[There are plenty of places where would-be bike racers can learn about how to get into the sport. Trouble is, most of them are unintelligible, boring, outdated, full of holes and/or just plain wrong. NCVC's David Kirkpatrick is none of those things, so when he offered to write a series for GamJams designed to pave the road for the aspiring pelotonista I happily agreed. So if you're a new racer or just about to become one, this series is for you. Leave feedback, questions, suggestions for other topics or additional resources in the comments and David will respond to them there.]
So you think you want to race?
Part 5: Toeing the Line
by David Kirkpatrick, NCVC
Having just begun my “official” yearly training plan, I suppose it’s time to think about that first race. Nothing keeps you going through alternately (even simultaneously) boring and painful winter training quite like looking forward to racing.
There are four critical aspects to racing: long term preparation, registration, short term preparation and execution. Long term preparation covers your training plan, which we’ve already covered, so we’ll focus on the last three.
Registration can be a bigger challenge than you’d imagine. All of your training goes for naught if you keep getting shut out of races, which can happen if you don’t register right when registration opens. It’s a pain and as much of an incentive to upgrade (or get older - higher category and master’s races fill up more slowly) as anything else. Racing is administered nationally by USA Cycling, and without one of their licenses you can’t race, so step one is to get a license. This is easy to do online at www.usacycling.org. Licenses run from January to December. If you are only going to do a couple of races a year, you can get daily licenses on site at races, but this is a pain for you and everyone else. If you’ve joined a team, make sure you include your team on your license application. Apply for your license in January and you will be sure to get it in plenty of time for your first race. You always need a license to race and you always need to show it at registration, so make sure that you keep it someplace where you will always have it on race day.