From C to Shining C: Week 1 – Riding Up Grades, Buying Upgrades

From C to Shining C: Week 1 – Riding Up Grades, Buying Upgrades

After a very successful 6-week “Couch to Cat C” project, my cousin Boone took a week off for a little skiing and rest. But soon enough he was back in my office, and we were making plans.

“What should we do next?” was our question to each other. He’d gone from a rookie cyclist with a starting FTP of 1.92w/kg to a stronger, lighter 2.62w/kg version in six weeks. He was now a C racer, but he was looking to continue dropping weight while building fitness.

We needed a goal. A SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based. So we settled on this: From C to Shining C. Boone was a beginner C with watts per kilo that barely got him out of the D category. Could we move him to a podium spot in a C race over 5 weeks? That’s the new goal.

The Plan

The basic plan we’ve settled on for the 5 weeks contains a mix of four 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 (Diesel or Cadence) 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 1: Boone’s First C Race

In Boone’s last race he broke away from the D’s and soloed to glorious victory. But now he was a C, and we needed to set a baseline. How would he perform in a higher category?

First things first, we needed to update his account and give him any and all advantages he could legally get. That meant adjusting his weight once again (down to 231.4 pounds!) and buying his first new bike – the Canyon Aeroad 2021. He now had the Aeroad + DT Swiss wheels – a solid racing setup.

After an easy warmup he headed to Crit City of 8 laps of the Bell Lap. There were 38 C’s in the race – not a small group! But Boone did a great job of pushing hard to make the front selection of 15 riders going into lap 2.

Once again I was on the keyboard, manning his powerups. But he was getting the worst powerups! Ghosts. Steamrollers. One feather, thankfully. But that was the best we got.

There were clearly some strong riders pushing the pace in the front group. Boone was in no position to attack – he was just trying to hold on up and over the twisty climb each lap. And on the 5th lap he finally go gapped off the back.

At first he tried to keep his pace up enough to stay away from the three riders who were about 40s behind, but it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do that. So instead he heeded my advice to ease up, recover, and get caught. He could probably outsprint them, as long as his legs weren’t toast.

Sitting in with his chase group, starting the final lap

And that’s exactly what he did! He sprinted off the front of his small chase group, then somehow managed to tap the left shift lever, dropping the chain into the small ring in front! I reached up and pushed the lever back, the chain went to the big ring, Boone powered back up… and got second in his group, good enough for 17th place on Zwift’s results, and 10th on ZwiftPower.

We had a baseline. And Boone was pleased with his result, given it was his first C race and he wasn’t feeling great that day anyway.

But here’s the bummer about this race – check out ZwiftPower’s “Unfiltered” view of the event:

In the front group of 14 riders, 6 were DQ’d by ZwiftPower for sandbagging. Two additional riders were not DQ’d, but averaged 3.4 for the race, meaning they are actually-level B riders.

Could Boone have hung with the front without all the B-grade firepower pushing the pace? Probably. Would he have won? Probably not. Not yet, anyway. And while Boone is perfectly willing to take his lumps as a new C, he also thinks it’s silly that Zwift can’t stop sandbaggers from signing up for a category well below their FTP. I absolutely agree.

See results in ZwiftPower >
See this ride on Strava >

Ride 2: V02 Workout

Two days later we headed to the Epic KOM for a VO2 workout. If you’ve never done a VO2 workout, let me say this: you probably should. Also let me say: you’re going to hate me once you begin the workout.

VO2 efforts are generally 3-5 minutes in length, with 3-5 minutes of recovery between each interval. The hard effort is 110-120% of your FTP, and you usually do 5 intervals.

It’s a real butt kicker. The first couple intervals feel doable, but if you’re doing it right, the last one is a real struggle.

Boone did 3 minutes on, 3:30 off for this week’s workout. His previous VO2 workout had been done a few weeks earlier at an FTP of 250W… but he had since tested at 278W. So his VO2 intervals had jumped from 290W to 320W. Ouch!

I had the bright idea to create a custom playlist for today’s workout: one hand-picked rocker for each of the five intervals:

  1. Danger Zone (best workout kickoff song ever)
  2. Eye of the Tiger
  3. Living on Prayer (we’re halfway there, right?)
  4. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  5. No Pain No Gain (Scorpions, a favorite band of Boone’s)

Honestly, I had my doubts about Boone being able to finish all 5 intervals, given the big wattage jump he’d made. But he kicked this workout’s butt! Destroyed it. Owned it. Our plan for the next VO2 workout is to add a few seconds to the VO2 interval, and subtract a few from the rest interval.

Starting and ending heartrate for each interval – talk about a steady progression! You can see he wasn’t quite able to recover heading into the final set:

  • 161>178
  • 158>180
  • 158>183
  • 161>185
  • 165>187
Puttin’ in the work!

See this ride on Strava >

Ride 3: Sprint + Spin with Cara

For this ride, our plan was to test out a few different types of intervals while riding with C. Cadence.

After a solid warmup, we did our first set: 15s sprints, 45s recovery, 5 times. This didn’t seem like a crazy hard effort to me, but it absolutely fried Boone’s legs. In hindsight, he probably came into this ride more tuckered than he realized.

He didn’t really have enough left for any hard intervals after that, so he rode with Cara to finish out the hour. It may not seem like much, and it wasn’t what we had planned… but compared to him struggling to hold her wheel for 30 minutes just a few weeks ago… this is major progress!

See this ride on Strava >

Ride 4: Recovery Ride + New Kit

Our goal for this effort was to give Boone a true recovery ride – he was tired from a long week, and would be riding the next day. So today shouldn’t make him work – it should help him recover.

This is such a key training principle, and so many cyclists get it wrong. You don’t get stronger while doing hard rides! You get stronger when you recover from hard rides. So you can’t just keep killing yourself every day and expect to build fitness. Instead, you need to alternate between hard days and rest days. Make your hard days hard. Make your easy days easy. This is the way.

Boone his level 11 at the end of his ride, so we restyled his avatar, putting him in some digital camo and giving his Canyon a fresh coat of matching yellow paint. He’s looking like a serious C rider now!

See this ride on Strava >

Week 1 Takeaways

This was a very reassuring week for Boone. After a rest week, it felt good for him to come back, perform well in his first C race, and boss his upgraded VO2 workout.

At the same time, his workouts are becoming more physically demanding – he needs more than temp time in the saddle in order to build fitness to the next level. Boone’s learning that his workdays as a builder can really make it tough to put in a hard effort in the afternoons – so we’re talking about trying a morning workout or two, or at least being able to plan workouts around his day’s work a bit better.

Questions or Comments?

Post below!

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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ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
1 month ago

With Canyon x DT & a solid training plan, Boone will be crushing Cat C Crit City races in no time ;D

Dennis Zimmermann
Dennis Zimmermann
1 month ago

Thumbs up to Boone and his coach. Great progress 💪😁👍

Rhys Evans
Rhys Evans
1 month ago

I’m enjoying reading about Boone’s progress and figuring out how I can implement it around my 4on 4off 13 hour shifts

Filip
Filip
1 month ago

Thanks to both of you!
I was demoralised a bit that it ended so quickly. So happy that Boone wanna make a further progress! Keep it up, buddy!
It’s such great content. I devour every single word

Craig
Craig
1 month ago

You might consider a different race format. As a large (read heavy) Cat C rider, I find that long flat races give me the best chance to take advantage of the higher watts I am able to put out vs my lighter competitors. Problem is you need the endurance to go a decent distance (60+ mins) if you have any shot of dropping some of them.

Art Weeks
Art Weeks
1 month ago

Maybe try a 6 lap crit race. Those last 2 laps getting to 8 is a real endurance killer for me.

Tom H
Tom H
1 month ago

Boone is making great progress! I’ve been feeling the same since I was just upgraded this weekend from “C” to “B”. First two rides were Haute Route day 2 and 3 in B. Trial by fire I guess.. The hard work you need to put in doesn’t change no matter what level you are… you just get faster and stronger!!! I’ll be at the bottom end of “B” for quite some time I’m sure but maybe will see Boone there in a few months! Good luck guys!

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom H

Promo system from C->B is kinda sad atm. You go from being top 10% of ur category, able to hang with the front and make some moves, to getting absolutely destroyed by everyone around you. I did Haute Route Stage 1&2 as a B, despite being max 3.3w/kg for 20mins rider, and it was a miserable experience 🙁 but UPG if I had signed up as a C.. Impossible to enjoy racing on Zwift for me now for a long long time QQ

Geoff Searle
Geoff Searle
1 month ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

Shakenbake…you’d have known it was coming and it’s all part of the progress. I look forward to being where you currently are. It means I’ve finally dragged my sad butt out of C into B and the progress will start again. I’ve been stuck in C for a while (a mix of a much needed rest from IRL racing but doing races that are too long for me [like 650km in 4 days] injury, and just a bit of age) and much as being “cannon fodder” in B will hurt my ego (and certainly annihilate any race results for a… Read more »

Dan Dube
Dan Dube
1 month ago

it seems to me that there is some natural “power limit” around 3-3.2 w/kg (for 20 min power) that is difficult to get past. curious to see if boone runs into that or not.

i hypothesize that this is why there are so many C riders, and why it’s so hard to move to B and do well.

dan
dan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Dube

i went to B a year or so ago, and got injured pushing so much. Sometimes that limit can be a physical barrier

Tom H
Tom H
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Dube

That’s a very interesting hypothesis. I know for me personally, I’m around that 3.2-3.3 w/kg for FTP. I’ve started to incorporated some structured training into my weekly training to continue to improve. Perhaps, the wide range of “C” group riders as well as getting promoted to “B” has something to do with training properly (some structure, regularity, diet habits) to continue to improve when you reach that level? Maybe it could be that the “natural” ability will take them to the C range and to progress further, most people will really need a clear plan or some type of defined… Read more »

Konstantin Kleine
Konstantin Kleine
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Dube

I think this limit is more individual. Myself, but also several friends are stuck around 4.2/4.3 w/kg, but I assume that you can find plenty struggling around 2.5 or 3.8 as well.

Tom H.
Tom H.
1 month ago

Did you and your buddies do any type of structured training or follow any set plans to get to that level? That’s the question we are trying to figure out I suppose. I agree that each person has a set natural ability and level they can ride at, but can definitely max that ability out with training and focus. I’m sure years of training and consistency are a huge factor as well.

Konstantin Kleine
Konstantin Kleine
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom H.

No, I thought about structured training this winter, but I am not motivated enough to follow through with a training plan at the moment (some mental health issues and the pandemic …)

GARY JACKSON
GARY JACKSON
1 month ago

Loving the continuation of this journey!

Downunder
Downunder
1 month ago

So glad to see the Boone articles continuing. Is great to see the progress being made. Well done.

Michael Griffiths
Michael Griffiths
1 month ago

It’s great to read about this progress and has given me some fresh ideas to develop, thank you.

If you can tell us the next race in advance, I’d love to join!

I’m at a similar point to you Boone (2.72wkg) and a similar size, so can really relate to this.

Mike
Mike (@michaeltrowe)
1 month ago

Great job Boone!

also, but it absolutely friend Boone’s legs.😎

Tim Martin
Tim Martin
1 month ago

Glad to see this series return!

A.Stowe
A.Stowe
1 month ago

YES! So pleased to see a 2nd Series tracking Boone’s progression!

Mello
Mello
1 month ago

Are those V02 workouts in the zwift training plan or anywhere we can download into zwift?

Peter Henriksen
1 month ago

I noticed a saddle when looking at your training setup. I’m old and have a sever prostate problem that a saddle like that could make training more comfortable. Will you please send the brand name and manufacturer of the saddle.

Kind regards, Peter

agent71
agent71
1 month ago

Calling Canyon… I think I’ve found a new handlebar tester for you and Mathieu van der Poel!!! There’s probably another 50w spare in the grip! 😀😉💪

That’s a great photo top right and serious dedication to wattage!!! 👊👍

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