Upgrading can be a little confusing, especially when trying to go from Category 4 to Category 3, and all Juniors ages 15 – 18 must be a Cat 3 to race mass start events (criteriums and road races) at Nationals, so it’s important to understand how to upgrade. Juniors 15-18 can race the time trial at Nationals even if you are not a Cat 3.

The most important thing to remember to do is keep track of your results at all your races. To apply for an upgrade you’ll need the name of the race, the date of the race, which category you entered, the field size, and your placing. It’s a good idea to get all this information, if possible, before you leave the race. Most race results are posted to USA Cycling, but some races never report their results, so it’s good to wait for results before you leave.

Rules change, and it’s important to stay up to date. You can download the USA Cycling rule book at the USA Cycling website: www.usacycling.org

All upgrades are handled electronically through your USA Cycling account, so you must create an online account at usacycling.org to upgrade.

Cat 5 to Cat 4 (men only)

  • This is fairly straightforward. You just need experience in 10 USA Cycling-sanctioned mass start races (no time trials).
  • Distance requirements for Cat 4 points are 15 miles for road races and 20 minutes or 10 miles for crits.
  • Unfortunately this does not include the Tuesday Night Twilights.
  • You can get upgrade points by attending some clinics. The NCNCA site (www.ncnca.org) has a list of local clinics and the clinics will usually tell you how many points you’ll get for attending.
  • The Early Bird Criterium Races held in Fremont, CA, every Sunday in January are clinics/training races. Attendance at one combined clinic and race earns 1.5 points, with a max of 6 points for attending the whole 4-day series

Cat 4 to Cat 3 (men and women)

  • To upgrade to Cat 3 the USA Cycling rule book requires “20 points in any 12-month period; or experience in 25 qualifying races with a minimum of 10 top ten finishes with fields of 30 riders or more, or 20 pack finishes with fields over 50. 30 points in 12 months is an automatic upgrade.”
  • You can also get points by attending sanctioned clinics. For example, the Regional Development Camps are usually worth 3 points. And women can earn points at the Early Bird Races for Cat 4 to Cat 3 upgrades. For men, there is a maximum of 3 clinic points allowed for upgrades.
  • Distance requirements for Cat 3 upgrades are 25 miles for road races and 15 miles or 30 minutes for crits.
  • Juniors races that fulfill the distance requirements can be counted toward Cat 3 upgrades.

Points Awarded for Criteriums and Circuit Races

Number of Starters
Placing 5-10 11-20 21-50 50+
1 3 4 5 7
2 2 3 4 5
3 1 2 3 4
4 1 2 3
5 1 2
6 1

Points awarded for Road Races

Number of Starters
Placing 5-10 11-20 21-50 50+
1 3 7 8 10
2 2 5 6 8
3 1 4 5 7
4 3 4 6
5 2 3 5
6 1 2 4
7 1 3
8 2
9 1

Keeping Track of Points

As you can see, the number of points you will earn is determined by the number of starters (not finishers). So it’s very important to keep track of the field size of your races. On results, riders who did not finish will be listed as DNF, and they can be counted in the field size. Riders listed as DNS (did not start) cannot.

If you upgrade with points, it is fairly straightforward. Just keep track of your results and try to get 20 points in 12 months. When you do, fill out the upgrade request form at your USA Cycling online account.

Other Ways to Upgrade

The confusion begins when you notice the part of the USA Cycling rule book that says that other than points, you can upgrade with “experience in 25 qualifying races with a minimum of 10 top ten finishes with fields of 30 riders or more, or 20 pack finishes with fields over 50.” These two methods of upgrading may sound like they could be easier than upgrading with points. You may think, “I just have to race 25 races and finish in the Top Ten 10 times or get 20 pack finishes.” If you’re racing a lot, finishing 25 races in a year is probably feasible. The problem comes when you think about what this really means.

Pack Finishes

Let’s take the 20 pack finishes approach. If you’re a crit racer, this might work. Just finish in the pack in 20 races over 12 months. However, that means, for example, racing one crit a week for five months. But the season starts in February and Nationals is usually in late June, just 4.5 months later. Also, you will probably want to race some of the regional road races in addition to crits, and you’ll need a week off now and then (usually once a month). There may not even be 20 crits during the season that are feasible for you to go to. And since the fields have to be 50+ this means you’ll have to race Cat 4 crits, not junior crits, and they will have to be big fields. Finding 20 Cat 4 crits with fields of 50+ in 4.5 months may be tough. If you start the year before and race through the summer, however, you’ll have a better chance of getting an upgrade this way.

Ten Top Tens

Now, let’s think about the Ten Top Tens approach. These races only have to have 30 riders or more. If you’re a strong junior race, you may think, “I can get Ten Top Ten finishes in junior races, no problem.” But there are only a few junior races in Northern California that will have 30 or more racers in your age group. Sea Otter may be the only one, and this race is incredibly competitive. Regional Points Series races, which tend to attract the largest junior fields, rarely attract as many as 30 riders in each age group.

Upgrade with Points

So, your best bet is most likely going to be to upgrade with points. This may less difficult than you think, however. For example, if you finish 2nd in a juniors road race with only 5 starters, you get 2 points. If you finish 3rd in a road race with only 11 starters you get 4 points. And so on. Keep racing, and attend a clinic, and you’ll get your points before you know it.

Don’t Upgrade Too Soon

One final note. While you can upgrade to Cat 3 with points earned only in juniors races, you should be comfortable racing Cat 4 races, even if you don’t get any points from them. If you’re struggling to keep up in Cat 4 races and you upgrade to Cat 3, you’re going to have a tough time in Cat 3 races. It might be worth waiting, even if you have the points from juniors races, until you feel competitive in the Cat 4’s before upgrading to Cat 3.

Cat 3 to Cat 2

  • Fairly straightforward: 25 points in any 12-month period. These must be Cat 3 races or juniors races with the required number of Cat 3 racers.
  • Distance requirements are 50 miles for road races and 20 miles or 40 minutes for crits.
  • You can also earn a lot of points for stage races. See the USA Cycling rule book for details.