Junior Racing Advice

As a junior cyclist I have gotten very into cycling over the last year but have found few resources for junior riders. This is my background and questions but if anyone else has questions please feel free to ask.

Context: I have got into cycling over the last few years and started training relatively seriously at the beginning of the last school year almost 1 year ago.

My Stats

Age: 17 years old

Height: 5’ 9¾”

Weight: ~156 lbs

Current FTP: ~260W Last test was 256W but that was 5 weeks ago

W/Kg for FTP: ~3.65

Max Sprint: 1100W

W/Kg for Sprint: ~15.5

60 Sec Effort: Around 600W

Since I am just starting to really get into cycling I don’t know if this is good or not for a relative beginner (about 1 year training semi-serious). I don’t have much experience out on the roads because all my races got cancelled and I was only able to do one group ride before COVID hit and our local bike club cut all group rides. I went with the B group on a 50 mile ride but got dropped about 35 miles in. Though this was probably due to a number of reasons.

  1. My nutrition was a granola bar and a single bottle of water which probably helped in me bonking really hard at the end.

  2. I was on a bike that was my uncle’s and was 10-15 years old. Additionally, it had flat pedals which took a big toll on me compared to when I am able to clip in on my families Peloton. – However, I have gotten a new bike since and hope to get clip in pedals and shoes in the future.

Questions:

  1. I know I would like to do road racing but beyond that I am not sure what kinds of races I should ride. I am a very competitive person and want to race but am not sure what kind of race would best suit me.

  2. Should I approach my training or racing any differently because I am a junior as opposed to an adult?

  3. I am not sure what level I am in comparison to others. I know about the category (Cat) system but am not sure if I am at the novice level or a cat 4/5. – Whatever the case I hope to be able to progress fast and someday get to cat 1!

I know how knowledgeable the TrainerRoad community is from the excellent TrainerRoad podcast on YouTube, so any input on any of my questions would be greatly appreciated.

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The formatting on your post makes it very difficult to see parts of your post.

Have you seen the videos Alex Dowsett put out with his advice for juniors and u23?


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I edited the OP to fix the formatting for easier reading.

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Question 1
Until you get the opportunity to try racing, in any format, you’ll never know. Nobody else is going to be able to answer this for you either. You’re young and this means you have plenty of time to experiment and find out what makes you happy. What gets you on your bike and makes you want to work hard.

Right now, your training and the stats you’re getting from that training might lead you to think ‘I’m great at short power, I’m going to be great at crit racing.’ You might race a handful of crits and hate that format. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to find that thing. Enjoy the adventure and just ride. You’ll be a far better rider and racer with a depth of experience :+1:

Question 2
I’m afraid I don’t have the knowledge to give you any guidance here.

Question 3
When the opportunity arises, jump into the lowest possible Cat and see how you get on. Even if you’re clearly more powerful than everyone else in the race, you can still build race experience. Learn how to ride in a bunch/pack, how to look for and respond to a breakaway. Get your nutrition before, during and after a race dialled in :wink:

Race standards can be different from one region to the next. You have to bite the bullet and throw your hat in the ring. If you’re not the best rider in the race, don’t beat yourself up. Find the positives (you raced :+1:) and then pick one or two things that you know you didn’t do well and try to improve on those during the next race.

Just remember, unless you’re getting paid, racing should be competitive but above all else, it should be fun. Good luck :grin: :+1:

I would echo Alex Dowsett’s advice - within the boundaries of the resources you have (time, bikes, where you live, etc) try everything - ride on the road, ride MTB and BMX, ride CX, ride TTs. Don’t assume you need to focus or specialise in one discipline too soon. At your age, you’re still developing physically- so use power in training but don’t obsess over it, and don’t compare yourself to others of a similar age who may be developing at a different rate. Focus on bike handling skills - they will last you a lifetime, and will win you races (and help you avoid crashes).

Hi there!
Looks like you’ve made some great progress so far- it’s not uncommon to get dropped or struggle on your first few group rides so no worries there, takes a bit of getting used to!

Definitely agree with the others in terms of trying everything- you’ll get an idea of where your strengths lie simply by riding more, but bear in mind that being a newer rider means you have a lot of room to improve in all aspects of your riding, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at.

I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t say your training needs to look too different from an adult’s- I think that depends more on what your goals are. And again, there’s no need to decide this outright- whether you end up riding competitively or just for fun (or both!) is something that will progress pretty naturally. I would definitely spend some time learning about proper nutrition- this is super important for all athletes, but particularly critical if you’re a teenager. If you have access to a coach or know some older/more experienced riders they can be a great resource, and are usually more than happy to help you out with everything from training questions to good local routes. (and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to snag some secondhand stuff :wink:)

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It is always good to see new talent that is so eager to learn!

I have gone through all the JR lifestyle myself (starting at 13) and know how lost you may feel, the most important thing at this level is learning. The other members have mentioned exploring and finding which bike type talents you poses and that is beyond accurate.

The best thing you can do is get on a local team or very serious club that races and start looking for someone who can/will mentor you. You need to take the time and learn from them or a team, you can poses the best W/KG in the race but if you don’t know how to race or ride you will never do well. The time you spend with an organized team and learning proper pacing, tactics and peloton split decisions will ultimately make you the quickest you can ever achieve.

That is the best advice I can give you for racing as a beginner or a U23, where are you located?

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Thanks for your response. I appreciate any tips I can get. In response to your question, I live in Virginia.