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Differences in training between cat 5 ,4 and 3

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Differences in training between cat 5 ,4 and 3

Old 01-24-13, 06:12 AM
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Differences in training between cat 5 ,4 and 3

For those of you who are Cat 3s and above, I'm curious what your training looked like as a cat 5 (and for how many seasons you raced there), what your training looked like as a cat 4 (and for how many seasons you raced there) and what your training looks like as a cat 3.

I'll be bashed for it, but I want to try to go from my first race to cat 3 in two years.
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Old 01-24-13, 06:55 AM
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Experience racing tactically and being able to handle your bike in traffic is the #1 difference. The next major difference is the number of hours you have to put in training to be competitive IMO. I got away with training 5-6 hours a week in the 5's and 4's... to be competitive as a 3 it takes me 8-12 hours a week. Speaking from my experience only.

I spent maybe 1/2 season as a 5. The next season and a half as a 4 and have been a 3 for good lord.... going into season #5 now.
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Old 01-24-13, 08:46 AM
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I went the other direction. 12 hours/week as a quick-upgrade 4 and a no-good 3. Then I went down to 5-7 hours/week and and started winning, then got my Cat 2 upgrade. I didn't stay a 2 for long, as I was unable to find time to ramp training to compete. As it is now, with about 150K miles in my legs, I'm in pretty good shape for Cat 3 and M40+ if I can get 6-8 hours/week.

No reason somebody can't go 5->3 in two years. Set your priorities to line up with that goal. Listen to advice, maybe look into coaching if you plateau. I managed 5->3 in one half-season (June-Aug), but stagnated for several years after that -- I should have found a way to get a coach.
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Old 01-24-13, 08:54 AM
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I won't comment on time in each category but as I have with some of the guys I work with I will simply point out that the training doesn't really change it just gets harder/longer. What you would need to point out is what are your strengths/weaknesses, when you envision yourself as a racer, what discipline would it be in (road, crit, tt, all rounder) and what is your commitment level?
Like WR pointed out I can get by with a light training load as I have a crit focus, if I were to road race my training volume would go up tremendously.
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Old 01-24-13, 09:44 AM
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I don't think training to race in the 3's is much different than as 4 or a 5, in that the races typically aren't much longer. Biggest difference between 3's and 4's is that in the 3's , everyone is as strong as the fast guys in the 4's.

So as the competition gets stronger, you've got to train hard and smart to get stronger, but not necessarily more.

When you get to Cat 2 (which admittedly my experience with is only doing P1,2,3 races, and Masters races) you need to train longer because the events become significantly longer.
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Old 01-24-13, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by flats View Post
I want to try to go from my first race to cat 3 in two years.
This is mostly a question of how many races you can do, and how committed you are. It can be done in a season or less. Assuming you can race a fair amount, 2 years isn't unreasonable.

However, it depends on your area. If you live somewhere that there are races most weekends, and training crits, you can be a 4 in 5 weekends or less. Other areas it may take a while to acumulate 10 finishes.

Then 4>3 on points can be done in several weekends if you're killing it. Or 20 plus years in my case.
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Old 01-24-13, 10:19 AM
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I was arguably training harder then than I train now (this was 6 years ago). Then again, I had to because I had a lot fewer miles in my legs. I train maybe a little less, however, I am faster and have better endurance than I had then. Base, developed over multiple seasons, counts for a lot.

I spent my first year racing going from 5 to 4. I upgraded to cat3 by late spring the following year. If you have the ability to ride at the front of a 5 race, upgrading in two years is definitely a doable timeframe. I wouldn't set a timeframe to that goal though. Just race and take things as they come. It's no fun if you have to stretch to get an upgrade and then spend the rest of the year getting plowed in race after race. Let the upgrades come naturally as your skills progess.

I should mention; I raced a lot. 30+ races a season.
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Old 01-24-13, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
I was arguably training harder then than I train now (this was 6 years ago). Then again, I had to because I had a lot fewer miles in my legs. I train maybe a little less, however, I am faster and have better endurance than I had then. Base, developed over multiple seasons, counts for a lot.
Great point Brian
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Old 01-24-13, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by flats View Post
For those of you who are Cat 3s and above, I'm curious what your training looked like as a cat 5 (and for how many seasons you raced there), what your training looked like as a cat 4 (and for how many seasons you raced there) and what your training looks like as a cat 3.

I'll be bashed for it, but I want to try to go from my first race to cat 3 in two years.
It's not a bad goal and definitely possible.

The two factors will be your overall fitness and your ability to race in a tactically astute way. Part of the latter is getting experience in what is possible.

Fitness-wise if you do 2 "competitive" group rides a week that have 10-20 riders for 3 months you'll be race ready for sure. This assumes that most of the riders are either at 4s, 3s, or were at some point Cat 4s or 3s. Or serious weekend warriors, who generally speaking ride much harder on such rides than any racer.

I bet if you did 5 hours a weekend (two 2.5 hour group rides or substitute a race+warmup+cooldown of any length for one or both group rides) and 2-3 hours during the week (taking Mon and Thu off) you'll be fine for everything up to Cat 3s. That would be my ideal week for the 3s, balancing time and training:

Sun race (1-3 hours total)
Mon "easy" group ride (1-2 hours)
Tue race (1-1.5 hours total)
Wed rest
Thu rest
Fri rest or 0.5-1 hour easy if racing Sat
Sat 0.5-1 hour easy or race.

If I want to get more fit then I'd think about doing a group ride on Wed, 2-2.5 hours. If I want to do a super long ride it would be Wed. In the winter I do about 4-8 weeks of "solid training", JRA rides, 4-10 hours a week, ending usually by early Feb. I start racing March. Group rides and Tues race start in May, end in August.

As a flat crit type Cat 3 I found that 12-16 hours per month (month, not week) is a bit lower than what I should get. I was racing (+warmup+cooldown) 2 hours a week so training 0-1 hour a week. I think just an extra hour or two each week would have made the difference, so 16-20 hours a month would be a good minimum for me. That's to be competitive in Cat 3 races that have ex-Cat 1s and ex-Cat 2s in them, as well as P123 training races.

This means I have to race smart. If I don't I get shelled quickly and in those races I sometimes lasted 5-10 minutes if that.
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Old 01-24-13, 10:41 AM
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I rushed 5>4. Raced in the 4s for about a season and a half, then got creamed in the 3s... Now after a year off the bike, I'm back to racing in the 3s about 15 lbs lighter and a more systematic training plan.
pin the 5s everything was jra with friends. I the 4s is tarted training with a power meter. Now I train with intervals, but I'm very careful to have fun too, though mountain biking, cross, running, etc. 10 hrs/wk now, maxed at 2x 14hr weeks during base.

big thing for me was rearranging life to accommodate riding more/better. Setting up food plans, learning to cook healthy, keeping bikes maintained so I don't have reasons not to ride, forming dedicated riding partners, etc. the weather this winter has really helped as well.
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Old 01-24-13, 10:51 AM
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I upgraded to 3 last year. Had a strong background in triathlon before I started bike racing, and with that a fairly deep endurance base. I thrashed people in 5 just based on fitness alone. In the 4's I sometimes struggled in crits but due to fitness and a good sense of timing and aggressiveness, I was able to consistently get points, podium or even win in lumpy road races.

In the 3's last season, I could hang in the pack no problem in crits but still have trouble sticking the elbows out and finishing things off in the final lap. I no longer have a fitness advantage that lets me break away at will in road races, but most of the time, I was able to hang with the front group and not get shelled when things got frisky (most of the time).

I've always just focused on volume. That meant 14-15 hours a week, consistently in-season. I'm a fair weather rider so I do other stuff in the winter but still keep my overall training load above 10 hours, even if it's not all on the bike. After last season however, I'm finding I need to be much more structured, so ALL my bike training now is focused and I've cut out the 'junk miles' entirely. The past 2 months I've done nothing but SST. Now mixing in some threshold work. If I'm not doing SST or threshold I'm running or ski touring or doing something else. Hoping this will help me get back to the place I was in 4, where I had the confidence to attack repeatedly in hilly RR's instead of just sitting in the pack trying to hang on.
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Old 01-24-13, 11:10 AM
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You should train as hard as you can for as long as you can no matter what category you race in. The more training, the more rest.

Don't be in a rush to upgrade. You have too much to learn first.

Good luck.
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Old 01-24-13, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
You should train as hard as you can for as long as you can no matter what category you race in. The more training, the more rest.

Don't be in a rush to upgrade. You have too much to learn first.

Good luck.
Couch intervals are worth as much as any other intervals. You can only get stronger by resting after tearing yourself down.
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Old 01-24-13, 12:08 PM
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Not much to add, besides just try to race as much as you can. Some guys might have the legs or the smarts, but not the money, time, or dedication to actually race a ton.

5 to 3 is doable in two years no doubt.
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Old 01-24-13, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
Don't be in a rush to upgrade. You have too much to learn first.
these are wise words.

i recently went from 5 to 3 in under 2 years, so i figured i would chime in. i think that upgrading should really NOT be the goal (it should be a by-product of a goal in that it will come from goals like "being smarter tactically", or "training smarter", or "learning to really race."); however, it is good to have motivation.

i requested and received a very fast upgrade from 5 to 4 in my first month of racing. my only motivation for asking was that i wanted to compete in a few stage races that only allowed cat 4s and above to enter -- the idea of those stage races was what interested me in racing.

i got my wish of being able to go to those stage races, but from a results standpoint i was irrelevant. i sat here and thought for a bit. i won't say i regret getting that upgrade as getting my ass handed to me inspired me to step up my training for the next year, but i will say that while i was fit i had not learned how to race my bike. instead, i was "riding my bike in races." subtle but meaningful distinction.

in my 2nd year, i did the opposite: i took my time upgrading from 4 to 3. i earned the minimum points to upgrade 12 or 13 months after my first race, but i waited an additional 2-3 months to actually do it. instead of using cat 5 to experiment, i did so in cat 4. i wanted to learn how to cross the line first -- not with the pack, not 2nd...but first. i discovered there is a bit of a difference in actually doing that.

along the way, i noticed that there is a bit of peer pressure to upgrade. for example, if i did well at a local race, conversation on the finish line is "dude, you need to upgrade." i realized that other racers feel like if you beat them, then you should be the next level up. it's also 'cool' to have a lower number on one's license.

for me, i used the ass-kickings from the prior summer (for example, in one big stage race i was pulled from the stage 3 crit (my first crit!) and although i earned the right to start the final stage i was physically unable to do so) as winter motivation. i came out the next year and got some results at the local level, but they all happened very quickly and against similar competition from week-to-week. i held off on my upgrade because i wanted to return to that stage race in the same category -- the same event where i did not even finish! -- and see how i could hang. i had some confidence based on local results but at the regional level you're racing different competition (maybe my local region is weak?), and the guys at the sharp end of those fields are generally qualified (or will soon be) to race at the next level.

anyway, when i got some results at the regional level i upgraded to 3.

my training (volume & intensity) didn't really change from 5 to 4 to 3. in fact, i would argue that i was more fit at the end of my first season (FTP) than i was all last year, but last year i knew how to use the fitness i had to get results.

so.....long story, but i wrote it to convey two things to you:
1: if your goal is to get to 3 in 2 years, it is not unreasonable. you may not get there, or you may get there sooner...but don't let people tell you it is not possible.

2: make sure you learn how to race along the way. this is as much or possibly even more important for moving through those 5/4/3 steps. in theory, if you train so much harder than your competition, you may really outclass them (and/or get away with many mistakes) that you could get to cat 3 and not know how to race.

my advice is to take your time with each level and feel like you've achieved some mastery of skills rather than memorizing the minimum requirement to upgrade. also, don't listen to the guys in your race: if you win one or two, the guy who finished 19th will complain you are sandbagging...because he wanted to finish 18th on the day.

if you need to study the USAC guidelines and upgrade on 1 point here and one point there -- or if you need to get out a calculator to add everything up...you're not ready. it will be very obvious when one is ready. i only learned that in hindsight but hope to be able to pass on the learning to someone ahead of time.

when you have the points to upgrade comfortably, you are suddenly free to just enjoy everything and try stuff you otherwise might not if you have to squeeze every last point out of every start.

hope this helps.
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Old 01-24-13, 12:23 PM
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As for what I was doing my first couple years... a lot of 2x20 interval sets. I got up to a decent threshold; that combined with a natural sprint talent took me a long ways my first couple years.
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Old 01-24-13, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by tetonrider View Post
when you have the points to upgrade comfortably, you are suddenly free to just enjoy everything and try stuff you otherwise might not if you have to squeeze every last point out of every start.
Lots of good points above, but this one rings true for me. When I went to Cat 2, I had won like 5 of my last 10 starts and had clearly mastered 3s racing. (it's not going to be like that this year though...)
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Old 01-24-13, 02:51 PM
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I went from Cat 5 to Cat 3 in one year (got it on my 2nd year racing). I have all of my training documented, if you have any questions, ask. FYI, even with my training changes, my cycling fitness is not that much different from after about the first 6 months I started riding. A lot of getting to Cat3 is just about learning to race smart. I'm now needing to work on the fitness part a bit more as well as racing even smarter to hopefully continue on.

Before racing:
- Metric century after 3 months of training (averaged over 18mph)
- 4-7hrs training weekly (3-4 days a week, of which 2 were intervals, 1 was medium, 1 was long)
- Century after 8 months of training (hung with Cat 4/5s in pack)
- Dropped in first Cat5 crit I did at about 9 months of training

First year of racing:
- Did 10 Cat5 races ASAP at beginning of season
- Got dropped in first few, then started hanging, then started competing
- 6-9 hours training (4-5 days a week)
- Got dropped horribly in spring in Cat4s
- Got a powertap, started training with power
- Upped training to 7-11 hours for summer/fall (5-6 days a week)
- Got 6 pts towards Cat3 upgrade in the fall, and was very competitive in Cat4

Second year racing:
- Had a rough offseason going towards this year, had some injuries/fit problems, didn't start base until January
- Got in a few 10-12 hour weeks before racing started, during racing training weeks were 8-10 hours
- Had an excellent few Spring races and got 10 more points from a few top 5s (now at 16 points), was always at the front of the races, very competitive
- Switched to some century riding in April/May, got a top 25 in a very competitive 105 mile, 10k+ climbing race (Mt Mitchell), peaked CTL at 85
- Took a couple weeks off, regenerated
- Came back and killed a ~40 mile race with a 10 mile finishing climb, finished 3rd, got my last upgrade points needed
- Upgrade to the 3s and was again struggling a bit
- Started training with a coach, with intervals 2-3 times a week, and racing on the weekend (9-12 hours a week, riding all 7 days a week)
- Raced as much as possible, got a lot more comfortable in the 3s, by the end of the season started becoming more competitive and getting into breakaways
- Finished top 15 in another super competitive climbing ride/race 100+ miles, 10k+ ft climbing (Six Gap)
- Took 3 weeks off at the end of the season
- Started huge base with some long sub threshold interval days twice a week (12-18hrs a week)

That's where I am today.
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Old 01-24-13, 03:01 PM
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Great write-up creatre and should provide a lot of direction to the op.

I think you are going to have a great season this year.
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Old 01-24-13, 03:14 PM
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Creatre keeps scaring me.

We have a Cat II and Cat I on our team that show how much genetics plays in this sport. The Cat I rides between 200-500 miles a week depending on season and schedule. The Cat II rides 8 hours tops if he's lucky. The I leads out the II for sprints in P12 races.

Creatre, you've ridden with Isaac right? The kids got the genes for this sport.
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Old 01-24-13, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by jwible View Post
Creatre keeps scaring me.

We have a Cat II and Cat I on our team that show how much genetics plays in this sport. The Cat I rides between 200-500 miles a week depending on season and schedule. The Cat II rides 8 hours tops if he's lucky. The I leads out the II for sprints in P12 races.

Creatre, you've ridden with Isaac right? The kids got the genes for this sport.
Yeah I don't have the genes. I do all this work and I'm going to be lucky if I upgrade to 2! At some point I'll need to back it down a bit and get more serious about having a life. I just got burnt out a little bit for a couple weeks, got sick and had trouble getting back on the bike. Doing better again though!
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Old 01-24-13, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jwible View Post
Creatre keeps scaring me.

We have a Cat II and Cat I on our team that show how much genetics plays in this sport. The Cat I rides between 200-500 miles a week depending on season and schedule. The Cat II rides 8 hours tops if he's lucky. The I leads out the II for sprints in P12 races.

Creatre, you've ridden with Isaac right? The kids got the genes for this sport.
Is that the guy I met in Chattanooga?
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Old 01-24-13, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by rkwaki View Post
Is that the guy I met in Chattanooga?
Yep. Soft spoken. Very mellow. Legs like Eric Heiden.
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Old 01-24-13, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by flats View Post
For those of you who are Cat 3s and above, I'm curious what your training looked like as a cat 5 (and for how many seasons you raced there), what your training looked like as a cat 4 (and for how many seasons you raced there) and what your training looks like as a cat 3.
.
no difference, really.

1 year.
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Old 01-25-13, 12:31 AM
  #25  
grwoolf
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I started racing less than 2 years ago. While I'm still a CAT 4, I've got the points to be a 3 and I race in 3/4 races sometimes and don't have any issues hanging. From my perspective, the fast guys in the 4's are on par with the fast guys in the 3's, there's just a lot more depth in the 3's. What I really like racing is the masters category. It's much smoother, more tactics, and I see less testosteron-fueled stupid stuff going on (ignoring the fact that bike racing in general is stupid and testoron-fueled). I've done a handful of crits with the P123's and I can hold on for dear life, but those races require a higher level of fitness from my perspective and I don't see many CAT 3's making an impact in those races.
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