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Old 01-04-03, 04:55 PM   #1
Aerow
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General Strategy Question

I would like to ride my first real road race in March. I have done several triathlons, 1 criterium and often go on rides with the local group where we practice drafting, pace lines, sprinting, etc. So although I'm really new to road racing, I am not that new to cycling.

The race I would like to be in is a 33 mile road race over rolling-hilly terrain. Questions:

1) Would I benefit from paying the $50 for a USCF license and becoming a CAT 5 racer? Or should I just pay the 1 day license fee? I do plan on racing more races, but I don't know if I'll do enough for the license to pay for itself. So what are the other benefits?

2) What are the general strategies in this kind of race.. such as, stay near the front if you can to avoid crashing; don't get dropped; etc...

3) If a small group breaks away near the start of the race, should I hold back and then try to catch them? My fear would be that in such a short race, I would not be able to bridge up if I didn't stay with anyone out front. (that's assuming I could stay with them!)
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Old 01-04-03, 05:39 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aerow
1) Would I benefit from paying the $50 for a USCF license and becoming a CAT 5 racer? Or should I just pay the 1 day license fee? I do plan on racing more races, but I don't know if I'll do enough for the license to pay for itself. So what are the other benefits?
If it were me I would just pay the 1 day license fee, I think it's only 5 dollars, so unless you plan on doing 10 races in your first year it really won't benefit you. Other benefits include a poorly written bimonthly 10 page magazine and a rulebook for your very own.

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2) What are the general strategies in this kind of race.. such as, stay near the front if you can to avoid crashing; don't get dropped; etc...
Definately tip number one is stay near the front without being the front. You don't want to use up all your energy having everyone draft off you, nor do you want to use it all trying to bridge every gap that is formed between you and the leaders if you're near the back. CAT 5 races are very unorganized in the pack. No one knows what they're doing but they all think they're Lance Armstrong. Crashes are very common! Also be prepared to sprint out of every corner if you're near the back to keep up with the front part of the pack as most people don't know how to corner yet and let huge gaps form in the turn. Another nice thing about staying up towards the front is you can keep an eye on attacks and be a part of them if you're feeling well enough.

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Originally posted by Aerow
3) If a small group breaks away near the start of the race, should I hold back and then try to catch them? My fear would be that in such a short race, I would not be able to bridge up if I didn't stay with anyone out front. (that's assuming I could stay with them!)
This depends on course profile and the size of the pack. I would say that if some 3 person group takes off right from the start they are either idiots or so strong that they know they can stay away the whole time... most likely it's that their idiots. This is purely a judgement call on your part, if the breakaway is only 1 or 2 people I would wait for group to pull them back. If it's 10 - 15 people then definately go with them! But again, base this on the course profile and the distance left. Do you think this breakaway will be able to climb well together for the next 20 miles? Will they be able to descend without the pack pulling them in? Questions like that have to be asked. Also find a strong rider in the pack, someone you've seen out and about if you can, or someone that is climbing, riding really well that day. Imitate his behavior. Stay with him. If he goes with a break then maybe you should too, otherwise if he stays back then just stay with him and see what happens. He may try and bridge eventually and then you will have someone to go up with.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-04-03, 08:33 PM   #3
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Hey Ba-dg-er... question you might be able to help me with. Actually, I've already pretty much decided, but I'd like your take.

Gonna do my first race next March. Being an old geezer, I can go with the Cat 5s and maybe finish in the front 1/3rd, or go with the masters, which is open to all classes, BAR-5, and hope to finish with the pack. The Cat 5 is only 30 miles, and limited to 50 riders. The masters is 50 miles and 80 riders. I'm leaning toward going with the masters, simply because I hear the Cat 5s tend to be such a sketchy bunch. Also, do you know if you can get a 1-day license when riding with the masters? It would s*ck to drop $50 if I only raced once or twice all year.
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Old 01-04-03, 09:16 PM   #4
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Originally posted by roadbuzz
Gonna do my first race next March. Being an old geezer, I can go with the Cat 5s and maybe finish in the front 1/3rd, or go with the masters, which is open to all classes, BAR-5, and hope to finish with the pack. The Cat 5 is only 30 miles, and limited to 50 riders. The masters is 50 miles and 80 riders. I'm leaning toward going with the masters, simply because I hear the Cat 5s tend to be such a sketchy bunch. Also, do you know if you can get a 1-day license when riding with the masters? It would s*ck to drop $50 if I only raced once or twice all year.
Considering it's your first race I would recommend that you stick with the CAT 5 racers. Generally masters racers have been racing so long that they're extremely strong and unwelcoming to the novice racers. Although you will find the 5s are sketchy I think you will find yourself having a better time and you will be able learn more from them, especially if you're strong enough to stay at the front of the pack. The front of the 5s isn't bad, more like racing with 4s really as that's where all the people that are getting ready to upgrade will be found.

I am not saying that you aren't strong enough to hang with Masters racers, because you very well might be, but experience helps out a lot in your skills during a road race. Without that experience you could find yourself getting dropped and riding a long ways by yourself, and being miserable.

If I were in your shoes, I would race the 5s and get some experience on the road, but also try and meet some of the masters riders. Find out who they are, and who they ride with. Immerse yourself in that crowd and next year at this same time you will find you have experience and even more strength. You will have alos met a lot of great riders that will help you out in the race situation, as opposed to watching some nonamed guy get dropped.

As far as a one day license for masters, for some reason I thought they were only available for CAT 5, but I could very well be wrong as I have never purchased one. Additionally you may want to look into finding a team to ride with as riding unattached sometimes has a fee as well.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope the answers I gave helped. Good luck in your first race, just remember to have a good time.
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Old 01-04-03, 09:35 PM   #5
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Originally posted by roadbuzz
Also, do you know if you can get a 1-day license when riding with the masters? It would s*ck to drop $50 if I only raced once or twice all year.
So believe it or not I actually found a use for my USCF rulebook aside from an ugly paperweight.

Within the appendix section of the USCF Rulebook...

8.1.3 - Others may be issued one-day licenses and be permitted to enter races open to men's category 5 or (for women) women's category 4, but do not become members and may not enter championship events. Riders younger then 10 may enter only Youth Races.

Link to the Rulebook:
http://www.usacycling.org/rulebooks/...ebook_toc.html

Link to the Appendix:
http://www.usacycling.org/rulebooks/...k_appendix.pdf
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Old 01-05-03, 08:12 AM   #6
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Originally posted by Ba-Dg-Er
Considering it's your first race I would recommend that you stick with the CAT 5 racers. Generally masters racers have been racing so long that they're extremely strong and unwelcoming to the novice racers. Although you will find the 5s are sketchy I think you will find yourself having a better time and you will be able learn more from them, especially if you're strong enough to stay at the front of the pack.
I like your logic. Those are some pretty good arguments... I have time to change my mind 2 or 3 more times. Learning and having a good time are more my goals than knife-in-teeth, hard-nosed competition with a bunch of guys who would prefer I wasn't there.

Muchas gracias!
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Old 01-05-03, 01:40 PM   #7
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I like the suggestions too. So here's what I'll plan to do in the race.

I need to use this race wisely to see if I even will like this kind of racing before dropping $50 on a license. So I'll just pay the one day fee.

I'll work hard to stay as close to the front as possible to avoid crashes and keep from getting dropped. Then I'll just see what happens from there.

I especially like the tip about sprinting out of the corners. That was certainly an issue in the criterium race I did. That will be something to watch for.

Thanks and Happy Racing!

Aerow
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