How to get in shape for competitive racing at amateur level

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Benlikestobike, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. Benlikestobike

    Benlikestobike New Member

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    Hi,

    I'm interested in doing some road racing hopefully sometime this fall, and if not hopefull quite a bit next spring if I can get my body into shape for it! Does anybody have any experience in racing and how to train and prepare for it? I am 6'2, weigh 188 lbs and currently average about 17 mph. It would be nice if I could increase my speed up to at least 20 mph. What is the average pace for amateur racing? I'm sure if I was able to loose some weight that would help quite a bit with my average speed and especially with hill climbs. And while I'm mentioning it, any tips for hill climbing and descending?

    -Thanks!
     
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  2. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Average speeds for crits would be somewhere in the 24 to 26 mph range in Cat5. Of course, that's only the average and includes the slow bits as well as the parts closer to 28mph. Road races - it depends on the terrain.

    Tips for going up hill:

    Find a pedalling cadence that's best for you. Sounds obvious but many people think we should all 'spin like Lance' which is all well and good but we don't have to race for 8 days in the mountains at the end of a 3 week Tour. Rule of thumb - whatever gets you up the hill the fastest for your current state of fitness is what you should use. If you need to work on increasing cadence a bit in climbs do that during training and not in racing.

    Press really really hard on the pedals and if the gradient changes slightly change gear accordingly. It's easy, if the gradient slackens just a tiny bit to confuse your legs hurting from the recent effort and not with the current easier part. If you see the gradient ease up a even just a little, click the gear into the next smaller sprocket. It'll hurt but you'll get over it... or take up knitting. ;)


    Tips for going downhill:

    Always look at where you need to go. Never look at the big drop off the end of the cliff. Remember - hands follow eyes, bike follows hands.

    Look to see if you can see the corner exit as you enter the corner - as with riding in a bunch, don't stare just infront of you. If you can see where the apex and exit of the corner is then life if good.

    Relax. There's lots to do on a bike going down hill fast. You need to be loose on the bike and shift weight around accordingly. Don't apply the "deathgrip" to the handlebars but conversely, don't hold on too loose otherwise when you hit a bump you'll likely be pitched of. Falling off at speed hurts, especially if you slide into something solid that refuses to move. If you want to get all aero and hold on to the center of the bars near the stem, hook your thumb under the bars. Having your hands slip off the bars followed by a faceplant to the stem at 40+mph is bad. What follows is often filed in the "I don't want to know what happens next" archive.

    Get nearly all of the braking done before the corner and before you lean the bike over. Look up "traction circle". You can brake really hard in a fairly straight line, you can lean the bike over a long way with no brakes on. Brake hard and lean over and your backside will be sliding across something really hard. A visit to the hospital and bike store for new shorts often follows.

    Speaking of braking - it's better to brake a little too much going into a corner than it is not enough and having to scrub of a bit of speed by using the brakes in the corner. The former will allow you to achieve the correct racing line and you can easily add speed on a descent by getting back in the tuck and not using the brakes. The latter means that you''ll take some really silly line through the corner and end up exiting the corner way too slow.

    Lift the inside pedal and put lots of weight on the outside pedal.

    Don't keep the gear in the 11 or 12 sprocket on technical descents - if you have lots of tight corners to sprint out of, use your gears.


    If you're doing a road race then try and take a drive around the course before the race or "massage" your route to the start to include parts of the course. Use something like google earth or mapmyride to check out the terrain and see if there's any likely points of interest.
     
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  3. Benlikestobike

    Benlikestobike New Member

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    Thanks for all of the great tips Swampy! Very helpful post. Any specific workouts that would help me reach the mid-20's speed for things such as crits? Or will speed just come gradually as I continue to train?
     
  4. An old Guy

    An old Guy Member

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    Ride with a group. A fast group.

    A speedometer is a wonderful tool, but a stop watch is better for improving speed. Ride the same routes on a regular basis and attempt to be a bit faster each time. Don't expect too much. There is a big difference in the effort you need to exert to ride in the mid 20's compared to 17mph.
     
  5. quenya

    quenya New Member

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    Ben, Swampy is a pretty smart guy, but remember that the speeds he's talking about are in crits. Usually for a cat 5 that a '40' minute race that really seems to take 32 minutes as often as not. yes the speeds are fast but you're in a group of guys sharing the work. You don't have to be able to hold 26 mph by yourself to participate.

    Look for a crit that has mentors that teach principles before the race and recap the action after. In northern california there are the 'earlybird crits' which were a big help for me. maybe there is something similar near you.

    Try some local TTs, an average speed of 25 is a great goal, and only takes 24 minutes. If you're going under 24 minutes in an out and back 10 mile TT then your aerobic fitness is adequate for racing NO problem. As Old Man Biker said find a fast group and they will help to develop your pack skills, handling, and some race tactics/awareness. Covering attacks on those 'worlds champs rides' is great practice for dealing with the mini-sprint out of every corner in a criterium.
     
  6. bgoetz

    bgoetz Member

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    Ben,
    like others have said, give some fast pace group rides a try (if you don't get dropped it is not fast enough). Also you could see if you could find a local race group that may have some club races, these guys will likely have fast pace training rides as well. Stick with the guys who race a lot and try to learn as much as you can. Honestly, a 17mph average will make the first few races difficult and there is a good chance you will get dropped, but hang in there and keep coming back, remember it is fall most people are going to be in pretty good fitness. Your fall experiences should give you a good idea of where you need to get by spring and will hopefully get you some good connections for guidance on training and spring racing. Train hard over the winter and come out swinging in the Spring. If you do this you will find that you may be the stronger guy in the early races, as a good amount of the people in them are just getting started on their training. Be ready to have an early peak and have your legs feel like crap around June/July and plan on taking a week or so off to gear up for your 2nd push towards the end of the season.

    This is what I did this year and had great success, winning a few races, finishing real strong at pretty much the rest, and went from my 1st race in March as a Cat 5 and am now a Cat 3...
     
  7. An old Guy

    An old Guy Member

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    17mph will make the first few training rides difficult. The casual (no drop; no beating up on each other) fast group rides here are 18mph for the first hour or so. Just so people who want to see what riding "fast" is like. After a short water/food stop and a warning the pace goes up to 20mph. That is enough for a guy who can do 17mph to drift off the back.

    But you do get to learn about riding with a group.
     
  8. bgoetz

    bgoetz Member

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    Yeah, but a 17mph solo average is much different than a 17mph group average. Someone who can hold a 17mph solo average should be able to stay with a group that is 20mph or so average without much problem.
     
  9. Benlikestobike

    Benlikestobike New Member

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    Thanks for the tips bgoetz. Made me feel fairly confident that I can get in pretty good shape for next spring! I'll have a pretty easy semester in college and bought a trainer last winter so I should be able to put it to good use during our months of snow (Nov-March). ;)...And I have never rode with a group, if anything its just me and my younger brother riding together. Therefore I will definately have to look into that to get used to riding with a group and increasing my speed. Thanks again for the great advice!
     
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