What's it like to race? Do you remember that void of not knowing what it is like to race a bike? What will it be like, will I crash and get a compound fracture, will I win and get to do some crazy Peter Sagan victory arm dance thingy? Will I get kissed by two chicks at the same time? But for many this world of shaved legs, embrocation, glued tires and the assumption that everyone dopes, is a lot to take in and to decide to step into if they want to give this cyclcross thing a try. Last year we ran a Coffee Talk Tuesday on Getting more Newbies to try out Bike Racing that got a lot of good discussion. Also last year Primal sponsored a race, Primalpalooza, which had a category that was JUST FOR BEGINNERS and according to ACA records 45 people raced in it. That is 45 people who had never done a cx race before!
Tami’s Newbie Perspective
I’ve never officially raced a bike before. Unofficially yes. When I got my first (and current) carbon fiber bicycle and rode around the city of Chicago on it, often with friends who had fixies, or less-speedy road bikes, it was not uncommon to find ourselves pedaling as fast as we could before the next light or stop sign and seeing who got there first. Just enough time for the legs to burn a bit, to get that exhilarating feeling of wow, what an amazing machine this bicycle is, and to trigger the habitual thought that mine was worth every penny.
I almost didn’t want to sign up for a racing team because riding my bike was the one thing that didn’t have to be a competition. Being a competitive athlete my whole life, more in the soccer realm than anything else, cycling was something I picked up to commute to and from work, and it was just pure fun. No competition to corrupt it or take away from the thrill of just getting outside, experiencing my surroundings, and riding until my legs were shot. I liked (and still do!) that I could get alone on my bike and think and just ride; no one pushing me or telling me how or where to ride- I got to decide that and discover new routes and push my legs’ limits to compete against myself.
But, I suppose my competitive nature got the best of me somewhere along the way, and I couldn’t shake the thought of joining a team and seeing what racing is like. So, after some online searching for teams in the Colorado area, I happened upon the Cyclist-Lawyer team and sent them an email. The next day I was excited to find they had already responded and were very helpful and welcoming in their response. I continued to look at some other teams but kind of knew all along I wanted to join the Cyclist-Lawyer.
Led by Megan Hottman, the Cyclist-Lawyer seems like just the type of team I want to be a part of. As someone who hasn’t raced before, there’s a lot to be intimidated by, but I love the approach of Megan and several of the other women who were on the team last year. They are eager to share what they have learned/are learning about riding technique and training, and dispel fears for someone like me because they’ve experienced most of the unknowns of racing. As far as I can tell, a get-out-and-try-it, don’t-worry-if-you-fall-on-your-face-a-few-times mentality characterizes this team, and the support is there for before and after those tumbles do take place.
To sum it up, as a veteran rider but virgin racer, (ha) I’m excited to learn, train, improve, and ride with a fantastic group of women who love the adventure of cycling like I do.
Sue’s Newbie Perspective
I have mountain biked for 8 years or so, but never really had the itch to try a race until last spring. I was looking to add a new dimension to my riding, and racing seemed like a good idea. I had no absolutely no idea what to expect in my first mountain bike race other than I was worried about how to pass people during the race. It turns out, passing itself isn't that bad: there comes a point where you want to go faster than the person in front of you and you just need to let them know you are going to pass, how you will pass (e.g., on the left) and thank them afterward. People are generally nice and allow you to pass. Knowing when to pass can be hard because it requires a burst of energy and some strategy, but the passing itself -- easy peasey! Before the start, I figured I'd just take it easy since it was my first ever mountain bike race. Wrong! When the race starts, you can't help but want to push yourself; the trick is knowing how hard to go. On the first lap of the two lap course, I paced behind another racer because her pace felt just a shade slower than I wanted to go and I figured it was good for me to hold back a bit. I ended up passing her on a big downhill and then I was left to decide my own pace. That was the hard part, because I didn't know what I was capable of: ride too slow and you feel like you aren't making the most of the race and ride too fast and you blow up. It's a fine line, but, what I realized that day is finding that line is a big part of the fun of racing for me. I also realized that racing is an opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses because the pressure situation really highlights them, and it is an opportunity to test myself in ways I just can't do in my day-to-day rides. It is these realizations that encouraged me to do more racing; it's helped me grow considerably as a rider because I learn so much from each event and can apply the knowledge to improve my riding.