Ask RIDE…I want to race! What do I do next?
I have been cycling for two years and think I am ready to line up for a real race. I have two questions: What do I need and what kind of event should I enter for my first race?
Yours is a question we have been waiting for! Racing is a great way to get more out of your cycling experience and many people I know have an addiction to racing that started with the same inquisitive attitude you have now. Your question is in two parts but your answer will be covered over a series of posts, pretty much following what we think are the best next steps for you.
Part 1: What you will need (explained below)
Part 2: The local Criterium
Part 3: Kermesse/Club Road Race
Part 4: Specialist Races – Hill Climb & TT
So stay tuned for posts on the other parts of the answer to come!
Part 1: What you will need
First thing is first: you will need a racing license from Cycling Australia, which means you need to join a club! Do not be put off by membership fees because as soon as you start racing, you will think it a bargain. If you are thinking about this in the middle of the year, wait until a 6-month membership becomes available (they work on a calendar year).
Once this is done, it is time to talk to your new club mates – yes, these come free with membership! – about what racing is on offer in the area, though a criterium (shortened to crit) is the best race to start. Once you have an idea where your club races, tag along for the ride and watch a race or two. Better yet, go to a couple of different racing circuits and watch the racing and find the one you feel most comfortable with. The number of grades on offer (and the level of those grades) may also determine which course you start on, and which you leave until you have more experience.
My personal experience: I watched a couple of races and then chose the course with the smoothest surface and the most number of grades. I was 17 and was racing against seasoned 14 year olds and 60 year olds, (“that’s not competition” you say!) but with no racing experience I was still beaten in the sprint!
So, you’ve got a licence and joined a club, you’ve talked to other riders, watched some racing and are ready to get on the course. What’s left?
If it has been a while since your bike was serviced, take it in for a tune up. Tell the mechanic that you are going to race and want it to be in the best condition so that he has a thorough look over it and you are confident in your machine. While you are there pick up some energy gels, or go to a super-market and pick up some muesli bars to eat in the race if you think you might need them – you will need them after, so make sure you have something!
Two bottles is a must, even if you ride the race with only one bidon, have the other by the side of the road for when you finish the race. Then the obvious: Australian standards approved helmet, glasses and gloves (don’t race without gloves, seriously).
Try to arrange to go to the race with someone else and invite a cheer squad if there is one available! Being your first race, inform the organiser’s and they can tell you what’s what. Racing may be competitive but I am yet to find someone unwilling to help a rider start racing!
Hope these are some things you can think about before our next post goes online and we explain more on the local crit.
John is the Office Assistant at RIDE Cycling Review.