Any 4th cat roadies on here – is it fun?

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  • Any 4th cat roadies on here – is it fun?
  • Premier Icon reluctantlondoner
    Subscriber

    I have recently got a road bike (as well as a belly that needs to be dealt with), hence recent posts about where to ride, who to ride with and training software.

    Looks like there are plenty of 4th cat crits in and around London – and I’m strangely tempted, even though I am massively unfit.

    How hard and chaotic are they? Just how fit/fast do you need to be to hang with the bunch in a 4th cat race?

    As a mamil I am under no illusions about being competitive, I’m just thinking it might be fun and motivating.

    djglover
    Member

    Very hard and very chaotic.

    Having said that I have only done 1 crit and 1 road race as a cat 4. The crit was just an hour of dodging bad lines in the pack and massive sprints to each corner. I think the average speed was 24mph

    The road race was much better, lines held much better, speed steadier and much more enjoyable.

    Premier Icon andrewy
    Subscriber

    I’m not but I’d guess picking off the scabs is fun πŸ˜‰

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Subscriber

    I’d join a club and do some group rides first, else you may end up causing a massive crash (unless you’ve already been dropped like a stone !)

    Premier Icon reluctantlondoner
    Subscriber

    Ha ha! DJ certainly makes it sound like crashes are almost guaranteed.

    Jase
    Member

    Did my first 2 in August this year at MK Bowl.

    1st was ok, no major issues with quality of riding and was hard work.

    2nd one had a couple of riders who were riding dangerously and I’m surprised there wasn’t a crash.

    Definitely do some group rides first, preferably with other races who can show you what to do and give you some tips. Theres a few tactics involved, its not necessarily the fittest rider that wins.

    Almost all of the race occurs in the last 3 laps, before that you just need to make sure you are conserving your energy. Go at the front and you’re doing all the work but too far at the back and the “elastic” stretching effect of the group as they brake and accelerate out of turns will mean you’re spending too much effort accelerating to keep up. Having said that, i often find if its a tight course you can carry a heck of a lot more speed through the turns if you are riding alone due to being dropped, so it can be easy-ish to get back in the group.

    The ones i’ve done have been pretty good, though you occasionally get some looney that will come down the inside on a hairpin nearly T-boning everyone else.

    I might do some around London next year too.

    warton
    Member

    you need to be selective about what you race IMO. up here (Newcastle) there is one weekly crit you’d be mad to attend, because of the riders quality, and one that is good.

    Be prepared to crash, at speed, and be prepared to be spat out the back, and you’ll be fine πŸ™‚

    Looking at doing this at the Cyclopark next year, went to watch a few and it was pretty close racing from what I could see so should be fun. Nice wide circuit too so plenty of room for the bunch. Bit nervous as generally only hear about huge bunch crashes which I could do without, mainly from the replacing expensive kit angle, bones heal and chicks dig scars etc etc

    Don’t let all the talk of crashing put you off. I found it possible to ride several season of crits and never fall off. You need to ride smoothly, be aware of all the riders around you, avoid the dangerous ones, and occasionally be prepared to back off (even if that does mean forgoing 26th place in the bunch sprint).

    And in answer to the thread question – yes it is fun.

    slowjo
    Member

    The first crit I did ( a town centre jobby), I thought I was fit. I was good at time trialling so had basic speed, stamina etc. I had spent months doing weekly circuit race training with the local road club. So I was ready!

    We started and rolled out around the circuit, at the start finish, the flag went down and that was it. Race over. I was out the back and despite trying my hardest to get in sight of the bunch, I never saw them again.

    Huge crowd watching so I was a bit embarrassed, having said that I got a huge cheer as I rolled in to the end.

    Premier Icon reluctantlondoner
    Subscriber

    What’s the age range of people taking part? Assuming you’re fast enough is there an upper age limit?

    oldgit
    Member

    On a bad day it can be very bad, like a bunch sprinting on the bell because they thought that was the end of the race. Riders packing in, just like that, full on brakes mid pack. Riders fiddling with computers. Riders going on and off circuit. Basically quite a few that just want to be 3rd cats then never race again.
    Other 4th cat races are full on road races, 60/70/80 milers tagged onto major 1/2/3 races.
    I know a few guys that have never gone pot hunting in only 40 minute crits and spend years sitting at the back chasing 1st’s.

    That said handle yourself well and you’ll love it and everyone will love you. Cocks have a short lifespan in road racing.

    EDIT; Oops forgive the rant

    Premier Icon nedrapier
    Subscriber

    What was it that guy said?

    “It never gets funner, you just go faster.”

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
    Subscriber

    Be prepared for it to be a steep learning curve – chances are you’ll get dropped in your first race but stick with it, watch what others are doing and you’ll very quickly learn the ropes.

    Give it a go, it’s great fun and (contrary to what some people have said), it’s not a total crashfest – no-one wants to crash, it’s very painful and expensive. And if at any time you do feel in danger, ease off the gas, drift to the back of the bunch and take a breather – wait for the bunch to come round again and join back in. Or do the race then don’t contest the final sprint (which is usually the most chaotic bit).

    Some good advice and information over on the British Cycling website and the Events Calendar too where you can find all the local races. Hillingdon is probably the best bet at this time of year.

    And if you get more into it, here’s some information about British Cycling memberships and Racing Licences:
    http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/membership

    richardk
    Member

    If its a flat course, I wouldn’t assume you’d get dropped. I did my first race this year as a 4th cat on a flat, closed circuit, and no-one got dropped even with an average 25mph speed.

    You’ll realise why over/under workouts are popular as training, as unless you sit at the back, you’ll work hard to move to the front, then peel off and roll to the back.

    I enjoyed the race. I didn’t want to sit at the back in case there was a crash or break, so worked too hard near the front and had nothing left for the sprint.

    There was one bad crash, but most of the riding was good (closer than a club run)

    willyboy
    Member

    My thoughts;
    don’t sit near the back
    don’t sit near the back
    don’t sit near the back (especially if there are lots of corners).

    I found that you need to read the race, rather than be really really fit. Watch riders, don’t half wheel, stay off your brakes and make sure you get used to doing turns. If you sit in all the time you’ll never be fit enough to do repeated accelerations to close gaps/ chase riders etc.

    I knew riders who were much faster than me in time trials, but couldn’t adjust to constant changes in pace so got shelled out quickly. Go for some fast specific training rides. I found 90 minute rides with 10 or 20 sprints, or repeated short sharp hillclimbs to be really useful.

    ps crits are quite hard. I got more enjoyment out of road races on the open road.

    pps good luck

    xterramac
    Member

    Basically the attitude you should expect to receive at your first event from riders and organiser’s alike will be:
    Attend Go ride events please if your clueless or even club runs. Don’t come to a race and risk killing everyone if you can’t hold a wheel or don’t feel happy in a group, keep hold of your bars throughout and if your a triathlete please use the exit now we don’t have time for you …………
    This is kind of down to safety but its also down to certain cyclists/marshals etc thinking they are well above there station and abilities, so calling the shots…. Its 4th cat not the bloody tour, give people a break and a chance please.
    I road raced last year and won (not that it matters) the main thing is don’t get psyched out by it. It isn’t that hard if you go about it sensibly, sit in the first 10, do your turns and sprint at the right moment, then you should do ok! Just remember to keep both hands on the bars, even if you win πŸ˜‰

    mrmo
    Member

    All I will say, go out with a local club and get used to riding with other riders, you need to be comfortable around other riders and in close proximity.

    Omar Little
    Member

    Would recommend joining a club that has members who race in it. Not only will you get the opportunity to guage your fitness against them but you’ll be able to ask for advice and also be told if you are doing something daft/stupid.

    I like crits, unfortunately there are very few in the region im in (west of Scotland) so have to do road races which i find much much harder because there are usually hills involved somewhere. I’ve only made it to the end in the lead group in 1 road race in 2 years and regularly get dropped on the summer chaingang when it reaches the only hill on the loop 😳

    Premier Icon reluctantlondoner
    Subscriber

    All good advice. Thank you.

    What about the ages of folks? I’m worried about being too old…

    xterramac
    Member

    18-65 so if you are too old, good on ya!

    Jase
    Member

    At the bowl it ranges from 16 to 45 ish

    Racing is the most fun you can have on your bike, aside from chaingangs. 8) My highlight of the year was standing on the start line next to Lizzie Armistead and the Wiggle Honda team πŸ˜€

    As others have said, learn how to chaingang and get used to riding close to others, avoid bad wheels, stay off the brakes, don’t half wheel, don’t touch your garmin or get distracted, hold your line in corners and don’t move suddenly without communicating, gels are your best friend in a race, use your drops if you can – less chance of bars getting locked if contact happens, and stay near the front if possible.

    Your first one will be a shock to the system i’d imagine, especially if you pick the first race of the season to start – they are generally a little more nervous and twitchy than later in the season. The pace will vary depending on course and weather. Depending on the lead car driver(s) you may have a nicely paced neutralised start, or an eye balls out start, and even more eye balls out effort once the flag goes down. I’ve lost count of the crashes i’ve seen in the neutralised start. Oh, and warm up well too, turbo or rollers are better than riding on the road.

    Crits are totally different to road racing, sprint, corner, sprint, corner and repeat for 40+mins!

    If you are a vet, you can race the vet categories which (ime as they put women in with vets for some races, and i think the men’s vet categories start with 40+ and then 50-70+) is far safer than 4th cat RRs and a totally different race experience. I’ve raced with the 40+ and 50-70+ there’s a little difference in speed (but that might just be weather/course profile) and there’s some blooming fit old guys!

    Premier Icon reluctantlondoner
    Subscriber

    This is great stuff. Will look into vets as I just about qualify.

    But I’m now properly motivated to have a good winter of club runs and to see about some summer races.

    How to go from unfit, overweight office dweller to racing snake in six months?!

    MikeWW
    Member

    The weight won’t be a big issue in a lot of the crit races as they are pretty flat.
    If you are unfit it will be a challenge. Build up gradually but be prepared to commit say 8 hours/week.When you have built up some endurance you will need some high intensity sessions. Join a club as soon as you can and good luck

    Premier Icon mrblobby
    Subscriber

    How to go from unfit, overweight office dweller to racing snake in six months?!

    Get a turbo trainer, sign up to TrainerRoad, then follow one of their plans (or TrainingPeaks plans, or coaching, etc.) That and some long club runs should sort you out.

    Looking forward to joining the vets next year πŸ™‚

    Premier Icon convert
    Subscriber

    I did 3 races as a 4th cat.

    First two I played the game but to be perfectly honest hated every minute. Near crash experiences every few minutes with riders making silly moves and panic braking. 3rd race I thought sod it and rode off the front after a few minutes and stayed there effectively TTing until the end.

    I then learnt the sport by picking out 2nd/3rd cat races, which were at least a bit tactical and more sensibly paced without the feeling that the next crash was just around the corner, until I had enough points to race E/1/2 which was actually fun. It took a few months but was definitely worth it.

    Enjoy.

    TiRed
    Member

    I wrote this for new racers in our club. I post a race blog as well and have ridden Cat 4 and E1234 all year, including some road races.

    http://www.twickenhamcc.co.uk/tcc/are-you-race-curious/

    It is a lot of fun, curiously addictive and a lot more competitive than you might think. Not always the crashfest you may have been led to believe. SIXTY riders per race in the Imperial Winter Series at Hillingdon at the moment and sold out several weeks in advance. You’ll soon learn how to handle a bike properly. Join a club and get some group riding experience first would be my advice. It is not sportive riding and it is also a fitness step up. If you are over 40, masters racing is a step up again (fast old men). I’ve joined LVRC this year so might race against oldgit later in the season.

    It’s golf with worse clothes and better toys. πŸ™‚

    EDIT: Not to put all you potential vets off, but my last E1234 masters race had an average speed of 27.2 mph.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    Crikey. Just bought my race licence and currently in Training for the Hog Hill winter series in Jan. this thread doesn’t inspire confidence!

    *goes off to read Graham Obree’s mental tactics again*

    oldgit
    Member

    I’ve joined LVRC this year so might race against oldgit later in the season.

    I shall keep a look out, though I’ll be in the last year of 50-55 year olds. Tempted to get a BC licence as well as my peers have been ripping up the 4th cat races this year.
    Though I won’t be racing until May’ish

    Premier Icon Haze
    Subscriber

    I have my finger hovering over the entry button for a 4 race January winter series, will be my first racing since BMX!

    TiRed
    Member

    Get 4th cat and I’ll come up for a few MK Bowl races. Also Corley cycles have a fine development road race in the Spring over in Cranfield. I’m still a youthful 46.

    Kryton – Hog Hill can be a beast. Vets don’t have to go up the hill. 4ths do. Hillingdon is a smoother circuit but as I said, the racing is very competitive. Five crashes in two races for Cat3, none for Cat4 so far πŸ˜‰

    Premier Icon benji
    Subscriber

    Plenty of interval sessions on the turbo/rollers, crits are short abit like cross races, flat out for the hour. Had a few near misses but it soon becomes obvious who’s wheel to avoid.

    oldgit
    Member

    Get 4th cat and I’ll come up for a few MK Bowl races. Also Corley cycles have a fine development road race in the Spring over in Cranfield. I’m still a youthful 46.

    The little triangle circuit? LVRC do that a few times as well.
    Was that a gauntlet you threw down there πŸ™‚ or an offer of a bit of team work.
    This year they’ve been running 40 minute 4th only so people can get their 3rds. Not sure I like the ethics of that, basically if you turn up enough you’ll be a 3rd. That said they’ll be ideal training sessions.

    oldgit
    Member

    Just realized you posted about the London Club scene earlier. Not sure how close you are to the Crest, but they’d be a great club to join if you want to ‘suck it and see’. If it turns out to be not what you expected then you’d still have a rounded club to ride with. Also it’s been hinted at that it isn’t very tactical, but having team mates is a real help.
    My lot of 4ths on their first day out taking 1,2 and 3

    mtbtomo
    Member

    I quite fancy a crack at this but the last time I looked on the British Cycling website, there didn’t seem to be much happening in the North West over winter so far as crits or road races. Have I missed something or does it all pick up around Spring time?

    oldgit
    Member

    Not sure if it’s me being old fashioned, but it kicks off big time in Spring.
    Some of my guys thought they were the ***ocks over winter, then spring came and then in the words of Harry Enfield ‘Big boys came’

    TiRed
    Member

    Our Cat 4 races do have tactics and the mighty TCC managed a win in a breakaway last week (not me!). A large team of London Dynamos held up the pack as they had a man in the break as well. I’m not points chasing, as staying down helps develop new riders, which is just as well, because Hillingdon is very competitive. I do share your sentiment about serving an apprenticeship. Better to become competitive in Cat4 than struggle in Cat3. They aren’t all wobbling crashfests. We have some experienced racers in London and circuit racing is getting very popular. You do get to size up which wheels to follow and which to avoid pretty fast, though!

    I got dropped after a very hard lap on the front at the Bowl in my only race there in February. I’m faster now 😈 .

    If you haven’t tried racing. A Go Race event is a good start. Most of he circuits will also offer a training session of a few hours to get you started. If you ride in a club they will often have a Club Championship race, which again is not too pressurized and a chance to “have a go”. Most of the championships tend to be in the autumn, however. I missed ours last year and decided I’d have a go anyway so signed on for the Imperial Winter Series 2012-13. Never looked back – except to maneuver, of course.

    But masters racing is fast (just as in mtb-xc). The TCC series at Hillingdon is excellent and improved my bike skills and fitness immensely this Summer.

    monkeyfudger
    Member

    Reading with interest, plan on doing a few road races next year. Riding with a few racers at mo and just hoping I can keep up when they start turning it on. They started laying down the law the other day, swapping turns at much bigger power than I could handle after 70 miles, actually I couldn’t have put much of a turn on the front when fresh, I was redlining sitting on their wheel.

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