British cycling categories FTP


#1

Hi I was wondering if anyone knew what sort of FTP you should be having to race in British road races at the different categories? Is there any sort of guidelines available? I have never rode in road races and just don’t want to embarrass myself if I have a go.

For information I am currently at 223 ftp at 180lbs although I think I tested low because I had a big spike in the last 2 minutes (put out 260) which I don’t think should really be possible with an accurate FTP test and my weight is steadily coming off. This is the first time I have done any sort of structured bike training other than get on and pedal for a certain length of time that I did for my half ironman and ironman attempts.


#2

FTP is not everything. I have a decent FTP, but my short power output is limited which means I have trouble staying with group after corners or short climbs.

Still, there are some charts available on internets mapping W/kg to different levels of racers like this one (originally created by Andy Coggan).


#3

Simo429 - that is a really good question and I am not claiming to ‘know’ the answer but I have a view.

In Hunter Allen’s book ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’ he includes tables of different Cats with watts/kg for sprint, 1m, 5m, 20m etc. so there is some data out there if you are interested. It was also designed to help riders understand their strengths.

That said, I have trained with power for a few years and only came to bikes maybe 5 years ago in my late 30s. I started TTs last year, did a few Cat 3/4 races and have raced a bit in the track. I’m a Cat 3 and now focus more on the road races or just bunch rides (some of which are a bit like race simulations).

My suggestion would be (if you’re not already) get involved in some bunch rides with a club, clubs or local bunch rides that involve multiple clubs. APRs can be good because it has a sense of halfway house about it - folk are compelled to work together and bunches are smaller). If you find you can mix it with the ‘scratch groups’ then have a go at a road race.

The thing with road races are so much of it about riding efficiently, position in the bunch, cooperating (or not) with others, being out of the wind or making efforts when it matters. For these reasons although FTP is important it is only part of the story…I learned a lot from riding with experienced folk who just did not waste as much energy as I do! Still a lot to learn…


#4

IMO - brilliant response to the OPs question. Far too much emphasis is placed on FTP.

A focus on bike handling whilst riding in a pack would be my number one focus for anyone considering getting into racing. It’s no secret that the best riders can move around a pack, expending very little energy whilst keeping themselves and others safe.

I’d also bin the mindset that you’ll embarrass yourself. Most racers have been shot out the back at some point or another. What will mark you out is what you do next. Do you get your head straight, push on and finish the race, even if you’re deadset last? Or do you find an excuse and quit? I’ve never been to a race where every single rider hasn’t been cheered across the line. Once you start quitting, it become easier and easier.


#5

Couldn’t agree more with the sentiments above about not worrying about getting dropped. No one wins every race, no one pack finishes every race. Getting over this is one of the biggest hurdles for new racers. Don’t put that pressure on yourself, just go out and have fun and you’ll figure out what you need to do to be competitive (or you won’t - in which case you tried something new and it wasn’t for you). Nothing ventured nothing gained


#6

Forget whether your FTP is good enough to race. Get along to some club rides and see how you get on. APR’s as mentioned above are a good starting point for racing as if the organiser has the handicapping right, everyone is in with a chance! FTP is rarely the determining factor in road racing. Power to weight is often much more important. I’ve seen races where the bunch is together at the bottom of the final climb, and you could predict the finishing order by asking riders to step on a set of scales rather than riding up the hill!!!

There’s lots of people in the bunch with different midsets. Some folk will just sit in the and cruise round, being happy just to finish. Others will go out and try and smash the race to bits.

Someone said (can’t mind who!) - “it’s not the person that pedals hardest that wins the race, it’s the person the pedals least”!!


#7

Agree with what the others have said. I did a few crits this year and learning to ride in the bunch is key. My bunch riding skills are still very poor (3/10) but it’s sub 200w to sit in and Im not super aero.

Just dont stress about getting dropped. It will happen as you learn. Try to do a short course where you can jump back in (but just sit at the back after that)

Fast group rides and chaingangs will also really help.


#8

Before you start bunch racing, it’s a good idea to get used to riding in a group. There are some good videos about the basics on the British Cycling website, but nothing beats experience. The best way to do this will be to try one (or more) of your local clubs. I don’t know where you are (Liverpool based on profile pic?), but there is a good club-finder page on the British Cycling site too - find a couple local to you that have rides you can make and go along (probably worth checking with the organiser first about pace and expectations of the ride). Many clubs are really friendly and if you say you want to race then they will be able to advise you about where the best local races that suit you are.
If you want to start racing ASAP, then there may not be too many crits on in your area right now as the season is basically over. Likewise TTs - there are not many on - at this time of year the TT focus is on hill climbing. While that’s fun (in a masochistic sort of way), it doesn’t feel very much like racing. I think you should check out cyclo cross - there are loads of events happening all across the country right now, they are really good fun and easy to enter, getting “dropped” isn’t a big deal because there are a wide range of abilities, and it’s all lap based so after about 10 minutes no-one knows where anyone else is anyway! You don’t need a 'cross bike, you can ride MTBs, but you do need something with knobbly tyres and some mud clearance. You don’t need a BC license for most of them, you can just pay on the day.


#9

Yup, don’t worry about FTP… If anything, then w/kg is more important BUT… its as much about knowing what to do, how to sit in, when to burn matches etc.

For reference, I spent most of the season around 4w/kg with an FTP of 330. My best finish was 11th in a 4th cat crit and 20-somethingth in a 4th cat road race. My FTP is probably equal to or higher than most there, but I am pretty terrible at bike racing for all the other reasons!

One thing I did enjoy this year was trying to smash up some races (and failing)… but it was fun to attack off the front a bunch of times before being blown out the back. Fun is the supposed reason we do all this, isn’t it?


#10

They must have been some tough Cat 4 races! Must be a nightmare chasing you back on!,


#11

Such an open question sadly.
You’ll need to be super savvy to score points with that kind of ftp/kg IMO. Spend some time on a wheel/group ride you trust to build skills whilst you TR your FTP upwards.
Don’t be afraid to race but expect to get dropped. Short Crits are great so you can get back on for more practice.
I averaged 300w for my first Crit and got lapped/dropped four times!
It took three more races to hang until full distance and power was more like 270w for that race.

A cat 2/3 Crit at Thruxton often sees a 200w spread in power required depending on weight and tactics. Literally anything from 200-400w NP.

If you can tap out 20miles with a few hundred ft of climbing at 19+mph then I reckon you’re good to go (tons of caveats about speed being subjective of course).

If UK Crits are you goal then forget about weight- just chase those power goals and learn how to ride your bike fast.

If Road Races are more your thing, you’ll need a few more watts and a lot less weight to be competitive I reckon.

Then there’s your power curve to consider too. IME, you don’t get spat because you can’t hang with a 24mph bunch for an hour. You get spat because you can’t hang with a 27mph one for half a lap. TR intervals are great practice for surges but you need to be happy drafting at those speeds too.

Good luck- it’s so addictive!


#12

That is brutal! I don’t think I’ve ever averaged that, and I’ve podium-ed a number of times! But it just goes to show how much skill and tactics are involved in bike racing. Before I started I figured it was all just a numbers game, how wrong I was!


#13

Exactly what I was thinking. I’m no whippet and neither my FTP or power to weight is anything to write home about but I do ok in the UK crits and road races.

That said, pick your races carefully. Ask experienced racers about the course. If it’s narrow, overtaking can be problematic. If there’s a lot of corners, are you comfortable staying off the brakes etc, etc. For me, a road race with stacks of climbing is just a no-no.


#14

Just to give you an idea of what a race looks like, that’s my strava analysis from the Scottish Vets RR championship. A hilly course that finished on a climb. Avg power was 242W for 2hrs, 279W normalised. It’s not the avg that’s the killer, it’s havinv to make repeated efforts again and again that hurts.


#15

British road races start from cat 4, often cat 4 and 3 are lumped together, until you win enough points to move up a cat this would be the highest you could race, whatever your ftp.

As mentioned further down often your ftp does not really matter if your skill level s really good. However if you are starting out, I would reckon that you are a novice, so enter the cat 4 races and enjoy and learn. B


#16

Thanks for all the advice, my A race next year is outlaw half after DNS this year due to injury. I have never rode with anyone else so come the spring as my mileage increases I am going to look to get on some local club rides to learn more about riding in a group and then look to do some sort of road racing before the end of the summer as my FTP hopefully moves more towards the 270-300 mark with my weight coming down which I think is possible with my current FTP being at 223 - 230 off no structured riding ever.


#17

All of the above is great advice. Join a club, do group rides, start racing (especially handicaps). FWIW i used to race Surrey League and SERRL and with my FTP around 280 (4.15w/kg) and was at the front end of cat 3 races and competitive in 2/3 races. But as others have said, FTP is merely a reference, so much more to it than that. Good luck!


#18

Where are you based in the UK, as most towns and cities have triathlon and or cycling clubs. Most of these have 2 or 3 rides from beginners to pretty quick. If your main race is Outlaw half then unless you are already a member of a swimming & running club then a tri club would be favourite.

B


#19

Based in Derbyshire, we have a very big cycling club close but no tri club and I wouldn’t want to do run and swim training with anyone at the minute. Going to certainly do some stuff with a cycling club come next summer but at the minute enjoying structured training too much.


#20

Hi

If you do decide to go for a club, I would recommend DTC (Derby Tri) or Ashbourne both really friendly clubs who I’ve had dealings with.

Slightly further south is MVH who I race for.

B