If you’re an avid mountain bike racer, get ready to start calling yourself a Cat 2 rather than a “Sport” racer. That’s the word from USA Cycling, and the move is an attempt to increase US competitiveness and boost the number of U.S. Pro riders in international competitions.
“This change has been discussed, studied and considered in some form for the last two years,Ã¢â‚¬Â explained Lisa Nye-Salladin, President of the NORBA Board of Trustees and mountain bike race promoter for the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ultimately, the NORBA Board of Trustees spearheaded this evolution in order to make racing more competitive and create a clear distinction between amateur and professional athletes. The names of the categories were also revised to better reflect the new levels of racing. The terms Ã¢â‚¬ËœBeginnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬ËœSportÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœExpertÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ carry little relevance outside of the mountain bike community, which makes it difficult for sponsors and the public to relate. The simplicity of using numbered categories brings with it a universal understanding.Ã¢â‚¬Â
NORBA Board of Trustee member, Gary Fisher, was a major proponent of the change. He references the need for a more competitive environment domestically in order to improve the United StatesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ level of success in the pro ranks globally.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want bigger pro fields in the National Calendar events so our racers can better prepare for international competition like World Cups and World Championships,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Fisher. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our pro fields are tiny compared to our European counterparts. We have the numbers in terms of ridership, but weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been referring to them as Semi-Pros.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Semi-Pro category was originally created as an Under-23 pro category, but it ended up keeping talented racers stuck in a middle ground rather than jumping into the real competition. Get the dirt on the changes here (PDF).