Cat 5 Crit / Road racers - At what W/kg did you feel "competitive"

Hey, folks. I’ve had a decent off-season, this year, with my auto-immune disorder deciding to spare my lungs and legs from asthma and cramps. I haven’t lost any of my FTP, I’ve been working out 5x a week, and I’ve started some outside rides, thanks to a hopefully early spring.

I’ve also started Zwift racing, again, and am starting to ponder trying my hand at real-life crit racing. Yes, I know: Zwift racing has almost nothing to do with real racing, but for whatever reason, I enjoy the limited strategy and it helps me be able to do threshold work that I could never tolerate, otherwise.

However, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. Back in 2018, I tried crit and road racing and utterly failed at it. My auto-immune disorder had knocked my overall fitness way down and, despite being able to meta-game the Zwift races, it (predictably, in retrospect) did not translate to any success on the tarmac. I couldn’t put out the big repeated efforts, recover, work at threshold, and do it over and over, again. I would blow up on the first big 600W effort or the minute-long anaerobic climb, and then be off the back.

Part of it was health related, and part of it was not having the base fitness, but I’ve gotten lucky this year and feel much stronger. However, I have no desire to experience the sort of flogging I did, previously, and I want to canvas the community to see what everyone else’s experiences were on their first year as a Cat 5 (or whatever the entry-level class is, overseas).

Honestly, at an FTP of ~230 and a W/Kg of 2.6, I don’t think I’m near ready. My FTP is too low, my weight too high, and I don’t have the legs to sit at threshold for 45 minutes and still keep up with moves. But, in case I’m being too hard on myself, I figured I would ask.

There’s a list of questions, below, but feel free to just go stream-of-consciousness and tell me about your experiences and what you would do (or not-do) if you tried it, again.

  • What attracted you to real-life road / crit racing?
  • How prepared did you feel you were before your first race(s)?
  • What was your FTP and/or W/Kg, at the time?
  • How did your first race(s) go? How successful were you?
  • For those who were successful (whatever your definition) what do you feel contributed the most to your success
  • For those of you who feel you were unsuccessful, what were the reasons?
  • For those of you who kept at it, what specific training do you feel benefitted you, the most?

Thanks, in advance, everyone.


When you say “cat 5”, I take it you’re in the US? From what I understand, cat 5 racing is supposed to be for learning, and I think there might even be some sort of coaching/racing events happening? If you could find anything like that, how about you just turn up and see? (I’m not in the US, so not sure.)

With regards to your questions - it’s not all about watts, and especially not about W/kg in most flat crits. A lot has to do with group riding/racing skills, and people skills (reading body language for example, but also making friends). If you’re spending the whole race at threshold, you’re doing it wrong, imho.


You probably arent there yet. But you’re also probably a lot closer than you think.

For reference…i’m a big rider, and ftp after summer when I’m racing cross is probably about 270-280. I’m top 5-10 in cat 4 races.

I bet if you snuck in another 20-30 watts, you’d feel pretty decent in a cat 5 crit. You MIGHT be there alrieady, but you’d probably have to really know what you’re doing/be great at conserving energy.


The most important thing I learned my first year of racing was that racing smart will beat racing fast. Sure, power is important, and I’d rather compete at 5 w/kg than 3w/kg, but handling skills, being comfortable in the pack, understanding strategy, and keeping your head in the game are worth an extra w/kg easy.

Dive into the early season races and seek out training crits (most cities have a crit series where you can hop out for a lap and hop back in), and worry more about learning skills, getting to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and getting comfortable than whether your ftp is where you want it to be (it never will be - Tadej would love an extra 20 watts).

In answer to your questions, I was just roughly as strong you are now when I started racing. I got dropped like a hot potato my first couple of crits (I was racing fast instead of smart), and then started to work on my tactics and ended the season consistently finishing in the mix of the competitive 5-10 riders in fields of 25-40. A decade later, I’m on the podium in more races than not.

Over time, I’ve gotten better at being able to read the pack, getting to know my competition, and take advantage of my strengths. Training a strong engine is important, but at some point, everyone in the race has a strong engine. Knowing how to use that engine and still having matches to burn at the end of the race is the difference between being in the race and being a contender.

Keep it up, train hard, but remember that there is no training for racing like racing.


I just did a road race flat cat 4/5 my ftp is 195 and W/kilo is 2.56 . My understudy in the race was 15 last week he crashed out so this week first race he has finished lifetime . Im 62 years old and like I said he is 15 . He told me he hit 1100 watts last week in the race and he hit just under 900 at this race . My all time max is under 800 . He weighs 135 pounds with an ftp of 270 . I’m 175 . I have thirteen years experience he has none . I finished 17 out of about 30 he was dead last . You are as ready as you will ever be because racing is not about how much power you can express in a race but how much you can conserve . Go to as many races as you can and learn the dynamics of the pack . If that means getting dropped every week just make a process goal out of learning something each time about yourself and about racing , try to eak out another mile or another lap each week . You are a bike racer as soon as you put on that number and learning in the race is the best way to get better .the longer you wait the worse it gets going into the season the races only get faster so spring is the time to learn All that said I dont think I will continue to finish in front of my 15 year old team mate for very long , hopefully that happens next week . He’s got the numbers to win !


Well…make no mistake, racing is about BOTH power and racecraft. You’ll have a hard time without both.

But 230 in a flat cat5 race is plenty to hop in and see what you dont know. Or maybe you know it all already and do well! :joy:


Hi JP,

I had a similar experience just this past year. To keep it short I will offer the following:

My club had a ‘club A event’ which is what I used to set me training plan - Note this was my first year of training. When I set this ‘A’ event my FTP was just under 2.2 wpkg

I used this A event and then backtracked and added more races into the calendar to fill my program with about 10 other races. These were to be my ‘training’ races leading up to the A event. And I needed them

I trained MV and HV(mistake) and got to the race period quite fit. I started in Cat 4/5 and easily won my first race in a breakaway. I was clearly too fit for that grade. I upgraded to 3/4 and began to learn what race craft actually meant.

I then listened to a podcast on TR where the hosts spoke about taking time in the lower grades, even if you’re fit enough to progress, to learn what racing is. Learn and practice what everyone above has speaking about. Learn how to attack and what happens when you do, practice cornering alone and alongside others. earn how to move up in the field while conserving energy. And do all that without the thought of achieving any result.

Spending the time doing that will only enhance your racing experience moving forward. By doing all of the above I was able to use my fitness to take a few breakaways to a podium finish and even jagged a win in the 3/4.

Next year I hope to do the same in the Cat 2/3 and who knows maybe end up a solid Cat 2 racers.

FWIW, i’m 46 and my FTP was 3.2 wpkg by the end of the season.

I don’t enjoy indoor racing and took the leap and decided to try outdoor racing last season and it really helped me enjoy my cycling much more.

Hope this helps and good luck with whatever you choose to do


So bear in mind my answers are based on racing in the UK but hopefully still helpful… I probably got into road racing back in 2014 as I wanted to experience what we see on TV in the Tour de France and the other grand tours. Well, lo and behold it’s nothing like that eh!?! I read up on all the tactics, the bunch etiquette, not being a chopper etc and in my first crit race as a 4th cat I barely made it one lap before being spat out the back. Struggled to clip in off the line in a panic and was going backwards from that point. It ended up a 1hr time trial on my own with the bunch lapping 2 or 3 times. Turns out there were loads of “ringers” in there who had way more experience than me in bunch riding, chain gangs and general race positioning. Anyway, later that season after perhaps only a couple more crits as the field dwindled a little, i got a 2nd place and a week later another 2nd place to get my 3rd cat. (You only need 12 points in the UK to move up from 4th, where 10 points for the win down to 1 for 10th in a 4th cat race)

And then ever since then I’ve tried to compete at 3rd cat. My coach said I had the power to be competitive in 3rd cat, possibly even 2nd cat but personally I perhaps never had the confidence I could actually compete. I’ve spent near 10 years training regularly, making lots of mistakes in races; got a 10th place on an open road race which I was chuffed with and then got injured that following winter… I know there are still circuits that I will get spat out the back and there are circuits where I feel comfortable. Road racing on the open road in the part of the UK where I am is fiercely competitive currently because there isn’t that big a calender of 3rd/4th cat races so people who would perhaps be 2nd cat never do enough races to get enough points to move up in a season. I know what courses suit me, or at least, the ones where I feel safe and feel I won’t get spat.

I’m at about 4.2 watts/kg and I know that people compete on a lot less. My repeated 30second to 1min power is poor, I know I’d get spat on the kind of short steep inclines on some open road circuits. Last season I turned up to more crits and had no expectation, tried a few things, had some fun and got a handful of points.

So I think you probably learn what you’re capable of by doing races, doing different races/circuits, and like everyone says trying to do all the good stuff like positioning wisely, listening for the surge of wheels, forcing people to attack on one side of you, riding in the top ten riders etc etc.

So far as tailoring my training??? Not really. I could probably work on my repeated short power and sprints but I fear losing my endurance. And I still think there are sometimes limited gains even if you do target specific areas in training. I probably follow a fairly standard winter base/sweet spot then spring time a bit more threshold and then as race season approaches some vo2 and sprints etc. My data over the years I’ve added in strength training suggests a better 1min power but I haven’t yet been able to translate into race winning moves just yet :wink:

Rambled a bit there but hopefully some stuff you can pick out :slight_smile:


Oh and I normally do TR low volume plus a long weekend ride. Chuck a few half hour recovery turbo sessions and a couple of weights sessions around that if I can be bothered. Probably in the region of 7-10hours a week average since I’ve been doing this

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I have so many thoughts, memories and advice …. but none of it will likely be useful.

Here’s a link to a thread I started (way, WAY) back in the day … it covers a lot of topics including my FTP, my thoughts, advice from the forum, and results, etc. Hope some of it is helpful. Good luck🤘

I was not really competitive until around 4.2w/kg in cat4. It also took me some time to understand race dynamics, pack riding, and what my strengths were. I personally was never a bunch sprint guy, so it took hard RR courses with a chance for a breakaway for me to do decent.

As another reference point, I just did a P12 race RR this weekend and finished in the pack at 4.5w/kg. I got off the front a couple times but wasn’t strong enough to stay away with anyone. But I have 15 years of race experience now that negates my extra 15lbs and 15w less from my prime lol.


Some of these answers are rather humorous.

You can win a race doing Z2 power and being in the right place in the right time at these “lower” level races. Or you can sit on the front and try and cover every move and do 4.5w/kg and blow up. Most racing is positioning, conservation of momentum, cornering, drafting and anticipation. You won’t know how you compare, until you get there.

As you progress up the categories, it gets more important to have a high threshold and/or a big sprint.


Hah I dunno man. I think you have a different field of racers. Zone 2 with a 220 watt ftp is 154 watts. My cat5 races are at 28mph in all the straights. Positioning or not, you cant ride zone 2 there


@Abe_Froman fair point on the actual numbers but I agree with @Thomas_Rigden 's broader point - it’s SO much more about positioning than your FTP. That point can’t be overstated to newcomers. If you get dropped don’t be put off by the power. Of course train it but focus more on positioning and cornering; those will be increasingly important moving up the ranks.

Surfing wheels, conserving momentum through corners and anticipating the race will save you 50-100w vs a newbie who is constantly surging, chasing the wrong moves and eating the wind. I’m in the latter camp unfortunately :wink:

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You have to have both. There’s no way around it.

You can get dropped in a cat 5 crit with a 320 watt ftp, or win with a 280 watt ftp.

But, as my old mma teacher said…strength fucking matters. There’s a point in racing where it’s all that matter. If you have a 450 watt ftp you cant lose a cat 5 crit. If you have a 150 watt ftp you cant win one.

No amount of racecraft is going to cover a 200 watt ftp gap


According to the Coggan chart on intervals… somewhere around 2.5w/kg for women. I was close to 3w/kg for my first race (masters, all cats) and got second mostly because I had a relatively good sprint. YMMV. But don’t be afraid to show up and get dropped. That’s the only way to find out if you think it’s fun.

You are definitely being too hard on yourself if you won’t let yourself have fun before you hit some baseline in fitness. If you try it and it’s not fun because you’re not competitive, build up some more and try again. Is it fun this time? Only you will know.


The OP is talking about a Category 5 beginner race.

By no means am I claiming never above Z2, but average/normalized power over a criterium could be in Z2 range. If you ride efficiently and position well, you don’t need 3.5w/kg on a flat course to be competitive.

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You say cat 5 crit, but I feel like you mean ‘easy social ride.’

The cat 5 crits here are average speed 26mph start to finish line.


If you have pro level ability and are just starting your career in Cat. 5, I guess….