been training for a shorter distance, so stepping up was hard. In retrospect, I was probably also not resting enough. Sounds like you're maybe already ahead of where I was on this stuff.

    I think beginner is a great class for figuring out how not to crash repeatedly and otherwise shoot one's self in the foot and leave time on course.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    Between sprint races, marathon races and short track sprint/time trials I did 12 events in 2012. So I'm not a beginner race... but then again I'm not the fastest/most experienced guy out there.

    I struggle to agree with the "cat 3 is for beginners" philosophy.
    It depends on where you are and how each state series words - or rather, defines the category. Most add wording in their rule books or guidelines (such as the nation's largest series in Wisconsin with about 800 racers at every event) that says this:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7166535@N05/8362536867/" title="CAT III WORS by BBcamerata, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8096/8362536867_76c9a62efb_o.jpg" width="218" height="243" alt="CAT III WORS"></a>

    Both Wisconsin and Minnesota call their CAT III racers "Citizen" rather than Beginner.

    Another example, would be the Psycowpath Series in Nebraska says this about CAT III racers:

    CAT 3: First timers and beginner riders with little or no racing experience.

    Another example comes from IMBCS here in Iowa where I live:

    Category 3 Beginner racers for men and women.

    The USA Cycling says this in their handbook for mountain bike race categories:

    6A1. Category 1: A mountain bike category where racing skills, strength and stamina have reached an exceptional level; racing is very competitive. Riders must have a racing age of at least 15 to race as a category 1 in an endurance discipline.

    6A2. Category 2: A mountain bike racing category that reflects improved skills and developed strength and stamina. A Category 2 rider must advance to Category 1 as described in the upgrade section.

    6A3. Category 3: A mountain bike category designed for the entry-level rider. Category 3 races help the rider understand the subtleties of the sport allowing one to experience the thrill of mountain biking. A Category 3 racer must advance to category 2 as described in the upgrade section.


    It sounds like with your having done 12 races in 2012, along with your training this fall/winter where you have made "significant strides in your fitness", you are ready for what USA Cycling calls "improved skills and developed strength and stamina" for CAT II. At least to me, it sounds like your experience and training no longer makes you an "entry level rider" or "beginning racer".

    Bottom line is - it is up to you. But you did ask.

    It's pretty easy under the USA Cycling rules to upgrade to CAT II. No wins needed to do it if you want to upgrade.

    Here's the rule...

    1D6. Mountain Bike Upgrades
    (a) Riders may advance as quickly as they wish up to category 2.


    Of course, if you do win enough races in CAT III - the USA Cycling rule does say a mandatory upgrade kicks in after top 5 in 5....

    (b) Category 3 racers must move to Category 2 after placing in the top five in five races. Failure to do so may result in license suspension.

    In the end, it's up to you. I did one season in CAT III (called Beginner back then) and I think competed in 4 races. Sure, it's a jump up to move to the CAT II distance and competition, but it sure sounds like it meets all of your improved fitness and quest for longer distance needs. Who cares if you finish in the lower 1/2 of the group. With training and experience you will work your way up.

    Keep on with your winter training (where races are won).

  8. #8
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    there is nothing to gain by staying in cat3. you know what the racing experience is and got you feet wet. you get more miles for you money, and i dont know how far you have to drive to some races but if its more that 2 hours its really not worth the drive to race 9 miles.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by trueblue01gt View Post
    there is nothing to gain by staying in cat3. you know what the racing experience is and got you feet wet. you get more miles for you money, and i dont know how far you have to drive to some races but if its more that 2 hours its really not worth the drive to race 9 miles.
    That's a good point... I have to drive at least two hours for all but two of the 14 races.

    Texas is a big state and the bulk of the races tend to be towards to center of the state. Here are the rough driving distances from Houston, though I live about 25 miles northeast of Houston.

    Houston to Smithville = 121 miles
    Houston to Waco = 185 miles
    Houston to Comfort = 234 miles
    Houston to Dripping Springs = 183 miles
    Houston to Abilene = 351 miles
    Houston to Coldspring = 63 miles
    Houston to Glen Rose = 254 miles
    Houston to Austin = 162 miles
    Houston to Cedar Hill = 242 miles
    Houston to Warda 111 miles
    Houston to Camp Eagle = 321 miles
    Houston to Huntsville = 69 miles
    Houston to Ruston, La = 307 miles
    Houston to Tyler = 198 miles
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  10. #10
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    Cat up!

  11. #11
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    Just a comment / question on when you say you feel better in the second 10 miles of a race than you do in the first 10 miles. Another poster above already touched on this, but how long would you say your typical warmup before a race is?

    I know if I don't get a proper warmup in, my legs will feel like lead (generally) for the beginning part of a race.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
    Just a comment / question on when you say you feel better in the second 10 miles of a race than you do in the first 10 miles. Another poster above already touched on this, but how long would you say your typical warmup before a race is?

    I know if I don't get a proper warmup in, my legs will feel like lead (generally) for the beginning part of a race.
    My legs are usually there, its more that my HR gets high pretty quickly and I'm a bit out of breath. After a few miles (call if 5 miles for arguments sake) my HR starts to come down and "settles in" if you will. I'm usually able to ride faster at that point as well.

    For me it seems that the harder the warmup, the better my race results have been. My last two races I warmed up much harder than normal and got my two best results.
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  13. #13
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    ^^^
    Sounds like you've solved the problem of not being able to hit your pace in the first hour.

    I still say, go ahead and cat up.
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  14. #14
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    That is a bunch of driving to only race beginner! Cat up!

  15. #15
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    I wanted to thank everyone for the feedback here. There was definitely lots of sound advice for both sides of the argument. I've thought a lot about the matter and sought out advice from some local racers and the bulk of the feedback has been to just cat up and train even harder... so I'm pretty sure that's the route I'm going to go.

    I have one more marathon race prior to the sprint season and assuming my results are where I want them to be, I'll be racing cat 2 for the sprint season.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  16. #16
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    Upgrade. No question.

    Cat 3 is meant for beginners and first time racers, not people that have been racing and training for a season. The guys that are 'fast' in cat 3 should not be there. You won't get any sort of respect for being a sandbagger, especially in cat 3.

    Use cat 3 as a stepping stone, one of the best ways to get better/stronger/faster is by racing against better/stronger/faster people. You might struggle for a few races, but nearly all racers have gone through the same thing. That's one of the realities of racing faster people as you get faster yourself.

  17. #17
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    CBR I race in TMBRA. I did CAT 3 last year in the spring and moved up to CAT 2 for the last race in the spring. The biggest difference going from CAT 3 to CAT 2 is the start (other than longer distance). Its not as fast or a sprint into single track.

    Wish you best of luck next weekend and see you around for the spring.

  18. #18
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    has anybody ever been told not to move up? everyone has made great points but he is only taking a guess that he will be top ten and hasn't actually done it yet. i still say race your first race cat 3 and if you get that top ten then move up.

    i had a very bad experience moving up in mx. there is something to be said for racing with faster people but you do need to at least be able to put a wheel on them for a bit for it to help you. if you get dropped 7 minutes into the race that isn't going to help very much.

    alot of riders assume you want to stay in cat 3 to make yourself feel good but in some peoples case they have doubt in there own ability and don't think they even belong in cat 2. obviously that doesn't apply to the guy that beat everyone by five minutes.

  19. #19
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    I was going to tell you to Cat up, but it sounds as if you have already made up your mind. You won't regret it. Now you have motivation to train, "a carrot to chase" i.e. the other racers so you will ride harder, and you will have more fun doing the longer races.


    If you don't mind me giving you a little feedback:

    It sounds like you need to work on your top end a little. Focus on this later in the season. Do some intervals and I find these easy to do on the hills. I sprint up some small hills and it will skyrocket your heart rate, raise your lactate threshold, and increase your lung capacity. Once you hammer the hills take it easy across the top and down the back side so you can prepare for the next hill. A road bike with rolling hills work great for these, a hilly trail, or a single speed. I hope you don't mind the advice, but after you get use to the additional miles intervals will help you get faster. Make them feel like fun instead of work.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
    J
    I know if I don't get a proper warmup in, my legs will feel like lead (generally) for the beginning part of a race.
    thank god I'm not the only person with this feeling. I train my @ss off and the beginning of the race, in the first lap I'm questioning whether I can finish the race at all, lol.
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    I say you should upgrade your category too.

    It will only make you faster, learn more about you, what training works, and where you can go from there.

    Good luck!
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    Looking at your avatar I can see your problem with finishing 50th percentile... you have the small wheel in the back, not in the front! See this post in this thread. Fix that and you ought to be at least in the middle of cat II!

    (sorry... its late for me, been a long day, a bit punchy and couldn't resist!)

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    Good for you.

    I like that you are wanting to challange yourself and I agree with the thoughts that you will be best served in the long run by racing the longer distance. Personally I would want to get one trip to the podium first. I would do the first races or couple races as a 3 and race to win. After at least 1 trip to the podium I would upgrade.
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    you will Cat up. You will not pass me....ever!(because I'm in a different age group :-P)

    Good luck man. Having raced some of your age group in the Fall Series, there are some fast dudes out there!

    Biggest thing I've learned from the cat up, learn to save more for the last lap. Space out that power outage and don't blow up on the first lap. I've caught numerous riders in the last 5 miles because of this.

    and yes, the extra distance is well worth it.

  25. #25
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    I choose the distance I want to ride and then find the appropriate category and group that I think I have no chance of winning or coming in last in.

  26. #26
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    Here was my experience, I have been riding for the last 15+ years and have been racing for the last 4 (cyclocross/road) I always intended to MTB race but never did for some reason(still don't know why?) So finally last season i decided to race one, but what cat.? The way USAcycling has it set up you can race 3 or 2. I said to myself first race cat. 3 and if i do really well then next race no question cat up. I raced the (30-39) and podiumed in my first race (2nd).

    I did think about staying in cat.3 for my next race to see if i could win, (something that is still eluding me in my cross/road racing) but felt like it was not fair to the other guys that were really beginners so moved up to cat.2 for my next race and absolutlely loved it!!! Like everyone else is saying, you get more for your dollar and I think you will suprise yourself with how competitive you will actually be!!! Good Luck and let us know how your racing season is going!!

    Not sure if you know this already but CYCLOCROSS racing is the way to go, it really is the best of both worlds with a little bit of insanity thrown in for good measure!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ajcsk8r View Post
    Here was my experience, I have been riding for the last 15+ years and have been racing for the last 4 (cyclocross/road) I always intended to MTB race but never did for some reason(still don't know why?) So finally last season i decided to race one, but what cat.? The way USAcycling has it set up you can race 3 or 2. I said to myself first race cat. 3 and if i do really well then next race no question cat up. I raced the (30-39) and podiumed in my first race (2nd).

    I did think about staying in cat.3 for my next race to see if i could win, (something that is still eluding me in my cross/road racing) but felt like it was not fair to the other guys that were really beginners so moved up to cat.2 for my next race and absolutlely loved it!!! Like everyone else is saying, you get more for your dollar and I think you will suprise yourself with how competitive you will actually be!!! Good Luck and let us know how your racing season is going!!

    Not sure if you know this already but CYCLOCROSS racing is the way to go, it really is the best of both worlds with a little bit of insanity thrown in for good measure!!
    In chicagoland area I podiumed in sport age group races. Chicago CX best finish was sixth in 4B - that was with the "fast guys" who allready raced 4A!! Best CX finishes were in mud races.

  28. #28
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    Funny, I did 'cross before I actually raced off-road, though not as many seasons. Once I did some MTB XC races, I thought, "Wow, this is awesome. I'm riding interesting trails I'd ride on purpose, I'm not nearly as uncomfortable, and the length of the race plays a little more to my strengths." I've been doing less and less 'cross ever since.
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  29. #29
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    2012 was my first year of mtb xc racing so I raced cat 3. I made it to the podium a few times but really only because my groups were small in number. You did as well or better than I did considering the large numbers in your groups. For 2013 I'll be racing cat 2 for sure. I've been training hard, dropping more weight, and being more scientific in my training. Even so, I know I'll be in the bottom half of finishers this coming season when I cat up.

    The main reason I am moving up is to maintain the respect of my racing piers. I earned their respect last year because I was a true beginner and it showed. Quite a few dudes would cat down to beginner when they entered a bigger race. (usually hundreds of miles away from their normal racing area so locals wouldn't call them out for sandbagging) Anyway, it was obvious who they were. (very fit riders with sponsors, sophisticated gear and obvious extensive racing experience) The real beginners would be in regular jerseys or t-shirts, baggies, and would have that deer in the headlights look.

    Anyway, bottom line, no one respects a sandbagger. You could feel the disrespect everyone had for them. I called them sandbaggers to their faces. I'd rather come in last in Cat 2 and look everyone in the eye and have pride in myself, than podium every race in Cat 3 when I don't belong there.

    Congratulations on wanting to move up. It demonstrates good sportsmanship.
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    last year was my first year racing and i started in cat3. coming from a road racing background and jumping into xc racing with 2 months of actualy mountain biking under my belt i wasnt sure what to expect. won the first two races in the MASS series by over 1:30 each. after that i bumped to 2 and got humbled pretty quick with a 26th at fairhill. now knowing what to expect, in the next cat2 race i finished 15th. go for the upgrade. youll race against faster people,which will in turn help make you faster and you get more racing for your dollar. plus like lopaka said, i would rather race a harder category and come in last then sandbag a easy class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NAGmtb View Post
    last year was my first year racing and i started in cat3. coming from a road racing background and jumping into xc racing with 2 months of actualy mountain biking under my belt i wasnt sure what to expect. won the first two races in the MASS series by over 1:30 each. after that i bumped to 2 and got humbled pretty quick with a 26th at fairhill. now knowing what to expect, in the next cat2 race i finished 15th. go for the upgrade. youll race against faster people,which will in turn help make you faster and you get more racing for your dollar. plus like lopaka said, i would rather race a harder category and come in last then sandbag a easy class.

    that fairhill race was no joke!! what field were you in? i raced the 30-39, we had a huge crash in the first 15 seconds after the whistle blew, got caught behind it and had to chase for the first 5 minutes!! THAT SUCKED

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    Quote Originally Posted by ajcsk8r View Post
    that fairhill race was no joke!! what field were you in? i raced the 30-39, we had a huge crash in the first 15 seconds after the whistle blew, got caught behind it and had to chase for the first 5 minutes!! THAT SUCKED
    i raced 19-29. yeah that race sucked! everyones like "yeah this is a good race for road racers" and i was like, oh ok, then ill do alright. HA! my race was over in the first 2 miles. those dudes went from the gun like they were shot out of a cannon. i was turning good laps but holy smokes! haha

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    Quote Originally Posted by NAGmtb View Post
    i raced 19-29. yeah that race sucked! everyones like "yeah this is a good race for road racers" and i was like, oh ok, then ill do alright. HA! my race was over in the first 2 miles. those dudes went from the gun like they were shot out of a cannon. i was turning good laps but holy smokes! haha
    i was ready for the hard effort in the beginning(cyclocross skill), it was more technical of a course then i anticipated and it was my longest ride on my MTB thus far. I met my goal for that race but was a little disappointed because at one point was sitting top 5 and fizzled back to 9th place. But hey top 10 is great for never racing cat 2 and it being my second race ever. It has motivated me to not really stress about RR at all!! Gonna approach RR as more fitness building for MTB, maybe without the pressure my RR will be fun again?

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    the

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    Sorry first time posting and hit the wrong button.

    The 2013 season is halfway in. Anybody have thoughts on a husband and wife who raced last year, both had 4 top three finishes and both took first for the season in their CAT 3 age group. This year both races they have been in, they both placed in the top two.

  36. #36
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    They should be moving up. Is this you, or someone you know?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  37. #37
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    Not me and I do not know them.
    The guy starts next to me, so not sure how to handle it.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lopaka View Post
    2012 was my first year of mtb xc racing so I raced cat 3. I made it to the podium a few times but really only because my groups were small in number. You did as well or better than I did considering the large numbers in your groups. For 2013 I'll be racing cat 2 for sure. I've been training hard, dropping more weight, and being more scientific in my training. Even so, I know I'll be in the bottom half of finishers this coming season when I cat up.

    The main reason I am moving up is to maintain the respect of my racing piers. I earned their respect last year because I was a true beginner and it showed. Quite a few dudes would cat down to beginner when they entered a bigger race. (usually hundreds of miles away from their normal racing area so locals wouldn't call them out for sandbagging) Anyway, it was obvious who they were. (very fit riders with sponsors, sophisticated gear and obvious extensive racing experience) The real beginners would be in regular jerseys or t-shirts, baggies, and would have that deer in the headlights look.

    Anyway, bottom line, no one respects a sandbagger. You could feel the disrespect everyone had for them. I called them sandbaggers to their faces. I'd rather come in last in Cat 2 and look everyone in the eye and have pride in myself, than podium every race in Cat 3 when I don't belong there.

    Congratulations on wanting to move up. It demonstrates good sportsmanship.
    I could have written this word for word myself. Started racing last year, began training a few months before race series, previously just rode very leisurely. Ended up winning CAT 3 in a fairly small field. But I won the series, I'm riding more than I did last year, so it would be completely unfair to race CAT 3 again. I'm hoping to just finish middle of the pack and I'm not even sure if that is realistic or not. But nothing pisses me off more than sandbaggers. There are a ton of sandbaggers in CAT 2.
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  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadrider View Post
    Not me and I do not know them.
    The guy starts next to me, so not sure how to handle it.
    Have a better life than him.

    If there are usable statistics about how fast people in Sport are racing, upgrade when you'd beat a couple of them. Usually there's some overlap between the top of one class and the bottom of the next. I was lucky enough to "accidentally win" my first XC race, in sport class no less, but there's no rule that says that everybody gets a win and if you sit around waiting for this guy to get out of the way, you become a part of the problem too.

    Remember what Cat. 3 is for - it's for you to learn to race. If this other dude doesn't want to race his peers, that's his problem. It's not like there's prize money or prestige for winning Cat. 3.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  40. #40
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    I'd just like to add one thought.
    I raced my first xc at the end of last year (I'd done a year of longer races) and got a 4th place, 45 seconds behind the winner. As I trained hard over the winter I naturally decided to cat up this spring series. I've done a couple of races and finished mid pack and my times show I'd have podiumed in any of the alternative cat choices 'below' mine.
    The sad thing is that in my new cat the leaders are gone within seconds and finishing 6-7 mins ahead of me. The pack is quite small and both races I've just ridden round on my own for an hour and a half. I'm pleased with my times but missing the excitement of battling it out at the front.
    I don't think I'll be able to bridge the gap to the leaders of my field, they are clocking the same times as the Elites. Not sure of the best way forward?

    EDIT: Just remembered that I'll be eligible for Vets next year (40+) or I could race Sport, both of which I should be competitive in. Seems weird that I should be considered a veteran of the sport after only three years racing but at least I'll be spared the tyranny of those super fit 30-39 year olds!
    Last edited by grawp; 04-02-2013 at 02:37 PM.

  41. #41
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    Here's another vote for moving up to 2. If you raced last year and were not super-slow, and trained over the winter you should probably be in 2. Real beginners do not ride through the winter.

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