Boone’s C to B: Week 7 – To B, or Not to B?

Boone’s C to B: Week 7 – To B, or Not to B?

After a very successful “Couch to Cat C” project, Boone is now well into his “C to B” training block, where the goal is to see him hit 3.2 w/kg in his ramp FTP test and thus qualify as a B racer.

Our first two rides this week were pretty standard events, but it’s the FTP test at the end that really makes things interesting. Read on to see how it all unfolded…

The Plan

As a reminder: the basic plan we’ve settled on contains a mix of five different types of rides. (Many thanks to Alan Dempsey of HPP Coaching for giving us solid advice that sets Boone up for success).

  • Races: Boone will race the C’s every week or two to check his progress, work on race craft, and of course get in a good workout.
  • VO2 Workouts: this will be the cornerstone workout of each week. Nobody likes VO2 work, but we both agree Boone is getting a lot of benefit from these.
  • Pace Partner Intervals: we’ll use the Pace Partners (C. Cadence or Bowie Brevet) to anchor a fun, interactive interval workout. Warm up with the pace partner, then sprint off the front for 15s. Or drop off the back, and put in a measured 2-minute effort to get back on. Lots of options here.
  • FTP Ramp Tests: we’ll do at least two ramp tests to measure FTP progress.
  • Recovery Rides: some days, Boone will just need an easier effort in the saddle. Since he’s still a beginning cyclist, even easy efforts are far from wasted.

Ride 23: Tour of Watopia Stage 5

Boone hadn’t taken part in a Zwift “group ride” yet, so I proposed we join a Tour of Watopia event for today’s ride. Stage 5, in this case: one lap of the Mountain 8 route, the “shorter ride” for this stage. Since he’s only level 14, the double XP wouldn’t hurt!

I wasn’t looking to push hard since I had a ZRL race the next day. So I just rode along with Boone, who put in a solid effort, setting some new power curve bests on the ride. We had a good time putting in short efforts to hold the wheels of certain riders, then working with our ever-growing group to chase down stranded riders in the final miles of the event.

This was a wonderful example of the power of the Zwift group ride experience. It camaraderie, but also a bit of competition. And in the end, everybody wins!

See this ride on Strava >

Ride 24: Welcome to Richmond

Today was a fast day for Boone (“fast” referring to not eating), so we wanted to do another steady ride. He wanted to ride some roads he hadn’t yet covered in Zwift, so we jumped into a new world for him: Richmond, Virginia!

He’d been there IRL, but never on Zwift. He finished two laps as I explained to him why it’s my favorite race course, even though I never win.

See this ride on Strava >

Ride 25: Ramp FTP Test

Boone hadn’t done a ramp test in several weeks, so we decided today was the day. And I was feeling spry, so I decided I would do a ramp test along with him. Boone has repeatedly told me he pushes harder when I’m riding with him, so I figured we would both help each other by suffering together.

Here’s where we stood before the test:

  • I’ve only done the ramp test once before, back when it was first released on Zwift. And I haven’t tested my FTP using a standard protocol of any sort for over a year. Instead, I’ve just used the “95% of my best 20-minute power” estimation in order to determine my rough FTP, which was set at 310W.
  • Boone had last done a ramp test 6 weeks ago, with a resulting FTP of 294W.

After doing some rough math, I decided I should start the test 1 minute before Boone, in hopes that we would both be on our limit at the same time. I envisioned us each turning ourselves inside out, trying to not be the guy who stops pedaling first!

The Ramp Test starts easy (at least for bigger guys like Boone and I) at 120W, and steps up the wattage by 20W every 1 minute until you fail. You’ll fail at a much higher wattage than your actual FTP – your FTP results is calculated by taking 75% of your best 1-minute power during the test.

I like to set a minimum target when taking these tests, so for me that was finishing the 420W interval. If I was able to do that, my detected FTP would be 315W – a respectable increase.

In Boone’s case, he wanted to at least complete the 400W interval, which would give him a detected FTP of 300W.

We chatted in the early intervals, knowing the pain was coming soon enough. The Ramp Test is quite easy, then you start to feel it for a couple minutes, then it’s just a few more minutes of pure suffering until failure. We were watching our heartrates on screen – mine was a bit below Boone’s as things started getting hard, but then I caught up to him and we stayed pretty close until the end.

Boone crushed his 400W interval, and kept going well into the 420W section. His new FTP: 310W, exactly what my FTP had been set to going into this test!

As Boone stopped pedaling I had just a few more seconds left. I finished a bit more than half of the 440W segment, with a final FTP of 324W.

See this ride on Strava >

Week 7 Takeaways

If you ever need to take the ramp test, I highly recommend doing it with another rider on a voice call, and timing your tests so you’re ending together. It’s a super-motivating way to help you keep pushing.

Boone’s Ramp Test result, along with his continued weight loss, puts him at an FTP of 3.22 w/kg. The goal of this training block was to hit 3.2 w/kg in his FTP test, so… that’s another goal achieved! We were hoping to hit the goal in 6 weeks, and he finished it at the end of his 7th training week. Not bad. Not bad at all.

To B, or Not to B?

Now the question is: does Boone start racing the B’s, or should he stay with the C’s until ZwiftPower upgrades him?

He’s never averaged over 3.1 w/kg in a race (and those are short Crit City events), so he’s not even an “almost B” in ZwiftPower’s eyes. ZwiftPower determines your category based on the “average of best 3 races in last 90 days (4.1 + 3.9 + 3.8 = 3.9w/kg).”

Should Zwift racers categorize themselves based on the results of FTP tests, or based on the category ZwiftPower sets for them? For riders like Boone, the correct answer isn’t obvious. In Boone’s case, as a rookie rider, I doubt he would be able to hold his newly-detected FTP of 3.22w/kg for more than 30 minutes.

Does he belong in the B’s, where the front group in most races can hold 3.6w/kg for 45 minutes or more? Or does he belong in the C’s, where you can average 3.36w/kg for 20 minutes and still be under the B-category 3.2w/kg mark based on the “95% of 20-minute power” calculation?

His new FTP says cat B (barely). His race numbers indicate cat C.

On the other hand, he’s doing well in his C-cat Crit City races (although admittedly the pack sizes have been a bit small), and staying in cat C for short Crit City events may just stunt his growth. Wouldn’t it be better to jump into the B’s and really be pushed to the limit, with no chance of staying in the front group until the end?

Your Thoughts

Chime in below with your thoughts on Boone’s cat quandary. We welcome your input!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Gordon Sloan
5 months ago

Great progress, I would race the C while zp has him as a c. Especially if he is not going over pace on short crit races but no harm mixing it up and trying some B races to see what the next level up is like

Maybe the likes of TFC mad Monday and SZR Wednesday sprint series could be a good stepping stone as they split the cats further down so you have upper and lower B it makes for much better racing without instantly being dropped as a low end rider

Greg Hib
Greg Hib
5 months ago

As being a CatC officially for a year, it’s a fun place to be.
Now going to stop dithering and train for C properly

Greg Hib
Greg Hib
5 months ago
Reply to  Greg Hib

Or B even 😉

Jack
Jack
5 months ago

I was in the same position myself. 91kg and around 3.2/3.4 but I found in the shorter races I was having to hold back a bit or risk DQ . Until he is regularly going over the 3.2 I wouldn’t move up just yet as it will wont be beneficial getting dropped after 4 mins of riding to then just ride alone. When (like me) you are able to do 3.5 then you can sometimes hold on or if you lose the front there is always a 2nd group that is at the same level.

Diana Steel
Diana Steel
5 months ago

It’s not all fun y’know? I raced my butt off last year and finally made B. Then I was racing as B and was almost last at every race.
Fast forward a couple of months and I had some time off. Naturally, went back to a C almost B. Seems like all that hard work for nothing. It’s a lot of work!

Phil
Phil
5 months ago

Stay in cat c. I’m very similar in numbers and position to Boone and I race cat C. It provides more motivation being at the pointy end (legitimately) of races and also gives an opportunity to work on race craft and tactics. I think the best way to determine if you should make the jump is off zwiftpower but in saying that do some TTs where you actually hit your actual numbers and aren’t protected from upgrades by the draft effect. otherwise, I say make the most of being lucky enough in having your numbers just be in the right… Read more »

Ben Pitt
Ben Pitt (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago

Don’t be silly. Stick him in Bs. There isn’t a rule that says you have to be a B rider to ride in B. How else do you expect him to get a B rating in zwiftpower? Crusing around in C, with a little sprint at the end isn’t going to push him into B cat on zwiftpower.

Martijn
Martijn
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

Indeed. If he stays in C and drafts well, the sprint will not push him over the cat. limit. However that is the same for an A that would race in the C category. Upgrade to B and give the others a fair chance in C. (Hopefully the category system is updated soon and no one will face these decisions any more)

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

riding in B with 3.2w/kg is very, very lonely (:

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

and I think you under-estimate how hard “cruising”at a 20min threshold effort finishing with a “little” 1000w+ sprint can be…

Ben Pitt
Ben Pitt (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

I speak from experience. Waiting until you get an UPG in zwiftpower whilst only doing cat races is a bus trip to sandbagger city. I would still be in B cat now if I didn’t move up to As. Even now, I didn’t break the B cat limits in the New York Zrl race in new York, but came 5th in A division…

The only people that get UPG in C cat, are lighter riders. Boone will never develop in C

Ben Pitt
Ben Pitt (@benjamin_pitt)
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

Need an edit button, I do love New York enough to say it twice though I guess.

Ben Leung
Ben Leung
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Pitt

There is actually another alternative that I am surprised I don’t see mentioned more often. Do races where all the categories start at the same time and are visible to each other, like most 3R races. You can start in the lower category but if you push hard at the start you can ride/race with the higher categories. It’s a great way to keep pushing your limits in a race setting. I have done this many times as a faster C, and now I have finally reached a point where I can finish with the main B pack, usually up… Read more »

Kelley Wegeng
Kelley Wegeng (@kwegeng)
5 months ago

When I won several D races in a row (but still wasn’t showing C level stats), races in which I finished with the front C field, I started racing C. Being a larger rider with good endurance being a not-quite-C stats-wise meant that in those first C races I also did well. I would recommend Boone doing some E races and looking through the results to see where he finishes. It might be with the high Cs or low Bs, or it could be that when tested like that he’ll pull out a mid-B performance.

Jonathan
Jonathan
5 months ago

I would stay in C while he is still eligible, and work on race skills — pack positioning, sprint timing, general strategy, etc. At the pointy end of the C division, he should be able to target podium spots or wins. Moving to B will be good for his fitness (it’s always good to race against faster riders), but he’ll be getting dropped all the time at first, and won’t have as much opportunity to polish his race skills.

dan
dan
5 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

you dont learn from success; you learn form failure my friend!

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago
Reply to  dan

you don’t learn jack by getting dropped in first 5mins by B’s

Simon V
Simon V
5 months ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

you learn not to let the wheels go for 20-30 sec more each time and next thing you know you can finish a race with the pack! However we all have our own motivation with zwift racing.

Daniel
Daniel
5 months ago

How many hours a week on the bike is he doing?

Mike
Mike (@michaeltrowe)
5 months ago

Saw a few typos today, “rodes” instead of roads, your FTP is 424? I think you mean 324.

Jay Z
Jay Z
5 months ago

foolish and demoralizing to force the ‘upgrade’ and race b. Win some in the c’s and then upgrade like in real life. Practice winning and build a solid base of confidence before making the leap to b and getting ur head kicked in.

Robby Beauchamp
Robby Beauchamp
5 months ago

Zwiftpower just moved me from “Almost A” to A. There’s NO WAY I could be competitive in an A race with any decent size field. I can hold a solid 4+ w/kg, but I can’t hit 1,000 watts in a sprint even when I’m fresh. I’m also fairly light, so my 4+w/kg is coming at ~300 watts. So I end up holding on for dear life until any real attacks go, then get demolished in the sprint from whatever group I’m in, unless I’m shelled and just TT in for the finish. But the truth is, the B races go… Read more »

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago

c u in 90 days, pack on some weight in the mean time (:

Michael Earl
Michael Earl
5 months ago

62kg climber and 4.6W/kg here. My A grade races consist of trying to make a big enough break on a mountain and solo TTing it 20-30km to the finish.

Even when I raced B grade I’d get dumped on the flat sections by 80kg guys averaging 3.5W/kg and then get disqualified on Zwiftpower for exceeding the B grade W/kg limit. One of the major faults with the classification system there!

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
5 months ago
Reply to  Michael Earl

20-30km with no draft sounds like a recipe for disaster on Zwift races 😬

Matthias
Matthias
5 months ago

It would be interesting to see if Boone is now able to do the Alpe in Sub-1h. According to the FTP-test he should, but indeed I doubt.

Robby Beauchamp
Robby Beauchamp
5 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Exactly. The better way to think of FTP is the power at your aerobic threshold. Over that and you start to accumulate lactate and you’re time is limited, under that and you can clear lactate at the rate it’s produced. How long people can ride at LT is a very personal thing.

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago
Reply to  Matthias

that should be the next goal for sure 😉

dan
dan
5 months ago

riding in a category doesnt mean you have to be winning in that chosen category; if you continue to ride in the category “you can win”, you will NEVER get better and you can just stick to being an anonymous hero in the lower cat.

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago
Reply to  dan

on the other hand, riding in a category where you get dropped in the first 5mins every single race teaches you absolutely nothing about race tactics :3

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
5 months ago

time to win some Cat C races, see you in Crit City :)))

W .ally
W .ally
5 months ago

Ramp tests are an awful way to gauge 20min ability. While the science behind the FTP concept is already razor thin, the science behind this ramp test is simply absent… If you are on the edge of the category, just challenge yourself every now and then with a race in a higher category that takes about 20 minutes, and give it all you got. Crit City is perfect for it. If you get promoted, take it like a man. If you consistently get dropped during these events and never exceed the cat limit, even though you try, add a link… Read more »

Brian
Brian
5 months ago

I’d agree with those saying to work in a B race here of there. The only problem with being at the bottom of B is that is essentially becomes a time trial once you’re dropped. You might also consider putting him into some C hills races to make C more challenging as well. Hills will more or less knock a few w/kgs off with his weight. Always good to work in different types of races anyway.

chris Benten
chris Benten (@chris-benten)
5 months ago

IMO Stay in C and expand the races beyond Crit City. If the plan is to move to B I think the weekly mileage will have to increase over the 3-4 hours.

Ken Hurd
Ken Hurd
5 months ago

I’d say the answer is BOTH. I’m in a similar boat to Boone and I think there’s a lot to be gained from both sides of the fence… B will give a rounder boost to his fitness, likely coming at the expense of being able to really turn things up at the end, but that will come with time. C like some other posters have mentioned will be invaluable as to how to manage positioning and race management from the ‘pointy end’… Then eventually he’ll be firmly seated in B and can start things all over again with your next… Read more »

jack
jack
5 months ago

Boone should stay in the C’s till he can be competitive. If he needs to practice his race skills tell him to do the CIS BTW ride on Mondays. I think It would be 4 pm west coast time. Getting spit out the back a few times will make you realize how much time and work you need to put in to be competitive in the B’s.

MHolden
MHolden (@holdenadventures)
5 months ago

Race C and do different types of races to gain more experience beyond crits. Boone can experience success while appropriately growing beyond Cs. He should also attempt a few B Races or races that have a common pen or start time each month to keep pushing himself harder and faster while learning to race.

Alex
Alex
5 months ago

Why didn’t U include the race he has taken part and he was 3rd wasn’t he?

Chris
Chris
5 months ago

I would suggest he sticks to Cat C, but does some races that don’t necessarily suit him, maybe some longer ones, and races with some hills. I am in the same boat, my ramp test FTP has me at 3.21, but my best results have me at 3.15, but being a lighter rider I almost never make the front group even at 3.2w/kg+. I think riding some more diverse cat C races will make him a more well rounded racer.

David Heard
David Heard
5 months ago

I’m in a similar position, just in ZP B-grade. I think Boone should test himself on some longer C-grade races than the Crit City ones while he can, to see if he can hold his power for longer in a race, and consolidate his power curve. At the same time, try a short Crit City race in B and see what that’s like. I find B pretty discouraging – I can hold the pack for maybe 10min, especially with the fast starts. I wouldn’t jump into B racing until necessary in ZP’s eyes. There’s no doubt a reason they create… Read more »

James
James
5 months ago

Great job, Dan! Awesome result.

His numbers place him firmly in C, in my mind. If he can promote in 40+ minute races, then he should promote. But 3.2 over a 20 min Crit does not a B make.

To echo many others, he really needs to try some different types of events. As a heavy guy, he should try some courses with short, punchy climbs, and try a little climbing as well.

Alex
Alex
5 months ago

not to b he’s worked hard but his power out is a bit to low to more weeks and knowing his will to progress he’ll be ready

Alex
Alex
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex

*2 more weeks:) *power output

alex
alex
5 months ago

it’s been 2 weeks he’s been riding why aren’t there any new posts?

Bram Neudt
Bram Neudt
4 months ago

I love reading about Boone’s progress, but didn’t find any new articles. Did he stop zwifting?

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