Everything in life counts! So why shouldn’t you get credit for the race you just did? Well, you probably did even if you didn’t realize it.
New road racers start out as a category 5 for both men and women. In order to move up a rider needs to gain experience racing with a group and demonstrate their ability to perform the basics of racing safely with a group. At the most basic level, the cat. 5 to cat. 4 upgrade for men depends on the number of mass-start races finished. The rulebook states it simply as 10 mass-start race finishes with no preference given for 1st place or last. But if you’re looking to move up quickly, don’t miss the point of the beginner category: learning to race in a group!
So every race counts as long as you finish, as long as it’s a mass-start race; time trials don’t count. Your name does not even need to appear in the results for you to count it! It’s great when it does, and promoters work to place riders, but it’s not always practical or possible. But if you toed the start line and kept going until the finish, it counts!
“But how do I count it if I’m not listed in the results on USA Cycling?” you might ask. Good question. It’s an old-fashioned concept called trust. After you finish a race, write it down. Even if you don’t know your placing, just mark it as “finisher”. When you submit your request for an upgrade online (http://www.usacycling.org/category-upgrade-information.htm), it magically counts! Be honest (some double-checking does happen), but be thorough in your count. You can use this spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/raceresultslist) to track everything you’ll need at upgrade time.
“But what about the points for this race?” is an inevitable question. These days you get points for rankings, ratings, race series, state series, club involvement, grocery purchases, music downloads, and driving too fast. As a new racer, upgrades are based on mass-start race finishes, so forget the points. Once you get to be a cat. 4, then the race results start to count. But until then, just race. Save the points counting for later.
You may be thinking, “That’s it? Just track my race finishes?” Yes, that’s about it. Just make sure to remember the purpose of the beginning category: getting mass-start race experience.
Every year a new rider shows up who is faster than the rest. If that’s you, congrats! But remember that while attacking from the start and staying away the whole race is impressive, it doesn’t count for more upgrade points. And it doesn’t help you learn how to ride in a group, corner, work for field position, identify good riders to play off of, and many other skills that will be helpful once you progress to faster and faster categories. So relax and take some time to ride in the group, trade pulls, see if you actually can sprint it out at the end, go through the corner next to another rider, and generally get used to working with the group.
If you are like most of us when we started racing, it’s not so easy. Stick with it! It takes time to learn, to get in better shape, to figure out how to save energy, and to finally find your way toward the front of the field at the end of a race. So keep showing up, learning, working hard, and you’ll get that upgrade in 10 races, just like that hammer in your field.
MBRA Upgrades Coordinator