I'm supposed to be doing the commentary for the Victorian Masters Track Championships on Sunday, so this probably isn't the best time for me to be saying this, but here goes anyway: I think the concept of Masters racing is bullshit. This isn't to detract from the racing itself, which is often brilliant, and nor is it to cast aspersions on Masters racers themselves, some of whom are classy riders who intimidate me. It is, however, to question the validity of age-based categories for adults.
Why the hell would anyone limit themselves to only riding against people their own age, anyways? Who cares how old the other guys in your bunch are? Masters racing smacks of making excuses for yourself before you even start. If you're concerned that your deteriorating physical condition won't allow you to compete on even terms with the A graders at your club meet, then instead of complaining about how there are no Masters categories, just ride B grade! Far better to be grouped with people of your own ability, who challenge you each week, who you can occasionally beat, but who push you to your limits, than ride in a bunch of blokes who were born the same year as you.
Sure, doing away with Masters categories altogether may well mean that if you're a Masters rider, you may never win that Victorian Championship. But here's the thing about Victorian Championships: They're meant to be won by the fastest people in Victoria. Winning one of the races I'll be commenting on this weekend is pretty cool, because winning races is always pretty cool, but at best your "Victorian Championship" Gold Medal will be diminished by the most insulting thing that can ever be added to a results sheet: a footnote. Yours will say that you weren't the fastest person in Victoria over one kilometre, but that you were the fastest person in Victoria over one kilometre aged between 35 and 40. Loses a little lustre, doesn't it? I'm not sure why anyone would want to settle for that. Surely it's better to keep trying to win the Austral from a handicap mark that takes into account your ability, rather than the year you were born.
In closing, here's something to consider. Jens Voigt turns 41 this year. Technically he could be racing Masters 3. Instead he's embarking on what must be his millionth Tour de France. Imagine for a moment if Jens attacked in a flat stage and got off the front. Eventually the teams of the sprinters would start working to bring him back, and the chances are pretty good that they would catch him. But imagine if after that race Jens, in what Wikipedia refers to as his "affable, forthright and articulate style", informed the media that the result did not count, as far as he was concerned, because he was chased down by riders from a different age category to him.
I know I'll get letters about this, so in order to ensure that those letters actually address the point I'm making, I'll summarize it here: I don't care how old you are. Racing should be about your ability, not what year you were born. Enter a particular grade based on how fast you can ride a bike. Even if that means - as it often does in my case - being beaten by seventeen year olds.