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.


RMM said…
The rumors of particular cat 2 to 3 downgrades have already been trickling in...I won't mention names.
Colin R said…
Nothing wrong with that. That's half my point.
TJN said…
The only race that I can think of that separates 1s and 2s is at Mansfield Hollow. It has been a 2/3/4 B race. One of the best races on the calendar too. And big props to the 2s making the leap up to to the Elite races.
CCC said…
Amen. Let's race our fucking bikes.
Ryan said…
"I've wanted to race in a BIG RACE that PEOPLE ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO"

I REALLY agree with this. I get a huge boner when I line up to get my ass kicked by real pros. It is a serious jump, though. I got lapped real fast last year in the Elite races.

Also, at Gloucester, I made about $10 grabbing dollar bills by the beer tent at the runup. You don't get that in B races.
Colin R said…
Ryan: I was heckling/watching you at Gloucester and you made it to past the 50 minute mark before getting lapped, I believe. It might've felt like "lapped real fast" but you were still out there longer than a B race.
Unknown said…
you eluded to it a few times in your post. the only way to fix the problem is to get USAC to properly enforce the categories and upgrade/downgrade accordingly.

have fun in the elite races. maybe now i'll have a reason to stick around and watch instead of going home at a reasonable hour.
Brian said…
Well said.

Anyone in the elite race instantly has more cred than everyone else (except some elite Masters). Everyone knows that even though [that guy] is getting lapped, he probably slayed B's in some previous season.

I can't wait.
velocb said…
Love it and you are spot on. I am henceforth nominating myself president/treassurer of the Colin Reuter Superfanclub. G-star will be off the hook and we will be handing you $$$ and beer...I'll try and leave my air horn at home but no guarantees. If your friends dump you we will drive you home in the Hup Sprinter..
mkr said…
Nice! I'm just glad I'm not young like you guys, so I can race against the old folks in the friendly masters races as a Cat2.
trackrich said…
Yee-haw! And I still want to be a 2... let the lapping begin.
gary! said…
as i mentioned on EBTI, the 'too fast to be a B, too slow to be an elite' category seems to be the biggest problem. if they boohoo themselves in the As, they might downgrade to the Bs only to re-destroy it there again, deny others their points, and be in line for a forced upgrade that may never come..
Colin R said…

The "too fast to be a B, too slow to be elite" category exists in solely in the minds of the fastest B's, who have gotten fat on the glory of picking on the B field and can't stomach taking their licks at the back of the elite field.
scottyucsb said…
Colin, in the flurry of VERGE fallout you missed out on G-ride siting in his 22 so he can rid his property of varmints. Of course the opposite is true and he has yet to weigh in on the loss of the killah Bs.
Nathaniel Ward said…
Not to crash the party, but aren't you guys all overlooking the fact that anyone can buy a UCI license? There have always been cat 3's in elite races, and the introduction of categories to 'cross is still fairly recent. Just sayin'. And in the case of the Verge races of the last couple of seasons there are many guys whose 'cross category is 2 who consistently place top 15 in UCI races. Soo...now 'cross is like road racing where racing as a cat 2 means racing against 1's and pro's, and that seems as it should be. But there shouldn't be any shame in staying a 3 if someone wants to do that. It's not like there is prize money on the line in the verge B races, so what's the harm? Every race needs a winner.
Colin R said…
Nathaniel: the issue isn't that it's been hard to get into the elite race in the past. Like you said, anyone with a UCI license can do it. What's new this year is that Cat 2's can't race the B race, so there's whole pile 'o guys that are choosing between downgrading, a uci license/elite race, and not racing cross. This is my dissertation on what they should do :)

It's not like there is prize money on the line in the verge B races, so what's the harm?

There is prize money this year, actually...
Nathaniel Ward said…
I can has sandbaggin' prize monies?!?!?!? :-) OK, shut my mouth wide open, then. I was misinformed.

I just think everyone should do the race they find most motivating to do, and in which they are most competitive. For me, winning races that I could win easily wouldn't be terribly meaningful, so I have always chosen to race up. After doing that for awhile, I got to be sort of ok at racing 'cross. Maybe one day I'll be good...But if someone gets their yaya's from winning cat 3 races every weekend, hey that's cool.

And let's not forget that as endurance athletes, we would all be a little disappointed if we didn't suffer at least a little shame and humiliation on race day. It's what we pay for, right? We should thank sandbaggers and top pro's alike for providing this for us. Seriously :-)

And sorry for hijacking your thread, your blog makes me talk to myself so I figured I should share.
Anonymous said…
$245 is alot if you are a student. That's like 16 30-racks.
Anonymous said…
Colin, I really like you more and more the more I get to know you. Or who you are on the internet, anyway. You fucking get it, when so many people just don't.

One thing I like to point out is that if you make it 45 minutes in the elite race w/o getting lapped, you've raced the same duration you would have in the 2/3 race. And if you make it 1/2 way, you get scored. So for those new Cat 2/Elites, those are noble goals. Step 1, make it half way. Step 2, make it 2 laps to go. If you make it 2 to go, you finish on the leader's lap, and it's a nice milestone. Step 3, make it to 1 to go, and you can ride that last lap as a parade lap to celebrate finishing on the lead lap.

For comparison, all I EVER do when I race in Europe is try not to get lapped, and I give it every ounce of energy and pride I have. Those guys will stab you in the heart for 45th place. So it's all relative. Like Uniform Choice said in a song from the old days, "There's always someone bigger, chump/You'd better watch out!"

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