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  1. #1
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    Nostalgia trip...What were your early days of racing like? What kept you motivated?

    hey everyone!

    I am a first season racer/transfer from 3 years in triathlons. I was told by a friend that competitive cycling even at CAT 5 is a different world than triathlons. He was not kidding! So far 2 road races under my belt and both are DNF. The typical ride for an hour in pack (super fun!) then eventually getting chewed up and spit out the back on the hills. I am disappointed and expected too much for my first season. So far, not a stellar season and I am incredibly discouraged but as I see it I love biking too much to drop it. So it'll mean train harder, drop what weight I can, and *cough* find a team to join*cough*.

    Anyway enough of my diatribe. I'd like to hear about your early days in racing. What were they like? What hurdles did you overcome? What kept you motivated?

  2. #2
    Banana Pancakes furiousferret's Avatar
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    I'm in my first year of racing as well. Some ups (got one podium) but mostly back of the pack finishes. It hasn't been easy but I look at it in terms of years than races. I always knew with my lack of experience, power, and recovering from injury 2014 would be a bad year in terms of results. Some people are gifted and can come in and do well racing but for mortals its a tough sport. A lot of those 'new' Cat 5's have been doing the local hammerfest for a year or more; for a beginners division it is insanely hard.

    Its a different world than triathlons; in a tri people care that you finish and you get a medal regardless of how slow you are. I got a ton of attention for being a mediocre triathlete. In bike racing, the only time people care is if you win and even then, that's a maybe.

  3. #3
    These Guys Eat Oreos Creatre's Avatar
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    A+ first thread. It's interesting to hear how people's first bit of racing was. And good to reflect back.

    My first race? Dropped hard. First corner. Chased about 50m behind the lead group for the rest of the race (well until I got pulled with like 2 to go). Next race? Dropped again. How did I stay motivated? I just like the training. Trying to improve is fun. And knowing I could be successful at this if I just worked on tactics and/or the training. Plus I had a great group of guys to hang out with and train with (I was still in college and was on the college team). Next race? I survived. That adds to the motivation and to want to do more than survive. By the end of my time in cat5 I was attacking and riding circles around the other guys.

    So I upgrade to Cat 4. What happens? I get dropped. Over and over. This happens at every level as each level is a decent jump up in competition and intensity. But as the training and the race experience is gained, so do the results. Just gotta stick with it. Make sure the training is solid. Set some goals. Get a coach if you really want to make gains. And you'll be surviving and upgrading in no time. Cycling is just one of those sports you have to put a lot of time into, and you just have to race a lot (and get dropped as many times as you have to before you start getting the experience needed to survive).
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  4. #4
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ygduf's Avatar
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    My first race was a long (like 50mi) hilly road race. Patterson Pass. I was dropped off the lead group and TT'd solo the last lap for 9th place.

    This is the exact same **** that happens to me to this day.

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  5. #5
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    First races in 2009, it was basically just holding on for dear life at first, which I did.

    That first race might have been the hardest one ever (in terms of RPE), but I didn't get dropped! (this was at Seward Park for the Seattleites)

    Been dropped a few times since then no doubt, but I've always been pretty good at cornering and suffering I guess. Still suck at climbing.

    Once I got to where I could actually think at the end of a race, and not just hang on, I started doing pretty well. Then I got my first podium in a cat 4 crit and was shocked given how tired my legs were at the end.. turns out everyone else's were too!
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lostnumber View Post
    hey everyone!

    I am a first season racer/transfer from 3 years in triathlons. I was told by a friend that competitive cycling even at CAT 5 is a different world than triathlons. He was not kidding! So far 2 road races under my belt and both are DNF. The typical ride for an hour in pack (super fun!) then eventually getting chewed up and spit out the back on the hills. I am disappointed and expected too much for my first season. So far, not a stellar season and I am incredibly discouraged but as I see it I love biking too much to drop it. So it'll mean train harder, drop what weight I can, and *cough* find a team to join*cough*.

    Anyway enough of my diatribe. I'd like to hear about your early days in racing. What were they like? What hurdles did you overcome? What kept you motivated?
    Congrats on dipping your toes into the mass start racing world.

    When I started racing I was super skinny, super light, 15 years old. At 17 I was 103 lbs. My friend in high school who advised me on cycling nicknamed me "Van Impe", after one of the few pure climbers that won the Tour. Of course I couldn't climb, I couldn't TT, and he could out sprint me, so I wasn't sure what my future held. I enjoyed trying though and with the local club (Cat 3s, 4s, equal to maybe a 3-4-5 group now), I was good enough to partake in some of the moves. That encouraged me to keep at it.

    My first race I was 4th through the first turn. I'd read about the importance of clipping in so I practiced it. I didn't really understand just how fast races went so I was in a low gear (for "good acceleration") and accelerated off the line like a scalded cat. After the first turn, about 50 meters into the race, I stayed in my low gear for "the hill". Every other Junior slammed it into their Junior gear limit, the 53x15, and sprinted up the thing. I was in a 42x21 and was dead last at the second turn and only because everyone couldn't pass me until then (short hill, maybe 100m, and about 50-80 riders). I never tagged onto the field and they rode away from me. I think I got pulled in 5 laps.

    The other big factor was the competition. Junior races are open fields so all categories. George Hincapie was the local Junior hotshot. As much as a Cat 5 race might hurt, Junior races are absolutely merciless because they are open to all categories. Hincapie was already a stellar Cat 2 or 1. He could go at any time and there were a good half dozen others who would try to mark him, "good" meaning they were national level racers themselves. For almost three years my races consisted of wondering if Hincapie would be there (or all the other really strong 2s/1s) and wondering if I could hang in. I rarely hung in. I never finished a RR in the group (ever), and in one race one of the other hotshots (Pat Morrissey) lapped us solo on a 5 km circuit. I was close to last in the TTs. I was getting schooled every time I lined up for a race, but I was getting schooled by some really good riders.

    Then, at the end of my third season of racing (last race of the year?), I entered a Cat 4 race. It was night and day difference because there were no Cat 1s, 2s, or 3s, no Hincapies, no Frank McCormack (future Saturn pro but the current Junior hotshot at the time). I won every prime and I won the race. I entered the collegiate B races. I won one in the fall, got second in another in the fall. I entered the B (Cat 3-4) training race next spring. Led out my teammate to a decisive victory in the first one. In the second it was a points race. I won all but one sprint (got 3rd in the halfway because a 2 man break went immediately after the prior sprint; I caught them just after the line). I got upgraded to Cat 3 that day.

    Since then my results have been more normal. I can place if the race suits me. I typically can't finish if it doesn't.

    My approach to racing is to do the best I can on whatever race day, given my fitness/preparation/etc. In some years I have more training/time/energy for racing. Single or with a gf that went to all the races with me. Or later, with the Missus who enjoys going to races. In other years, not so much. Work, family, etc. Sometimes my goal is to be the first across the line on the first lap (those are the races where I realistically can't make more than 5-10 laps). In others I'm trying to win. Yet others it's just doing the best field sprint I can. Or work on bridging gaps. Etc.

    I usually have some long term goal for the year. In some years I purposely don't set any goals when I think other things are more important (like when we expected to have a child or when my mom was sick). I have vague long term goals, meaning 5 or 10 years in the future.

    I started racing in 1983. I had my best years from about 1986-1997, and at best I was an outside threat to place in a flat Cat 3 race. From 2000-2003 my mom was really sick, eventually succumbing to cancer in fall 2003. By then I was 215 lbs. Incredibly, with one day of riding in about 20 days, I won the Cat 3 Crit gold medal in 2002. In 2003 I promised my mom (who only had a few weeks left) to win it again for her, "after", and I did, in 2006 (not a great clip due to non-wide angle lens), by placing 3rd but being the first CT rider across the line. I also won the Bethel Spring Series, which I also promised her I'd do, in 2005. Although active after that my best year was in 2010, when I finally managed to upgrade to a Cat 2. I downgraded the next year as we wanted to start a family (Junior arrived in March 2012). I've been marginally competitive since 2011.

    I never won a summer race, only fall or spring ones. They are usually easier for me since I'm closer to the others' fitness levels. In the summer I'm usually pretty far off since most of the other riders are much more talented than me. I understand this after trying to get better for all those years.

    No two races are the same. You can enter a race the same course, racing most of the same racers, and things will end up completely differently. For me that's the Bethel Spring Series, a race I promote. 6-7 weeks of racing, many of the same racers, on the same course, and my results vary wildly.

    Races are extremely tactical, at least for me. I am thinking all the time, sometimes while I'm at my limit physically. It's that which appeals to me, to be in a tactical situation requiring immediate decisions while under duress. Maybe it's like playing a tactical video game? Or doing paintball? I've done the former, not the latter.

    Racing for me also allows me to express myself, through videos, the blog, here at BF. I'm definitely in the second half of my racing life and I don't know how much longer I'll be racing. 10 years? 15 years? To me that's not very long.
    "...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson

  7. #7
    Ding! Bandera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lostnumber View Post
    Anyway enough of my diatribe. I'd like to hear about your early days in racing.
    Growing up our next door neighbor had raced on board tracks before WWII and kept his bike for decades in the basement.
    As a kid I loved bikes, his daughters didn't so we chatted about them.
    When I was tall enough to ride it we overhauled the bearings on his track bike, re-glued the wooden rim's tubulars and off I went w/ a brief but cogent instruction on fixed gear physics. I was hooked, that was 1963.

    In the Early '70's I saw Stan before we lined up for my 1st Criterium race.
    "I still don't get all this road racing nonsense, it comes down to a Sprint anyway. Be there at the end." he said.

    Wiser words were never spoken.

    -Bandera
    '74 Raleigh International - '77 Trek TX900FG - '92 Vitus 979 - '10 Merckx EMX-3- '11 Soma Stanyan

  8. #8
    avatar by Sean Powers mike868y's Avatar
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    great thread.

    my first race was jamestown rr, a super super late season, super easy course but a beautiful race. was in the juniors and had a blast! two of the juniors broke away early on and crushed us (thinking back, I actually think one of them was current cal giant/former jelly belly rider ben wolfe...). anyway i think i ended up 4th or so in my age group and loved it!

    the next spring I did some bethel races and finished the combined masters/juniors field despite everyone warning me that the masters field would be crazy fast. did battenkill as a junior and got absolutely crushed, totally demoralizing. was a fun period in my life, though. i think what kept me motivated was just pushing myself physically. i got dropped a lot that summer, but as my first foray into serious athletics, I really enjoyed pushing my body to the breaking point.
    Quote Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
    it depends

  9. #9
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    Thanks for everyone's insight. It is great to hear from other peoples experience!

  10. #10
    Senior Member ShutUpLegs's Avatar
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    Like you I started with triathlons before I came to the dark side. I was a strong swimmer and cyclist and often won my age group or podiumed overall. I was riding on some of the group rides to help my bike leg for tris when a friend/mentor said I should start racing because he felt I would really succeed. So in 2011 I entered my first Cat 5 road race. I took 4th and was hooked. I still focused primarily on triathlons and only did 3 more bike races that year and a handful the year after. In 2013 I was asked to ride for a local team. I upgraded to a Cat 4 and did my required 10 races for the team, but still focused on triathlons. After that season I was so tired of trying to fit in 3 sports I decided to quit triathlons and focus on bike racing. Best decision I ever made! I joined a different local team for this season and started as a Cat 4. I won two races and podiumed in 5 more and jsut recently upgraded to Cat 3.

    I don't miss triathlons one bit. Bike racing is a completly different animal. I love the strategy and tactics involved and suffering through those races gives you a great satisfaction. For me the big difference is the social aspect. In triathlons everyone seemed to keep to themselves and there was not much socialization. Training was always by myself aside from some group rides. In cycling I have made more friends over this season than the 5 years I spent doing tris. Fellow racers are more willing to lend advice to beginners and fun amongst the peloton is more common.
    BLOG --> http://goingoffthefront.blogspot.com/

  11. #11
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    My first race was a road race, it was 40F had been raining and was super windy. I was 15 years old. Didn't have appropriate clothing. Etc. Made it about 5 miles until the first crosswind section and was spit out the back. Chased with a few others, got within 50 feet of the back of the group before they turned again into the tailwind section and they were gone.

    Next day, criterium. This was in the days of toe clips and straps. At the start, cat 4 (there was no cat 5 then) I looked down to get in my pedal and collided with the guy in front of me who was also trying to get in his pedal. Slow motion fall over, front wheel taco'd, DNF.

    3rd race a month later, criterium with 8 turns, finally starting to get the hang of this thing, got a top 10 and my first ever payout.

    I tell new racers: get lots of starts. The more races you race, the better ... group rides and solo intervals can be great training but nothing prepares you for racing except racing.
    "have fun and be kind"
    - an internet post

  12. #12
    Banana Pancakes furiousferret's Avatar
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    Its nice to read these threads and see peoples starting off points. It looks like some people that are very successful now weren't as much when they started out. As a newer racer with mostly poor results I sometimes have wondered if racing was just something that was out of my league. I suppose it is akin to the 20 something wondering why he / she doesn't make as much as people in their 40's and 50's.

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