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  1. #1
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    Moving up to Cat 2 - How do I prepare?

    This year was my first year in local XC racing. I normally ride 3-4x a week with a 2013 Giant Anthem 29er 1. I raced this year's local fall XC season in Cat 3 and managed to win the last race of the season. There was not much "training" done except just riding 5-6 hours a week and a lot of pre-riding the courses before each race. After all of my races I have felt like I've had nothing left after 1 lap (typically 40-50 minutes) and am not sure how the Cat 2 guys can keep up their pace for 2 laps. My questions are:

    1) How do you train for multiple lap races? How many hours should I be putting in a week and how many weeks before the first race should I be preparing to build up a base? I don't road bike. What to do when it rains? Trainer at the gym?

    2) How much should I be training/racing with water/sport drink/powders? Can you really expect any noticeable boost vs. normal water in a 1:30 race?

    3) The top guys in cat 2 are 2 minutes faster than my best lap when I am giving it 100%. Their slowest lap is like my fast lap. That being said, I am sure my technique sucks. I don't know the proper way to train vs. recover. I don't bother about tracking cadence. I track heart rate to test energy exertion but that's it. I brake in corners and exert too much energy trying to regain speed out of them. At some point I can't rely just on the engine overcoming my biking skill shortcomings. What are the important skills to practice that add up the most in a race?

    Thanks for the feedback in advance!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post

    1) How do you train for multiple lap races? How many hours should I be putting in a week and how many weeks before the first race should I be preparing to build up a base? I don't road bike. What to do when it rains? Trainer at the gym?
    In my observation, riding more often and with more volume gives more speed, and endurance (of course). First start with 6 hours and then gradually up your volume to 10 hours per week (or whatever time will permit), over the course of several months. Riding stationary trainer or cross training can help with fitness, but keep the perceived exertion similar to what you would do on the bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    2) How much should I be training/racing with water/sport drink/powders? Can you really expect any noticeable boost vs. normal water in a 1:30 race?
    With races reaching 1.5 hours, you have to start thinking about calories. For that much time, a couple of gel packs should be good, and eating should start right at the beginning of the race. Meter the cals throughout the race.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    3) I brake in corners and exert too much energy trying to regain speed out of them. At some point I can't rely just on the engine overcoming my biking skill shortcomings. What are the important skills to practice that add up the most in a race?
    Cornering is the most important skill in MTBing, iMO. If you can minimize braking in the corners then you save a lot of energy over the course of a race.

    This video is pretty excellent:
    How To: Cornering and Straight Line - Pinkbike
    Head Coach, Ben Lomond HS MTB Team
    www.utahmtb.org
    Cycling Team and local Club:
    http://www.roostersbikersedge.com/

  3. #3
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    ... and if we just ...

    Ponch offered up some good advice. It is a pretty large jump changing categories. Some additional thoughts are:

    1. Expect to do 6-8 hours a week if you hope to be anywhere near the podium IF you live in a competitive/highly contested region of the USA.

    2. Structure your training...volume/base during this winter and then move into higher intensity (intervals etc) when the race season nears.

    3. Really watch what you eat. Racers, to different degrees, will need want to be at their lightest weights during the season. This will make a huge difference while climbing. Strength to weight ratio is what mtb fitness is all about.

    4. Pedal on the non-technical descents when possible. When you are not, understand that your competition will be.

    5. Starts will be a lot faster. Practice them. Practice your clip-ins out in the street...over and over until it is super natural and almost muscle memory.

    6. Also, be careful not to blow up on the first 5 minutes of the race! This can be tricky if you are not totally aware of your own fitness. It is easy to get caught up in the panic and go beyond your fitness level during the start of a race. We have all done it and it aint cool. On the other hand, if you end up bottle necked behind slower riders, but feeling strong, that does you no good either..haha.

    7. Remind yourself that racing is "fun".

    8. With regards to powder mixes, yes, you will need them absolutely when racing anything further than 60 minutes. You will need to start taking in your carb/lytes mix right after the start line and perhaps a little before start. Definitely find the one that agrees with YOUR stomach. There is no "correct" drink brand out there, so don't assume that a mix your buddy races with will be the correct for you. You will not need anything with protein unless you are merging into the 3-4hr+ races.

    Edit 9. I missed a part about that additional lap. For me, back when I moved to Cat 1, the additional lap was the biggest adjustment. Like you, I was a couple of minutes off the fastest Cat 1 times as a Cat 2, but that extra lap is a crusher. Do occasional rides at race pace and distance. A lot of it is mental too...just being able to suffer that additional lap is a big game changer.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by rydbyk; 11-05-2013 at 03:19 PM.

  4. #4
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    How many years have you been riding regularly? 2 minutes down on the faster cat2s is not bad at all, 5th in cat 2 is likely 2min-4min down on the leader.
    I am finding (still) that persistent/consistent training makes me faster over time. If you're doing regular hard rides, with plenty of rest days (eating/drinking like you intend to be fast), you could easily be 2 min faster per lap with more endurance, one year from now.
    From what I've read, if you've only been riding a couple of years just ride a lot and have fun, include plenty of hard hills, and do some bookwork re technique. Some race car books have excellent sections on cornering/traction theory, this resource is overwhelmingly overlooked by cyclists. It would also be good to join a local team, ride with some faster guys, and get an experienced rider to mentor your technique. I imagine quite a few experienced riders on your team would be honored to be asked to help you with specifics like cornering, climbing, braking.
    I podiumed all my Cat2 races last spring on about 6 hours of training per week, I'm doing pretty well in Cat3 cyclocross now (which seems to be a fair bit faster than C2 mtb), still on roughly 6 hours per week. I did a couple of cat1 mtb races last spring, I intend to do our smaller series in cat1 this next year, cyclocross will help with my fall training and speed. You may want to consider doing some cx for starts/speed/traffic, and there's lots of corners. I will still only have about 6 hours per week to train and I'm going to ride all winter (again, 3rd winter on the bike now), I'll be doing 2-3 hour trail rides on Saturday or Sunday mornings, with quite a few short hard hills, and a couple of shorter harder rides (including longer intervals on the trainer). I think I will be reasonably fast by spring (our spring series starts in February), faster with more endurance than last year. I keep thinking about doing a real regimen, like Time Crunched Cyclist, but I'm still having fun just riding as much as I can and doing lots of short hard hills, and I seem to continue to improve. I know I will have to do something more specific pretty soon, like Time Crunched, I think that will be necessary at some point for Cat1 or C2/C1 cyclocross, but I really don't think that's necessary for cat2 mtb.
    Especially if you're older, it can take a few years to build the speed and endurance, but it is 100% possible to get pretty fast even if you're middle aged; Persistence and Consistency. My main rule for training over the last 2 years (having been a little fat and taken a lot of years off from regular riding) was: no more than 2 days off in a row, no more than 3 days on in a row.
    About 9 months ago I added a short 'core' regimen for after rides, situps, pullups, pushups, a back exercise, it only adds 5-10 min to my workout, and I'm already warmed up and in my sweaty clothes, so it's the perfect time to add some other stuff for a little more than just the bike workout. I don't know if it's helped much with the cycling, but I seem a little more toned overall than before.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the tips! Keep em' coming!

    Some facts on me:
    Age: 30
    Weight: 150
    Height: 6'-1"
    Location: Dallas. Mainly flat/fast XC trails. Not much climbing/descending.
    Experience: 3 yrs MTB. Learned on 26" hardtail (2 yrs, weekend warrior). Got fast on 29" hardtail (9 months, 4 hrs./week). Just started racing on 29" FS (3 months, 5-6 hrs/week).
    Last edited by Lefty2341; 11-05-2013 at 04:58 PM.

  6. #6
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    You're pretty new still, and young, - you can expect some good returns from regular training given where you are at. Please remember to report back in 6mo or a year!
    When I was in my 20s, I could see real gains in just a few months, now at 46 it takes longer, and I'm still trying to get back to where I was at 24!
    It may take years, but you can get very fast.
    If there is a cyclocross series near you, that would really be great experience for racing next year. Many cx series allow mountain bikes.

  7. #7
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    I did mention the diet thing, so..

    150 lbs and 5'6" vs 150 lbs and 5'11" are two different things fwiw...haha.

    Fwiw..the best climbers in the TdF are about 2lbs per inch tall...yikes! So, a 5'11" racer would come in at around 142 to 145 lbs.

  8. #8
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    Re: Moving up to Cat 2 - How do I prepare?

    My situation is almost identical to yours lefty! Thanks for all the tips guys, and keep em coming!

  9. #9
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    I am 6'1"

  10. #10
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    I am 6'1"
    Right on....Schleck-like

  11. #11
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    This was my off season after a year and a half of riding with help of daveryan
    Preparing for first MTB race of the season

    I made podium's at all sport races, at least age group. Some overall sport (comp).

    I based it off this article - I focused on #2 & #4 (create a bigger engine / FTP) Typically whoever has the best FTP to weight ratio wins the race
    Peaks Coaching: Take Your Performance to the Next Level

    Another view point from sprocketjockey9 @ FasCat Coaching
    "The best 20 min power will always keep the strong guys at the top of the fields. But its the nuances amongst the other power zones and the skills that differentiate 1st and 5th. Typically why you always see the same players at the top of the results, but often see shuffling in there. Some guys have straight up awesome threshold power and crush it on the long climb courses (think JHK in the NORBA/high altitude days) and others have great 20 min, but really excel at recovering from repeated anaerobic/vo2 max efforts (adam craig is a good indicator, has pretty low threshold relatively, but he can continually repeat those hard short efforts again and again)."

    "Skills certainly can come into play. I know from personal experience, a few guys I race against can drop me on a 20 minute climb by 2 minutes, but put us on some technical trails and I'm 2-3 minutes up on them. In mtb, you want to push up that 20 minute power in early season and then really focus on the 1-5 minute zones to really help make you stronger (and it'll push up that 20 min power!)"

    I use 3 tbsp gatorade and add 2 tbsp dextrose to 20oz bottle, I know some guys swear by Carbo Pro (maltodextrin)

    I am doing good if I can in 6 hours of quality riding in.

  12. #12
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    Lots of good advice on here. I subscribe to the Time crunched philosophy, since I have a young family, I don't have time to put in more than 7 hours a week (my max hours in season) and typically do about 5. My focus was on intensity, mostly power intervals and some threshold work during the season with my long endurance ride being about two hours. If you're interested in this philosophy I highly recommend buying and applying the Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. It's intense but It'll definitely make you more powerful. It also requires an extended (4-6 weeks) recovery period before restarting the program due to the extreme and persistent intensity.

    It worked for me, in my first full season of racing I won the Cat2 AG points race and hit the AG podium in 5 of 7 races, but admittedly it's really hard to get on the bike knowing you're going to torture yourself for the next hour on every single ride!!

    I think skills and handling work is just as important as building power. I saw a lot of ultra fit Cat 2-3 roadies get destroyed by less fit Cat 2 Mountain bikers because the roadies had NO skills!!

    I just use powdered Gatorade for every ride over 90 min and every race and hit at least one gel during races that are about 90 minutes (I prefer Honey Stinger brand gels). That combo has served me well for all my races. Good luck!

  13. #13
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    I've researched intervals and don't know many trails around Dallas that have enough wide open space where I can sprint for so long. It would almost be like finding a flat stretch of jeep road and sprinting down it, resting, then sprinting back. I don't have a road bike, so setting up a trainer in my house is not an option. Has anyone tried training intervals in a spin class?

  14. #14
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    Getting a cheap used road bike would definitely help you get to the next level. The work on the road can be much more specific due to long stretches of wide open for intervals or just steady state riding that is hard to attain on the mountain bike due to coasting down hills, powering up short steep hills and technical terrain.
    If a road bike isn't in the budget simply take to the road on your mountain bike or hit as much flat gravel/fire road as you can and work your intervals in that way.

  15. #15
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    I've researched intervals and don't know many trails around Dallas that have enough wide open space where I can sprint for so long. It would almost be like finding a flat stretch of jeep road and sprinting down it, resting, then sprinting back. I don't have a road bike, so setting up a trainer in my house is not an option. Has anyone tried training intervals in a spin class?
    You can get a cheap rear wheel with a slick on it and use that on a trainer fwiw... or just swap tires...might be a pita though..

  16. #16
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    I have a spare 700c road wheel I put on my or my sons 26er mtb for use on the trainer. I just leave the brakes unhooked, it works great on the trainer. A trainer is also a GREAT warmup tool for pre-race, just bring the trainer and the road wheel and warm up behind your car, put your mtb wheel back on and you're ready to head to grid. I recently got a lower-end 29er rear wheel and tire just for warmup on the trainer for next springs races. It's always hard to find a good road etc to properly warmup on pre-race, especially in cold weather, warming up on a trainer is a good habit.

  17. #17
    Big Damn Hero
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    Thanks for the tips! Keep em' coming!

    Some facts on me:
    Age: 30
    Weight: 150
    Height: 6'-1"
    Location: Dallas. Mainly flat/fast XC trails. Not much climbing/descending.
    Experience: 3 yrs MTB. Learned on 26" hardtail (2 yrs, weekend warrior). Got fast on 29" hardtail (9 months, 4 hrs./week). Just started racing on 29" FS (3 months, 5-6 hrs/week).
    Did you win the last TMBRA race or DORBA race? If the latter, I'd recommend doing a TMBRA cat 3 race if you haven't already. The fields tend are deeper and faster in the TMBRA series. If you won a TMBRA cat 3 race (if the last one then I assume Tyler Speedwaves) then you'll be fine in cat 2 if you just keep up the training.

    Being around Dallas you have some awesome trails nearby (Big Cedar, Sansom Park, LB Houston, Northshore, etc...) that offer a great variety of trail conditions so you can easily work on all sorts of skills building.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBRsteve View Post
    Did you win the last TMBRA race or DORBA race? If the latter, I'd recommend doing a TMBRA cat 3 race if you haven't already. The fields tend are deeper and faster in the TMBRA series. If you won a TMBRA cat 3 race (if the last one then I assume Tyler Speedwaves) then you'll be fine in cat 2 if you just keep up the training.

    Being around Dallas you have some awesome trails nearby (Big Cedar, Sansom Park, LB Houston, Northshore, etc...) that offer a great variety of trail conditions so you can easily work on all sorts of skills building.
    CBR - I can 'kind of' see your point on not upgrading. But, the OP has 3 years MTB experience at this point, is lean and now sounds like he is going to be giving a dedicated off-season to training.

    From my experience, Cat 3 is supposed to be a novice/beginner class, even though it ends up being guys all kitted out w/expensive bikes.

    Lefty - go for it and Cat up

    My first season (2011), I raced on a 1995 Ridley w/v-brakes and won some races.

  19. #19
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    Not to sidetrack the discussion, but on the topic of trainers.... It sounds like they are pretty monotonous and people in general hate them. I can throw $250 at old/used road bike and then another $250 on a good trainer or I can dump $1100 on a Wahoo KICKR and get all the bells and whistles of logging training sessions, metrics all compiled in 1 place, easily loadable interval training sessions, etc. Anyone have any experience on one of these?

  20. #20
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    Not to sidetrack the discussion, but on the topic of trainers.... It sounds like they are pretty monotonous and people in general hate them. I can throw $250 at old/used road bike and then another $250 on a good trainer or I can dump $1100 on a Wahoo KICKR and get all the bells and whistles of logging training sessions, metrics all compiled in 1 place, easily loadable interval training sessions, etc. Anyone have any experience on one of these?
    I do know they are nice, but VERY heavy...not something you want to travel with..

    Here is everything you need/want to know about it:
    Wahoo Fitness KICKR Trainer In-Depth Review | DC Rainmaker

    Also, $1000 is a lot of money to sink into a stationary trainer that does not rock like a bike does while on the road/trails. For many, this is not even important though.

    Some people will develop knee pain from stationary trainers bec the bike is locked into a solid upright posistion and cannot move fluidly when needed (especially while sprinting or during solid efforts) with your body. Your knees will be the first to notice this issue. The Kurt Kinetic that rocks back and forth to allow for a natural feel seems better for those who have knee issues. I went to rollers myself.

    .02

  21. #21
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    If I lived in Texas, I would definitely not be riding a trainer. It sucks. I'd spend that money on a road bike! I also ride rollers, and I do like the controlled environment of doing intervals inside. But, riding outside is so much better. I ride all winter on the fat bike, but I do ride inside once or twice a week.

  22. #22
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    There are times when it rains and the trails are closed all week. The last 2 weeks in Dallas I have gotten maybe 2 or 3 sessions in because of rain. There needs to be an alternative besides getting buzzed by cars in the middle of a city street trying to do intervals.

  23. #23
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    Though it's not the most fun, riding a trainer allows you to get in great quality, focused interval work. Lots of pros use trainers for focused intervals as it allows you to simply focus on pedal stroke and breathing and not worry about anything else. I don't like trainers, but since I started spending 75 minutes on a trainer two days a week doing focused intervals (one day big gear strength intervals and one day high RPM threshold intervals) I've gained a ton of fitness. On the weekends I usually get my endurance work in with a 3+ hour road ride and a 3+ hour mountain bike ride.

    Did you race DORBA or TMBRA? I still say that if you haven't done a TMBRA race then you should do the cat 3 race at Rocky Hill in February and see how you do before you jump straight to TMBRA cat 2. It's just a good way for you to gauge your fitness level.

    If you do jump to Cat 2 and race TMBRA, we'll be in the same age group and cat. Look for the tall skinny guy racing in DIRT Racing kit on a Specialized Epic Marathon. :-)
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~ Albert Einstein

  24. #24
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    I raced DORBA. I really never thought about venturing outside of DFW (besides Tyler) for races. Still pretty new to the sport. I see your point as TMBRA races pool from all major Texas cities and their will be a lot more top guys vs. local beginners. Thanks for the advice!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty2341 View Post
    There are times when it rains and the trails are closed all week. The last 2 weeks in Dallas I have gotten maybe 2 or 3 sessions in because of rain. There needs to be an alternative besides getting buzzed by cars in the middle of a city street trying to do intervals.
    I do my intervals to cycling videos like these:

    FORCE :: RAISE YOUR THRESHOLD :: RealRides® Training System with Robbie Ventura

    RACE DAY :: CRIT RACING SIMULATION :: RealRides® Training System with Robbie Ventura

    I do have some dvd's (3 video's) I am going to be listing on ebay, like new, selling because sponsored by Robbie Ventura's Vision Quest Coaching, maker of Real Rides Videos: Carmichael Training System's Criterium, Time Trial and Cycling for power - if interested PM me

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