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  1. #1
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    The Expert Podium

    I've been bike racing on and off for about 7 years now. Started with MTB racing, have dabbled in a bit of road and 'Cross racing. I came back to MTB racing this year and I am a mid-pack Expert and am starting to think that is where I'm destined to remain, not that that will cause me to EMOquit the sport or anything since I'm a working schlub with a good day job and race for health, fitness, and fun.

    So I'm going to throw out some numbers and ask the board if they think a rider with these numbers has the potential to ever step on the podium in an Expert race (I race in Northern California which I think is fairly competitive though I don't have anywhere else to compare it to!):

    Sex: Male
    Age: 30
    Weight: 140 pounds
    FTP: around 280 watts

    I can get down to slightly below 135 pounds when I decide to get serious about my diet and drink less or no beer for a few months. Likewise I can raise my FTP perhaps 10 or 20 watts from 280ish with a serious 3 months or so of focused training bringing on a peak. But that is pretty much the edge of my physoiological limits.

  2. #2
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    those numbers mean nothing to me. IMO if you have the desire to put it all together then you can podium. i did it. no idea what my numbers were, though i was around 155lbs. i hope to get back there again, but don't know if my current injuries will allow it...

  3. #3
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    Oh to be 30 again. Where has the time gone...?
    Sounds to me if you want to improve you just need to spend some more (and smart) time in the saddle. You definitely have age on your side.
    Top Cat 1 boys are fast because they train hard, and have the mental mojo to win.
    I am not really seeing a question in the post. You simply need to HTFU. (no offense)
    Next year I go to Cat 1 (40-44) and I will be on the podium. Oh yeah.

  4. #4
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    I think the general consensus (please correct me if I'm wrong) is 4.5+ w/kg FTP (60 minute not 20) AND amazing bike handling/technical skills can do it. Obviously the more power you have the easier it becomes but it seems like 4.5 is about the floor for podium experts. When you approach 4.7 and up you are on the podium every week (unless you are at a REALLY big race) even if you make mistakes with nutrition, crash, etc and can possibly still overcome a flat to podium.

    5.0 and up should typically be riding as a regional pro as they would be gapping most expert groups by minutes even in a shorter race say 90 minutes.

    I would advise you to find and work with a "real" coach for at least one year to achieve your goals. You never know what is possible and the knowledge you gain will last you forever.

  5. #5
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    I wallowed in Sport mid-pack-iness for 10 years before I won a race. Actually I podium'd once in that time period, but that's when local races went 5 deep. But once I won that first race, I continued to do well and moved up to Expert Cat1 and continue to do well (last year was my first full Cat1 season).
    So what does this have to do with the OP?
    I believe fitness in cycling is cumulative. Some people have raw talent and excel from the get go, whereas most need to get miles in there legs year after year before the reach their potential.

  6. #6
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    The numbers you gave gives 4.4 Watts/kg.

    In general, that's plenty high to do well in Expert, IMO.

    But a person can have a good FTP and weak anaerobic capacity.....which is fairly key in MTB racing. The ability to repeat efforts in the AC zone and recover from them is the difference beween those who at mid-pack and those who are on the podium, for the same FTP level. Then there's handling skills.......

    You are small and skinny, so at least you have that one chalked up. How tall are you?

  7. #7
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    Number don't produce race results, period

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasser
    Number don't produce race results, period
    Which could also mean that numbers don't matter.


    And if numbers don't matter, then a guy with a FTP of 2.0 could win a world cup.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fsrftc
    I think the general consensus (please correct me if I'm wrong) is 4.5+ w/kg FTP (60 minute not 20) AND amazing bike handling/technical skills can do it. Obviously the more power you have the easier it becomes but it seems like 4.5 is about the floor for podium experts. When you approach 4.7 and up you are on the podium every week (unless you are at a REALLY big race) even if you make mistakes with nutrition, crash, etc and can possibly still overcome a flat to podium.

    5.0 and up should typically be riding as a regional pro as they would be gapping most expert groups by minutes even in a shorter race say 90 minutes.

    I would advise you to find and work with a "real" coach for at least one year to achieve your goals. You never know what is possible and the knowledge you gain will last you forever.
    Of course there will always be exceptions, lower FTP's that are fast as heck, and high FTP's that can't seem to use it well, but this post has got to be pretty dang close to the way it is

  10. #10
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    A world cup and an expert.......no

    but a guy w a low set of numbers w skill can beat a guy a w high numbers if that guy rides poorly.

    What I meant was numbers don't ride the bike and can't win for you.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasser
    A world cup and an expert.......no

    but a guy w a low set of numbers w skill can beat a guy a w high numbers if that guy rides poorly.

    What I meant was numbers don't ride the bike and can't win for you.
    You are correct, the numbers I provided were put together by my own personal measures as well as scouring this site for answers over the last 6-9 months. In mountain biking especially, FTP is only a single variable in a multi-variable equation. Other factors involved are at least bike handling skills, nutrition on the bike, strategy, and experience.

  12. #12
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    yea

    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli
    Which could also mean that numbers don't matter.


    And if numbers don't matter, then a guy with a FTP of 2.0 could win a world cup.
    I would rather have an FTP of 4.5 trying to build skills and efficiency than have the great skills and trying to improve a crappy FTP. But I think getting on the podium in a regional mtb event does require both.

  13. #13
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    I actually am in a similar situation (though my power to weight is not as good as the OP; 155 lbs, about 285 FTP). I've been very consistently mid-pack Expert this year, and while racing is fun for me, I'd be nice to get close to the podium at some point..I feel like I've plateaued, so I know know how the OP feels!
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  14. #14
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    Remember that you are racing in an ultra-competitive area in Northern California. I'm assuming there are many, many great racers there given the population and the popularity of mountain biking. And your age category is pretty dang tough. There are probably quite a few riders who could be decent regional pros if they dedicated themselves full-time. But they have jobs and families and know they don't have what it takes to race as an elite national pro or in a World Cup.

    The good news is you have the genetics and fitness. When you get to that level I tend to think all those other factors become real important and often seperate the guys who have a shot to podium from those who don't: your bike skills, mental toughness in racing, smart and dedicated training and recovery, eating well, etc.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli
    The numbers you gave gives 4.4 Watts/kg.

    In general, that's plenty high to do well in Expert, IMO.

    But a person can have a good FTP and weak anaerobic capacity.....which is fairly key in MTB racing. The ability to repeat efforts in the AC zone and recover from them is the difference beween those who at mid-pack and those who are on the podium, for the same FTP level. Then there's handling skills.......

    You are small and skinny, so at least you have that one chalked up. How tall are you?
    You know what, I think you hit the nail on the head here Ponch. Yes I am small and fairly skinny, I am 5'7" and at 140 pounds today at 9%ish body fat, so yeah I can even get skinnier. I am a pretty darn good climber, but I'm a diesel steady-pace type climber; I do have bad anaerobic capacity.

    Anaerobic capacity has always been my weakness, and I even have to be carefull about training it because I can destroy myself even with doing anaerobic intervals once a week (in addition to a race day).

    To be honest, I haven't even done a single anaerobic interval in over a year because as I said I have to be carefull with them causing me burn-out and excessive fatigue. I do get some anaerobic work in the occasional roadie hammerfest and in the races of course.

    But I think learning how to effectively improve my anaerobic capacity without burning myself out is probably the key to further improvement as it's something I've always neglected. Maybe I will see about a good coach for next year, I've also been very skittish about coaches because I had a very bad experience with a coach in my 3rd year of racing that set me back a lot and because of that I've always been self-coached since.

    If anyone has any good recommendations for Bay Area coaches, please post a link or send me a PM if you don't want to adverstise for someone.

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