Hey Guys, Let's Race Bikes

Last week the 2009 Verge CX Schedule went public, uncovering a surprisingly numerous set of changes. As should be expected, those affected by the changes immediately took TO! THE! BLOGS! to make their opinions known. As a CX blogger I am, of course, required to make a contribution, but instead of treading the same ground they've covered, let's look at something new: the inclusion of Cat 2 riders in the elite race.

I am not sure of the motivation behind this -- it could be a larger elite field, it could be to slow the B field, it could be something else -- but I am confident it is not done to address sandbagging. Verge will always be at the mercy of USAC officials to keep folks from sandbagging the crap out of their races, and making Cat 2 an automatic elite upgrade just means that 'baggers will stick around Cat 3 longer. Until the USAC starts giving out mandatory upgrades, nothing changes.

What this all means is that the meaning of 'Cat 2' in New England has changed. Last year, you could be a Cat 2, and ride the 2/3 race at Verge and the 1/2/3 at smaller events. But then again -- you could do all these things as a Cat 3 as well, as many people did. The only functional difference was that Cat 2's couldn't "drop down" to the local 3/4 races. This was the extent of the "Cat 2 leap," and as a result many people (including myself) took it.

Now though, Cat 2 and Cat 1 are the same thing in New England. I challenge you to find a single race in which Cat 2's are separated from Cat 1. So now there's only 3 categories, 4, 3, and 2/1/pro.

Is this a good thing? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter, because that's how it's gonna be, for better or for worse. Cat 2's just became pros.

If you're a Cat 2 do you wanna be a pro? Seriously. I'll go first -- yeah, I wanna be a pro. I take my bike racing pretty seriously. I might joke about stupid stuff, stupid training, or bad results, but do I want to do as well as possible every single time out? Fuck and yes. I will sprint you for 63rd place. I will run 3 miles with a flat tire. So yeah, I wanna be fast, and if you're in the B race you're not that fast. Let's do this thing.

If you don't want to be a pro, downgrade. I'm serious. I know your self esteem is inexplicably tied to the number on that piece of paper, (mine is too), but that's what you've gotta do. A 2 upgrade is a pro upgrade now, so the 3 field is going to be FAST. The only person who actually cares that you're going down to Cat 3 is you. I promise. And you can still race your "local elite" races in the 1/2/3.

Where will the Cat 2's go, all twenty of us? I'm hoping it's the elite race.

There are, of course, some, uh... complaints that the budding Cat 2 may have with moving up to elite. Let's address them.

I can't afford it!
A UCI license is $90, and the elite race is $10 more per race -- that's $140 over the course of the season. So you're looking at a $230 increase in costs.

I don't want to trivialize how much $230 is, but if you're a serious enough bike racer to be a Cat 2 cyclocrosser you've probably spent many times that amount on your bike... in the last month. Every single part on these freaking things costs almost $100 these days. I had to pick up a 10-speed chain on short notice from Wheelworks the other day -- $65!

So I'm not gonna say you can definitely afford it -- but you probably can. It's one of the unfortunate side effects of raising your game to the pro level. You are, after all, racing for a $2k+ purse now.

They do pay 25 deep in these things (although 25th is a paltry $19 payout), and last year the elite race often had around 30 finishers, so you have a reasonable shot of chipping away at that $230 deficit -- unless the huge influx of Cat 2's that I'm hoping for happens!

I'm gonna get lapped!
Yes. Yes you are. When Trebon is slaying Gloucester and you're sucking wind on the runup, you will almost certainly get lapped. Other than that race... you might get away on the lead lap.

And then, after you get lapped, Rich Fries will make fun of you on the PA, your girlfriend will leave you, your mom will cry, your ride home will ditch you, and you'll be left alone at Stage Fort Park with your bike, wondering where it all went wrong.

Wait. That doesn't actually happen. You'll race your ass off against the rest of us at the back, the crowd will yell at you, try to give you beer, and respect you for throwing down against the true professionals like Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson.

Yes, you might get lapped. You won't be the only one. Don't worry about it. It's like that number on your license -- no one else cares.

The elite race at Gloucester (and the rest of the Verge series) is the pinnacle of New England cross racing. If you love cross, how could you not want to race it? I've wanted to be in that race since my first days of Cat 4. I've wanted to race in a BIG RACE that PEOPLE ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO since I started racing bikes fourteen years ago. I am so freaking stoked to go to Gloucester and ride my ass off against the best in the US, I might start losing sleep now.

So hey, New England Cat 2's. Let's step it up. To me -- and hopefully, to you -- this is the whole reason you started racing bikes in the first place.
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