|Do I want to become the fastest slow old guy or the slowest fast old guy? (Dave Thorpe photo)|
When the current cyclocross season began I was determined to accumulate USA Cycling upgrade points as quickly as possible. I wanted to move up to Cat 3 to take advantage of the later start time and the longer race time. I reasoned that a 45-minute race at 2:30 p.m. would be better for me than a 30-minute race at 9 a.m. because I have the endurance for the longer race and I surely would benefit from warmer temperatures and a dry course. (At last Saturday’s race, frost still covered much of the course at 9 a.m.)
Now that I am just 1 point away from the voluntary upgrade threshold, I am less sure that I should upgrade at the earliest opportunity. I’m no sandbagger, lingering in a category I have outgrown just to scoop up easy victories. My results show something quite different:
In the Cat 4 Masters 45+ field, I am consistently good but never great. Are those the palmarès of someone who should upgrade into certain obscurity in the Masters 1/2/3 field? Should I choose to upgrade if I get one more 4th place finish? Should I be forced to upgrade if I get three more 3rd place finishes? I want to be competitive within my category, and right now I am. I’m riding my guts out just to make the podium; I haven’t really challenged for 1st place in any of my cyclocross races, ever.
I will race with the Cat 4 Masters at Sun Prairie on Saturday, making every effort to get the last point I need to reach the voluntary upgrade threshold. If it doesn’t come there, then perhaps it will come at Doyne Park in Milwaukee on Sunday. I want to be able to upgrade on my own terms, so I will chase it until I get it. But then perhaps I should take an intermediate step up before condemning myself to permanent pack fodder status in Masters 1/2/3. Maybe I should compete in the open—i.e., not age-restricted—Cat 4 field. It’s a much larger pool of riders and making the podium would be almost impossible. Similarly, earning more upgrade points would be almost impossible. With my progress toward a mandatory upgrade on hold, I could get stronger and still enjoy the competition.
The open Cat 4 races begin at 10:30 a.m., so on a typical day I would race in conditions that are better than those at 9 a.m. but not quite as good as those at 2:30 p.m. That’s a compromise, but there’s compromise in all of these calculations and maybe the open Cat 4 race would be enough for me.