I just read some discussion on another thread and this topic was touched on. Road/crit races used to offer a category called "public" now they call that CAT 5. It was supposed to be an introduction to racing, you know, the type of category where a guy would show up with hairy legs and shifters on his downtube to find out if he liked racing or not. And to a large extent that is what it was. Look at a Cat 5 race today and you will see carbon bling, local team jersies, shaved legs, etc. So much so, that I didn't have the heart to suggest to a couple of my friends that they enter a race for fun this last summer. They are average guys that ride a couple of group rides per week during the summer. They would have been dropped from the pac immediately. There is no place for them.
As Cross grows, it needs a Cat 5 or "Public". Cat 4 fields in our series are large and fast, and the cream of the crop doesn't want to upgrade untill the end of the season because of the series cup standings. It is not Newbs, although with nowhere else to go, they are in there, its local team riders, etc. In one of our most recent races, we had 73 Cat 4's racing at the same time, and then a race for 8 Cat 3's, and then a race for 12 Cat 3 Masters. The front half of the 4's is an entirely different class of rider than the back half.
Is there no place for a REAl newb that wants to try Cross. If there were a Cat 5 "Public" division, I think a lot more people would have a lot more fun. If the automatic upgrades were enforced, the fields would level out. Eliminate the option to updrade based on the number of races completed, and base it soley on results. That would eliminate the bottle-neck at the Cat 3 level that others parts of the country experience.
I started racing here in Indy this year as well and agree totally that the top half of the cat4 field is sandbagging. The top 20 are the same guys over and over. If you compare their times w the cat3 racers, they are competitive.I will say though that I have noticed several racers have moved up to cat3 in the last couple of races :)
Someone suggested no points for cat4? Why not add cat5 with no points and more revenue for the promoter? I would like to finish somewhere in the top 30 or 40 sometime without sacrificing too much personal time after a long day remodeling. It seems like adding one more race @ 45 minutes wouldn't hurt, especially since the course gets rolled up by 3pm and it doesn't get dark until 530!
The system seems to work prretty well here in northern california; Cat A (expert/pro), 35+A and 45+A (equiv. cat 1-3 road), 35+B and 45+B (equiv. cat 3-4 road), Cat C and 35+ C (beginner), Cat B men, cat B women, cat A and B single speed, and 55+ men. These groups are consistently used in nor-cal races depending on the venue. Offers a lot of opportunities for people to race and the system is always self categorization. The largest fields this year had around 80 in the B's. The jump from B's to A's is HUGE. If a cx racer is on the podium in the B's they can be guaranteed that they will be fighting to not be lapped in the A's.