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  1. #1
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    Out of gears, ideas and talent. What do I do?

    This past year was my first formal race season on the track, which was disrupted by me tearing my calf muscle doing running sprints one morning (it was a good idea at the time). This has been a big issue as I haven't been able to do any real work, nor any real miles. It's only been the past few weeks I've been able to get some racing in against cat 4s (I'm 43 so not a young ***).

    So far, it's been so good. I came 8th from 26 riders in the Wed night omnium last week, and have at least been able to stay with the front runners in points races, so I'm encouraged for next year. But in the scratch race I ended up being burned by a guy who was simply quicker. He attacked off the front with 1 1/2 laps to go and I got into his slipstream... and off he went. I averaged around 36 mph for a lap trying to stay with him using an 86 inch gear and 170 mm cranks, but in the last 1/2 lap reality caught up and I faded from 2nd to 10th.

    So the question is, how should I get faster? I know I need to train properly and make sure I don't get injured. I'll also get a decent wheelset which is a little more slippery than 32 spoke box rim clinchers. But as an acolyte, I was wondering if I should focus on:

    1) keep lighter gears (i.e. under 90) and work on spinning
    2) get 165mm cranks and work on spinning
    3) shift to bigger gears and work on power

    The obvious answer is a mix of all 3 to improve my power spinning, but wondered if there is a logical path between cadence and power I should follow.

  2. #2
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    When trying to figure out how you can improve, you have to look at when and how you are failing in races. These things are called your limiters, because they limit your performance. For example: I know from my own experience that my sprint speed and <1min power is a limiter, but that I have significantly improved my 3-5min power, which has gotten me some good results.

    It's hard to diagnose that over the internet, at least with the info you've provided. It sounds like you got hosed by somebody who's not going to be a Cat 4 for very long - and, quite frankly, there's always going to be somebody like that. It also sounds like your tactics might be a limiter. If somebody attacked and dropped me and the chase was futile, I'd look behind me - is it worth it for me to keep going and try to hold off people behind me, or should I ease and join the tactical situation behind me? It sounds like you made the wrong choice in this situation.

    But honestly, if you're a 43-year-old cat 4 who hasn't done much training, doing any hard work will make you faster. You might not need a plan - just the time to pursue some regular harder efforts. ID your limiters (top speed? 1 minute power? 3-5 minute power? longer endurance?) and spend the time to strengthen them.
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  3. #3
    Brown Bear, Sqrl Hunter Jaytron's Avatar
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    Queerpunk is right.

    ID your strengths and weaknesses and go from there. 36mph in an 86in gear seems like a decent amount (150rpm) for an extended amount of time.

    A wheelset isn't really going to make the difference IMO.
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    Senior Member Kayce's Avatar
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    Assuming you are in the US you have all season to be in the gym, and on the rollers. You are early enough in your career to do both.
    If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him

  5. #5
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    As a my old coach (Elite National champ, Masters World champ) once told me, "As you advance through the categories, gears get bigger but cadences stay the same."

    Your neuromuscular system has its limits as to how fast it can move the pedals for a given time. Your gains may come with larger gears (90" or more), especially with 170mm cranks.

    National level masters your age generally ride much bigger gears. But, you can't just hop on to them. That takes lots of off season training. There is no short answer as to how to get there. But, spinning faster than 150rpm is not the answer.

  6. #6
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
    But honestly, if you're a 43-year-old cat 4 who hasn't done much training, doing any hard work will make you faster. You might not need a plan - just the time to pursue some regular harder efforts.
    +1

    For most new track racers (2 seasons or less) doing just about anything regularly will make one faster. You can put a guy on a $900/month program and another guy on the "Race Lots" program and they will both have similar results after 2 seasons. The gains are exponential early on. When they start to taper is when coaching helps.

  7. #7
    Brown Bear, Sqrl Hunter Jaytron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    +1

    For most new track racers (2 seasons or less) doing just about anything regularly will make one faster. You can put a guy on a $900/month program and another guy on the "Race Lots" program and they will both have similar results after 2 seasons. The gains are exponential early on. When they start to taper is when coaching helps.
    I agree, just riding your bike gets your much faster early on.

    I had zero sprint specific workouts or training, and managed to shave a second off my F200M during this season. A season that was littered with injuries too.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    Nice on the F200M, Jaytron! 1s is massive!

  9. #9
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    re: this whole "do some stuff and you'll get faster" thing - i remember reading some comment along the lines of, "at this level, going out and doing anything that feels like "a training workout" with any rough regularity will likely yield some noticeable results."
    the hipster myth.

    i practice vagabondery.

  10. #10
    Brown Bear, Sqrl Hunter Jaytron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    Nice on the F200M, Jaytron! 1s is massive!
    Hahaha, it was just from really slow, to not-as-slow Hopefully I'll be "fast" next year with some actual sprint training.
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  11. #11
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    I'm 42 and will be 43 this year. It's my first full year of track racing, last year was interrupted by a bulging S1 disc and other issues, prior year was interrupted by Shingles (of all things). I managed to Cat up from 4 to 3 last season before my back took me off the track. Prior to track I did IM and 70.3 distance triathlons for about 8 years.

    Anyways, I did zero training from August thru December due to my back for this season. Started up again in January building up to peak in May. I did mostly indoor trainer (CompuTrainer and Rollers) followed up by Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, standing jumps... and mixed things up quite a bit. Would do a 3 week build cycle with a 4th easier week. Then build up again. My indoor training was focused on increasing my FTP and sprint speed. I did tons and tons of interval workouts all based on power. I went from 258 FTP in May to 320 last week. Totally get that FTP is not everything on the track, but it helps for longer events and going off the front. My sprint speeds and repeat sprint ability has improved too.

    I've been playing around with gears too. Started the season on a 49x14 and found I could not keep up with faster guys in sprints. Built my way up to 51x14 and that works great in the first and second race, come the third endurance race it's way too much gear. So I've been using a 50x14 now for all events. Last week went to a 47x13 and really like the way smaller front ring feels but the gear is too tall for me to sprint in the 3rd race, I don't have the strength to snap in that gear. So I went off the front with one other rider in last race and got my points that way. Gonna try a 46x13 this week (weather pending) and see how that works for me. I have managed to Cat up from 3 to 2 and can hold my own in Masters racing too (we have several very fast racers in Cat 1/2 and Masters). In the coming off season I'm gonna focus on strength and recovery, I want to hit next season with the ability to kick out a few more sprints each night.

    86" would be small for hanging with fast Cat 3s let alone Cat 1/2 at my local track. If you are smooth and have good technique I'd start building up your strength and slowly work up to bigger gears. Beat your find you body has an RPM it likes and as you build your power you can add a little more gearing. You'll find just putting together a simple 3+ month plan and mostly sticking to it will provide big gains when starting. When you level out your gains, its time to change things up or find a coach. I find my body does much better these days with shorter workouts at very high intensity, gone are my days of 6 hour training rides.

    Also in races you need to know your strengths and who the faster riders are. Use them to get you up front and you'll start to build up your power and endurance simply by staying up front for races. I've raced nights where my whole goal was to hang with the fastest guys, just stay behind them and get a feel for that speed and go to school on how they manage their race. When I want points in races where I don't have the power and fitness to lead and win from the front I've stayed a little back in the pack never out in the wind, covering serious moves and then had the legs on the final lap to place or win. Thinking at a race age of 43 against younger rides and Cat 1/2 roadies I need to race smart since I've fewer matches to light in a race and way less training time.

  12. #12
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    Guys, thanks for your thoughts and advice. Really valuable.

    Magiccx, your local track wouldn't be Marymoor, would it...?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordy748 View Post
    Guys, thanks for your thoughts and advice. Really valuable.

    Magiccx, your local track wouldn't be Marymoor, would it...?
    Yes to Marymoor, easy enough to pick out. Look for the Mr Crampy's kit and all black Argon bike.

  14. #14
    Senior Member billh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordy748 View Post
    This past year was my first formal race season on the track, which was disrupted by me tearing my calf muscle doing running sprints one morning (it was a good idea at the time). This has been a big issue as I haven't been able to do any real work, nor any real miles. It's only been the past few weeks I've been able to get some racing in against cat 4s (I'm 43 so not a young ***).
    just to followup on the calf issue, I also raced on the velodrome for three seasons and had the brilliant idea of taking up run sprinting in the off-season as a form of related cross-training . . . calf injuries . . . hamstring pulls galore. I did quite a bit of work with a PT last winter and learned that as cyclists, our range of motion in the posterior chain (toes to hips connected by bands and ligaments) is severely limited. He compared it to someone who just does half bicep curls a gazillion times. everything is tight, hips are closed, hams shortened. then when you get on the running track, and attempt, unwisely, to sprint all out, it's basically the weakest link in the chain that breaks, sometimes the calf, sometimes the ham, maybe the plantars fascia. maybe all three! So I did a round of physical therapy, strength, conditioning, stretching to open up the chain, and strengthen the parts, and had some success at the 5K distance, then re-injury, then realized as a masters 50+, my body could only handle two run sprint workouts per week, with two days recovery inbetween, then I cut that down to one per week. then I finally gave up and went back to cycling. !
    "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one" JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye, 1963

  15. #15
    Senior Member Not the Slowest's Avatar
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    Well, I was going to ask almost similar questions that the OP had put up, basically how to get "More Leg Speed" is an issue of mine and with season done here I figured it would be a great idea to have a plan.
    I'm 55, 2nd year track, but put about 8500 miles on the road and commuting the last 5 years , but not this year. I backed a tad off the miles to focus on intensity and speed on my rides versus distance.

    What did I do this year to help me:
    a) When on the road GREATLY limit my 80-100 mile rides which I used to do 2-3x a month.
    b) Focus on waking up my Fast Twitch muscles, versus the Slow twitch ones that helped me on my long endurance steady pace rides. (They still oversleep)
    c) Intervals if possible 2X a week ON THE BIKE.
    d) Group rides all had a purpose, perhaps speed with faster riders. Hey if I got dropped so be it, but I never gave up, just pushed on.

    I have improved greatly on the track over the last season, took 10 pounds off also helped and now at 205, hope 198 before next season.

    Goals in the Off Season:
    1) Hit the weights, hard to do last year with a Upper Disk injury, PT fixed it, but I think things are fine to re-start.
    2) Develop Explosiveness in my leg Speed. As discussed the ability to excelerate when needed and where needed to pass or keep up with the field.
    3) Play with gearing to see if I may be held back by riding a tad too large a gear at seasons end. Test them on the track as it's still open but no races.
    4) Work on Hip strength as I believe a lot of my weakness may be abductor weakness. As we spin round and round our hip muscles weaken.

    Goal for NEXT Season:
    a) Faster legs
    b) Smarter tactics. Spent a bit of too much time in the front when I should be a bit back saving energy but with new leg speed not worrying of be unable to keep up or catch a breakaway. Wasted too much energy and help others save theirs.
    c) Improve my ITT and TTT ability. Tough as we just don't do enough of that, but I'll get their.
    Robert
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