I don't know if you've noticed it, New England, but there's been a steady influx of Cat 3's into the Verge Elite race this season. That's right... a grand total of four guys have moved up -- Kevin,Greg, Corey, and of course, the notorious "BW". You might think to yourself, how much do four guys really matter?
You know how many guys upgraded from Verge B to Verge A mid-season in the last two years combined? Zero. Remember the Dylan McNicholas/James Tosca domination from the last year? Remember John Peterson, Josh Lipka and the ebay auction? It used to be that whatever guy won in B's in Vermont stuck around and won the series, and everyone who was fighting for 2nd stayed locked into B's right along with him. Hell, I know I did.
But this year it's different. And I think I know why. And, sadly, it's the one Verge series change Myerson pushed for that I didn't agree with.
When they dropped Cat 2's from the B race, it was a subtly powerful statement about what that field should be -- fast(er) guys who aren't dead serious about bike racing. Secretly, a large portion of the B field was dead serious about racing bikes (for example, me) and while we raced the 2/3 field, we waved our Cat 2 status at anyone who'd listen. See, you can get to be a Cat 3 just participating in a lot of Cat 4 races, but to be a Cat 2, man, you gotta beat people. If you're a Cat 2, you're either wicked talented, or you spend a lot of your time worrying about bike racing.
My tongue is firmly in cheek, but still, this is one of things you might outwardly joke about but inwardly believe. You wanna see how much people value their Cat 2 label, look at how many Cat 2's downgraded to Cat 3 this year. (Zero)
So, it used to be that you could have the glory of a Cat 2 license AND the glory of racing at the front of a race (2/3 Men). It was the best of all worlds -- no wonder no one wanted to upgrade.
But that little number on your license means so much, for such silly reasons. Dominating a Cat 3 field just doesn't have the same appeal, because it means (1) you're a Cat 3 and (2) you're beating Cat 3s. And if you eat/sleep/drink/breathe bike racing (like many of us do), having that little number on your license annoys the shit outta you. Because dammit, you're good, not like the rest of the riff-raff, amirite?
So here we are. Now, if you want a license that says "I'm serious business" you gotta line up with a field of guys who are also pretty serious business, and race longer and harder against guys who are faster and better than you. No more faking it in the B race.
These four guys won't be the last. There's plenty of U35 Cat 3's coming up who are pretty serious about bike racing, and vain enough to want you to know that they're good at riding a damn bike. So they'll come up as well.
I think this is a good thing. Sure, sometimes that means we have to race Pros. Sometimes we get lapped. But at least we aren't having a self-congratulatory group ride at the front of the B race, getting top 10s each week, and thinking about how we are the shit.
Instead, Tim Johnson shows up to point out that we are shit. Instead of racing for 1st, you're racing for 30th. But so what? It's still racing, as hard as you can, against guys you're competitive with. And that's the whole reason I started racing cross in the first place.
Corey, Kevin, Greg, and Brian: I'm glad you guys came to hang out. I will crush you now. Unless I don't.
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