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Japan Racing Categories


May 25, 2009
I am moving to Tokyo in July and am looking to continue my road racing life from an active Northeastern US racing circuit. Can anyone explain the Japanese racing categories and how they might compare to USA Cycling license categories?

Hi Junii,

I'm not an expert by any means, but here are some quick notes from low on the amateur end of the scale:

- There are far fewer races than you probably have available in the States, and even fewer (none?) run under criterium rules. Also, they're more expensive (usually 6,000 > 10,000 yen).
- At the low-end amateur level, you don't need a license and there is no governing body that manages all the races.
- JCRC does run most of the "serious" mass start races; usually short circuit races 20km - 40km. They have a rankings systems going from X -> E -> D -> C -> B -> A -> S. Not sure how they would compare to the US, but probably C would be Cat 4 territory?
- Other races of varying seriousness are offered by events companies, though these are rarely circuit races. The most common types of events are:

*TT hill climbs, 10km - 20km straight up
*Circuit races as above
*Enduros usually run on motor racing circuits. Stay out for 2, 4, 6, 7, or 8 hrs, most distance wins. Team or solo. These have large fields and attract recreational/casual riders, so while the front of the pack is competitive, you will be sharing the course with many kinds of riders, including recumbents, utility bikes etc.
*Road races are very rare; there are a couple held on closed motor racing circuits, and a few on public roads around the country.

That's the quick outline, anyway. HTH.
Thanks for answering Phil... I didn't feel up to it... :)

I think JCRC have created an F group as well due to the popularity of the sport The population of riders was just getting too big in E & D grades.
With all the new riders coming up and a lot of them very fast, I may be stuck in D grade forever. I don't really want to be any higher than C grade...requires about twice as much training as I do now (for me to ride at that level).
Thank you Phil and Edogawakikkoman for the explanation!

I've also been trying to figure out the category system in Japan too. Once I finally have the form to enter a race (and am forced to read the fine print) I suppose it will become a lot clearer.

In the meantime, does anyone have a rough estimate of which category corresponds to a USCF Cat. 3?

Thanks in advance! :)
For anybody contemplating racing in Japan for the first time unless you are super confident you know what you are doing...

ENTER a JCRC X class race.

Rather than try and guess yourself which category is best and end up either doing a race that's too easy and having weaker riders complain or going in a race that is above your capabilities (with Japan racing experience) and causing a crash or discontent amongst the other cyclists... enter in an X class race which is supposed to be for rating a rider to which category he should enter. (women too but there is usually only the W class for woman and very few enter the men's races).

Even if you do have a great race record outside of Japan it's a bit like driving a car here...the logic and rules have slight variations and you can't just slip into a race and have it all go smooth...

X class is supposed to be at B & C grade pace/level. If you do well in an X class race they will put you in C class. If you do bad F or E class.

The good thing about starting at the bottom in F class is you earn your way up to the level that suits you. Get a few wins in before you're racing at a level where everybody is super fast and become accustomed to how people race in Japan.

Understanding the little things about holding your line and not cutting corners are all pretty much common sense but when angry riders in a race are yelling out warnings and commands in Japanese it helps to have some idea of what is going on.

As much as I hated E grade for a year and I'm hating D grade even more after 4 years in it... I'm kind of glad I didn't go into C or B grade from the beginning as it would have been too easy and then too hard.

My friend with no racing experience won an X class race and then thinking he was super fast put himself in A class. After that he had a few races...crashed in two, lost all his confidence, and gave up. He should have gone into C and started from the bottom there again.

To go up a division you are supposed to finish in the top 6 of a race.
If you are good you can start in X to C to B to A to S in 5 races. I've seen a guy win/place from E grade right through to S as well...he has also retired as it's too hard for him in S class.

If you want to make possible enemies; race in levels that are too low or too high...or do it the hard way.

Thank you. All these replies have been helpful, although a bit depressing about the lack of a strong local racing scene. I've been spoiled with the option to race 1-2 times per weekend almost every weekend from March through September.

For comparison purposes, we just finished up the New Jersey State TT Championships for 40 km on a mostly flat course. Times were approximately:

Cat 2: 52 - 56 minutes
Cat 3: 53 - 58 minutes
Cat 4: 55 - 60 minutes
With races costing between 5000 to 12000 here, I'm glad there aren't that many 'formal organized' races.
I manage to get in 3 races a week with training squads. No prizes.
Only short but fun too.
14km sprint every Sunday morning.
1 hour race every Tuesday night.
10 X 3.8km sprint races every Wed night.
( I can't wake up early enough for the Saturday morning race that starts at 5a.m.).
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