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Will enter Cat V racing this spring...(10 posts)

Will enter Cat V racing this spring...aet
Jan 3, 2002 12:40 PM
What do i need to be able to do? i have been riding about 2 years and have never raced. i do train but what do i need to test myself on, to be sure i am ready?
Learning to ride confidently and predictably...nigel
Jan 3, 2002 1:13 PM a pack/group is one of the most important things, in addition to being able to ride a bike quickly (of course).

You didn't say if you've done paceline riding or close-quarters riding with partners or groups. This type of training is VERY important. In a race, you'll be riding within inches of riders on each side, including in front of you. Not all Cat. 5 riders have done their fair share (their RESPONSIBILITY, really) of "wheel sucking" or drafting--riding within six or so inches of the rider in front of you's rear wheel (or closer). If you're not in practice of this critical skill, you definitely want to get together with groups/partners (partners would be much easier, safer, and would provide a better learning ground, actually) and ride along the road at a decent speed while practicing GRADUALLY (over the miles/days/weeks, since this skill WILL TAKE TIME) riding closer to the wheel in front of you. Practice riding directly behind it, not off to one side. If you overlap the wheel and the rider in front of you swerves a little, you can easily go down--and take a dozen or more people down with you (and likely ON TOP OF YOU). Very important skill. Don't forget: if you're in front of your partner and see ruts/glass/potholes/bumps/roadkill on the road to one side or another, make sure you point it out (call it out, if necessary) with a fair amount of time for them to compensate and avoid it. Remember: YOU ARE THEIR EYES.

Being able to hop a bike efficiently while riding quickly is but another skill, and having really solid balance on your bike even at slow speeds is important.

Unfortunately, I can't give you any "You need to be able to ride at XX miles an hour for XX distance" advice, since I'm not sure of this myself. I'm starting up as a Cat. 5 again in the spring after taking a break for a few years.

Pack riding is a critical skill to help you avoid crashing and damaging yourself or your equipment (and, for that matter, other people and their equipment). Being dependable and "smooth" on the bike--not jerky or swervy ("squirrelly")--is one of the best things to strive for as a beginning racer.

Hope this helps, and best of luck. HAVE FUN OUT THERE, and try to relax.

Race fitnessBipedZed
Jan 3, 2002 1:43 PM
Many riders who are thinking about getting into racing try to measure fitness in terms of average speed. Unfortunately successful road racing is not at all about average speed.

Given an exertion level from 1 to 10, a typical Cat 5 road race for the lead group may look something like this:


It's the ability to recover from very intense efforts (hills) that allows you to stay with the lead group instead of off the back. The mistake most beginning racers make is by going out and riding at a 7-8 level of intensity every single ride. This is a "no man's land" intensity that doesn't really emulate what happens in road racing. You aren't going hard enough to emulate an individual time trial (ITT) but you aren't training your anaerobic system to handle the 9-10 level efforts that are frequent in road racing.

So someone who begins to feel pretty bad-ass because they can average 20 mph for 50 miles enters a Cat 5 road race/crit. The pace will invariable go to 9-10 almost immediately in a crit or at the least on the first hill and the former bad-ass is off the back wondering how the hell they go so fast.

The key is to train at different intensity levels. This means intervals - sprint, hill, LT, max, etc. Don't just go out as hard as you can every time you ride. Make your hard workouts HARD and recover in between hard days by going easy. I wish someone had told me this for my first season.

A decent measure of race fitness can be accomplished by doing a 10 mile flat TT. This needs to be as uninterrupted as possible. Most good Cat 4/5s can go under 25 minutes. This is very painful. It's a decent measure because you will be at a 9-10 level of intensity the entire time and will give you a mental idea of the pain.

In addition to fitness, pack riding skills and race tactics are just as important. Pack riding is well covered int he post above. Race tactics can be learned through watching race tapes but it will take time and experience to figure out how to ride smart.

Good luck.
fitness and smartsDog
Jan 3, 2002 1:43 PM
Part of it is skill, and part fitness.

If you want to get an idea if you are fit enough to be in the running, this is what I tell people. Find a place where you can do a flat (mostly), 10 mile time trial with no stops. It can be an out and back or loop, but try to do it where the wind cancels. It's even better if there is no wind.

Time yourself. The average speed is what counts, so don't worry if its 9 miles or 12 miles. Doesn't matter. If you have a computer that shows average speed, perfect.

Here is a rough guide, but others may disagree. If you can average over 25 mph, you should be fine; 23-25, still fine, but might have some problems, depending upon how smart you ride; under 23, and you better ride very smart, or you'll probably be OTB (off the back); under 20, and I'd wait and train a bit more.

Hills are a big variable. Even if your time trial speed is a little low, if you can trounce people on the hills, you'll likely be ok, because you can draft on the flats.

If you need to improve fitness a lot, the best way to do that is intervals. Check out Friel's book.

Now, the smarts. For your first races, never, ever take a pull, get pushed off the side, or allow yourself to fall off the back. You'll wear out prematurely. You may think you feel good at 25 miles and jam on a pull, but I'd bet you'll regret it later when someone drops the hammer. Draft, draft, draft. "Better to keep up than catch up; better to catch up than ride alone."

Racing can be very painful. Get used to it in training. At least once a week when you get near to racing, get that heartrate up to around 95% or so, because it will get there in racing. You don't want to experience it the first time in the race. You won't be able to race harder than you train.

That's a start. Go riding with some racers and see how you do. Ask them questions and stuff. They'll likely help you until you start dropping them.

re: Will enter Cat V racing this spring...Ian
Jan 3, 2002 3:20 PM
I agree with Nigel that pack riding is very, very important. You don't metion whether you have done this or not, but if the answer is not, then don't race. You will be of great danger to yourself and others. If you have ridden in a pack and are comfortable with these skills, then Dog's advice is pretty good. But I say, just go out and try it. The worst that can happen is you will get dropped and then you will know what to expect next time. I did my first crit last year. My goal was to just hang in the back and see what happened. Well I hung for the whole ride (45 minutes plus 5 laps) and actually was able to accelerate from the very back to the top half of the pack on the sprint. I was very surprised at how good I felt. Good luck and hope you enjoy the race.
Cat5 crits? Stock up on bandages! nmMB1
Jan 3, 2002 4:22 PM
re: Will enter Cat V racing this spring...Woof the dog
Jan 3, 2002 7:34 PM
you need to be good at intervals because pack makes surges and drops riders on the hills or attacks. The best way to improve is to do shorter intervals, longer intervals (like 10-15 min as hard as you can) and climbs. Do hill repeats as hard as you can. What I do is I rest for 30 seconds at the top and throw in another tiny 20 second sprint which completely kills my legs+lungs. Riding in a city may also help you as you sprint from one light or a stopsign to the next and/or try to beat cars up the hill.
In a race, ride defensively and don't EVER get cocky(sp?)...well, maybe at the end if you feel good. A safe riding in a pack = less crashes and less mangling of your beloved racebike. For the final sprint, don't lead out, its better to stay 2-3 people back and let them lead you out, but actually finishes really vary, so it depends. For criteriums, do a really good warmup as everybody will go crazy starting off and seems like most people get dropped on the first few laps where lactic acid kicks in real fast.


Cat V racing this spring...Tig
Jan 4, 2002 8:41 AM
Wow, you have received some excellent advice in here already. I'll throw in a few extras. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses better after a few races, follow the old advice, "Race your strengths and train your weaknesses."

Warm up as much as possible without tiring or getting too hot in warm weather (hard to think of this time of year!).

Don't stay too far in the back of the field. You may get trapped behind a weaker rider during attacks and fall off the back or waste energy getting back on. Look out for weaker and dangerous riders and avoid them! Avoid the unprotected windward side of the field in a crosswind to avoid extra energy waste and higher heart rates.

Study the finish part of the course. Which way is the wind blowing? Headwind/uphill: Wait later to pass your lead-out riders. Tailwind/downhill: You can get away quicker and earlier if you have solid sustainable power. Crosswind: Put yourself on the protected side or a leadout and pass on that side if possible. How far is the last corner from the finish? Position yourself where you need to be BEFORE that last corner. Remember that everything will change quickly once the bell rings for the last lap or when everyone sees the finish stretch. Anticipate those changes and pre-position yourself accordingly. Excited riders will try to sprint too early and they will slow down when they can't maintain the effort. If you jumped in behind them, expect others to be on your wheel.
thanks for the advice, guys...aet
Jan 4, 2002 12:36 PM
i have not been riding in groups so the first thing i'll do is go out and ride with one of the local clubs.

i'll also do a 10 mi ITT and see what i've got.
re: Will enter Cat V racing this spring...brider
Jan 4, 2002 1:36 PM
DO SOME BUMPING DRILLS!!! This will let you get comfortable in close quarters very quickly, and when some one bumps you, you'll be A LOT less likely to go down. It's much better to be OTB (off the back) than OTB (over the bars). Learn the safe places to ride: directly in front of, directly behind another rider, elbow-to-elbow, and elbow-to-hip. Tactics will come with time, as well as being able to read the pack. You'll want to ride near the front, but not at the front. Always leave yourself an escape route, even if it's onto the shoulder of the road (not always feasible, but something to always strive for). Best advice -- get thee to thy local club ride and join a racing club. Not only will you improve much faster, but your race fees will be less.