"USA Cycling announced today the development and implementation of a new mountain bike category system set to take effect for the 2009 season ... The new categories, which closely resemble those used in other disciplines of competitive cycling, have been created to offer USA Cycling mountain bike members a more competitive racing environment. The previous license categories will be replaced with a new system which include Category 1, 2, 3 and Pro designations.Via USA Cycling.
The previous structure, which consisted of five categories – Beginner, Sport, Expert, Semi-Pro and Pro – has been condensed to include four categories. Like the categories they’re replacing, Categories 1, 2 and 3 will also feature age groups classes.
The change raises several topics that all USA Cycling mountain bike members should familiarize themselves with – most notably the conversion process. The switch will be simple and automatic. Members currently categorized as Experts will automatically become a Category 1; Sport members will automatically be converted to a Category 2; and Beginners will automatically become a Category 3.
Members currently categorized as Semi-Pro may choose either Category 1 or Pro designation for the 2009 racing season. When renewing their license, Semi-Pro members will be offered an automatic upgrade to Pro throughout the 2009 licensing period which runs from December 1, 2008 to November 30, 2009. To take advantage of this upgrade, Semi-Pro members must purchase an annual license during this time as this automatic upgrade will only be offered during the 2009 season. Therefore, if a current Semi-Pro member does not purchase a 2009 racing license, he will automatically default to Category 1 status beginning on December 1, 2009 for the 2010 racing season. At that point, regular upgrade procedures will apply. "
The FAQ for the new changes is located here in PDF.