2012 Race Category Changes

Coffee Talk Tuesday has returned and we can't think of a topic more sensitive than racing category changes and the ACA has some new ones in 2012. The letter below is pretty brief and to the point so no summary is needed.

From the ACA

Hello Colorado racing community,

We are making a couple of significant changes to the race categories for the 2012 season. This change is being made so that we can offer consistent categories for our athletes and promoters.

The first major change is the introduction of the Category 5 category. This category is designed for athletes new to the sport of competitive cycling. Many of our race directors and clubs have asked to include this category, and with our new partnership with USAC, this is a natural addition to our race days. Please note that Category 5 is not age-specific, is not part of the Cup competitions, and is not a State Championship category.

Because of the introduction of Category 5, we are eliminating the ‘Open’ categories in both Senior and Master racing. Races will defined by specific categories (example: Senior Men Open becomes Senior Men Pro 1-2, Senior Women Open becomes Senior Women Pro 1-2, Senior Men 35+ Open becomes Senior Men 35+ 1-2, Senior Men 45+ Open becomes Senior Men 45+ 1, 2,3, etc.)

An additional change to our categories lies in our Senior Men 35+. In the past, we have offered Senior Men 35+ Open, Senior Men 35+ Cat 3, and Senior Men 35+ Cat 4 races. In 2012, the relevant categories will be Senior Men 35+ 1-2, Senior Men 35+ 3, and Senior Men 35+ Cat 4. The ACA created 35+ Cat 3 two years ago, but gave the athletes the choice as to which category in which to race. This change is being made to help standardize our categories and race fields on race day, so that our 35+ fields use the same category system as our Seniors. Essentially, racers now must race the specific category that is printed on their racing license. Please note that at many of our events, 35+ 1-2 and 35+ Cat 3 will be combined on race day, but separated for results and the overall points competition.

This change affects a number of 35+ racers who are licensed as Category 3 but enjoyed racing in what was previously the Open category. If you or your teammates are in this position, you may:
1- Contact Yvonne asap with your resume and desire to upgrade before the season starts.
2- Earn enough points to upgrade from 35+ Cat 3 to 35+ Cat 2.

It is the ACA’s goal to create fair, safe, competitive and fun racing for all of our categories, and at the same time, to create a balanced race day that is manageable and profitable for our race directors.

Please direct questions regarding these category changes to Chris McGee at 303-458-5538 or

News Item: 


The question is

The question is this, can Colorado racers live with out the 35+/3 category? In addition what does the Category accomplish?

I am sure most +35 masters racers would agree a 1,2,3 field is totally except-able, but there is no need for a 35+/3 field. Either race Master or you race Category. Many Cat 3s race both masters and Cat. There is merit for the addition Cat 4 fields. Also, limit upgrade points from Master's races - Only 50% of your CAT 2 or 3 upgrade can be from Master's races.

Only two outcomes can be achieved from limiting CAT 3s in the +35 field

1) A politically correct way of squeezing out the +35/3 field, it is an additional Category for race director to budget race time, in turn making the +35/3 guys race with the regular +35 field, race together / score separately to save time..

2) Forces +35 Masters back to the Cat 1/2 field due to the combining of Masters Categories (+35/3 and +35 masters). A situation that is not ideal for everyone, to boaster CAT 1/2 field sizes

A Possible Local Association vote is in order to resolve the issue ?

END the madness!

It seems like there is a fairly simple way to deal with the diminishing field sizes and still make bicycle racing a sport accessible to beginners and dabblers in addition to the experienced racers of all ages.

On the 19+ men's road side, we've currently got 11 categories, SM5, SM4, 35+4, 45+4, SM3, 35+3, Pro1-2, 35+1-2, 45+1-3, 55+ and 65+. That's nuts, especially when, as has been pointed out, speed and ability really only start to diminish at 40+ for well-trained endurance athletes.

So, here's my suggestion for new categories for road AND cross:
SM5 - GREAT way to start for all ages
SM4, SM3, Pro1-2 - no need to change these
40+A, 55+A - typically what were Cat 1-3
40+B, 55+B - typically what were Cat 3-4

Let these master's categories self-select (just like Gila this year) initially and eventually come up with an upgrade scheme to formally separate the As and Bs. Now, you're down to 8 fields with most racers still able to race against their peers, both age and ability-wise.

I know this type of scenario has been suggested before. Thoughts?

Only thing I'd change would

Only thing I'd change would be 50+ instead of 55+, and add a 60+ open. 15 years is too much, 40 is barely masters at all, and 54 is on the downhill slide. I just turned 55, so it's not like I'm being selfish as this would work against me. I just think it's more equitable for the 50-54 folks.


Current senior categories.
40+ A and B; 50+ A and B; 60+. I would also be fine with making it 35 (A&B), 45(A&B), and 55, whatever the numbers show would make for the best distribution of riders.

I am a masters rider and think this makes perfect sense, now that cat 5 is added to the mix (as someone said above, you should have to be a 4 before racing in any masters cat; all beginners start in 5).

The only challenge would be in initially assigning existing riders. It probably would make sense to split the current 3s between the As and Bs, but that's sure to produce howling.

Why 5s???

I still haven't seen a need for a separate 5s at most races...

Iron Horse is our largest race and doesn't do a 5.
Gila it's 4-5s.
We have been fine for 12 years without a Cat. 5 field.

Most crits & SRs never break 50 4s or 35+ 4s. Prospect, Dead Dog, Steamboat, City Park, E-Rock, NoBo,,, Need to shorten the day not add another a separate 5s group.

to get more new racers

In my opinion, if there consistently is a separate cat 5 field, more people who turn out for their first race will come back for their second. I am just back into racing after almost 12 years away, and to me the sport seems less healthy now than it did when there was cat 5. Time will tell, but given the declining numbers, I certainly think its worth a try.

I'm speaking of road, where the dynamic so heavily revolves around being able to stay with the field, or not. 'Cross is different, and seems to do fine without cat 5.

Partially agree

I agree there shouldn't be any such thing as a cat 5 stage race. But for smaller one day events, I would sooner see them combine other categories than do away with the separate cat 5. For example, I would just as soon race a combined Sr3/35+3 with 40 riders than a separate 35+3 with 20 riders, and am happy to do so if it makes room for a 30 minute cat 5 event.

You are correct, and if

You are correct, and if you've raced out of area, you would see on many, many race flyers some language to the effect that the "promoter reserves the right to split/combine fields on raceday" This is a polite way of saying, if your peers don't show up, you're out of luck and you'll have to suck it up and race in a field with someone you may not be able to hang with. And if you're lucky and everyone shows up, well then there's probably some accommodation that can be made.

We did this in the bad old days of the early 90s with NCR forms and no high-speed camera, by using color coded bib numbers and having a couple officials at the finishline. With modern chip timing and finishline systems it should be so much easier to split/combine categories, as I'd imagine the data would be easier to sort & manipulate.

Promoters EVERYWHERE else do this, and somehow the officials are skilled enough to handle it without major issues. I've been on the start line in a number of races elsewhere where enough women showed up that the official sorted us into groups, gave the elite gals a minute or so head start, and warned everyone they'd get DQ'd if the chief judge or pit judge caught anyone hanging out in the wrong field (they just hand wrote the splits by bib# at the bottom of their sheet, and circled anyone they saw cheating). It is seriously not that hard (I have held an official's license for what it's worth). There are even clever ways to combine fields that won't create too much of a safety hazard (for example 55+ Masters / Women 4 / Juniors 13-14 was one we ran at States frequently).

So yes, it can and has been done differently in other states, and elegantly too, for that matter. Colorado has a big local racing contingent, sure, but they don't necessarily have the last word on best practices.

Because the Cat 5 / noob

Because the Cat 5 / noob contingent of inexperienced racers are exactly what's created so many special snowflake Masters' fields in the first place. The Masters here kept griping about not wanting to ride in big squirrelly fields so instead of creating another merit split (which is what should have happened in the first place) they just created a bunch of variations of Cat 4.

Cat 5 is broken out and raced separately in most big regions. Iron Horse is not a good comparison as they've not had the benefit of a strong local association or been part of a series, so the promoter just does whatever. For a long time they ran 3 mens' categories and called it good. They don't really seem that interested in drawing in beginners or promoting development; c.f. lack of juniors' & womens' splits too.

If you look at most larger USAC regions which have a lot of racers they will frequently split out the 5s particularly at early season and larger events.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone on this board has ever lived or raced out of area.