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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, 07:38 AM
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Radish_legs
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Compared to 5 years ago, are Cat 4/5 racers faster now?

Some of my friends have talked about the impact of smart trainers, structured training, adoption of power meters, zwift as factors that have raised the bar for fitness in amateur racing. Saying people are getting faster, bar is being raised. People coming out of the winter with peak fitness.

You have to be pretty danged fast to challenge for a Cat 4/5 podium, at least around here. You have to be pretty serious in your training.

Have you guys noticed this? Or is this fanciful thinking of the new guard?
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Old 04-23-18, 08:46 AM
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No.
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Old 04-23-18, 09:14 AM
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I'm going to say no. These tools make it easier to train, but you still have to put in the time and do the workouts. It's hard to judge too because guys racing 4/5 four years ago are either no longer racing or aren't in the 4s anymore. I think you always have those new guys that are fast because they come from another endurance sport or just are more genetically inclined to excelling in endurance sports.
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Old 04-23-18, 10:23 AM
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Eyeballing times for the RR stage of Chico (because times are recorded), the 4/5 field winner was slower this year than in most prior years. Obviously this is a terrible baseline as the condition of the course can be so variable with the gravel but this is how I would go about evaluating the question.
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Old 04-23-18, 10:26 AM
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5s today get paid more to race
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Old 04-23-18, 10:28 AM
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We were just having this discussion on a group ride yesterday. Our feeling is that all of the new tools that allow you to improve your training have the primary goal of --- making you really good at doing the training. Probably also lifts your FTP and FRC if done well.

What they don't do is teach you how to race. Mass start racing has so many other variables. The people who seem to do that really well are people who do a lot of it.
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Old 04-23-18, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
Some of my friends have talked about the impact of smart trainers, structured training, adoption of power meters, zwift as factors that have raised the bar for fitness in amateur racing. Saying people are getting faster, bar is being raised. People coming out of the winter with peak fitness.

You have to be pretty danged fast to challenge for a Cat 4/5 podium, at least around here. You have to be pretty serious in your training.

Have you guys noticed this? Or is this fanciful thinking of the new guard?
I doubt it.

People that would have been fast "back then" would be fast now - besides genetics, what makes someone good at this sport isn't the amount of data they have in front of them, it's more about motivation & consistency.

Smart trainers, better training, power meters, zwift are all neat but not really game changers. Well maybe power meters, but the same can be said.

If anything, these days it's easier to get side-tracked with gear choices, training plans, and forget to actually ride your damn bike a lot.
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Old 04-23-18, 10:59 AM
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if they are faster it's because of aero stuff, not anyone's legs. Dudes that trained hard in 2013 have the same mindset of guys who train hard in 2018.
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Old 04-23-18, 11:10 AM
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I doubt its changed at all. Back then there were more races, more racers, and more dopers. Now there's less racers and races but less casual racers and 'easy*' races as well. All those guys racing with beer jerseys (which says I like to race, but I'm here to party) and lance bracelets have moved on to better things, like races that allow you to wear tutus an drink beer while racing.

* I mean easy as in all the heavy hitters go to race A, and race B has a less competitive field or there are more types of Cat 4 races. These days around here if you can't race crits, you're not going to upgrade. Back then there was a path for a good climber or road racer to move up, now there's only what, 3 road races in SoCal?
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Old 04-23-18, 11:35 AM
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Has it changed in 5 years? I highly doubt it, and it seems like it would be easy to verify. It's not like the internet has only been around for two, or even Strava for that matter. Take a look at the segments on your local crit or road race, and compare the times. Some of my local races have results going back well over 10 years archived on their websites. A quick look tells me that no, we're not getting faster.


It seems to be about the same, granted it's a small sample size but I'm willing to bet you'll find the same thing in your AO.
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Old 04-23-18, 11:44 AM
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I took at look at the top 50 times at one of the local crit courses on Strava. Races there since 2012.

Of the top 50
2012 - 2
2013 - 0
2014 - 0
2015 - 5
2016 - 23
2017 - 19
2018 - 1
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Old 04-23-18, 11:52 AM
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The Strava data is not necessarily an accurate reflection. How many people were on Strava in 2012 compared to 2017?
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Old 04-23-18, 11:53 AM
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How fast can you go
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Old 04-23-18, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
How fast can you go
slow af
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Old 04-23-18, 12:17 PM
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I started as a Cat 5 in 2014 and am still a Cat 5, but I'm a little faster than I was then lol
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Old 04-23-18, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
I took at look at the top 50 times at one of the local crit courses on Strava. Races there since 2012.

Of the top 50
2012 - 2
2013 - 0
2014 - 0
2015 - 5
2016 - 23
2017 - 19
2018 - 1
This crit is significantly more popular now than it was in 2012. So this is not likely an accurate representation.
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Old 04-23-18, 12:39 PM
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Still gotta put in the work. Technology changes, human nature doesn't
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Old 04-23-18, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by TheKillerPenguin View Post
Still gotta put in the work. Technology changes, human nature doesn't
I always think of that when I see the olden races with Merckx, LeMond, etc - steel frames, box section wheels, flaring brake cables - at its core, this sport is about pushing yourself to the limit and possibly beyond. Suffer suffer suffer!
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Old 04-23-18, 01:13 PM
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I think yes and no. (And geography probably has a lot to do with it.)

With the prevalence of Zwift/Sufferfest/TrainerRoad/etc people are doing more structured training over the winter than they used to.
I don't think anyone entering the sport is entering faster than they used to, but once you get hooked, the availability of decent training systems/plans makes it easier for people to rapidly increase their fitness. So a second-year Cat4 or Cat5 is probably stronger than a second-year Cat4/5 of 5+ years ago by some margin.

I have the feeling this is mostly measurable in the cooler climates where winter riding was a much bigger barrier. Sitting on a dumb trainer with a foot of snow outside was/is still pretty boring. Zwift and the likes have helped remove some of that. Warmer climates probably won't see much of a difference.

I wouldn't look at Strava data for comparison of anything other than long uphill segments. Somewhere near 100% of the local segments in my area are set with 30mph tailwinds in a group of 20+. Unless you can compare exact conditions, they won't be an indicator of anything.

I think a lot of the "no" responses above are failing to consider relativity. The same riders who would have been fast then are still fast now, but relatively I bet the percentage increase (in W/kg) from first year to second to third is higher now than it was before Zwift/SUF/TR became super popular.
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Old 04-23-18, 02:56 PM
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Personally, I tried my first race as a Cat 5 in July of 2017, got lapped multiple times and dropped out in the Criterium. I had only started cycling that year, and had about 1000 miles in my legs. Feeling a bit defeated, I started training hard come late September. I bought a Smart Trainer, subscribed to Trainerroad, and started doing 600-750tss weeks every week for around 25-26 weeks with a week or two of recovery here and there (18 weeks SST, 6 weeks Build, a few weeks of Zwift fun in between). I began with a W/kg FTP of 2.5 and raised it to 4.2.

I just finished my first cat 5 and cat 4/5 Crits of the year and placed 15/25 and 18/41. I didn't get dropped, or lapped, and had a great time.

Even though I've only completed a single group ride and had at this point spent more time training indoors than outdoors, I can say for a fact I would have been dropped in an instant had I not had access to such great winter training.

Currently, I've taken my training outside and have started using Xert with a power meter and Garmin connect Apps, it's working great and is seamlessly transferable between Smart Trainer and outdoors, unlike Zwift or Trainerroad, and it's only $10 monthly (unlike the $18 monthly for Today's plan, argh...).
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Old 04-23-18, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ancker View Post
I think a lot of the "no" responses above are failing to consider relativity. The same riders who would have been fast then are still fast now, but relatively I bet the percentage increase (in W/kg) from first year to second to third is higher now than it was before Zwift/SUF/TR became super popular.
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.
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Old 04-23-18, 03:27 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.

You know, uphill both ways kind of stuff.
1) Is there data to back this up? Not being snarky. I'm curious if there's been polls over the years to determine the amount of training Cat 4/5s are putting in each year for the last 10 years.

2a) I mentioned nothing about technology. I think with the easy of decent training plans and relative low cost for Zwift/SUF/TR, a casual entry-level racer has the ability to gain fitness/strength much faster now than 5+ years ago.

2b) For serious racers, the answer is still "Get a coach". But I'm seeing more and more that beginners are pointed towards Zwift/SUF/TR and smart trainers as the go-to answer for "How do I get faster?"

3) Yup. Kids these days...
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Old 04-23-18, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by firebird854 View Post
I began with a W/kg FTP of 2.5 and raised it to 4.2.

I just finished my first cat 5 and cat 4/5 Crits of the year and placed 15/25 and 18/41. I didn't get dropped, or lapped, and had a great time.
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.
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Old 04-23-18, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by ancker View Post
1) Is there data to back this up? Not being snarky. I'm curious if there's been polls over the years to determine the amount of training Cat 4/5s are putting in each year for the last 10 years.

2a) I mentioned nothing about technology. I think with the easy of decent training plans and relative low cost for Zwift/SUF/TR, a casual entry-level racer has the ability to gain fitness/strength much faster now than 5+ years ago.

2b) For serious racers, the answer is still "Get a coach". But I'm seeing more and more that beginners are pointed towards Zwift/SUF/TR and smart trainers as the go-to answer for "How do I get faster?"

3) Yup. Kids these days...
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).
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Old 04-23-18, 03:33 PM
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