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Compared to 5 years ago, are Cat 4/5 racers faster now?

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Compared to 5 years ago, are Cat 4/5 racers faster now?

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Old 04-23-18, 03:43 PM
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Radish_legs
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Rubik, I'm not sure in my area that dissing the Master's races holds any water.

I think the Masters 40+ is stronger than the average Cat 2 field here. In fact, one of the 40+ master's riders on our team actually placed higher in the cat 2 state crit championship (he podiumed) than he did in the 40+ championship the day before.

It's my eventual goal to be someone that can race in the 40+ field. I'm not there. I need to be a strong cat 3 to do that. And even at that, I would never sniff a podium against all these cat 1 40+.
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Old 04-23-18, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
Rubik, I'm not sure in my area that dissing the Master's races holds any water.

I think the Masters 40+ is stronger than the average Cat 2 field here. In fact, one of the 40+ master's riders on our team actually placed higher in the cat 2 state crit championship (he podiumed) than he did in the 40+ championship the day before.

It's my eventual goal to be someone that can race in the 40+ field. I'm not there. I need to be a strong cat 3 to do that. And even at that, I would never sniff a podium against all these cat 1 40+.
I'm not dissing master's races. I'm saying it's questionable to get upgrade points for a 1 based off of winning/placing in master's races. Because it's a completely different race.

And Radish, come on. Here you go again. How are you comparing the difficulty of a master's race with a cat 2 race when you have no experience with either? Speaking of not holding any water...

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Old 04-23-18, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Doubtful. Strava and a powermeter for every bike didn't come around until recently. But training doesn't make racing harder, in my opinion (see post above).

Technology is precisely what enables the coaching. I've seen multiple coaches advertise KOMs and Zwift race fitness. Powermeters are ubiquitous.

Again, training and numbers don't make races faster. And they certainly don't equate to results without either exceptional abilities or very good race sense.

Agree with the coach. I'd add groups even with or even above that, though. Zwift won't do anything for pack skills and surges (zwift surges are so unlike real life surges).
I guess where we're not lining up is that I'm separating the strength of a rider vs how well they race. I've not meant to infer that anything I've stated above actually makes anyone a better racer, just that they're possible stronger than they used to be.

Also, the 'technology' I'm referring to is the incremental technology upgrades like aero/lighter/stiffer bikes, better wheels, etc. Things that all things being equal, a rider today having such technology would be faster than a rider 10 years ago. Technology that enables better coaching/training/measurement/etc is precisely why I think Cat 4/5 racers today are 'stronger' than 5+ years ago.
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Old 04-23-18, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
I disagree. People have always been fast. And people always think it's faster now than what it was, and that people train better/harder/more now than before. And it's pretty much never the case.

Technology improves. Surely bikes, equipment, and clothing are more aero/efficient than in the past, but effort is similar, talent is similar, drive is similar.

There will always be the people that shoot through the ranks. And there will always be the category lifers.

If anything, I'd say the upper categories are more diluted, but realistically it's probably about the same. It's a lot easier to get upgrade points than it used to be (which when I upgraded it was still easier to do than it had been for the previous generation). But anyway, I find it ridiculous that people can be cat 1s by winning master's races. Or that you can get points for weeknight training races. Or racing against fields of ten people. Or that you can accrue points over years instead of a single season, etc., etc. So it would seem that there are more cat 1s (or 2s or 3s) than there should be, especially ones that don't ever even race p/1/2 or 3. But in reality it's probably not actually a big difference.

You know, uphill both ways kind of stuff.
Agreed.

But fwiw, you can only get 10 points from masters races going 2->1. So USAC partially agrees with you that you shouldn't be able to be cat 1 without doing "elite" races.
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Old 04-23-18, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
I think the Masters 40+ is stronger than the average Cat 2 field here.
It's not the "40+" part of Masters that makes them (possibly) stronger/faster than cat 2's, it's the "cat 1" part.
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Old 04-23-18, 04:26 PM
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I still miss botto.
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Old 04-23-18, 04:58 PM
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It's my *impression* that masters 40+ is just as fast or faster than Cat 2. Based on results, hunches, people who cross-over.

Gosh, imagine if you called out every fan or commentator in sports who hasn't actually played at that level. You'd have nothing left to do in the day!
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Old 04-23-18, 05:00 PM
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high level of confidence here that you're missing the point.
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Old 04-23-18, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ancker View Post
Technology that enables better coaching/training/measurement/etc is precisely why I think Cat 4/5 racers today are 'stronger' than 5+ years ago.
5 years isn't very long ago. Ergometers have been around for decades, the SRM was patented in 1986. TSS/CTL/TSB was based off Bannister's TRIMP which was published in 1991. Heck, I used a Computrainer that ran off an 8 bit Nintendo... (as a cat5 10 years ago).

Even without power measurement a good coach can do a lot with a heart rate monitor and a stopwatch. It's the exercise - not the metrics - that make you faster.
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Old 04-23-18, 05:35 PM
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Probably the biggest difference is the high level of specialization on the upper levels of the sport
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Old 04-23-18, 05:39 PM
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Anecdote, but when I got into the sport ('13/'14), the question was if someone had a power meter. Now a days it's almost rare to see a bike without one. The other day I was chatting with someone who told me they were training by hr and it threw my for a loop because I just haven't heard that in quite a while.

Also, nearly every piece of advice I see for people trying to get stronger on other forums is "pay for trainerroad and follow a plan." Not, get a coach. The tools people have available make becoming a better cyclist easier. Now, I have no idea if that actually produces faster racers or not, but I'd tend to think so.

Another point, as I've learned this year, it's hard to make general statements about a category as a whole because so many areas of the country are different from each other. Certain areas breed different racers than other. Certain areas are easier than others, and certain races bring out better talent. I had fun racing (like, actually racing, pack dynamics..etc) at the 3 big stage races I did this year, where as some of my local fields feel relatively easy.
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Old 04-23-18, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
This may be different... or may not because so few people had powermeters... but I raced my first elite crit nats with a powermeter I'd gotten that year (got crashed out of the top ten with three laps to go, ugh) and my ftp at the time was right around 4.3 w/kg.

Yet I was still a moderately successful cat 1 (though I had to be fairly lucky to get in and survive a break).

But now everybody knows their numbers, and there are these 4s and 5s with 4+ w/kg, yet they can't do anything with it. They have no strengths on teh bike, can't read a race, can't hide when necessary, no timing or positioning skills, no sprint, etc., etc. Still no race craft.

But the numbers don't make races faster, either. Because you're not riding that fast at 4.3 w/kg relative to the speed of a spirited group.

So that's why I don't think racing changes much, despite whatever gadgets people are training with. Racing is a skill that usually comes to those that spend a lot of time practicing and honing it. And honestly, the less power you produce, the better racer you'll probably be out of sheer necessity of not being dropped. You have to maximize your pack and finishing skills because you're not going to ever ride off the front.
Group training is not quite as valued as it was in the past. There used to be guys coming up bumping you, corrective speeches, etc. It was a big deal that everyone knew how to race; but a lot of people were ran off as well. After doing that a lot I used to get this transcendent feel for the flow of the riders around me and at times can predict moves. Granted, I never won anything with that and it does tend to lose its value, but for me its good to have that feel.

Today it seems more guys just stick to the trainer or KOM hunt. If you live in a remote area you may be forced to do just that but if the option is there to mix it up in a group ride you have to take it.
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Old 04-23-18, 07:09 PM
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Well, I think some of it's regional. Perhaps some places are catching up to the the historic hotbeds of cycling in the US? But I would guess that it's actually getting slower -- less people racing, lower skills due to the lower number of race days, smaller average field sizes (which results in slower races regardless of effort). There is something to be said about riders coming in fitter after the winter in some regions -- I for sure have been fitter coming out of the winter after Zwifting.
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Old 04-23-18, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
This may be different... or may not because so few people had powermeters... but I raced my first elite crit nats with a powermeter I'd gotten that year (got crashed out of the top ten with three laps to go, ugh) and my ftp at the time was right around 4.3 w/kg.

Yet I was still a moderately successful cat 1 (though I had to be fairly lucky to get in and survive a break).

But now everybody knows their numbers, and there are these 4s and 5s with 4+ w/kg, yet they can't do anything with it. They have no strengths on teh bike, can't read a race, can't hide when necessary, no timing or positioning skills, no sprint, etc., etc. Still no race craft.

But the numbers don't make races faster, either. Because you're not riding that fast at 4.3 w/kg relative to the speed of a spirited group.

So that's why I don't think racing changes much, despite whatever gadgets people are training with. Racing is a skill that usually comes to those that spend a lot of time practicing and honing it. And honestly, the less power you produce, the better racer you'll probably be out of sheer necessity of not being dropped. You have to maximize your pack and finishing skills because you're not going to ever ride off the front.
I agree with this.

Also, Strava. I was an early adopter and I started recording all my rides by about April 2012. There weren't many riders on Strava at that point. It's very hard to use Strava data from those days in any meaningful way.

As far as fast riders, Cat 5s have always had fast riders, the ringers that don't want to upgrade for whatever reason, the category surfers that are in each category just long enough to upgrade to the next one. There was a pro mtb racer that did the 5s all the time in my Series. When he upgraded to 3 (very quickly) he was just at home in the Cat 3-4 races, although he didn't necessarily win them. Other years there have been mtb racers (basically Cat 1 mtb) who have entered the 5s. And some of the ones that win Cat 5 sprints, like 2010 for my Series, that same rider got 2nd in his first P12 race in August 2010, won all sorts of races as a 1, and is now racing pro.

w/kg makes a huge difference in a hilly RR. Even the most tactically dense racer can annihilate a field by holding 5 or 6 w/kg up a long climb. But in normal situations it's w/CdA, not w/kg, and that's both harder to measure and harder to execute.

I'd say that the average fitness level of racers is higher. But I also find that it's been easier earning places in the last 8 years than the prior 8 or 10 years. Not winning - I've never won a summer race - but in, say, winning field sprints, for sure it's been easier since, say, 2010, compared to say, 1992-1995, all very good years for me on the bike.
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Old 04-23-18, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
Rubik, I'm not sure in my area that dissing the Master's races holds any water.

I think the Masters 40+ is stronger than the average Cat 2 field here. In fact, one of the 40+ master's riders on our team actually placed higher in the cat 2 state crit championship (he podiumed) than he did in the 40+ championship the day before.

It's my eventual goal to be someone that can race in the 40+ field. I'm not there. I need to be a strong cat 3 to do that. And even at that, I would never sniff a podium against all these cat 1 40+.
Dang, I wanna put you and Rubiksoval on a track and watch you to battle it out
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Old 04-23-18, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
This may be different... or may not because so few people had powermeters... but I raced my first elite crit nats with a powermeter I'd gotten that year (got crashed out of the top ten with three laps to go, ugh) and my ftp at the time was right around 4.3 w/kg.

Yet I was still a moderately successful cat 1 (though I had to be fairly lucky to get in and survive a break).

But now everybody knows their numbers, and there are these 4s and 5s with 4+ w/kg, yet they can't do anything with it. They have no strengths on teh bike, can't read a race, can't hide when necessary, no timing or positioning skills, no sprint, etc., etc. Still no race craft.

But the numbers don't make races faster, either. Because you're not riding that fast at 4.3 w/kg relative to the speed of a spirited group.

So that's why I don't think racing changes much, despite whatever gadgets people are training with. Racing is a skill that usually comes to those that spend a lot of time practicing and honing it. And honestly, the less power you produce, the better racer you'll probably be out of sheer necessity of not being dropped. You have to maximize your pack and finishing skills because you're not going to ever ride off the front.
I fully admit that I have zero race skills at this point. I'm very timid in a large group and frankly lose my positioning descending or whenever it seems somewhat sketchy, then have to give it my all up a climb in order to regain what I'd lost. However, I still train as perfectly as I possibly can, I'm starting to do group rides, and intend to absorb these skills as fast as I can. Honestly, I only have around 5k miles period, but once I gain these skills my FTP will hopefully be higher, and then I can really put it to use.

At this point, the amount of training I've done has made it so I can stay to the side and into the wind, not take any risks, and still finish mid-pack. Had I not trained so hard and raised my FTP to what it is now, I'd frankly be killing myself trying to hang on, and likely get dropped, prompting me to never race again.

On a side note, in the 4/5 race, there was a massive crash next to me, any recommendations for lessening the possibility of crashing?
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Old 04-23-18, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I fully admit that I have zero race skills at this point. I'm very timid in a large group and frankly lose my positioning descending or whenever it seems somewhat sketchy, then have to give it my all up a climb in order to regain what I'd lost. However, I still train as perfectly as I possibly can, I'm starting to do group rides, and intend to absorb these skills as fast as I can. Honestly, I only have around 5k miles period, but once I gain these skills my FTP will hopefully be higher, and then I can really put it to use.

At this point, the amount of training I've done has made it so I can stay to the side and into the wind, not take any risks, and still finish mid-pack. Had I not trained so hard and raised my FTP to what it is now, I'd frankly be killing myself trying to hang on, and likely get dropped, prompting me to never race again.

On a side note, in the 4/5 race, there was a massive crash next to me, any recommendations for lessening the possibility of crashing?
Learning to ride efficiently in a group is something that takes a lot of practice. I can't imagine one's first experience in group riding being in crit racing, that would be beyond scary to me (and I would be afraid for everyone else around me). I think the best training for this is to surf up the various group rides in your area. when you get to the top levels, they will ride close together and more like a race pack. The first time I did a ride like this, it was really unsettling to me. I was used to being in those carefully orchestrated rides where there were pacelines, and two across in a lane. I wasn't used to the racing amoeba and guys riding so close.

If you don't live in an area where you can do fast group rides, then I guess you just have to practice in races.
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Old 04-23-18, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Bikeracer123 View Post
Dang, I wanna put you and Rubiksoval on a track and watch you to battle it out
Soon, every post that starts with "Back when I was a Cat 4..." (and there will be many), Rubik is going to want to poke his eyes out.
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Old 04-23-18, 08:43 PM
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In a word, no.

I did my first crit last summer in 14 years as a 52 YO master in a 4/5 race. Field of 80, placed 13th. That was all race craft, didn't work that hard, jumped from train to train at the finish. Then raced masters 40+ pace was a bit faster, but much, much smoother. Placed 20th of 75ish. 5's ain't fast, and who wants to be a 5??? WTF?
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Old 04-23-18, 09:00 PM
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What % of Cat 5s ever become a Cat 3? I bet it's a very small %.
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Old 04-24-18, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
Learning to ride efficiently in a group is something that takes a lot of practice. I can't imagine one's first experience in group riding being in crit racing, that would be beyond scary to me (and I would be afraid for everyone else around me). I think the best training for this is to surf up the various group rides in your area. when you get to the top levels, they will ride close together and more like a race pack. The first time I did a ride like this, it was really unsettling to me. I was used to being in those carefully orchestrated rides where there were pacelines, and two across in a lane. I wasn't used to the racing amoeba and guys riding so close.

If you don't live in an area where you can do fast group rides, then I guess you just have to practice in races.
It was quite scary, especially since it was a field of 41 with a very potholy narrow downhill section. However, I didn't take any risks, I held my line, and only eased the breaks when I had to.
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Old 04-24-18, 08:42 AM
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Thinking about the original question some more: Does it even matter?

What practical impact would there be if 4/5 racers were faster now than 4-5 years ago. At the top levels of sport, times are continually going down, which says people are getting stronger/faster/better. I don't attribute all of that to equipment because even runners are getting faster, though there is some discussion that we are approaching the limit at which a human can run 100m.

If everyone is getting faster, that doesn't change the calculus for racing. You still have to go faster than everyone else at the end.
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Old 04-24-18, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Thinking about the original question some more: Does it even matter?

What practical impact would there be if 4/5 racers were faster now than 4-5 years ago. At the top levels of sport, times are continually going down, which says people are getting stronger/faster/better. I don't attribute all of that to equipment because even runners are getting faster, though there is some discussion that we are approaching the limit at which a human can run 100m.

If everyone is getting faster, that doesn't change the calculus for racing. You still have to go faster than everyone else at the end.
I think it's just another excuse for losing.
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Old 04-24-18, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Bikeracer123 View Post
Dang, I wanna put you and Rubiksoval on a track and watch you to battle it out
That sounds boring as hell.
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Old 04-24-18, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
Soon, every post that starts with "Back when I was a Cat 4..." (and there will be many), Rubik is going to want to poke his eyes out.
I enjoy discussing things about racing and all. It's you arguing so many things you're clueless about that gets things derailed. And you don't even seem to understand that you don't know what you're talking about half the time.
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