I finished 19th in a cat 3/4 race! (Sept 17th)
Amateur bike racing is split up into categories (cat) based on experience and skill. I was able to upgrade from the entry category of 5 to cat 4 earlier this year because I had done 10 races as a cat 5. That’s really the only requirement for moving up to cat 4. So even though it’s a higher category, the ability of cat 4 racers varies wildly. However, the racers are generally more safe to be around than the cat 5s. What makes cat 4 interesting at the Driveway Series races is that they combine the categories. So you have a race for 4/5, a race for 3/4, and a race for pro/1/2/3 (among other age and gender combinations). Because of the way cat 4 is grouped, I currently have the choice of doing two races each week. As soon as I upgraded to cat 4, I began doing both races each week: 3/4 followed immediately by 4/5.
I ride to the track every week, leaving my place around 16:00 and arriving around 16:45 and 17:00. My first race, 3/4, starts promptly at 17:32 and lasts for about 40 minutes. I plan to arrive a half hour early just in case I get a flat on the way or have other issues to take care before hand. Immediately after the 3/4 race finishes, I have 5 minutes or so to swap in a new water bottle, suck down a gel, and get myself to the start line for the 4/5 race – just enough time for my heart rate to recover and my brain to reset and race again for another 30 minutes.
I spent the weekend prior to this week’s race in the mountains of Colorado on a bike vacation with Velo View Bike Tours. I’m pretty sure I partially have that to thank for my finish this week, since I probably still had an elevated level of red blood cells from being at altitude.
The course this week was the Championship Loop Counter-Clockwise. This course has become my favorite over time. It’s just the right combination of technical and fast. My heart rate for the whole race was a steady 165-175, spiking to the 180s on the final lap. My max is usually 182, so keeping an average of 173 is pretty rough, especially for 40 minutes straight. The more I race, the more I find myself staying toward the front of the pack. However, I’m finding that most races, it’s hard to stay up front because of a constant flow of traffic moving up on the outsides. Eventually, unless I manage to sneak in as people move up, I’ll end up moving back with others. The trick seems to be just to move up again after that happens.
This race was fairly uneventful, yet extremely fun. Steady pace throughout, with the last lap being full gas. I was able to save enough energy for that last lap so I could sprint at the finish. Usually, in the 3/4, I end up not being able to keep up in the second half of the last lap. But this week, since I’d been in the mountains, and being very confident in my ability on this course, I was able to punch it to keep up and stay up to finish 19th out of a field of 55 riders. What’s really cool is that when compared with the other cat 4 people in this race, I placed 3rd!
The crit season is rapidly drawing to a close, so I’ll soon start training and conditioning for next year. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to place in the 3/4 race more often and maybe even upgrade to cat 3. It’s all up to me and how much I want it.