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Looking for advice on trying racing, am I ready?(7 posts)

Looking for advice on trying racing, am I ready?jeff27
Aug 1, 2002 6:26 AM
I'm thinking about entering my first race, Cat 5 (is that the lowest?) I've been riding consistently
for the past three years, and try to stay on the rollers during the winter to some extent. My usual
week during spring, summer and fall consists of 3-4 rides, usually 20-30 miles at an average
of 17-19mph, with occasionally one longer ride of 40 miles thrown in once every couple of weeks
for fun. With all that, am I ready to even hang with the group, or am I just going to get dropped like
a hot potato? I know I should do more group rides for training, but my schedule doesn't always
permit it. Thanks in advance for any feedback.
My 0.02 centsPatM
Aug 1, 2002 7:01 AM
After much time on this board just reading posts and learning my best advice to you is to give it a try. I am 36 and just took up racing this year, so if I can try you can to. You will get lots of advice if you look back through some posts, search for anything by lonefrontranger. The most obvious one is that you will most likely get dropped - know that going into it ! See if you can find a training race/crit in the area - lots of people to learn from. Try and be as smooth as possible. I am sure others will have more advice. But you won't know until you get out there and try.
Yes -- like a very hot potatohrv
Aug 1, 2002 7:08 AM
I'm at about the same mileage as you, a little more, and same avg. speed (very hilly here), and I'm getting dropped left and right. But I would still advise you to do the race.
That way you'll know what you need to work on. For myself, I'm starting to add more mileage to my week,and possibly more intensity. We'll see what happens.

The biggest thing starting out is to be comfortable in tight quarters and relaxed in the turns. If that's not you, then you might do better by being off the front or more likely off the back until you get the group experience down. The avg. speed in a recent race I was in with hills was 27 mph; I'm suprised I wasn't lapped. Figure your race will be 20 something also. Do they combine 4/5 in your race?
If only 5's it might be slower.

You'll get responses here like stay in the front of the pack to avoid crashes and the yo-yo effect of speed surges that you get in the back of the pack. Easier said than done!
If you have the strength and pack skills than go for it else hang on and learn. Mostly you'll start learning what you need to work on to get better.

In a nutshell, just go for it and get it over with. You'll be glad you did and will be that much more experienced before the next one. By the way, is it a crit or a road race? What distance?

good luck,
hrv
Yes -- like a very hot potatojeff27
Aug 1, 2002 7:18 AM
Thanks for the advice hrv. I haven't even picked a race yet but was thinking
more along the lines of a 20 - 30 mile road race for fun instead of a crit. Not
really sure why. Maybe the intensity of the crit is a little high for a newbie like me.
Crit's sound wild, but fun too. Thanks for the advice.
yes, and it's a good time of year to startlonefrontranger
Aug 1, 2002 12:34 PM
Most of the real serious guys are burned up / resting at this time of year. State championships are over, Nats are a memory, most of the weekly summer series are either finished or winding down, and everyone is either fried, injured (like me) or just ready for a mental break. The fields are typically somewhat smaller, and often a lot safer since everyone else has had several months of bike handling skills built into their season.

The best reason to start a racing "career" in the late summer / early fall though is to get a good baseline on which to focus your next season's (and hopefully your first serious season's) training on. Doing a couple events now will give you a very good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can built on that for next year.

Another great reason to start late summer is that it's the best (and sometimes only) way to make racing contacts and find out more about local racing clubs in your area, so that you don't spend all of next season paying "Unattached" fees (usually something like $5 extra per race). This is most cycling associations' way of making sure everyone contributes to holding races, since attached riders pay their dues to the association through their club, and the club is also required to put on at least one race during the season.

Don't be afraid to approach the bigger, well-organized looking Cat 4/5 squads; these are typically "club" based groups who are often more interested in enthusiasm than racing results. Even though you may have to spend a while with them paying your dues at a "club" member level (the distinction between "club" and "racer" has nothing to do with competitive level, and is usually made at the LBS cash register), it gives you a foot in the door towards joining the "racer" squad and getting better deals on goodies down the road. Who knows, if you have a good result or seem like a good enough joe, they may even come to you recruiting. Late summer / fall is "silly season" for all racers - even local amateur teams are actively searching for new blood.

Good luck!
yes, and it's a good time of year to startjeff27
Aug 1, 2002 12:54 PM
Thanks, for the advice. I hadn't thought about it that way, everything you stated made sense.
I happened to read about your injury, a speedy recovery to you. Thanks again.
surelonefrontranger
Aug 2, 2002 11:49 AM
One of the things I didn't really flesh out is why should you feel compelled to join a racing club with a bunch of other roadie nerds (besides the extra unattached fee). The answer to that is that being a member of a racing club is probably the single best way to shorten your learning curve, find local races and group rides, as well as obtain coaching or mentoring to fit your skill level. Bike racing is sort of like a secret society. Once you're on the inside it's amazing how much information is there, but for those on the howling fringes, it's hard to get any love from the Man.

Not every region has a mentoring program in place, but they are becoming more widespread, and it's not hard to find impromptu coaching on the most informal of weeknight group rides. The dude who hollers at you for being squirrelly in the paceline (trust me, we are all either hollerers or hollerees at some point) is probably not the asshat he seems; go to him after the ride or in a less hectic situation and ask him to help you learn how to ride smooth instead of just blatting about it; you'd be surprised at how many will do so.

If you start going on group rides you'll probably see a lot of roadie style posturing; it just comes with the territory, and a lot of it is expressed in the sort of tongue in cheek / sick humor slant that most of the road racers I know enjoy. Don't let what seems to be a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude discourage you. Racer dudes are (for the most part) aggressive, territorial and mouthy by nature, and that would be why they are racing and the recreational guys are, well... recreational. However, racer dudes are also very friendly, fun and sociable if you whack 'em around the head enough first (kidding!).

Check out OBRA's web site (Oregon Bicycle Racing Association) for more insight on what a really good mentoring program offers.