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100 miles a week enough to hang/compete in cat 4/5?

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100 miles a week enough to hang/compete in cat 4/5?

Old 03-17-16, 05:57 PM
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sgrapevine
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100 miles a week enough to hang/compete in cat 4/5?

Hey all,

I have time to get in about a hundred miles of cycling a week. About 3 one hour slots during the week and maybe 2.5 hours on a Sunday or Saturday. I don't train with power or heart rate yet. I can knock out an hour ride at about 18.5 miles/hour on a nice flat ride with a bit of wind.

I plan to go out on my first group rides in the coming weeks, so that will be a good litmus test of if I can hang at group speeds. However, my question is: will I be constantly relegated to middle-of-the-pack Category 4 or are there racers who compete to win at the 3/4 level with limited training (5-6 hours/wk)?

I'm 6'0", male, 183lbs. Bought a used 2009 Fuji Team Pro about two weeks ago.

And yes, I realize I'm putting the cart a bit before the horse, but just really wondering at what point you really have to start putting in serious hours.

Thanks!
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Old 03-17-16, 06:11 PM
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Maybe. I know guys who win M45 123 races on 5-6 hours a week, but they have 100's of thousands of miles in their legs from years of riding. And the 5 or 6 hours they do now is very focused interval training. If you are just starting out, it may not be enough.
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Old 03-17-16, 06:24 PM
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I know when I started I could not have done it. As caloso said maybe later after a big base got established. A few years later its possible with high quality training but someone can't do that unless they have lots of miles under their belt.
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Old 03-17-16, 06:32 PM
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You'll have a much better idea after doing a few fast group rides. Bike handling skills and riding in the pack is something you should feel comfortable with prior to jumping into racing.
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Old 03-17-16, 07:10 PM
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Depends on how you're riding. You just keep the same pace? 18.5 is a good pace IF that is what your computer reads at the end, if you're counting slow downs and stops. If you're going to race you need to do sprints and intervals. When you go on a group ride and realize the group is 200 meters ahead of you because weren't paying attention and got caught behind a slow guy dropping, will you be able to sprint back up to them solo when they're hauling at 25mph?
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Old 03-17-16, 07:21 PM
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Yep. A rider goes 18.5 by riding 15 to 22. A racer does it by going 12 to 30. The biggest adjustment for pretty much everyone starting out is that there is very little steady effort in racing.

Some thrive on it, some never quite get it. That's what you need to train for and adjust to.
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Old 03-17-16, 08:01 PM
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It is doable, but there is much more to it than fitness. Group rides (if they are the right kind of group rides) will help a lot in developing the skills necessary.
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Old 03-17-16, 08:31 PM
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Thanks for all the replies! The 18.5mph was with no stops to the clock. About a half dozen slow downs where our paved trail crosses some residential roads, but no stops. We're talking completely flat, though. Next order of business is to get some hill climbs in.

I feel pretty competent on a bike. I'm excited about getting into a group ride. I've definitely hesitated so far as I dial in my fit and components, as well as learning the ins and outs of clipless pedals.

I'll get out there this weekend and try to do 60-90 minutes of intervals and see how much my legs and lungs hate me for it.

Thanks again for all the replies!
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Old 03-18-16, 12:32 PM
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Unless you are swimming in the shallow end of the aerobic gene pool, you should be able to build enough fitness to be "pack fodder" in a 4/5 race on ~5 hours of training per week.

As others have mentioned, it takes more than fitness and almost everyone struggles racing until they figure out how to race with some efficiency. Group rides will certainly help and some road races can be similar to a "spirited" group ride dynamic. Crit racing is completely different (from my perspective) and the only good training for crit racing is... crit racing. Fitness still matters in a crit, but technique and positioning are critical. Cat 4/5 crits will still average 25-27+ mph, so it's critical you stay out of the wind and don't let gaps form. You'd be amazed how easy it is to be in a pack of 50+ people going 30mph when you are riding efficiently. Closing a gap at that speed after a bad corner will spit you out the back in a hurry.

Go do some group rides and then sign up for a race. See if there is a practice clinic/race in your area.
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Old 03-18-16, 12:35 PM
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Make sure you check out the sticky at the top of the 33 called "So you think you want to race"
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Old 03-18-16, 12:40 PM
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Agree with check the sticky.

Also you need to stop thinking about miles and average speed, and start thinking about time and intensity. The 6 hours or so you're spending now is sufficient to have the fitness to race Cat 4/5, provided that 6 hours is 6 hours of properly focused effort.

You might want to read the time crunched cyclist by Chris Carmichael.

Cat 5 crits are typically 30 minutes or so. Even Cat 5 road races are typically 2 hours or less. So you you don't need to develop tons of endurance. But with only 6 hours to train, you've got to make the most of your time. riding 4-5 times a week with one hard group ride, and two days of intervals each week can be done in 6 hours, and will give you the fitness you need. Prepare to suffer doing the intervals.
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Old 03-18-16, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by sgrapevine View Post
Thanks for all the replies! The 18.5mph was with no stops to the clock. About a half dozen slow downs where our paved trail crosses some residential roads, but no stops. We're talking completely flat, though. Next order of business is to get some hill climbs in.

I feel pretty competent on a bike. I'm excited about getting into a group ride. I've definitely hesitated so far as I dial in my fit and components, as well as learning the ins and outs of clipless pedals.

I'll get out there this weekend and try to do 60-90 minutes of intervals and see how much my legs and lungs hate me for it.

Thanks again for all the replies!
100% do as many group rides before you race as possible. Ideally you can start with smaller groups (like 3-4 people) that know you're new, so they can help you learn pack dynamics and handling. Jumping in to a 30-person fast ride with no experience can lead to disaster.

Like you said, don't put the cart before the horse. Pack racing is something that you really can only learn from experience. Even super-fit naturally talented riders can show up for their first race, sit in the wind because they're uncomfortable in the middle of a group, and go off the back after burning out.

The fitness part is a separate matter, and doing structured intervals is the key. Some people don't like the author because he's associated with Armstrong, but this book has workouts and tips for people that only have 6 hours a week-

The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 2nd Ed.: Fit, Fast, Powerful in 6 Hours a Week (The Time-Crunched Athlete): Chris Carmichael, Jim Rutberg: 9781934030837: Amazon.com: Books

May be worth a look.

Edit: Merlin beat me to the book rec by a few minutes!
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Old 03-18-16, 01:48 PM
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Hey, this is all really great info and support. Thanks, everybody! Checking out the Carmichael book now.
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Old 03-18-16, 03:41 PM
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Having tried the Carmichael time-crunched program, I think it stinks. It's a get-fit-quick regimen that is absolutely the wrong thing for a newish rider who needs to build a base.

I don't want to be discouraging, but if 18 miles in an hour seems quick to you then you almost certainly aren't ready to be competitive in a race. Average speeds don't mean much, because a race consists of a series of surges, but that level of intensity isn't going to cut it.

As others have suggested, read the sticky in the 33 and act on it. In particular, find a local group that is quick and join it so you can gain experience in riding at close quarters. Better yet, investigate whether there are any local clinics for new racers.
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Old 03-18-16, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Having tried the Carmichael time-crunched program, I think it stinks. It's a get-fit-quick regimen that is absolutely the wrong thing for a newish rider who needs to build a base.

I don't want to be discouraging, but if 18 flat miles in an hour seems quick to you then you almost certainly aren't ready to be competitive in a race. Average speeds don't mean much, because a race consists of a series of surges, but that level of intensity isn't going to cut it.

As others have suggested, read the sticky in the 33 and act on it. In particular, find a local group that is quick and join it so you can gain experience in riding at close quarters. Better yet, investigate whether there are any local clinics for new racers.
Just wanted to add this
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Old 03-18-16, 06:09 PM
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100 quality miles is plenty.
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Old 03-18-16, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post

You might want to read the time crunched cyclist by Chris Carmichael.
Get it at the library, so you don't give money to the dope pushing scumbag.
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Old 03-18-16, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Agree with check the sticky.

Also you need to stop thinking about miles and average speed, and start thinking about time and intensity. The 6 hours or so you're spending now is sufficient to have the fitness to race Cat 4/5, provided that 6 hours is 6 hours of properly focused effort.

You might want to read the time crunched cyclist by Chris Carmichael.

Cat 5 crits are typically 30 minutes or so. Even Cat 5 road races are typically 2 hours or less. So you you don't need to develop tons of endurance. But with only 6 hours to train, you've got to make the most of your time. riding 4-5 times a week with one hard group ride, and two days of intervals each week can be done in 6 hours, and will give you the fitness you need. Prepare to suffer doing the intervals.
Agreed. Miles are largely meaningless. Average speed is completely meaningless.
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Old 03-19-16, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Having tried the Carmichael time-crunched program, I think it stinks. It's a get-fit-quick regimen that is absolutely the wrong thing for a newish rider who needs to build a base.
Even he states in the book that the program should be only used by people with a at least a few years of experience.
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Old 03-19-16, 06:58 AM
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Another good book is "The First 20 Minutes" that talks about high intensity interval training. Personally I think you'll have to up your game qutie a bit and the best part of that is "getting there" is all the fun stuff. The dangerous part is group rides in a peloton with others that are not highly experienced. Broken collar bones (mine still has a titanium plate) are common among cyclists for a reason so anyone who plans to ride in groups (or just ride...) needs to realize their health is in other people's hands and road rash and broken bones should come as no surprise to competitive cyclists.
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Old 03-19-16, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by PepeM View Post
Even he states in the book that the program should be only used by people with a at least a few years of experience.
That's true, which is one excellent reason for not recommending it to the OP. But even as an experienced rider returning from injury, I found it a recipe for burnout. Rapid gains followed by even more rapid losses.
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Old 03-19-16, 07:25 AM
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I can tell you that while I have ridden 100+ miles a week for years, and average 18+ on probably half of them, I wouldn't consider taking that to a Cat 5 race. You'd need rides similar to what you'd expect in races.
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Old 03-19-16, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Dan333SP View Post

Like you said, don't put the cart before the horse. Pack racing is something that you really can only learn from experience. Even super-fit naturally talented riders can show up for their first race, sit in the wind because they're uncomfortable in the middle of a group, and go off the back and after a couple of attempts at catching back on, burning out.
Edited, for how I'd put it. (I'm comfortable in the middle of the group most of the time, just not on descents that end at a 90 turn. Gotta work on that.)

Another +100% for the idea that experience riding in close groups (passing close enough to bump elbows, descending and taking corners together, etc.) is most important for a new racer.

You know you have to finish ten races as a Cat 5 before you have to worry about being "stuck" in Cat 4, right? So no, don't put the cart before the horse - just get out there and pay attention. Good luck, stay safe, and have fun!
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Old 03-19-16, 06:21 PM
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Guys, I'm excited about this. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old 03-20-16, 04:42 AM
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Get some experience riding with a fast group and you'll know pretty quickly whether you're sufficiently trained. Note that we're not talking about the 18 - 20 MPH social ride here (though it's fine to start there until you get used to being in a pack/paceline). You need to go out with a group that's routinely holding a 24 MPH pace in the flats with "sprints" in the high 20s to low 30s. It will take several rides to get the hang of anticipating the pace changes, but once you learn that, you should be able to hang with the group. If not, you probably need to do something different with your training.

Something else you may want to consider is Cyclocross racing. Like crit racing, the short duration makes having a super strong aerobic base (from many hours of training) less important. And because bike handling skills are such a huge element of CX racing, it's possible for a cyclist with a lot of skill to do well in the beginner categories against riders with significantly more power. Plus, the racing scene (at least in most regions) is very welcoming to newbies -- partly because inexperienced riders don't pose the same accident risk in CX as they do in crit and road racing. The laid back festive atmosphere is also a plus (you won't see beer and bacon handups at too many road races) -- even riders finishing DFL can have a lot of fun at a CX race
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