Racing Categories Based on FTP

So for as long as I can remember we have only used the age category system in the Malaysian amateur cycling races. Just recently one of the local state organisation came up with a new category system in order to change the playing field, in hopes to bring more talent up the ranks. Please give your comments and suggestions on how to improve this, I am not part of the committee however I do have voice as a club president. Looking forwards to reading your opinions.

can anyone join whichever group they want, or must they hit each target set?

Brendan - EVOQ.BIKE

At the moment they are conducting the registration based on trust as every rider would declare their own FTP upon registration for the races.

Open Cat seems the way to go these days; everyone likes starting together, and things get sorted out pretty quickly.

Just a crazy bad idea IMO.

  • Given FTP changes x% to xx% up to a couple times a season depending on how experienced the rider is would be an argument against that type of system.
  • People usually self report FTP wicked high.
  • Inaccurate PM reading due to calibration issues and/or less accurate units.
  • No standard in testing “FTP” (for some it’s a true 60 minute effort, for some it’s 95% of a 20 minute effort down to 8 minute test)!

This looks a lot like Zwift categories to me


Actually based on the test run they did over the weekend I would say everyone was just a bit too humble when it came down to their FTP. And yes I do agree with you that it is a crazy bad idea.

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Along with all you have mentioned, w/kg is not a reflection of cycling skill or ability to ride in a race with more experienced riders. IMHO w/kg is only a small part of the requirements to win a real mass start race.


Why not use a more traditional ranking system that is based on results?

I don’t think ranking based on watts/kg is a good measurement for how people will finish a race that isn’t an uphill time trial


I wanted them to implement a similar system to the USAC structure however they seem to think this would be the easiest way to implement things. Currently I am reading up on how things are done according in the US.

No system is perfect. USAC (road at least) is basically a point system driven by results. While I’m good at flat/rolling crit and circuits and can do well against guys with FTPs 100+ watts more than me, I get crushed on climbing road races.

So while I said above cats based on FTP is a bad idea I don’t know if there is a failsafe way to group athletes. Maybe a hybrid system with FTP to initially place guys (?) then move up based on points…IDK. Even that has problems. Ultimately you want the most talented and experienced racing together. But, there are talented/experienced TT’rs, crit guys, climbers…who can dominate one discipline yet get crushed in another.

As annoying as the USAC ranking system is, it certainly does a better job than most other systems at ensuring by the time riders get to cat1/2 that they have enough race-time under their belt to not be a danger to themselves or others.
The mandatory races in cat5 is smart. yes it sucks, but with it comes much needed experience, even if you are mopping the field. Cycling Canada allows riders to upgrade on points alone out of cat5, so you can be out in a single stage race weekend if you win the road race, crit and do well in the TT. This isn’t good for all riders.
w/kg ranking is a bad way to rank riders because there is far more to racing than just that. Even if you are solely doing TT’s, there is more to a race than power to weight.

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Honestly, the women’s FTP cutoffs seem rather low to me, but maybe some other women will chime in. While I’m sure average W/kg is lower for women than men (pretty sure there was a thread on here with the data for TR users), I’m not sure that there’s as much of a difference as this system would make it out to be, and I think this system is set up in such a way that you would wind up with potentially very inexperienced women in Grade A. I don’t think women’s FTPs are, on average, a whole 2 W/kg lower than men, which is what these categories seem to suggest. I’m curious whether there was any data that went into setting those cutoffs for women, because the way it’s set up almost looks arbitrary like the women’s categories were an afterthought. My very first FTP test (never raced a bike, new to structured cycling training but had structured training experience with running) would’ve put me in Grade A. Someone brand new to structured cycling training and who has never raced before has no business in Grade A. I still don’t belong in Grade A, and my FTP is now higher than it was then.

Overall, I agree with the other posters saying that W/kg is probably not the best way to go about grouping racers.

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Exactly–a W/kg approach will likely be better suited for climby RRs. I’m with Landis in that on flat/rolling races, people with lower FTPs can do well because that’s where racecraft comes into play. On flat/rolling races, raw power is more of a differentiator, not the W/kg metric. @malkor, are the races typically more climby? Or are they usually flat/rolling? As Landis said, the USAC Road system is results-based, but someone could be a Cat 2 racer who got their upgrades based off all flat crits, and if they were to enter a climby RR they will be dropped like a hot potato. We learn our strengths and basically specialize off of that.

I also agree with @kelseyh that the women’s FTP cutoffs are low. I think that the USAC higher category women riders have higher W/kg than 2.5. Women coming over from other sports, including triathlon, would have no experience in the pack and yet could place immediately in the higher category.

The major advantage of the USAC system is that if you race higher categories, theoretically those people have more experience and therefore the races are safer. Since they’ll likely be faster, having racers who have a set amount of experience makes everyone a bit more comfortable. While the USAC system isn’t ideal, making everyone gain a certain level of experience before catting up has the desired goal of making racers learn about racecraft, not just strengths. You’ll certainly have the crazy strong people (including Nate) who can cat up after only 3 races (of course, men have bigger fields and therefore get more upgrade points faster than women), but there are women who do the same.


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.

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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.