Tips for 4th cat racers: get your 3rd cat!

There comes a time in every man’s life where he must leave behind the 4th category road racers and make the step up to ‘the big time’. After about 5 years of trying, I finally managed to get the hallowed 10 points* in 2013 and the 3rd category road race license that came with it. This may actually be a curse rather than a blessing for someone like me, but that is another blog post. But as the season approaches let’s ask: how do you get your 3rd cat?

It's been a while, Mack

*Know the rules
This year the British Cycling rulebook, Tech reg 6.2.2 states that you now need 12 points to get to 3rd cat. How many points are available in your races, and down to what placing? You can find this information on the British Cycling website, and by checking the category of race you are entering.

Target your efforts- make 3rd the goal
In 2012, I tried a mixture of things, APRs, time trials, road races of different categories, and I didn’t do well at any of them. I went better in 2013 when I focused on the points, picked 4th cat and 3/4 road races that I thought I could place well at, and trained specifically to be fit for them (see ‘train smart’ below).

Be super talented
I have found that strong juniors, triathletes and newcomers can clean up in the first few races. If you are starting the season fit, or feel that this is your year, be aware that some strong new faces will be there. Maybe after a month these guys will have moved up already and found their level. If you are one of ‘these guys’, get stuck in straight away!

The solo winner

Train smart
If you’ve got lots of time, training all year and racing any and every event might work for you – you’ll certainly get fit by simply riding hard and riding lots. But for time-poor me, training smart, even on as little as 6 hours a week, and building to a peak worked. Build up with a programme of short hard intervals and plenty of easy riding in between to let your body recover, both on a single training ride and within a week – it will allow the improvements to come. Working up to 2, 3, 5 and 10 minute efforts, and training at different intensities means you build fitness that lasts most of the season. If you can get your hands on a structured training plan, all the better.

Join a chaingang
Many local clubs will run a weekly chaingang ride, or in some places there will be a local group that has organised itself a weekly session for years, outwith one particular club. If you don’t know what this is, check out this post by blogger Sam Shaw. These training sessions will put you out of your comfort zone, get you race fit, teach you speed skills, and improve your bunch handling and reaction times. You can even learn race tactics and practice some teamwork depending on how regimented or anarchic the group is.

Stirling BC chaingang

What are you good at?
If you’re strong in chaingangs and have a knack for a sprint – try the Edinburgh crits, Crit on the campus in Stirling or other closed road races. Falkirk’s May Day Gallop is a flat course but has all categories racing it – you’ll need a canny break to stay away from the big boys.

If you’re small and light – try the South West Cycling Project races down in Ayrshire in the early season, the Straiton Struggle road race with it’s long drag or the Lothian Flyer which has a sharp hilltop finish. These will be 3/4 events so expect a tougher field.



More tips
Tips for Cat.4 racers – where the race was lost (or won?)
Tips for cat 4 racers: stick at it! (but have fun)
Tips for cat 4 fathers (supportive partners, housework, commute, SMART, goals)
Tips for cat.4 racers: max testing
Tips for cat.4 racers (mistakes, celebrate, the front, warm-up, course, technique, drink)
Don’t bother with the primes
Tips for Cat4 riders: don’t get ill
Cat.4 tips: Be at the front
Cat.4 tips: saving your energy