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What is the most important criteria you use when choosing a category to register and race? Such as...

Always register/race within currently designated USAC classification?
Podium potential?
Point accumulation?
Crowd avoidance?
Crowd participation?
Covert competition with other rider(s)?
Open competition with others, friends, etc.?
Self evaluation among better riders?
Pride? (...moved up and don't dare move back.)
Fear of other riders, or butt-kick avoidance?
Scheduling? - family, work,!?

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Typically... self evaluation/education if given a choice.
I wouldn't mind racing earlier if I had a choice. Usually there is still beer left in the kegs when I am done racing if I race earlier and I can relax and cheer on the others.
So, as a CX Cat 2, I get stuck in the Elite race. On most weekends, this isn't a problem and seems fairly appropriate. But 2009 compared to 2008 saw a big change at UCI level races, Providence for instance.
Races of this level last year, afforded the lowly Cat 2 to option of racing the "B" race. Last year it was Cat 2/3. This year however, Cat 2s were lumped in with the Elite race, no questions asked.
What this meant for me, was another $90.00 in license money, and two days of getting my head kicked in.
While it's fun regardless to ride a fancy bike, with skinny tires, on dirt and the like, having the option to not get lapped it also nice.

Bring back the Cat 2/3 race!
"...days of getting my head kicked in."
Literally, or, metaphorically speaking?

Reason I may not get any better in 2/3 grouping. With the exponential growth of CX, it seems race organizers are combining greater numbers of riders (classifications) together for the mass starts. This results in major traffic, clusterf*cks, and crashes. This is especially true for the middle classes (cat 2/3, 3) in larger events - so, be careful what you wish for. Aside from getting lapped, you might have a better riding/racing experience with the elites. ;-)
I can relate, the few times I dabble in the A/SS race.

The tough thing is in popular areas someone's gonna get lapped though right? If you drop down, then the guy barely not getting lapped in the 3 race might then get lapped, then he drops down, and the C race gets faster and more noobs get lapped and confused because it said 2 to go and then all of a sudden they're done. It's a tough problem, a good one to have, but not easy to solve.

What I miss that I used to see more of around here is Beginner races. Cross Crusade seems to do that well - beginners are NOT Cs. Maybe you can race it max 2 or 3 times, and anything in the top 5 gets moved up automatically? Just an idea.

Especially early season it's cool to give total newbies a friendly environment to race. Not that everyone need coddling, but there's always the group that's too intimidated to come out or gets discouraged by getting their "head kicked in" in their first race.
That's a good observation, I've noticed the C races getting faster too. One reason is some B's use the C race as a warmup. I don't begrudge anyone getting a good warm up, and as much race time on the course as they can, but definitely makes it much harder for people trying to get started in CX. No one likes getting lapped.
Last year it was a gauge of my level - raced C the previous year and finished solidly in the front end of the middle of the pack. So therefore, I bumped up to 35+ B. Got my arse kicked (which was expected).

This year, I'm dropping to Cs pimarily due to the start time - I can get out, race and be home by ~11am which my wife appreciates as we have two young kids (youngest is 3mos). Combined with the time being convenient, I figure I should have results in the top of the field - top 20-ish ("butt-kick" avoidance). So, I go out this year feeling like I should race strong, versus just finish.
For me I start with USAC category and then decide masters/open based on schedule. I like to race with the cat 3's vs. the master cat 3 group as they are minimally faster, but would rather race roughly the same time as my wife and/or teammates vs. waiting around an hour or two in between our races.
Last year I had several top 6 placings in the 45+ B's but never won a race. I was thinking that I should race the A's, but after watching guys that I raced against move up to the A's and get totally anihilated, (finishing in the bottom third or just about to be lapped) I decided to do another year in the B's. The jump to the A's is big so I will spend another season thinking that I am cool before I get broken down to my humble self again.
This gets to one of the questions behind my OP - Criteria For Choosing Categories.

I know several people who race with the A's and consistently place in the bottom third - I ask myself, "Why? Why continue to get slaughtered week after week?" Then it occurred to me...whether competitive or not, maybe they register for that class because the racing/course evironment is better and more enjoyable - less people, traffic, crashes, etc.

Granted, it would be tough on the ego. But, then, they get the satisfaction of racing with the "big boys" on a mostly clean, carnage-free course.

What do you think? This a good reason to move up? ( long as not getting lapped.)
Always register/race within currently designated USAC classification (SM Open for ACA and I guess it is A's?? for USAC but I dont race USAC so im not sure) because even though I am a junior the adults get pissed at me when i sandbag and ride circles around them
Doesn't really matter, I'm an old cat 4 so either 35+4's or Mas 45+. They are both fun. 45+ is a little faster and slightly saner so tends to be my choice. I'm not podium material...


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