As a recent transplant to Colorado, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the handful BRAC Colorado’ Cross Cup races I’ve done so far. But I will say I’m a little confused by the number of separate fields these events jam into single day of racing.
I think many of these races could be combined, but for the moment, I’m going to focus on the split that most closely affects me: there are separate fields for Cat 3 racers—one “Open” race, and one reserved for those age 35 and up.
The result is two small fields (24 and 46, respectively, at my last event) of similarly skilled and experienced riders starting a minute or two minutes away from each other—which doesn’t make any sense. So I’ve started asking why the series splits these two races, instead of simply scoring a masters category separately. The responses I’ve gotten haven’t been particularly well-thought out.
I shouldn’t have to race against a bunch of 20-yr-old college students
According to USAC’s 2013 member survey, the average age of a ‘cross racer is 39.72. So assuming even age distribution across categories, for half the 3 field to fit this description, the other half would need to be 60. According crossresults.com, at the BRAC season-opener in Castle Rock, CO only 3 competitors in the Men’s 3 field were below the age of 30.
It’s tough to be raising a family, only getting to train a couple times a week
Then shouldn’t we have “married with children” fields, rather than 35+ fields? After all, those under the age of 35 are very capable have having these responsibilities as well—I’m told some even do. Conversely, I’m racing age 33 and currently am not raising a family. It’s not impossible this will still be the case in two years—what would be the logic of me having a separate field?
USAC didn’t ask about family situation in their 2013 member survey, but “family obligations” were only cited by 27% of respondents as a reason they didn’t do as many races as they wanted—a far distant second to “not enough nearby races” at 76%.
The older guys can’t afford to crash and be out of work
My experience, in just under a decade of racing ‘cross, is that the overwhelming majority of Cat 3s are employed professionals, whose livelihood relies on their ability to get to work on Monday. Certainly the age numbers above would seem to back that up, as would the USAC survey’s income question, with 87.5% of respondents reporting incomes above $25,000 a year.
The young guys are riskier
As noted, these “young guys” are very likely above the age of 30—but more importantly, is this allegation of recklessness accurate? A 2011 study at the University of Oregon seemed to indicate competitive risk taking peaks at 50.
I’m not sure anyone keeps data on ‘cross race “crashiness”, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that younger fields or younger riders—especially not ones as old as 34—are more likely to crash.
Less-experienced riders are almost certainly more likely to crash, but that’s kind of the point of the category system: group riders of similar experience and ability. You can’t just self-select as Cat 3—you’ve got to put in the race starts to get there.
Are there other reasons it makes sense to split the Cat 3 field like this? I’m more than willing to accept that there are—my inclination isn’t to eliminate Masters racing, but to make the experience of ‘cross more fun for racers and promoters. I think fewer fields to manage, more battling for position, and less dirt-track time-trailing is a winning proposition for everyone.
thoughts on “Cat 3 35+ Mythbusting”
Staggered starts are dumb. You either end up making a decent race into several small and boring races, or making a large field into two (or more!) medium sized fields that are immediately overlapping and having to make tons of passes within the first lap. Do the Cat 35+ guys at the front of their race really LIKE having to pass basically the entirety of the Cat 3 open race?
The better way to do it to start together, race together, and score separately. Then your old bros can still look at the subset of results that shows how they did against the other old bros, while giving everyone a better race experience (one field of 60 riders, and racing against your peers for the duration instead of getting passed by or passing half of the other field) and as you noted having basically no negative effects, unless you think that having 3 college kids in a race is suddenly going to change everything.
I guess being from the south a 46 person field sounds big. However down here we have 35+ and 45+ Open Masters race, then a Cat 3 Open later on in the day. That does two things. 1.) It allows for all Cat 3’s to race together. (Normally about 15-20 person field.) and 2.) It allows Cat 3 Masters racers to get in two races a day, generating more cash for the promoter.
Nothing to add, but I really like these new columns. and, yeah, Prolly is being an asshole.
I’m a 21 year old college student and I don’t wanna get forced to race against those olds. I heard they’re super crashy. 😉
But seriously, I’d love to have 35+ 3s eliminated. For road races we usually get about the same turnouts and it’d be nice to have bigger fields there too.
Staggered starts can sorta work for entirely mixed categories (we had for quite some time W123, Singlespeed, and Masters 50+ together) but I can’t fathom the reasoning in this instance.
In the Chicago Cross Cup we don’t have aged categories, though we do have non-category-specific Masters races (35+,45+,55+) that start off the day. Luckily, we also have enough racers that we’re generally near topping off in most of the mens races, so these do serve the purpose in relieving the extra load.
For crits, road races, etc you might be able to make the argument that having 35+ and open make sense. Maybe. For cross? Come on … this is just silly. I am an old dude. I don’t care – open or not I am going to be in my own personal battle after the initial shakeout. I think having RFID timing so we get accurate lap counts would be cool – then you don’t have to worry about getting pulled when lapped. If I get to race the full time I don’t care.
I actually think there may be value in having lower cat (4/5) 35+ fields but once you hit 3 you are a 3. If you cannot do it anymore, apply to downgrade to a 4 ….
are you really 33 cosmo?
32 years and change since I was born. But that’s 33 for ‘cross racing, according to the UCI.
Here we go…this again. This has been rehashed several times on multiple blogs. A lot of states/regions have a similar categories. It’s working here.
The #1 excuse against 35+3? “I’m 33 and I want more old guys in my cat”. Any argument for/against is self serving. Also…the categories are changing next year.
I wouldn’t say it’s an “excuse”—what exactly am I trying to excuse? I want more RACERS in my field, and I think the category system is the best way to group racers of similar skill and ability.
And it’s easy to say that the 35+ distinction is “working” without providing a definition for that term, isn’t it? Just because it’s the system currently in use and the world hasn’t exploded doesn’t mean it’s an optimal solution.
This is one of my major red flags in this dispute—no one favoring the current system presents objective arguments in its favor.
I’m a 37, racing age 38 and have done races in both the regular 3’s and the 35+ 3’s this season. I could go either way as far as keeping separate categories or combining them. However, if they insist on keeping them separate I think they need to run them as completely separate races. Having the two categories start a minute apart sucks for the racers in both categories. The front of the 3 field will likely have to ride through the back of the 35+ 3 field late in their race and the front of the 35+ 3 field will end up riding through most of the regular 3 field during their race. It’s just not a good system and it’s frustrating when your race can be drastically affected by someone riding in another category. I think the two fields are similar in ability with the exception of the fast children and college guys that race in the 3. After you get past about the first 10 or 15 riders I think the fields are pretty similar.