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Where do I start? Racing, that is...(24 posts)

Where do I start? Racing, that is...jcpreuss
Nov 3, 2003 5:35 PM
At the tender young age of 37, and after thinking about it for more than two years, I dusted off my 20-year-old Motobecane and began riding again (I was in big time in College, haven't ridden since). Convinced I was serious about getting into it, I purchased a Cannondale (CAAD5 w. full D/A group) and started riding almost every other day, including a 40 mile round trip to work in downtown DC at least a couple times a week (kind of ironic for an auto exec). Now, after about 1,500 miles or so, I'm thinking about racing. I should mention that I have been a hardcore runner for the better part of a decade -- I'm pretty fit.

Now for my questions. First, how do you know where to start and at what level? Am I too old to really get into it? And where do you get the do's and don'ts from as far as technique and rules of the road? My normal "level cruise" is about 19-21 mph on a good 30 - 40 mile ride. I don't mind climbing, although the terrain around Northern Virginia is at best "hilly." I seem to have no problem crusing with other experienced cyclists, but only a couple of times have gotten into a more challenging ride (one guy almost killed me, but God help me, I didn't get dropped).

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.
If you enter Masters 30+ races, you will get crushed like aMR_GRUMPY
Nov 3, 2003 6:07 PM
grape. If you don't mind crashing, you can race Cat 5 for a month or two. After that, you may be able to "hang" with the Masters. If you don't like crashing, you can test your fitness with Time Trials. It's a good way to get back into the sport, without having your Ego completely crushed.
If you enter Masters 30+ races, you will get crushed like ajcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 6:01 AM
Crushed egos are better than crushed crashing that prevelant?
Seems to be an odd speedTNRyder
Nov 3, 2003 6:36 PM
I too average around 19-20 mph on solo rides of around 30ish miles. This unfortunately makes us faster than the average cyclist, but slower than the average racer. It is an odd place to be, and my question is this...

How do I get faster? Is it just a matter of more time in the saddle? Intervals? What?

Thanks for starting the topic! I hope to hear some good thoughts.
Intervals are valuable for getting faster, but, for my money, Ibill
Nov 3, 2003 6:55 PM
like the old adage, In order to go faster, you need to go faster.
This is a little more than an idle truism. Group rides with people of greater ability are great for motivation -- if you don't know the route and you're trying to make the scene, you'll absolutely kill yourself to hang on. And then you get faster.
Part of it, too, is getting used to the idea that going faster just plain kind of hurts. It makes you stronger, but then you just start going faster than that, maintaining a glorious level of blissful pain.
Simple answer is to ride with a faster group.russw19
Nov 3, 2003 8:48 PM
The best way to get fast is to ride fast. The best way to do that is to ride with a group that is slightly faster than what you can ride currently. Also, make sure they tend to ride further than you like. Don't be afraid to get dropped, it will happen. But as the season goes on, you will not only find yourself staying with them longer, but pretty soon you will be as strong as the group... then you need to start to get to the front and take pulls to get to be stronger than the group and as strong as some of the strong guys in the group. (Remember, there are always riders in the group that are stronger than the average of the group, so they are faster than the group as a whole, minus the aerodynamics.) Meaning there are always guys in the group that could still drop you even if you can hang on the group ride. Makes sense, right? So start with a faster than you group and tell them you are working up a fitness base (they will know what you mean) and let them know you will be sitting on the back of the group for as long as you can. Tell then ahead of time if you aren't going to pull, they will let you know if that's a problem, but if you tell them early they most likely won't care. Just as the guy is coming to the back of the line, let them in smoothly in front of you... don't make them work to have to come around you if you are just hanging on. And tell them if they drop you, don't sweat it... see if there is a rest stop in the ride and catch them at it.

But as time goes on, you will get faster and stronger, and learn more about riding with fast guys.

If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.bill
Nov 3, 2003 6:49 PM
Many local clubs have weekly rides that can help you get your feet wet and test your fitness against the competition. My club, Squadra Coppi, has a ride every Sunday at 8:30 a.m. from the Java Shack coffee shop in Arlington. DC Velo hosts (loosely) a ride that leaves -- well, I'm not quite sure where it leaves from, somewhere in Maryland, but I hook up with it either in Georgetown at the Riggs Bank at 7 a.m. Saturday or up on Massachusetts at about 7:30. Every weekday at noon guys go round and round at Hains Point really, really fast, which is very fun (some days are faster than others, but you can test yourself on occasion against some guys that have national palmares).
I started racing last year at the age of 43, and I'm having a ball. Don't get fooled by the Masters scene though. My wife always asks why I don't race with the old guys. Because they'll kick my ass is why. I've been racing mostly Cat 4, although I've got to where I can hang in with the forty-plus guys. The thirty-plus guys really are out of my league -- lots of 1's and 2's use the thirty-plus races as a warmup. He's right; like a grape.
If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.jcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 3:10 AM
First off, thanks for the club tip..I live in Oakton so the proximity is great. How long do they ride into the season?? Also, the Categories is where I am completely at a loss. How do they bracket races and divide the contenders from the pretenders?
If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.bill
Nov 4, 2003 7:53 AM
Our rides will go all year. We had some rides last year in the snow -- didn't necessarily start that way, but there it was when we were done.
This time of year, the pace of group rides starts to slacken, so it's a great time to start riding with a group. Mid-season, people may be a little too focussed and maybe watch out less for newcomers. Now, with less pressure to train, we stop. We talk. We trade recipes. Work on relationships. That sort of thing.
The categories are set by the UCF, which permits all races around here. Cat 5 is beginner. Cat 4 is ten or more mass start races. Cat 3 and on up is based on points acquired with finishing positions. A regional rep grants the upgrades, which are shown on your license (one-day licenses are always Cat 5), and there is some discretion, although the upgrade from 5 to 4 seems to be the least flexible -- even if you finish strong, it doesn't mean that you have the experience for the bike handling at the speeds of the higher categories, and they don't want you to crash out the field. The promoter of the race sets how the fields will race, including which fields might race together.
Regions other than MABRA (Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Assoc.) seem to base their age-graded categories on the "five" years; 35+, 45+, etc. Around here it's the "ten" years. You can race in the age-graded field, and, depending on timing and will and whatever, race a second time that day in your category field, as well. I've doubled -- it's fun. Takes all of the pressure off of the second race.
Around here, the differences among the categories are somewhat based on length -- the Pro/1/2 or 1/2/3 races are virtually always longer, sometimes by 100%, but it is not unusual for all of the rest of the fields to race the same distance. The distances are set by the promoter. The big difference is the speed.
If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.jcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 8:16 AM
Great you can just show up for the ride and get connected?
Sure. It's sort of nice to know who's coming, but the formalitiesbill
Nov 4, 2003 8:26 AM
are slight. Just show up. 8:30, Java Shack, Sunday a.m. The ride is about 50 miles. Helmets are required. Pace varies from about a 18-20 mph average to sections where it's more race-paced, where the paceline can be moving at 25-30. In those sections, I would recommend that you sit in, even if you feel strong enough to think that you might want to take a pull. Maybe next time for that. The first pull can feel great, but then you find that you're really struggling to get back on. Even in those sections, if you get blown out the back, you're likely not alone, and we'll try to tell you where you can hook back up (we have some regrouping spots) or at least how to get home.
Now, if I gave this speech to the newcomers we had last weekend, I'd feel pretty silly right now, because some of those guys were hanging with our 3's.
Sure. It's sort of nice to know who's coming, but the formalitiesjcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 9:38 AM
Thanks again..we've got family in town this weekend...I'm going to try for a week from Sunday. Not to be a complete dork here, but when you use the term "pull" I assume that means to keep pace in the pack as it acclerates?
Actually..."pull" means to move to the front of the pack and...jtferraro
Nov 4, 2003 11:01 AM
lead the group for a little while, in the wind.

If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.MShaw
Nov 4, 2003 2:30 PM
Ask Dave Studner (the manager) at the PBS off the WOD in Reston when and where the ride on Sat AM leaves Reston. Last time I was there, it was leaving Nima's house Saturdays at about 0830. You wanna hammer? go on that ride or the Rock Creek ride.

NCVC used to ride Tues evenings out of Vienna by the caboose.

Spokes, etc. has a ride somewhere, but I've never been on it.

Re: catagories. You start at 5 and work your way up to 1, or where your talent and level of training make you stop. I'm pretty well set on being a 3 at the most because I don't want to have a part-time job training to race 2s. 5 to 4 is either X points or 10 mass start races with more than 25 riders. That's easy. 4 to 3 is X points, etc.

Masters racing is probably the second fastest group out there. There's some older/former pros that ride the Masters races as warmups for their Pro/1/2 race later in the day. The nice thing about racing Masters is that most of the guys out there are much more experienced (therefore safer) than the rest of the fields. Crashes happen all over, so racing Masters is not a guarantee not to crash.

If you're serious about racing, join a team. Either the Squadra Coppi guys as mentioned elsewhere, or NCVC, or the Spokes team, or Snow Valley... They'll be able to answer all of your questions, give you training (and racing!) partners, and maybe even a training schedule.

As stated elsewhere in this thread, the way to get faster is to ride faster. The trick is to know WHEN to ride faster. That's where a team comes in. Just hammering along will make you a great time trialist, but doesn't do anything for your sprint or your ability to bridge gaps.

If you are going to race, stay away from the Potomac Peddlers (sp?). Good group of people to toodle around with, but 99.9% will never race.

I'm going to stop,

That help?

If you live in the DC area, there is lots of good racing around.jcpreuss
Nov 5, 2003 3:09 AM
This helps a ton. I'm going to check out the Squadra Coppi ride a week from Sunday. Spokes etc. is litterally down the street from me (my kids bike is there getting tuned as we speak) I'm going ask there as well. Thanks a ton!
Like Bill said - ride with a club/teamDream plus
Nov 4, 2003 4:49 AM
Coppi, Java Shack and NCVC all seem to have good teams. Get some group ride experience. There are lots of safe enough races in the area.
I started racing this year at 49 and had lots of fun. Start as a Cat 5 when you are Ok riding with fast groups and can stay near the front. You can upgrade after 10 races. A lot of MABRA races are Cat4/5 combined anyway.
Age group races are harder but it's OK to try some after you get your feet wet. Good luck.
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...t5rguy
Nov 3, 2003 6:55 PM
Racing, and specifically crit racing, is all about being able to sprint to something like 30-35 mph, and seeing that erased to 20-25 mph, only to be forced to sprint to 35 again. Repeat this at every corner in the course. In training you can imitate this by intervalling. F.i. 8 sets of 2 mins flat out-2 mins cruising. this will give you a base. You need to have good anaerobic ability (and a willingness to suffer pain) for that sprinting, or going with breakaways or filling gaps by less fortunates.
Whether you can practise this and survive in any kind of serious racing? Only one way to find out. Do it.
To survive in a group requires a lot of experience, and a certain talent. As you acquire experience, you need less basic fitness to survive. Without experience, train as hard as you can, get rested and do the race. And hope you have that certain talent!
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...jcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 3:13 AM
What typical race lengths?
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...t5rguy
Nov 4, 2003 6:43 AM
Typical race length 40 to 50 km. This involved 4-5 days/week of training or racing during the season. After two years the same involvement (but more intensive winter preparation) brought me one cat higher, 80 to 100 km races. All crit races, flat courses.
When I started, at 27, the intensity of cycleracing scared me, so I trained a lot and started in the lowest cat. In the first race I came third, so I thought this is wrong, and moved one cat higher (the 40-50 km races). After two years this was not challenging enough anymore (or the races were too short) so I moved to the cat where you can mingle with (at the start line at least) the regional and national top. A very good experience, it taught me racing.

What I really mean is that it takes time for your body to adjust itself to racing and to become more natural at it. This will save an enormous amount of energy, to be used at your advantage, instead of just hanging on.
To make my point: in 15 years of racing I never suffered so much as in the first year! Just didn't want to get dropped!
Some of Your Questions Can Be Answered...Gregory Taylor
Nov 4, 2003 6:43 AM
Some of your questions can be answered with a look at the local race calendar. The 2004 schedule isn't posted yet, but this will give you a sense of what goes on locally and stuff like length of races, etc.

You will note that there are a couple of really good cyclocross races out at Lake Fairfax December 6-7. Those are FUN.

The Coppi guys that Bill rides with are a pretty classy group. D.C. Velo are another good bunch. Go do a club ride and get a sense for the group dynamics.

Yes, crashing is inevitable. Bill had a pretty good one this year, destroying a bike. That's why rule number 1 is "if you can't replace it, don't race it."
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...novagator
Apr 17, 2003 9:50 AM
I'm 39 and this is my first real year of racing, although I've done TT's off and on for the past couple of years. I live in the DC area as well and ride with Team Evolution - went on my first group ride this weekend. Their rides usually start at Evolution Fitness Center in Vienna, which is close to you, I believe. They were very friendly, ride was about 45 miles at fairly slow pace - 17-18 mph - with some upper 30's on some sprints (on a decline).
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...jcpreuss
Nov 4, 2003 12:46 PM
Do they have a schedule or contact info?
re: Where do I start? Racing, that is...novagator
Nov 4, 2003 1:07 PM
web site is:
You'll need these calendars...Dream plus
Nov 4, 2003 2:28 PM
Next years races won't begin to show up for a while but approximate dates are often maintained from year to year.

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