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  1. #1
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Anyone Start Racing After Age 50?

    I have decades of riding experience as a bike tourist and recreational rider and don't have any trouble completing metric centuries or the occasional full century ride. Now, for some reason, I've been thinking (or maybe thinking about thinking about) racing.

    I'm quite sure if I entered a road race at this point, I'd be spit out the back of the peloton within the first mile (and just forget a crit. All my teeth are still my own). Anybody else out there actually tried their first race at 50+? If so, what has been your experience? And how did you prepare for it? I'm thinking time trialing might be a good way to dip my toe in the water.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  2. #2
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    My thinking is that if you are comfortable riding in a pack, especially when you are gasping for air, then just go for it! And if you get dropped? So what? Keep riding and eventually, one day you won't get dropped. Thats the same whether you are 21 or 55 yrs old. In the meantime, ride with some clubs which are a little bit faster than you. Thats the way to build strength in a hurry. Good luck!

  3. #3
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    I started racing at age 52, been racing ever since, now I'm 62. I started out with the Corporate Challenge which unfortunately is no longer active in my area.

    Look for the Senior Olympics in your area. Competition is age graded every 5 years, like 50 through 54, 55 through 59, etc. Senior Olympics bicycle events are 5km and 10km time trials, and 20km and 40km road races. There is state and local competition as well as national.
    http://www.seniorolympics.com

    Also check for local clubs in your area. There is often some kind of age grading. In one local time trial that I compete in the masters division is 35 and above, so what, my goal is to gain speed every year.

    Al

  4. #4
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    We have a terrific Time Trial series in our area (Charlotte). We are extremely fortunate to have access to Lowes Motor Speedway and have nine 10 mile time trials each year. We have competitions by age bracket and I happen to be in the 50-55 age group. Interestingly the top guys in my age group are as fast or faster than the 40-45 age group! It has become so popular we have sold out starting times each event so far this year-over 200 spots each night. We even have Bobby Labonte of Nascar joining us when his schedule permits.

    After just getting back from watching 4 nights of Crits in the area and having participated in numerous road events, I think I'll leave the true racing to others.

    Here's a link to our Time Trial series:

    http://carolinatt.org/v2/

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    jppe, my gosh!! I was looking at your time trial results. You have one fellow, 78 yrs old who held 25+ mph average in the TT! DAMN, now that is impressive!

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    On a slightly different note, I started mtb racing this year at age 51. I've the bike for 3 years and had done some trail riding on my own. The local club has a 10 race summer series; with your best 7 finishes counting for overall series points. The Novice class has two divisions; under 16 and over 16! After 9 races I have huffed my way to 3rd in the series points standings. It's very hard work, but feels so good when you stop.

    I also have picked up an old lugged steel 10 speed as a "town bike" this year, along with a used Cannondale R500 road bike for longer rides and training. Having been a runner, I may try some sprint duathlons in the future.

  7. #7
    Veni, Vidi, Vomiti SteveE's Avatar
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    I started racing last year at 54. I pretty much hang around in mid-pack with the 45+ crowd. My preparation was riding with our club's A-ride and just riding a lot of miles.
    "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ...'holy *****...what a ride!'"

  8. #8
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    i re-started at 53, raced at 18. it provides motivation, improves bike handling, expands bike experiences and acquaintances and if approached with the proper attitude can actually be fun (especially for the masochists). downsides - potentially dangerous, really hard work (for those who prefer to lay back), may get highly competitive especially in crits. so be prepared.
    Choose the type of event you prefer and is most suited to your strengths- for me its hilly road races and TTs.

  9. #9
    HawaiiCyclist
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    If I might ask, what kind of bike are you riding in the races. Have a titanium bike but not sure if I want to race on it. Any opinions?

    Lee

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    Quote Originally Posted by leesub
    If I might ask, what kind of bike are you riding in the races. Have a titanium bike but not sure if I want to race on it. Any opinions?

    Lee
    it's not about the bike

  11. #11
    Veni, Vidi, Vomiti SteveE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leesub
    If I might ask, what kind of bike are you riding in the races. Have a titanium bike but not sure if I want to race on it...
    Lee
    Why not?
    "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ...'holy *****...what a ride!'"

  12. #12
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevie47
    jppe, my gosh!! I was looking at your time trial results. You have one fellow, 78 yrs old who held 25+ mph average in the TT! DAMN, now that is impressive!
    Just seeing this one........yeah, he (and also his wife) are just incredible. They have won several national events as well. The TT's are a terrific way to see how folks stack up individually as there is no drafting.

    I'm in the 50-54 age group and the top fellows in our age group are just as fast or even faster than the 40 age groups. I also ride in group rides with the fellow leading the 65+ age group and it's all I can do to ride his wheel.

    Good proof that you don't have to slow down too much as you get older!!

    By the way, I set a new PR by a whole second (yeah!!) at the last event and am hoping to shave off a little more Thursday night. My fastest times last year were late Sept and early Oct so I'm hoping the miles I've put in the last 2 months will help.

    Unfortunately we can't control the winds and the direction and wind speed can greatly influence times.

  13. #13
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    OK, Racing:

    I started at 52. We had training crits in our area. They had a Masters' 50+ and Women's Cat 4 class. The problem turned out to be that we were getting young college girls with more testosterone than 15 year old boys. Irritating but not really a problem. You had to beware of their flaky riding. Unlike boys, the girls normally crashed just themselves.

    We older guys were careful enough that accidents were rare in the four years I raced. In fact the only accidents I remember were when the older guys tried to connect onto the back of the Senior Cat 4's as they passed us. They would run the other race concurrently and start them 1/2 lap behind and they would pass us about 3 laps from the end of the race. MAster's idiots would go into oxygen debt trying to stick in the faster pack and then would develop poor judgement because they weren't seeing straight. Had three of them crash that way.

    At first there's NO WAY you can stay in a racing pack. I didn't think that I'd ever be able to stay in more than one lap. Then I could stay on the back of the pack for a couple laps. Then for the whole 30 minutes or more. Then I could rotate through. Finally I could stay in the pack any time and keep with anyone. Riding on the front of a racing pack is a high that's hard to describe.

    HOWEVER, there was NO WAY I could ever keep up with the young Cat 5 or 4 racers and without the senior group I would never have been able to compete or feel that intense fitness that you get from racing.

    The younger guys are just too strong to stay with long enough to gain enough fitness to stick. After I was peaking I'd try the Cat 4's but no dice.

    And it isn't as if I was slow - I could ride 30 minutes at 26 mph, rotate at 28 - 30 mph and I could close down attacks at 32 mph or even faster. Sprints would be 38 mph.

    The strength I managed to achieve was breathtaking - really. If I could see someone up the road I could close them down. FAST.

    But road racing is another thing altogether. The group breaks up very rapidly around here because there are always hills on the route. So shortly you are all alone or with another person or two at the most. It's like 45 miles of riding as fast as you can all alone. It's about as much fun as a jab in the eye with a sharp stick.

    If you're and outstanding climber and fast enough to stay with the front group in a road race it would be OK. But you can't gain any fitness with that sort of thing unless you could gain it by training. And if that's the case why would you race?

    The major problem is that Cat 5 and 4 riders are stupid. The stronger guys will just ride off from the weaker guys as soon as they can. The weaker guys will strain to stay up and then blow up. The pack NEVER works together properly.

    A great deal of those who move up to Cat 3 do so because they're much smarter than the Cat 4's and not because they're any faster. They know when and how to cooperate with each other. They know how to conserve the strength they have until they really need it.

    If there's some racing that you want to try, fine, go ahead. I think that you'll probably be disappointed with road racing unless you're the rare individual who can concentrate on training and get to a very high level of fitness that way. In my experience 98% of racers need the motivation of the pack to ride hard enough to gain racing fitness.

    In road racing you simply don't have a pack to race in unless you have very flat road races in your area and in that case it's just like a long crit.

    And crit racing would take one or more years of all-summer evening training races to bring your fitness level up to anything like that necessary to do well in road races.

    I don't want to discourage you - quite the opposite. You can gain a level of strength that will astound and impress you with yourself. But it requires a situation that is pretty rare: a masters crit racing group that you can hope to stick in that does once a week training races.

    And in case there are older guys wondering - we had one guy in the group that was 72 years old and he could STILL ride on the front most of the time.

  14. #14
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    Wow. Outsanding answer. Thanks!
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

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