Racing Categories Based on FTP

Seems really half-baked to me. One problem with self categorizing is that people who know they are stronger and sandbag could just ride in the lower category. I’d presume there would be no way to DQ someone doing this.

I do think it would be good to have a category of proven (key point) weaker riders to compete in, on top of the results and experience based categories. It could potentially bring out more casual people (like below 3w/kg and/or 250w ftp on flats or something like that) to race with peers in hopefully a less intimidating environment.

Not only does w/kg not say anything about the experience or ability of a rider’s race savvy but it’s also practically meaningless in any race that doesn’t involve a long, sustained climb at the end… which is a very small percentage I would think.

Even in the World Tour, puncheurs are actually at an advantage over any mega w/kg rider (grand tour GC riders) on most rolling courses or uphill finish unless it’s an extremely mountainous day in a stage race with a summit finish. (ie. Alaphillipe versus Quintana in an Ardennes classic type of course)

W/kg is a useful measurement of general relative fitness, but the difference between winning and losing in a race usually comes down to many other factors before it ever comes down to w/kg (even raw absolute FTP would arguably be more of a telling metric IMO, as flawed as that would be too), so basing your entire racing categories on it is fundamentally flawed.

Agree w all of this.

Based on the FTP, I will be Men Grade B.
Based on the average speed, I will be Men Elite.
Based on the weekly training, I will be better than Men Elite.
Based on my real race level, I ride cat3 races which is far from being Elite.

It is flawless and looks way to much like Zwift category IMO.

I think the women should have the exact same categories as the men.

1 Like

They’re not, and we’ve got data on this:

2.5 W/kg is roughly average for TR users, below average for CyclingAnalytics users, and USAC Cat 5 in Coggan’s chart. @malkor, your chart (sorry!) the chart from your org dumps almost all competitive-level women into the same bracket.

3 Likes

USAC Takes It a step further to distance itself from the notion that high W/Kg in other words “rider strength” equals elite rider status. Last time I checked, only mass start races counted for upgrade points and the only way a TT result could effect your upgrade points would be if it were part of a stage race.

The funny thing is that the organisers are focusing solely on crit racing which means calculating watts/kg is laughable. So basically there will be zero climbing done for the entire season.

I think this is a very interesting idea at the starting category! And IF it could be implemented successfully, I think it has a lot of merit!

Others stated earlier that bike racing is more than raw Watts & WpKg. However, at the lowest levels (Cat 5 and perhaps Cat 4), USAC, is MOSTLY ABOUT Watts & WpKg, and NOT about bike handling skills (nor real racing skills).

I, for example, can hang with Cat 1s on technical descents, both very steep and shallow (except where wattage requirements go above 1000w), and where it takes (IMO) real bike handling skills (drafting, rotation, cornering, holding wheels, etc.). Even on flats/rollers, I can hang with Cat 2s and 3s and do my share of work. But, in Cat 5 events thus far, amongst many sloppy bike handlers, [with an FTP of 3.6 and pMax of 950W] I get crushed.

I do it for fun so I don’t mind my race results. And I do see (from reading dozens of our racing team reports and speaking with our racers) that it all works itself out at the upper categories. But IMO the USAC system is fundamentally flawed at Cat 5 (and perhaps Cat 4) IF the thought that it is rewarding bike handling and bike racing skills*.

*This was the subject of a TrainerRoad FaceBook discussion some months ago, and similar to driving [in most countries], I think racers should be required to take skills training clinic(s) before being allowed to race.

I’m sorry for being so blunt, but this is an utterly ridiculous suggestion!!!

As well as all the above, it’s discriminatory. Not everyone has a powermeter, and by insisting people declare FTP and w/kg they are gathering personal data.

This is real life, not Zwift. If they want to improve the rankings they need to look at what other federations are doing.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve read on here!!!

2 Likes

I mean, I think it would be pretty boring if a category meant that you won’t get crushed in any race format. Where’s the fun in that?

There have been lots of comments in support of the idea that FTP isn’t a good indication nor an equitable indication of racing ability. I would say that the proposed category system provides no mechanism for achieving the stated hope, which is to bring more talent up the ranks. I’m uncertain whether the system is being changed in order to raise the talent level of riders in each category, or whether it is being changed in order to allow riders to escape an age categorization and to compete against those of similar abilities irrespective of age. I would imagine that the situation is likely close to the latter idea. Experienced, skilled, and fit racers are not necessarily going to welcome a young cadre of inexperienced competitors in their bunch, regardless of their potential, and the category system proposed does nothing to allay their concerns. Would the organizers be satisfied with the results of the spectacle and changes in participation if gifted but inexperienced riders take down, say, 1/3 of the Elite category in a criterium? Such a system may breed a different type of rider rather than promote the more gifted but age-restricted riders to become what is now recognized as a good rider.

My FTP is around 250 and 3.1 W/Kg. On most club rides I can hang with the faster guys and in the local training crits I can hang with the pack and even follow most of the attacks.

But I did do one 4/5 crit where there where some super strong riders who where hammering from the gun. I ended up getting dropped and pulled from the race less than 10 minutes in. When I heard almost half the field was pulled I felt a little better. It would be nice if there where a way to move the super strong guys out of 4/5 but I don’t think this is it.

Personally I feel like if I added 50-80 watts to my ftp I could win most local cat 4 races with hardly any skill whatsoever.

Thank you so much for all the feedback guys, I am so grateful to received such in-depth answers. I have will forward all the points to the committee in hopes that something positive will come out from this. As what we truly want to achieve is having a platform for amateurs to enjoy and have a platform for juniors to move up the ranks.

2 Likes

The whole idea to be honest sounds like someone been on zwift too much and thinks they can replicate categories in real life…with all the same problems! Lol.

Not neccessarily so!! There’s more to winning races than FTP, and skill/race-craft is probably the most important.

Part of the reason for results based upgrade systems such as USAC is that you benefit greatly from figuring out how to win and race at every level.

A few seasons ago in my region we had a professional triathlete decide to give road racing a try. He was a solid 5.5-6 w/kg but all steady state - no ability to punch or create separation. By carefully picking his races he was able to get his upgrade points fairly quickly. He couldn’t get results in crits or flat road races but by using time based stage races and hilly road races he fairly quickly moved from cat 5 to cat 2.

There, however, he stopped. Couldn’t get results in P12 fields because he hadn’t learned any race craft and had won all his races through sheer raw power. When the races become competitive and you haven’t learned how to race with your head and not just your power you will stop moving up until you learn the sport. I distinctly remember him going to the front on a long hill climb and stringing out a field (including dropping a decent amount of the weaker climbers) and then realizing he still had 20+ guys on his wheel at the top. He DNF’d the race

Forcing people to progress through the ranks has a ton of benefits - even if you think you’re justified in starting at a high level you probably would benefit from learning just how hard it is to win a bike race where you’re the strongest person in the field

3 Likes

As I read your post, I was thinking of a very similar example that occurred near me; then I looked up your profile and saw that you too are from PA and now suspect it’s the same example. :wink:

1 Like

1st let me state that I’m not a road racer so this is just an outsider looking in…

It’s seems funny to me that you’re looking at this with the idea of people thinking that they are “justified in starting at a high level”.

When I read the op, I was thinking of it from a low power perspective thinking that it would be less intimidating for a new person knowing that they weren’t having to go up against someone with double (or more) there W/kg.

That’s the thing though - you can beat someone with double your w/kg in a ton of races. You have to be smart and you have utilize your power correctly - but saying you can’t race because there are a handful of 4 w/kg guys in the local cat 5 or cat 4 fields is limiting yourself. You’ve already lost the race if you don’t show up, or if you do show up and think ‘I’ll tail gun it until the big strong riders drop me’.

If you only raced against people with the same power ratio as you you’d never be in a situation where you had to be truly clever to win, frankly it would be pretty boring.

I think one of the major things that stops people from racing is the very fear you describe. They don’t want to get dropped, they don’t want to race someone much stronger than they are - but that is the nature of racing. There will always be someone faster than you, someone stronger than you. You have to become comfortable with this fact. The beauty of the sport is that you can, in fact, beat that person across the finish line. Very rarely, at any level of road racing, does the strongest person win the race

1 Like