What does it take to be modestly competitive in Cat 5?



Aztec

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By this, I mean what level of fitness do you need to hang with the main pack in crits, short TTs, and short road races (are there any in California anymore or are there only crits????)?

I have no illusions about winning anything, at least not for a long, long time. And by then I'll be too old since I'm lready late 30s!

I have a training plan for the next year, but the last thing I want to do is *think* I'm ready only to go and get blasted off the back from the very start... Thus, some kind of quantitative evidence would be nice.
 

ric_stern/RST

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Originally posted by Aztec
By this, I mean what level of fitness do you need to hang with the main pack in crits, short TTs, and short road races (are there any in California anymore or are there only crits????)?

I have no illusions about winning anything, at least not for a long, long time. And by then I'll be too old since I'm lready late 30s!

I have a training plan for the next year, but the last thing I want to do is *think* I'm ready only to go and get blasted off the back from the very start... Thus, some kind of quantitative evidence would be nice.

Have you done a spirited group ride, that's turned into a race? how did you get on with that? have you ever ridden with other cat 5s or anyone else?

do you have a power meter?

Ric
 

Aztec

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Actually no to all the above. I haven't ridden any group rides since my picking the bike up again this year after 13+ years off. Well, actually, I have ridden in groups, but only with others in my relative state of fitness.

I have a HAC 4, but I suspect (and hope) that it's power readings are way, way off (and low). I get <100w for endurance rides. I've ridden an SRM-equiped stationary, and came away with feeling like 180w was a good steady state, maybe 160 bpm pace (of 192). I did Charmichael's TT test, and did a 7:38 over 3 miles.
 

ric_stern/RST

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Caveat, we don't have a Cat 5 in the UK, so i'm guestimating a little. I'd imagine you'd probably need to score about 3.8 to 4 W/kg at the end of a MAP test, and probably need to able to TT at a power of 2.7 to 2.9 W/kg for about 30 mins.

other than that, i'd ride with a few cat 5s and see how you go.

ric
 

treebound

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There are age groups in addition to Cat levels depending on what types of races you want to enter, not all races have age groups but some do. In your late-30's you are still potentially competitive depending on many factors beyond simply age.

Ask around and look up race results for local races, find the course and finishing times, then go take a lap on your own to see how you compare. You won't have the course closures so you'll have to allow for extra time for traffic and laws and such and will not be able to barrel down with a finish line sprint, but it will give you some objective numbers to work from.

Doing regular time trials on your own on lightly traveled roads with few intersections is a good way to test your personal fitness. Check monthly and don't get discouraged if one month is slower than the previous month.

Question back at ya: you said your monitor gives you a power output reading? I did a quick search and found the HAC4 and it doesn't say anything about power measurement. Is this simply a function between heart rate and bike speed? Just curious. Thanks.
 

Aztec

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Question back at ya: you said your monitor gives you a power output reading? I did a quick search and found the HAC4 and it doesn't say anything about power measurement. Is this simply a function between heart rate and bike speed? Just curious. Thanks.


Just check HAC4.com, baby!

"Power Output – The HAC4 is the only sports computer on the market that provides a power output calculation as standard. The HAC4 calculates power output (in watts) by using the values of the combined weight of the bike, rider, clothing and accessories (as set into the HAC4 by the owner), the gradient and speed. Once again, note that CICLOSPORT are the only manufacturer producing a computer which calculates gradient. There is also a factor for the increase in air resistance as speed increases. The HAC4 of course does not know if you are riding into or with the wind but apart from this, the calculation of power output is accurate to within 20W."
 

Aztec

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Originally posted by ricstern
Caveat, we don't have a Cat 5 in the UK, so i'm guestimating a little. I'd imagine you'd probably need to score about 3.8 to 4 W/kg at the end of a MAP test, and probably need to able to TT at a power of 2.7 to 2.9 W/kg for about 30 mins.

other than that, i'd ride with a few cat 5s and see how you go.

ric

Cat 4/5 are grouped together here in all the races I've seen. I think the only difference between the two is experience? I remember hearing somewhere that to move from 5 to 4 you needed to demonstrate competence more than speed.

All this power stuff is frustrating for a guy without a power meter! :)
 

stowerider

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Originally posted by Aztec
By this, I mean what level of fitness do you need to hang with the main pack in crits, short TTs, and short road races (are there any in California anymore or are there only crits????)?

I have no illusions about winning anything, at least not for a long, long time. And by then I'll be too old since I'm lready late 30s!

I have a training plan for the next year, but the last thing I want to do is *think* I'm ready only to go and get blasted off the back from the very start... Thus, some kind of quantitative evidence would be nice.

Hi,

If you think you might be ready for Cat 5 racing then you are ready. I don't do any heavy mileage, don't cycle every day, am not especially athletic and started doing Cat 5 races when I was 31 (am 35 now). If you're already doing regular group rides averaging 22-24 mph for a couple of hours then you should be all set to start racing. Because the Cat 5 races tend to be short (20-40 miles) and because of drafting (except TTs) you can often hide gaps in your fitness if all you want to do is to hang with the pack and put in a halfway respectable performance. And remember almost everyone else is in the same boat as you - we have jobs, families, are old and decrepit and can't ride 400 miles per week or afford a coach.

Stay away (to start off) from the veteran races - these are all the former Cat 2/3 riders who are too old to race with the young Cat 2/3s. The vet races are often much faster than the 4s and 5s.

All you need is 10 mass start races (not wins - just show up and race) and you cna upgrade from a Cat 5 to 4. After that you'll need to start placing to upgrade.

Good luck. And if you get blasted off the back - so what. There is another race next weekend so try again.

SR
 

dhk

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SR: Agree guys should just go out and try it. I went out for Weds evening CAT4/5/Citizen training crits about 10 years ago with my son, and had a good time. As you said, expect to get blown by on the last lap...so what? As long as you're a safe rider, and follow the rules, you should be welcome. Just do it...it's the quickest way to get up to speed.

In the second summer season, I actually could hang with the pack pretty well until the final sprint. I recall the "defining moment" which caused me to give it up.....mid-pack, kids brushing my elbows on both sides at 29 mph lining up for the final sprint. Decided then I wasn't too old to race, but at 45, was certainly too old to crash!

Dan
 

Aztec

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Originally posted by stowerider
Hi,
If you think you might be ready for Cat 5 racing then you are ready. I don't do any heavy mileage, don't cycle every day, am not especially athletic and started doing Cat 5 races when I was 31 (am 35 now). If you're already doing regular group rides averaging 22-24 mph for a couple of hours then you should be all set to start racing.
SR

Ho! I'm not ready, and I'm sure of that. Most of my solo endurance training rides are in the 14 mph range (including stoplights, etc). Even a few rides where a pro has been along, we've only averaged 16mph. My 3 mile flat TT was 25 mph (the CTS test). So, mmmm, I'm just hoping that with dedicated training I can make it by next season.

The speed/fitness of others just amazes me.
 

stowerider

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Originally posted by Aztec
Ho! I'm not ready, and I'm sure of that. Most of my solo endurance training rides are in the 14 mph range (including stoplights, etc). Even a few rides where a pro has been along, we've only averaged 16mph. My 3 mile flat TT was 25 mph (the CTS test). So, mmmm, I'm just hoping that with dedicated training I can make it by next season.

The speed/fitness of others just amazes me.

Hi,

I'll take another stab at an answer - if you're looking for some quantitative measures for fitness for Cat 5 racing then here are some other indicators -

* if you can avg 18 mph for solo rides for 1-2 hours
* hang with a group ride avg'ing at least 20-22 mph for 1-2 hrs (you'll need the group riding experience to prep you for crit and road racing). if you get shelled don't give up - keep trying

Both of these measures are achieveable. Good luck.

SR
 

J-Law

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Oct 21, 2003
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Originally posted by stowerider
Hi,

I'll take another stab at an answer - if you're looking for some quantitative measures for fitness for Cat 5 racing then here are some other indicators -

* if you can avg 18 mph for solo rides for 1-2 hours
* hang with a group ride avg'ing at least 20-22 mph for 1-2 hrs (you'll need the group riding experience to prep you for crit and road racing). if you get shelled don't give up - keep trying

Both of these measures are achieveable. Good luck.

SR

I think SR is pretty close with his estimates. Around here I had some trouble keeping up my first year and I could average about 19-20 mph by myself for over an hour.

He is right on with the group ride experience. Do as many group rides as you can. You need the experience of riding in close quarters, drafting, etiquette (yes- even in races there are unwritten rules) etc.

If you can do 25 mph for a 3 mi TT though, there is no reason you shouldn't average more than 13 or 14 mph for an hour or two. When you say your average includes stoplights etc, does your computer keep running when you are stopped. 14 sounds very low to me for someone that can do 25 mph for 7 min +.

Stay away from masters races until you get much stronger. They are way faster than anything up to about cat 2 or 3 around here at least. (I did one 60 min crit this yr in 45+ that averaged over 27 mph !).

Most of the cat 5 races I did averaged about 22 mph. I would say our cat 4 crits average about 24 mph with RRs around 22-23. Remember, don't let those numbers scare you. When you are riding in a pack drafting you use at least 30% less energy than if you are by yourself.
 

Aztec

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J-Law... I use a HAC4 that stops the time a second or so after the bike stops. The speeds are that low because I include my warmup time, slowing down/speeding up from lights, various grades that take my speed way down (and I don't hammer on the downhills to 'make up for it'), and then of course because I'm trying to build low intensity endurance at a HR of 130-150 most of the time (max = 192).

I figure on a windless flat course, I could probably come close to 20 mph for an hour on the hoods.

27 is amazingly fast! I can't imagine how that's possible by mortals. That's high for my downhill riding and feels very quick. What's the point of going that fast on average when it all comes down to a sprint anyway? ;-)
 

Squint

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Jul 27, 2003
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11.584 mi in 28:34
normalized power 229
max power 826
ave power 208
ave cadence 85
max cadence 130
ave speed 24.4
max speed 32.4

Cat 5 crit in CA
~76 kg rider
mid-pack finish
 

Aztec

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Originally posted by Squint
11.584 mi in 28:34
normalized power 229
max power 826
ave power 208
ave cadence 85
max cadence 130
ave speed 24.4
max speed 32.4

Cat 5 crit in CA
~76 kg rider
mid-pack finish

Well, I don't have to worry about reaching those levels in '04!
 

stowerider

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Sep 23, 2003
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Originally posted by Aztec
J-Law... I use a HAC4 that stops the time a second or so after the bike stops. The speeds are that low because I include my warmup time, slowing down/speeding up from lights, various grades that take my speed way down (and I don't hammer on the downhills to 'make up for it'), and then of course because I'm trying to build low intensity endurance at a HR of 130-150 most of the time (max = 192).

I figure on a windless flat course, I could probably come close to 20 mph for an hour on the hoods.

27 is amazingly fast! I can't imagine how that's possible by mortals. That's high for my downhill riding and feels very quick. What's the point of going that fast on average when it all comes down to a sprint anyway? ;-)

Hi Aztec,

I might have misread a couple of your replies but it sounds like you're riding at 14 mph because you're trying to keep your heart rate in the 130-150 bpm range to build aerobic endurance (in contrast to someone who's averaging 14 mph because thats about as fast as he can ride). If this is true then I have to say that 14 mph is kind of slow and while you're out there on your Trek and in your US Postal togs you're in serious danger of getting passed and dropped by grandma on her 3-speed Huffy. I'm your average Joe-Sixpack-in-the-peloton and even on a crummy winter's day with side gusts, I can squeeze out a 17 mph average.

Here's something that you might want to try -

a) reconfigure your heart rate zones. Instead of using % of MHR try using % of HR range ie if your resting HR is 50 bpm and your max is 200 bpm then 60% is (200-50) * 60%+50 = 140. This methodology will give you narrower bands and higher HRs. My only justification for doing this is that it will allow you to ride faster and still be in your target zone - and I accept all criticism that this is arbitrary and just playing with the numbers.

b) next time you plan to go an endurance ride - ditch using the 130-150 bpm target and use a pace target such as an average of 17 or 18 mph for your 2-3 hour ride. Still wear your monitor and check your times when you get back. Your average HR will be higher but I don't expect it will be too high (ie you didn't spend a lot of time say at 80%, 90% or higher of max HR). I believe that you can achieve your endurance base building goals at 18 mph without causing over-training or somehow harming your cycling development. I'd like to say that endurance cycling at 14 mph is too benign to do you much good and that you are better off averaging 17/18 mph - however, I'm not a sports scientist so I don't know how I could prove this to you - the best I can say is that if you ride at 18 mph and it's harmful to you then it will become apparent quickly to you and you can slow down. And riding at an avg of 18 mph is going to be a lot more interesting than tooling along at 14 mph.

SR
 

Aztec

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Stowe... Yep, I'm intentionally trying to keep that HR down low. Aerobic fitness is priority #1 here.

Trek and Postal clogs, no. I wear solid colors, no logos (other than the 50 or so of the damn Colnago logos on the frame!). Interestingly, I rarely get passed by anyone other than an obviously very fit rider (they cruise by me on climbs as if getting towed by a car).

I can only surmise that my average speeds are lower than my actual riding speeds. Stoplights and traffic, etc., can take a big bite out (just the decel and accel time alone). Add in the 8 mph steep climbs around me and there you go.

I also suspect that the HAC4 is somehow off. I've calibrated it to the wheel circumference, but it still shows about 10% or more slower than my VDO, similarly calibrated. One of these days I want to find a marked mile and find out for sure!
 

Aztec

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Did 22 fairly hard miles yesterday with some climbing.

Per the HAC4... 174W avg power over the first hour (about 2/3 of it was climbing). 308W max power. HR = 160 avg. I could've sustained that effort for another hour or so.

Over the full 90 mins, after the peak of the climb so only downhill and flats afterward at moderate pace, 140W avg, HR = 147. And average speed.... 13!

Note: The HAC4 insx are ambiguous over whether to input your weight in Kg or Lbs. I started with Kg, but the power readings were silly low. I switched it to Lbs and now they seem more reasonable. And the allowable range was something like 30 to 300 or more. Can't imagine why you'd need a Kg range up to 300! The point here is that I'm not 100% certain the power readings are even remotely accurate, despite their claim of +/- 20W.
 

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