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Old 08-07-11, 04:31 PM   #1
ethman
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Noticeable difference between the 5's and 4's???

I could also call this the "I need to ***** about my season thread".

Maybe you more experienced riders can shed some light on this for me. This is my first season as a 4 (I spent last season as a 5 and did a handful of races the year before also as a 5) and it was atrocious! I did manage to scrape together a handful of top 10 and top 5 finishes as a 5 last year, but barely even sniffed the top 10 this year. I rode with a team this season, worked with the team's coach, and felt much, MUCH stronger than in the past. Despite my training and improvement my race results were either "pummeled and DNF" or "hanging in there for a group finish". The closest I came to a top ten this season was 11th! And that was probably because half the field crashed on the last lap.

Granted I did a bunch of 3/4 races, but what gives? I know I suck but did anyone else find the transition from 5 to 4 to be much harder than expected??? Ok, end of rant. Feel free to flame away...
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Old 08-07-11, 04:44 PM   #2
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Yes
It's a big difference

People who are winning easily as 4s will be in the front half of the 3s.
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Old 08-07-11, 05:10 PM   #3
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Ive actually done a little better in the 4's than I did in the 5's. Not results to brag about, but still...likely due to better fitness, and racing a little smarter. Learning. And naturally Ive come to realize Im better suited to some types of races than others.

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Old 08-07-11, 05:25 PM   #4
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There is a noticeable difference between the two. I spent my first season getting dropped from 4/5 races, but managing to hang on to 5 only races. The fields are also larger, which makes a difference as well.
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Old 08-07-11, 05:26 PM   #5
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It took me two seasons as a four to get to the point that I was winning again. As a comparison, I won my first race as a cat 5 and most of my cat 5 races I was on the podium and ended up getting an early upgrade.
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Old 08-07-11, 07:25 PM   #6
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I really had fun the year I raced as a four.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:06 PM   #7
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I never really noticed a difference, but I guess most races were 4/5 combined anyway.
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Old 08-07-11, 10:43 PM   #8
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The other thing I'm noticing is that riders on the west coast seem to be stronger than those on the east coast. Of course I'm making this assumption based on a sample of two races and a handful of group rides out here (Calif) versus 40-odd races and several years worth of group rides out there (NY). I thought I saw a thread about this somewhere on here a while back: the differences between racers from different parts of the country. Seemed like the consensus was, there is really is no consensus to what region has the strongest racers.
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Old 08-08-11, 04:07 AM   #9
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The other thing I'm noticing is that riders on the west coast seem to be stronger than those on the east coast. Of course I'm making this assumption based on a sample of two races and a handful of group rides out here (Calif) versus 40-odd races and several years worth of group rides out there (NY). I thought I saw a thread about this somewhere on here a while back: the differences between racers from different parts of the country. Seemed like the consensus was, there is really is no consensus to what region has the strongest racers.
The consensus is that everyone thinks their region has the strongest racers.
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Old 08-08-11, 06:42 AM   #10
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No difference to me other than the 4 races were a little bit longer in time and distance.

I had one of my best seasons results wise as a 4. After being in the ultimate category for going on as many years now, I'm still pack filler material on a good day.
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Old 08-08-11, 07:36 AM   #11
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Here is what I have noticed:

Cat 5 and 4/5 races tend to start very fast. It seems like there is always someone who thinks he or she can win the race from the starting line. After a few laps, the pace seems to drop and everyone calms down. Every attack is chased. The only breaks that survive are guys who should be 2s or 3s but haven't racked up the points yet. Team tactics rarely come in to play.

Primes are hugely important, but no one attacks after the prime because everyone goes so hard after the free pair of socks that they are spent.

The finish can be a huge disaster - everyone sprints for the win, regardless of field position or ability - and there often is a crash. If I'm not in the top 10, I tend to sit up and let the field fight it out.

Cat 4 races and 3/4 races tend to start a little slower and hold a higher pace throughout the race. Attacks are still chased down quickly, though breaks are more likely to survive. Team tactics are more pronounced. The finish tends to be a little smoother. The higher pace at the end of the race will spread out the field.

Primes seem less important, and it seems like the field will let a half dozen guys will go after them, unless its a large cash prime.
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Old 08-08-11, 09:13 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Here is what I have noticed:

Cat 5 and 4/5 races tend to start very fast. It seems like there is always someone who thinks he or she can win the race from the starting line. After a few laps, the pace seems to drop and everyone calms down. Every attack is chased. The only breaks that survive are guys who should be 2s or 3s but haven't racked up the points yet. Team tactics rarely come in to play.

Primes are hugely important, but no one attacks after the prime because everyone goes so hard after the free pair of socks that they are spent.

The finish can be a huge disaster - everyone sprints for the win, regardless of field position or ability - and there often is a crash. If I'm not in the top 10, I tend to sit up and let the field fight it out.

Cat 4 races and 3/4 races tend to start a little slower and hold a higher pace throughout the race. Attacks are still chased down quickly, though breaks are more likely to survive. Team tactics are more pronounced. The finish tends to be a little smoother. The higher pace at the end of the race will spread out the field.

Primes seem less important, and it seems like the field will let a half dozen guys will go after them, unless its a large cash prime.
Idiot Cat 3s do that too ...... "Better sprint so I can get into the top 30" .....
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Old 08-08-11, 10:36 AM   #13
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Here is what I have noticed:

Cat 5 and 4/5 races tend to start very fast. It seems like there is always someone who thinks he or she can win the race from the starting line. After a few laps, the pace seems to drop and everyone calms down. Every attack is chased. The only breaks that survive are guys who should be 2s or 3s but haven't racked up the points yet. Team tactics rarely come in to play.

Primes are hugely important, but no one attacks after the prime because everyone goes so hard after the free pair of socks that they are spent.

The finish can be a huge disaster - everyone sprints for the win, regardless of field position or ability - and there often is a crash. If I'm not in the top 10, I tend to sit up and let the field fight it out.

Cat 4 races and 3/4 races tend to start a little slower and hold a higher pace throughout the race. Attacks are still chased down quickly, though breaks are more likely to survive. Team tactics are more pronounced. The finish tends to be a little smoother. The higher pace at the end of the race will spread out the field.

Primes seem less important, and it seems like the field will let a half dozen guys will go after them, unless its a large cash prime.
+1

Upgraded a couple months ago to a 4 and found that I'm racing much better as a 4.
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Old 08-09-11, 06:11 PM   #14
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I went from being Top 10 in the 5s to being off the back in 15 minutes in the 4s in just a week at the beginning of this season. It took me 2 months to adjust to the speed, and the differences in the 4s, but ended up with a good finish to my season. Should be pretty strong next year with the base I'm putting it. With a little more time and training, I'm sure you'll come around too.
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Old 08-09-11, 10:18 PM   #15
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The other thing I'm noticing is that riders on the west coast seem to be stronger than those on the east coast. Of course I'm making this assumption based on a sample of two races and a handful of group rides out here (Calif) versus 40-odd races and several years worth of group rides out there (NY). I thought I saw a thread about this somewhere on here a while back: the differences between racers from different parts of the country. Seemed like the consensus was, there is really is no consensus to what region has the strongest racers.
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The consensus is that everyone thinks their region has the strongest racers.
I'm normally in CT, so somewhat familiar with the scene around here. I've raced just one race in SoCal, Red Trolley, in the 3s (2010) and the M35 (2011). I was appalled at the lack of riding skills of some of the Cat 3s (and mightily impressed with one rider in particular who got 4th that day); I sat up on the backstretch of the last lap as it seemed a bit too chaotic for me. The M35s seemed normal and I came off the back with about 4 or 5 to go.

I raced Tour of Michigan in the early 90s, 8 crits in 10 days. I was shocked at the high level of racing there (Cat 3-4), although our local contact told us that a lot of racers wait to upgrade until after this race, and some of the racers had downgraded in order to do better in an easier category. I guess it's like going to Fitchburg when that was around, I got totally shelled in the Cat 3s, and everyone waits to upgrade until after that weekend.

I think that racers in a foreign locale tend to be too nervous (like me). I used energy to move around the field, learn stuff, and then settle into a rhythm. In SoCal I was either at the end of a huge block of training (2010) or at the end of a huge block of illness (2011) so I was either fatigued or lacked fitness (and I also didn't have my race wheels with me). When I race familiar races I know I don't have to fight for this or that, I can take it easy, etc. Plus I know the races so I avoid the races where I get shelled immediately, like anything with a big hill in it. And finally I have race wheels, I have some kind of predictable pre-race pattern (instead of bonking on the way to the race and chowing down on energy bars).

Having said all that I can say that I got definitely shelled on the Camp Pendleton ride and I don't see that changing no matter how much I train. The rider fitness levels in SoCal are pretty impressive, and it shows when the road starts going uphill. When guys that don't race ask if there's something wrong with my bike (because I was going so slow, in the small ring 39x21 - and I thought that was pretty good, in what he considered to be a 53x15 1 or 2 mile long hill), that's pretty crazy. He's a nice guy, wasn't being mean - in fact after he found out my bike was okay he invited me to ride with his group and they took me on a fun 100 mile loop with Pete Penseyres (RAAM record holder for avg speed) and company.

As far as 5>4 and 4>3, these are steps where a lot of riders see a radical increase in speed. From 3>2 it's more the sustained speeds, i.e. in a 3 race doing 30-32 mph for a mile is normal, but in a 2 race it might be 34-35 mph. I remember holding mid-30s for a good few miles in a P123 race (2 pros eventually broke away and the whole field pretty much stopped to catch their collective breath).

5s there are a few fast periods with slow stuff between. 4s there are a few fast periods, some medium speed stuff, and slow stuff. 3s usually few slow periods with mainly medium and fast stuff. 2s few/no slow periods. P1 I dunno but from watching stuff it's all fast

Once you learn speed it's all good. Learning speed is key, i.e. being able to go 40 mph in a group (or solo, in a sprint). If your max speed as a solo rider is 31-32 mph you'll be in trouble when the field is hauling at 36 mph. If you can go 40 mph solo, 36 mph in the field won't feel that fast, and that's a very possible speed in the last lap of a crit for Cat 4s (before the sprint).
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Old 08-10-11, 07:54 AM   #16
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I think CDR raises a good point about regional racing.

After three years, I know about half the field at every race I go to, and I train regularly with about 10-15 percent of the fields I'm racing, so I am very comfortable riding in tight, fast packs with them. I know whose wheel to jump on and who to let go off the front.

If I were to go race in another part of the country - say California or Texas or the Northeast - I would not be nearly as comfortable and likely would struggle a bit. This doesn't necessarily make them faster or stronger racers.
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Old 08-11-11, 12:17 AM   #17
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Good points everyone, thanks for the comments. Although the race I did last Sunday was a lot of fun (the course at Brentwood GP is awesome) it was a little unnerving to "get served" once again. Now that the season is coming to a close I'm trying to figure out what I need to work on for next year. Is this something that everyone does at the end of their season? I finding that I have difficulty when the pace picks up all of a sudden, especially if I've just been out of the saddle or pushing a little harder (although not quite redlining it). I've also noticed that in some of the 4 and 3/4 races guys seem to have a burst of power and speed coming out of corners that I just can't match. Not having a power meter I can't quote any numbers to you guys, but is this a strength issue? Also, during the final laps of some of the shorter circuit races I've done the pace picks up so much that I don't have the strength to stand and sprint for the line. I'm assuming this is muscular endurance? Any thoughts?

Last edited by ethman; 08-11-11 at 12:18 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 08-11-11, 12:57 AM   #18
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Some of it is also figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. I have never finished in the top 20 of a full field crit as 5,4, and now 3/M123. Mostly that's because I am still a terrible pack position rider. But I know I have long endurance and I was able to win two cat 4 road races out of long breakaway groups >20miles. That's how I got most of my upgrade points. Doubt that will happen as a Cat 3 though.

In terms of the power out of the corners and in the final laps - are you riding in any of your local high end hammerfest rides? If not you should. And if you are, and you are just surfing the in the back try riding and fighting to stay at or near the front. I spent all winter after my first year and being able to ride at the front of those rides gave me a lot of confidence for those races.
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Old 08-11-11, 05:53 AM   #19
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Good points everyone, thanks for the comments. Although the race I did last Sunday was a lot of fun (the course at Brentwood GP is awesome) it was a little unnerving to "get served" once again. Now that the season is coming to a close I'm trying to figure out what I need to work on for next year. Is this something that everyone does at the end of their season? I finding that I have difficulty when the pace picks up all of a sudden, especially if I've just been out of the saddle or pushing a little harder (although not quite redlining it). I've also noticed that in some of the 4 and 3/4 races guys seem to have a burst of power and speed coming out of corners that I just can't match. Not having a power meter I can't quote any numbers to you guys, but is this a strength issue? Also, during the final laps of some of the shorter circuit races I've done the pace picks up so much that I don't have the strength to stand and sprint for the line. I'm assuming this is muscular endurance? Any thoughts?
This is where race legs make a difference from "training legs". It's a function of power, yes, but it's something that's learned. Well, not technically, it's really fitness, but part of it is figuring out what you need to do and when to do it.

For example, at our local New Britain course, it's easy to sit in on the main straight, even at 35-38 mph. On the last lap of a Cat 3 race 32 mph is pretty slow, as evident by guys going curb-to-curb looking for room. 38-42 mph would be much better for holding position but requires a dedicated racer to push the pace. It's virtually impossible to move up if the field is going 32 mph because it's too packed, curb to curb.

On the other hand, if you can do some significant work for 20 seconds, it's pretty straightforward to move up on the hill, even on the last lap. The hill naturally spreads out racers, some are already giving up (because they tried to move up at other places), and a little punch to the pedals can get you a good return.

If a racer tries to move up anywhere else it's pretty much a waste of energy.

So... yes, it requires fitness. I'll throw out a number, say 800w for 20 seconds, and you still need to sprint. The stronger you are, the faster you are, the easier the move-up efforts will seem.

However....

If you move up "stupid", you could easily throw 1000-1200w out there for 20-30-40 seconds (on the same course) and the smarter 800w/20s rider will still be in front of you at the line.

There's a minimum power required to stay on wheels, yes. But there's also such a thing as reading the field and taking advantage of the course features, natural lulls, and pack psychology.

If it were all about fitness I'd never place. Since bike racing actually requires thought (unlike more "pure" sports like running where there is never a normal race where a 7 minute miler on a given course will consistently beat a 4 minute miler on the same course in a one mile race on said course), a weaker racer can do well, and a stronger racer can ride right out of contention.

Btw this is one of the reasons why I push so hard for not sitting in the top 10 or 20 of a race. This is how I see it:

Tailgun: 150w/lap
Middle of field: 200w/lap
Top 10: 300w/lap
Sit in when single file: 300w/lap
Moving up: 50-100w for every 10 spots, or 800w/20 seconds to move into almost top 10.

I can't really average over 200w and still sprint. I have maybe 3-4 800-1000w/20s efforts.

Arg. Have to go to work. Heh. To be continued.
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Old 08-11-11, 07:33 AM   #20
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OP, I struggled quite a bit after moving up to the 4s last year and racing a lot of 3/4 races (I didn't help that I crashed out in my first race after catting up). Last off season, I spent a lot of time doing Plyometrics and Weights - basically the P90x plyometric and leg weight workouts. The plyos helped me build explosive power while the weights - which focus on doing 25-30 reps over a dozen workouts, helped build leg strength. You might want to try something like that.

This off-season, I plan to continue doing those plyometrics and weights, but also working in a lot more longer rides to boost my base and ability to hold a high pace longer.
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Old 08-11-11, 07:50 AM   #21
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Good points everyone, thanks for the comments. Although the race I did last Sunday was a lot of fun (the course at Brentwood GP is awesome) it was a little unnerving to "get served" once again. Now that the season is coming to a close I'm trying to figure out what I need to work on for next year. Is this something that everyone does at the end of their season? I finding that I have difficulty when the pace picks up all of a sudden, especially if I've just been out of the saddle or pushing a little harder (although not quite redlining it). I've also noticed that in some of the 4 and 3/4 races guys seem to have a burst of power and speed coming out of corners that I just can't match. Not having a power meter I can't quote any numbers to you guys, but is this a strength issue? Also, during the final laps of some of the shorter circuit races I've done the pace picks up so much that I don't have the strength to stand and sprint for the line. I'm assuming this is muscular endurance? Any thoughts?
Look at the workout recipe sticky. Some of the shorter interval workouts should help.
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Old 08-11-11, 09:45 AM   #22
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I found a strava file of the P123 at Nutmeg from 2010.

the speeds are not quite so fast.

http://app.strava.com/rides/1151993#

correction, Although he was in the field sprint for the P123, this is the M40+
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Old 08-11-11, 10:47 AM   #23
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Personally, I work out at the Velodrome. It is great practice. Race nights I get in 3-4 races a night. Lots of strategy and skill building in a compact sessin. Makes riding in a crit pretty straightworward.

I'm gonna have to try that tailgunning thing though (on the road) - sounds a lot more relaxing than being up front or sandwidged in the middle of the pack.
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Old 08-11-11, 11:08 AM   #24
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Some of it is also figuring out your strengths and weaknesses.
I think this is going to be key for me to getting some top 10 finishes. I've been mulling over my season and I think I might be starting to figure this out a bit more.
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Old 08-11-11, 11:15 AM   #25
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Tailgun: 150w/lap
Middle of field: 200w/lap
Top 10: 300w/lap
Sit in when single file: 300w/lap
Moving up: 50-100w for every 10 spots, or 800w/20 seconds to move into almost top 10.
So I found myself at the back of the pack in my race last Sunday (it was a technical crit) so I said to myself, "just tail-gun it". Alright, so I'm going into the corners with a little distance between myself and the last rider so I can pull through with more speed. Only problem is #1 I would occasionally get caught behind guys taking the turns waaaay too slow (I could see them grabbing their brakes) and I would wind up blocked behind them and #2 I don't really have the amazing power to turn over a hard gear like I think you do. I've seen a few of your videos (they were very inspiring last winter) and you seem to have a pretty serious acceleration! There are points when I see you riding past the whole peloton or bridging a gap like it's nothing. I'm sure those efforts hurt, but damn, I wish I had that kind of power. Plus I'm sure it makes tail-gunning that much more effective for you. In any case, I'm sure I'll be trying it again at some point when I'm off the back of another crit.
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