This past season I raced in the Pro/Cat 1 category to see how I could compete with the best riders in New England. I finished somewhere in the middle every race. Which is good. I never came in dead last. But after each race I would complain about how I couldn't keep up with those top guys.
USA Cycling made some changes last year to get rid of the Semi-pro category and created the Cat 1 (used to be "Expert") class. Cat 1 was considered on the fence so you could race with the pro's or experts. Those that chose to upgrade from Semi-pro to Pro figured out that they really belonged in the pro field. USAC thought that this change in Category would fill out the pro field and thus give more "competition."
From my point of view after racing a full season in the Pro class I noticed that the same top 5 guys would break away after the first 5 minutes of the race. Leaving me in "No man's land" or hoping that one of the pro guys would crack and I would pass him limping along feeling good about myself for beating a pro. Or they have a mechanical and so it looks good on the results. So even though I finished most races somewhere in the middle I don't think I gave much competition to the pro field. Leaving me with a lackluster feeling of satisfaction. "If only" was the theme all the way home from the race.
Sandbagging- I looked at my results last year in the single speed class and found that if you compared my time to the other cat 1's it was usually top 5. So naturally I thought that I should upgrade to the next level unless I wanted to be labeled a sandbagger. But I think I skipped a step in between. Since I was racing the single speed class I should have upgraded to the geared Cat 1 age group. That would have been the small step that I needed to still be competitive. Geared riders hate being beat by a single speeder and thus it would up the competition. I find that racing for top 5 is much better than for top 15. And the 30-39 group is no joke. They typically are the fastest group and could potentially become the largest too. Plus, Kevin Hines raced his age group one week and then the next week won the pro race at Putney. If I came close to second or third place I might consider myself in contention to actually win a pro race. But the amount of training I do just doesn't get the job done.
Laps-I know that extra laps can make or brake a rider. I found that on some of the steeper courses I would catch some riders on the extra lap. I would get a sense of accomplishment with the extra lap, but I would have to curtail my riding to some degree to make sure I had something left for the final lap. On the other hand I found myself feeling like I needed more time to recover between races and I would feel run down during the week. So maybe racing one lap less per week will help with recovery.
So hear me out fellow Cat 1's on the fence (I know who you are) about whether or not you should stay in the pro class or race your age group. Race with me in the 30-39 age group and not the pro race so that we can have some fun. And let the best Cat 1 win!