I'm going to race in the MidAtlantic Super Series mountain bike season 2010. I started mt biking a little over a year ago, so I'll be entering in Beginner Women 35+ class (I'm 36). I'm fast and ride with mostly men. I've been told by people who race that I'm fast and good enough to start in the Sport class, but I think I need to start as a Beginner because I have no experience with racing of any type, or with passing people, and I have to get better at keeping my focus after I take a fall. I think Sport would be too much for me at this point.
Does anyone have any advice for passing techniques? When I ride with people, I often think about where I'd pass if I was racing, and I can see that it'll be hard to pass someone who is just a little slower than me.
I've also realized that when I'm riding fast and then I catch up to slower people, if I sit behind them, it's hard to build up enough speed to pass at the "right time". Should I just barrel down on them, shout, "on your left/right" (whatever is the case) and go, assuming they'll yield?
What if I'm passing a man? I'm sure some men may not want to be passed by a woman and they might ignore my shout. Are most racers courteous?
I'd appreciate any advice. I eat, sleep, and breath mountain biking. Ever since I've started, I've been driven to get faster, more technical, and better.