Are Cycling Races Just for Pros or Could Anyone Compete?
3rd July 2017.When you climb on your bike for a ride, do you yearn for a greater challenge? Maybe you are always setting tough goals for yourself, or racing against your previous route times. Perhaps you've even engaged some of your friends in some good-natured competition while cycling around town. Sometimes, just cycling for fun and fitness on your own doesn't entirely "scratch the itch" that you feel towards the sport. If you've ever watched a real cycling race on TV, whether it was a one-day event or a stage race like the Tour de France, maybe you wondered: Could I do that? How can you get involved in competitive cycling if you've never done it before? Is it something that only professionals should attempt, or would an amateur like yourself be welcome? While you might not have the stamina ? or the connections ? to secure a place in the Tour de France, that doesn't mean you're stuck cycling alone. In fact, with the right steps and proper preparation, you could start cycling competitively sooner than you think. Before you begin, though, you'll want to understand the ins and outs of this very demanding sport. Let's start by looking at how you can become involved.
Are amateurs welcome in cycling races?
An important aspect to the answer for this question is what we mean by "amateur." Do you want to know if you can join a race tomorrow and compete successfully? The answer to that question is "no." When you ride in a race, there is more going on than simply pedalling your bike from the start to the finish line. Let's consider road bike racing as an example. Think about how many other competitors there are on the road. Do you know how to properly "bunch" during a race? That's a term that refers to the way riders cluster together in a tight group during many portions of the race. If you aren't careful, you can knock into another rider and cause an accident. With that in mind, genuine amateurs should spend time learning the ins and outs of race cycling before taking the next steps. If we take "amateur" to mean someone who is proficient but not professionally engaged in the sport, however, the answer changes. Of course, you are welcome! If you abide by the rules and respect your fellow riders, you are welcome to join in the competition. Before you start working to reach that point, though, it's worth asking if this is really an ideal pursuit. After all, it takes a serious commitment above and beyond what you would normally do just for fitness.
Is a cycling race the right fit for you?
Just because you can join a cycling race doesn't always mean it's the right choice. How far do you ride on average? Do you feel like you've developed plenty of endurance, or do you still struggle at the end of your longest days? Speed is as important as endurance in cycle races, too. You must remain in excellent physical condition and conduct frequent training rides to hold your own in a race. If you have a very busy schedule, it may be too challenging to train for a race. Instead, you might want to organise something friendlier and less intensive with friends who ride first. Equipment can be another barrier. Your current bike might not be the best choice for racing. It could be too heavy or too slow to respond to adjustments you need to make mid-race. That could mean buying a whole new bike just for training and racing. Is that something you can fit into your budget? For some, it won't be a problem. However, consider that you'll also probably need to invest in more cycling clothing, plus energy supplements and water bottles you'll need for the middle of the race. Weigh the time and financial costs before you commit to the sport.
Cycling groups: the first step to a race
So, you've decided that racing is right for you. Where do you begin? Before you try to join a sanctioned race, a smart move would be to join a local cycling group or club which can provide you with several important opportunities. First, it will allow you to develop experience with riding in a group. You may even meet some seasoned racers in your local club. They can show you the ins and outs of racing, from bunching up to cornering and more. Having a pleasant environment in which to learn will make your first race day less intimidating. Clubs also offer you the chance to participate in some friendly races without the pressure of a sanctioned event. Many groups also go on rides together during the week. Take this opportunity to practice your skills. Ask about competing with a few of the other members of your team. You might find some others who are interested in racing and want to train with you. This way, riders can develop the necessary experience to enter the race course with confidence. Once you feel you have a good sense of racing etiquette and how to approach the challenge, you can begin training in earnest.
Important considerations for race preparation
Now you have the equipment, the energy, and the experience to start racing. Before you can do that, though, you might need to get a license. Hold on ? what do we mean by that? In most places, cycling races are sanctioned and governed by an organised body. To race in these sanctioned events, you often need to purchase a license for entry. Other races may require additional fees on top of your licensing fee. Before you run into a situation where you want to race, but then find you aren't allowed, investigate the procedures with your local cycling organisation. As for training, you will want to devote several weeks to several months to prepare your body for the race, including training for both endurance and power. Some days you will want to ride the maximum race distance; others you should focus on short, sprint-style sessions. Diet is important, too, as you will burn many hundreds of calories while pushing through these workouts. Drink plenty of water, and always keep some on hand during your rides, perhaps more than you would usually pack. To succeed on the course, you need to fuel your body appropriately.
Which type of race interests you?
There is one final consideration to make: which type of race will you enter? That's right ? not every race takes place on the open road as you might expect. There are other exciting forms of bike racing out there, too! You may even find other types more open and accessible than traditional road racing. For example, velodrome racing is growing in popularity around the world. Rather than taking place on the open road, these events occur on a circular track. Velodrome racing requires more control and finesse than road biking, but the speeds and competition can make it very exciting. Do you prefer to go off-road instead? Yes, you can race mountain bikes, too! BMX and mountain racing is tougher in some ways due to the rugged and steep terrain you might need to navigate. However, it requires a different set of skills from road racing that you might enjoy bracing more. There is also the possibility of finding cross-country style bicycle races in your area. In the end, it comes down to what you enjoy the most. Who says you need to stick to just one form of racing, either? Experiment to see which one you like best.
Prepare to take your place at the starting line
At first glance, breaking into the world of competitive cycling can seem daunting ? especially if you just ride for fun right now. If the challenge appeals to you, though, why not make an effort to begin? From joining a cycling club to changing your training regimen and finally purchasing a racing license, there are many steps to take on the journey ahead of you. Don't be intimidated. Just remember to train hard and have fun. You might even meet some interesting characters along the way. With the right approach and dedication, you might even find yourself winning a race for the first time! Follow @SportNessUK