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Picking up racing over 50

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Picking up racing over 50

Old 09-29-23, 11:38 AM
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Picking up racing over 50

Have any of you folks picked up racing after 50?

I've always been a recreational rider. Mostly solo rides of 50-70 miles, centuries, etc. Never particularly competitive (mostly like benchmarking my own progress), and I've never dug group rides (though chatting with someone for a few miles when you roll up next to each other at a stoplight or at a coffee stop is great).

As I've gotten older, I've started adding bucket list rides to help shake a fist at the Reaper. PBP 2027 is on the list, as is an Everesting. Mostly things to challenge myself to do before I'm too old.

But I'm starting to be intrigued by the idea of racing, even if I'm not going to be all that competitive. It's a reason for an n+1, too. I'm going to do a tri next year, though I'm 99% certain that's a one-and-done. So I'm looking at options, but I'm also almost 53. That's not OLD, but it's not young--particularly for getting started and learning noob skills, and injuries are a much bigger deal at this age (plus, my wife has some health issues, so I should really avoid broken collarbones at all costs).

Crit racing sounds cool, but I just don't think I could hang without crashing out. TTs seem pretty safe (at least any crashes would be my own fault), but not very communal. SSCX would be ideal, but we don't really have a CX scene in San Diego (though we do have tracklocross). And then there's gravel, which seems like it ight be the best balance of practicality, fairly low risk, and a mixture of event lengths with a few nutty goals races (like Unbound) if I ever went bonkers with it.

Anyone else go through a similar process? I'd love to hear what you landed on.
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Old 09-29-23, 12:20 PM
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I'm an ex-racer (20+ years ago) who was off the bike for 15 years, and have come back to riding at a moderately high level. The following insights are based on my own experiences. Others may see the world differently...

Crit racing for someone who is unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable riding fast in a tight group is generally a bad idea, and is more likely to end in a bad way. Pack riding at speed is a skill that can be learned on group rides, but learning on race day is not something I recommend. If you do decide to try crit racing, be aware that Masters categories (40+, 50+, etc.) aren't a slow pace in a group with guys like you (newbies). Especially in So Cal, expect that the field will include a lot of guys who have been racing for 20+ years, and may include a few ex-pros. The racing will be fast and hard. New crit racers generally start off in Cat 5 races, but these field tend to be filled with young guys whose bodies are much more tolerant to crashes . Bottom line: This is a tough age to start racing crits...but it can be done. I highly recommend finding some faster local group rides o build speed and fitness before dipping your toe in the crit pool.

As an older ex-crit monkey, who no longer wishes to compete in that arena, I'm finding gravel racing to be a good place for me right now. That said, I'm looking to participate, rather than compete. I did the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Marcos last April, and it was a fantastic experience. Next month is another event in Atascadero that I'm eagerly anticipating. Gravel racing is a very different kind of fitness. Being able to keep motoring for 5+ hours, and dealing with a wide variety of terrain, is a world apart from doing hot laps around a business park for 40+ minutes. My training focus is very little about max power, and tolerance for repeated high-intensity efforts, and more about endurance, climbing strength, and sustainable tempo pace. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun, but the "racing" is what you make of it.

I'm not going to comment about TTs other than to say they have never been something I've enjoyed.

My first racing was on MTBs (early 1990s). I would consider doing a MTB race again before a crit.

Again all this is IMO, YMMV.
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Old 09-29-23, 12:27 PM
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Thank you. ALL of this sounds like me (aside from having a racing background).

I'm actually right up the road from San Marcos (in Oceanside), and BWR was one of the reasons I was thinking gravel might be a nice path for me. And honestly, as far as my racing designs go, not finishing last = a podium for me, and top 50% age group would be a win.

Now I need to decide if I get a THIRD titanium bike in the hope that my wife will not recognize that it's new...
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Old 09-29-23, 12:33 PM
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Indeed 53 is now middle age. I have only raced against myself, and occasionally fellow riders just for fun. When I got heavily back into cycling in my 50's, it crossed my mind to give it a try. I went for a few rides with a serious local group, Their B level, mostly 50 to 70 men and women, and I could keep up, but it was not easy. I rode once with the A level, mostly men above 50 year old, did okay on the way out, and got left in the dust when they picked it up on the way back into a strong wind. I did have one long term member that stuck with me. When the pack left us, they were running at 22-23 mph, the member said he would have really struggled to keep up, and that was not the plan for the ride. I never tried the racing.
Now at 71, I have no thoughts of racing against anyone, including myself, or the clock. I still like to ride a quick pace, but when I feel like doing it.
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Old 09-29-23, 12:54 PM
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At 53 just buy a 86hp stripped out miata racecar. Prob cheaper and safer. Bump draft life is hilarious and exhilarating.
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Old 09-29-23, 01:54 PM
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I settled on the more competitive Sportives and Grand Fondos. Events like the LíEtape du Tour and Tour of Cambridge. Both closed road mass start chip-timed UCI events. Groups tend to form naturally and you end up racing against guys at a similar level.
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Old 09-29-23, 02:03 PM
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At 51, becoming a noob Crit racer sounded electrifying - a challenge I would enjoy. Low cost of entry, fitness goals, competition goals, etc.

Then I watched some crit training, and noped my way right on out of there. A crash amongst all those racers and at those speeds would be terrifying, and possibly life changing in not good ways.

Gravel might happen, but I’m defo not on board for technical MTB or serious road racing. Audax/randonneuring/touring is much more likely. I have to keep my own personal goals for riding in mind: long term cardio health, weight control, and to support my tennis playing goals with better general fitness.
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Old 09-29-23, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf
Thank you. ALL of this sounds like me (aside from having a racing background).

I'm actually right up the road from San Marcos (in Oceanside), and BWR was one of the reasons I was thinking gravel might be a nice path for me. And honestly, as far as my racing designs go, not finishing last = a podium for me, and top 50% age group would be a win.

Now I need to decide if I get a THIRD titanium bike in the hope that my wife will not recognize that it's new...
I did the middle distance BWR (80 miles), and finished dead-middle for both overall and my age group. I rode with a buddy, and we very intentionally rode at a conservative pace for the first couple of hours in the desire to have something left in the rank for the last couple of hours. I finished feeling pretty decent, and - in hindsight - could have pushed harder at many points on the course. I was very happy with my result, and very realistic that I will never be competitive among the top finishers again...and that's okay. Endurance racing is new to me, and I'm starting to figure out what my body is capable of. I'm enjoying that gravel racing is such a vastly different experience to my previous racing experiences.

The Bovine Classic in Atascadero is in just less than 4 weeks!!...https://www.thebovineclassic.com/
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Old 09-29-23, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DonkeyShow
At 53 just buy a 86hp stripped out miata racecar. Prob cheaper and safer. Bump draft life is hilarious and exhilarating.
LOL I think they originally had 118 hp or something like that. Totally fun to drive but totally different than pushing one's limits on a bicycle.

I did a very little bit of racing in college. Don't think I have it in me these days. But if I did, it would likely be a more endurance oriented event. A crit would be the last option.

I think that I now qualify for the Senior Olympics. It might be fun to try a time trial or something, especially since participation rates seem kind of low = greater chance of medaling lol.

My heroes these days are those octogenarian and nonagenarian athletes who make the news simply because they are still moving and 30 and 40-something reporters can't fathom it lol. That's my goal.
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Old 09-29-23, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by john m flores
My heroes these days are those octogenarian and nonagenarian athletes who make the news simply because they are still moving and 30 and 40-something reporters can't fathom it lol. That's my goal.
Here's a guy who just shows up and wins. Nationals, RAAM, World Senior Games, Mt. Evans. Doesn't matter. I think he's 81 this year.

May we all be more like him when we are 80+.
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Old 09-29-23, 11:41 PM
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I started cycling in my mid 50s as a serious recreational rider, if that makes sense. I started riding with a local club that had several members who were amateur racers, even an older guy who used to be on the Tour in Europe. Our rides were never races, although there were usually a few ďsprintĒ stages where everyone just seemed to put the hammer down for 5 miles or so. That satisfied my competitive urges.

I used to race cars when I was younger and I discovered competitive racing creates an urge to always have the latest and greatest gear and that gets expensive whether itís bikes or cars.

Just my personal experience. Not a criticism of anyone who wants to full on race. I get that, too.
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Old 09-30-23, 04:43 AM
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Heh I knew a guy who would dyno a half dozen engines to find the best one for the weekend. They really do take the fun out of it.
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Old 09-30-23, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Here's a guy who just shows up and wins. Nationals, RAAM, World Senior Games, Mt. Evans. Doesn't matter. I think he's 81 this year.
That's exactly the kind of person I'm talking about!

May we all be more like him when we are 80+.
I'm gonna need some of you to go up to the big Kreitler roller in the sky if I'm going to have any shot at a medal in this life! 🤣
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Old 09-30-23, 07:27 AM
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Were you to race in the USAC events you will need a license and will likely get a 'cat 5' license...not a real biggie because the license will allow you to race in "masters" events which are age categorized.
BUT you would be racing in the Masters 45+ class and they are still very fast and the fields are still fairly large...event dependent of course.
I couldn't wait to "Master Up" when I was a mere cat 3 senior...I figured the masters 35+ cat would be easy peasy as I was a decent...mid field finish unless a lot of climbing...rider physically and skill wise...HOW WRONG I WAS ! ! !
The lap times in crits was as fast, and often faster, than the cat 2 senior field...holy freakin' moly was it hard. Not only that but these people really know how to handle their bikes in tight confines and especially cornering...And I not a 'nervous nelly' rider as some of my training ride people were pros, cat 2's, one was amateur world cyclocross champion so my abilities were honed by riding with these people...awesome teachers and I was one lucky person.
As has been said many were pro's or cat 1's and 2's who are now 'family people' with careers and real jobs but they still love to compete.

I'd suggest finding local group rides and finding your 'place'...physically and ability wise...to see how you fare.
Then perhaps trying a local usac event in your age category...TT, Crit, etc.
If a crit, start at the back and just go for finishing...it will be physically harder as you will likely be braking and accelerating in and out of the turns but it will give you an indication on your physical abilities as well as handling skills...which only improve by training, practice and competition.
If you go this route here is a bit of good news...the year you hit 55 years old the usac considers you 55 starting on Jan 1...my birthday is in Dec so for the entire year I was really one year older according to the usac...Thus you can participate in masters 55+ events...While not tons slower they are usually a bit slower, the fields are usually smaller...again event depending...and the riders are a bit more danger leery...they generally don't take high risks lol...as we don't bounce or recover as well or as fast as we used to.
Don't be afraid to ask questions of other riders...but not on the start line just before starting...our 'heads' are in a different zone and will likely ignore you. But do ask after the event. Most will happily answer your questions and give advice/suggestions...but like in the real world ass holes exist and some will not for a variety of reasons...don't be discouraged and ask another.

Good luck ! I've been racing since the mid '80s and my best results and most fun was racing in the masters cats. I'm 68 now and still race regularly...12 events this year lol. It is much more of a 'family' than the senior cats imo.
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Old 09-30-23, 06:07 PM
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Before you get too head long into this idea of racing, ask yourself what's the point? Seriously, how does it enhance your life, your well being? In what way does it edify you?

These are the questions I asked myself the moments before I stepped away from racing because the answer to every question was not what I expected them to be. Let me tell ya, after your first crash you will be asking these questions, or at least should be! 50 does not heal like 20.

Riding with a fast group of fellas once or twice a week is enough to keep your fitness in top form. If it is for ego, let it go, bro.
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Old 10-01-23, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Before you get too head long into this idea of racing, ask yourself what's the point? Seriously, how does it enhance your life, your well being? In what way does it edify you?.
If racing is what motivates them to get out and train, that's a good thing. But simply setting a goal may be just as useful.

I quit racing decades ago, but I do like to have events on the calendar to train for. I just signed up for the Low Key Hill Climbs, even though I'm nowhere near fit enough at the moment to do well. It's something to give me a nudge out the door.
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Old 10-02-23, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by David_Harris
At 51, becoming a noob Crit racer sounded electrifying - a challenge I would enjoy. Low cost of entry, fitness goals, competition goals, etc.

Then I watched some crit training, and noped my way right on out of there. A crash amongst all those racers and at those speeds would be terrifying, and possibly life changing in not good ways.

Gravel might happen, but I’m defo not on board for technical MTB or serious road racing. Audax/randonneuring/touring is much more likely. I have to keep my own personal goals for riding in mind: long term cardio health, weight control, and to support my tennis playing goals with better general fitness.
For the stated goals, audax could work if and only if you keep your rides at 200 km and below. Longer rides take require longer recovery, which is going to trash your tennis playing. Honestly I don't think there are any real positive health benefits from anything over 100 km, and likely some negatives. For example my left pinkie and ring finger have been numb for a month, and likely will for two more.

Join RUSA, start an R-12 and P-12, and do a 100k and 200k every month. In-between, do whatever JRA you want.

Gravel or cx or grand fondos might be better. Higher intensity, less time, and probably not much more chance of serious injury.
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Old 10-02-23, 05:32 PM
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cormacf If you are planning to throw down thousands on a bike just to race consider that a race bike is an expendable item. It can just take one crash to render it scrap. Even if you buy a bike branded from a company with a crash replacement policy it can take months to find a suitable replacement and still cost you more.

A TRI isn't a bike race.

CX was fun for me when I was in shape for it. I always had to travel at least 100 miles to find races and once drove as far as Missoula Mt. for one, it was so worth it. Gas prices and race fees have gone up to the point where I am not going to lay out that kind of cash for a 30-50 minute bike ride.

As far as crits, lots of solid advice so far but the advice to start at the back is asking to get dropped and then get pulled before you get much racing in. High likelyhood of crashing or causing someone else to crash. Bike may or may not be scrap. Your body may or may not have serious injury. If you dig that and the risks are worth it to you, enjoy!
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Old 10-02-23, 06:41 PM
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A good way to see if you like the hustle and bustle of racing is to join the group rides of local racers. Check your LBS to see where the scene is. Join one of their fast rides to see if you got the motor and compete for the town line sprints. All in good fun.
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Old 10-03-23, 02:22 PM
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Go for it, but be sure you have good medical insurance and, if appropriate, income replacement insurance in case of injuries from crashing or simply from overuse of aging body parts. And consider the effect on your family and future.

Stuff breaks easily after age 50, escalating dramatically after 60, and takes longer to heal. Found out the hard way myself after age 60.

My unassisted crashes weren't too bad, but being hit by a car that ran a light in 2018 (and simultaneous bout of cancer, unrelated to the injuries) put me out of serious riding or training for a year. 2019-2020 were my best years for fitness since I resumed riding in 2015 at age 57. But the combination of aging, overuse and injuries from many crashes and wrecks over the years (military training, amateur boxing and racing in my teens and 20s) finally caught up with me -- hard -- in late 2021. I haven't fully recovered and probably never will. Cervical spine stenosis is the worst part, and won't improve without surgery. My docs are taking a conservative route for now and I just got steroid injections in the neck this week to reduce the pain. But the symptoms are just masked. One of the consequences of cervical spine stenosis and pressure on the spinal cord is occasional vertigo and BP spikes. Lack of pain in the area doesn't mean it's fixed.

Anyway, I had to take early retirement on disability after the car hit me. I wasn't eligible for full social security (I think 67 is the magic age now), so my budget took a serious hit. On the plus side I have health care through the VA and, now that I'm 65, Medicare.

But even if my physical issues were resolved through surgery and physical therapy I'd still avoid risky pack racing. I don't even do fast club rides anymore -- too many younger guys with strong legs and lungs but terrible bike handling and disregard for riders around them. I might try a time trial if neck surgery enables me to get into aero bars again. But I'd need to consider the risk of long term recovery from broken bones if the event of a crash at 30 mph.

I'm not married, have no family in the area, so nobody is depending on me. But it's also more difficult to arrange some medical appointments. For example, some day surgery clinics require an escort to accompany the patient, including waiting in the clinic the entire time, and to drive the patient home. I don't have any family or friends I'd impose for that kind of thing, so I'd need to hire someone to play babysitter for the day. Insurance won't cover that so there's another out of pocket expense. Recently I had to put off neck injections of steroids for almost a year while searching for a doctor who would allow me to go unaccompanied, as long as I took a rideshare home. The other clinic I'd planned to use last year wouldn't accept Uber or Lyft, etc., as a substitute for an escort.

So, while I don't want to discourage anyone from scratching that itch to compete and test our personal envelopes, it's wise to be aware of the complications and consequences.
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Old 10-03-23, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf
Have any of you folks picked up racing after 50?.
Yes! Come join us! There are Masters and age group divisions in every discipline, and you will find camaraderie and stiff competition at nearly every race. I started racing at age 50, and I'm still loving it at 60. I've raced Road, CX, TT, and gravel, and am contemplating track next season.

A couple of suggestions:
1) Try a weekly local crit for starters. The races are short, and they should have a beginner's, or C race. Don't worry about being 30 years older than the competition. In your first several races, it's all about learning to race and getting comfortable riding all out in a tight pack. After you've done enough crits to feel comfortable rubbing elbows and cornering at high speed, branch out into other disciplines.
2) Don't make the mistake of assuming masters 50+ races are easier than all ages cat 4 or 5 races. Masters races are chock full of guys who've been racing for decades, are former college/pro racers, and/or are simply very committed with the time and money to get serious. Older racers are generally safer and more predictable than the youngsters, but they are FAST. Go ahead and do the cat 4 events until you're more experienced.
3) Most states offer some version of the Senior Olympics. These are short road races and time trials, and attract a wide array of riders ranging from casual group ride aficionados to the aforementioned Masters racers. You can quickly find other racers at your level and find whatever level of competition you are looking for.
4) Most of all, just get out there and do it. Racing is a blast, and there is no preparation for racing better than racing.

See you at the races.
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Old 10-05-23, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by cormacf
Thank you. ALL of this sounds like me (aside from having a racing background).

I'm actually right up the road from San Marcos (in Oceanside), and BWR was one of the reasons I was thinking gravel might be a nice path for me. And honestly, as far as my racing designs go, not finishing last = a podium for me, and top 50% age group would be a win.

Now I need to decide if I get a THIRD titanium bike in the hope that my wife will not recognize that it's new...
They have a date for the BWR ó April 28. It has been a few years since my last one but I am excited to go again. Iím not trying to talk you out of a new bike if you can swing it, but Iíve done the BWR on a road bike 5 times with 25s. You are close enough to regularly train on the course and that ride is a very very fun day on the bike. 7 months away and you can easily be ready to push it on the Wafer.
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Old 10-05-23, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Classtime
Iím not trying to talk you out of a new bike if you can swing it, but Iíve done the BWR on a road bike 5 times with 25s.
So would you suggest the road bike over a full-rigid 29er (my other option) for that course? I normally run 700cx28 on the road, but I have a set of 650b wheels on which I usually run 42s or 47s.
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Old 10-05-23, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by cormacf
So would you suggest the road bike over a full-rigid 29er (my other option) for that course? I normally run 700cx28 on the road, but I have a set of 650b wheels on which I usually run 42s or 47s.
Try each on the lake Hodges section. See which is more fun. On the rough stuff I fear for my skinny tubular tires and rims getting stuck between rocks but so far nothing has broken. You can be more careless with fatter tires but IMO slower on smoother sections.

edit. Here is last years race bible.
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/00...f?v=1681404342

Last edited by Classtime; 10-05-23 at 06:15 PM.
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