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Should my son sign up for the local junior racing team?

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Should my son sign up for the local junior racing team?

Old 09-29-14, 11:06 AM
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Should my son sign up for the local junior racing team?

My son is 13. He's never done organized sports, but he's always enjoyed road cycling. This year, he has ridden quite a bit. Under my tutelage, he is training to ride a century on November 1. He's small and light, and thus climbs fairly well, relative to his overall ability. His bike handling is not great, but it's improving. At the very least, he can ride close to my wheel when we ride together. But he's never been in situation where he's had to push himself. For example, his training for the century ride shows he can ride for a long time, but it doesn't involve the kind of really hard efforts one expects in road racing.

I plan on signing him up for the local junior racing team in November. My fear, though, is that he will find he's far slower than the 10-14 juniors on the team. I just have no way of gauging this. Does anyone have any insight on how to judge whether my son is even in the ballpark with other racers his age? If possible, I want to help him set expectations before we get started. Thanks.
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Old 09-29-14, 11:30 AM
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I help run a youth team, though in the UK rather than the States.

My view would be to definitely get him signed up. There is no way to judge where he stands relative to his peers other than by jumping in and testing the waters. And even if he is out of his depth at first, if he loves the sport he'll have a great time and his improvement may be rapid.

Manage his expectations by all means. The difference between the fast kid with a year's racing experience and the fast kid who has none is quite big, so even if he is talented he must expect to be outclassed at first. Just learning how to race, as opposed to ride, is a huge step. But they learn very fast - on our team, a thirteen year-old newb who was a bit nervous at close quarters was just touched off by half a wheel in the national championships less than one calendar year later. And always remember that kids mature at different rates. Some of the fastest thirteen year-olds disappear into mediocrity as the others catch up with their physical development.

Make sure that results aren't the focus to start with, keep reminding him how much he is learning and how he is becoming more skilled and competitive.
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Old 09-29-14, 11:45 AM
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chasm54: Thanks for your thoughtful reply!
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Old 09-29-14, 12:41 PM
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I would encourage it. My 10-year finished his first year racing with a local team. We get some occasional pro bono help from a professional coach who is affiliated with the team, but it's mostly driven by parents. Some of us have a racing background, others are century riders, others just like the opportunity to get out and ride with the kids. We spend a lot of time working on bike handling, pace lining, cornering, and just generally being smooth and comfortable on the bike. The improvement these kids have made in just a few months is amazing. Plus it's great to see the camaraderie and friendly competition among the kids (dads too!).

Give it a shot. I think he may enjoy it. And if not, then no big deal. You have nothing to lose.
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Old 09-29-14, 04:09 PM
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Sure - sign him up. 13/14 is the last year I'd start him as a junior. At 15/16 adult Cat 4/5 might be easier. As the races he will do in Spring will be 1/3 to 1/4 the distance of the century those long miles may not be needed. Most junior racing is about speed/spin and learning who you are riding against.
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Old 09-29-14, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jgrosser
I want to help him set expectations before we get started.
Find the absolute best team for rider development in your area, not necessarily the one sending riders to Nationals. ( That's OK too.)
A great team environment is like a family, a bad "team" with testosterone poisoning and bike snobbery is like an abusive foster home.

Coaches matter, and you are not the coach, step off and let them work out a program while you encourage and spend $$$$$.

The 1st few races will be a shock at how fast, aggressive and just plain dangerous Juniors can be.
A good club will have a structured program to ease into competition by learning paceline etiquette, bike handling skills, build endurance, power and speed.

PS:
This is his idea, not yours?

-Bandera

Last edited by Bandera; 09-29-14 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 09-29-14, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera
Find the absolute best team for rider development in your area, not necessarily the one sending riders to Nationals.

Coaches matter, and you are not the coach, step off and let them work out a program while you encourage and spend $$$$$.

PS:
This is his idea, not yours?

-Bandera
Bandera: I am a parent of 3, so I know from experience that children need guidance. That said, joining the racing team is something we've been talking about for 3 years, so I am definitely NOT pushing him into this. If I was, I wouldn't be here asking for information; I would have signed him up 3 years ago. As for the actual team, there's really only 1 team in our area that works for our schedule, so it's that one or nothing. I've met the head coach several times, and he seems like a good guy. I often see the team members out on the road training. Hopefully, the team will be a good environment. Thanks for your input!
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Old 11-19-14, 09:29 PM
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So, my son is now training with the local jr. racing team. Training is limited to indoor workouts until the spring. The experienced kids are still racing cross, but as my son is new he isn't doing that. I just drop him off for the practice sessions and pick him up, so I don't have a good sense of what's going on. My son's reports are favorable, but vague (typical for a 13 year old). At the coach's instruction, I administered a 20 minute FTP test today. Here's my question: does anyone have any sense of what a decent FTP (watts/kg) is for a 13 year old male? Thanks.
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Old 11-21-14, 08:22 AM
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Hi jgrosser, Rock Creek Velo? they have a pretty nice jr. program and the kids all seem to get along really well.

In my observation, at that age, racing is more of an individual effort than anything else because the skill set, physical maturity, confidence, and abilities are disparate resulting in jr. races starting as a group and dwindled to single or pairs basically from the starting whistle. The most important thing for training at that age is to understand that it isnt about decent FTPs, or even whether their fitness is progressing at some certain rate (fitness and skills will progress just with doing the work) but rather that the kids want to ride together and to have fun. Doesn't matter if it's on the bike path, indoors, or whatever, they want to ride together.

Edit: my kids arent old enough to ride on the road yet, but I've been racing in the DC area for a while and have informally mentored some jrs. along the way, if you have any racing questions, feel free to reach out via pm or in this thread.

Last edited by MDcatV; 11-21-14 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 11-21-14, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jgrosser
...does anyone have any sense of what a decent FTP (watts/kg) is for a 13 year old male? Thanks.
I have the data, just got to go back and get it. PM me.
But...I'd focus less on power and more on ability to race/win races. Power changes monthly.
The primary thing that is happening at this age - hormones. Growth - or not. Focus on cycling - or not.
In SoCal regionally a competitive 13 year old should be able to hang with the Cat 4s - not win, but finish somewhere in the middle and closer to the front in climbs.
We did a chill age 12-early 14. At mid-14 when it was time to buy another bike we had a go-no-go meeting and based on that went all-in. Some kids were killing it at 12/13. Others it takes till 15-16. I don't think you "know" till late teens. B

General rule for the nationally competitive USA kids:
13-14 - Cat 4 14 - win Cat 4
14-15 - Cat 3 15 - win Cat 3
16-17 - Become Cat 2 - winning is harder
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Old 11-21-14, 03:57 PM
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Don't worry about w/kg. Racecraft is more important especially early on.
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Old 11-21-14, 10:03 PM
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More this and that on w/kg...
Likely your kid will be under the gear restrictions. In a couple years they will only get max w/kg on the inclines. If they race in Europe with USAC then that will be even less significant as they go to a 52x16 gear and won't be close to their max w/kg.
As such - it really matters when in unrestricted gears and climbing. Because of the current view of youth cycling, learning to be comfortable at 140rpm cadence is more useful.

On the other hand...
Laying down power in TTs will get your son noticed - especially on the national level. The "FTP" needs to be at a much shorter time as juniors just don't TT 60 min. So a real FTP doesn't mean much.

Here is a TT my son did at bio age 13 and 5 months. I think he weighed about 110. At the time he was riding <50 miles a week and was top 20% locally competitive. Likely national top 30% - but that is a guess as we didn't do nationals.
https://connect.garmin.com/activity/131124229

Last edited by Doge; 11-21-14 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 11-24-14, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Doge
In SoCal regionally a competitive 13 year old should be able to hang with the Cat 4s - not win, but finish somewhere in the middle and closer to the front in climbs.

General rule for the nationally competitive USA kids:
13-14 - Cat 4 14 - win Cat 4
Thanks for your replies.

This is the sort of thing that concerns me. I honestly don't care if my son wins or does well in races. I just want him to be accepted on the team. Given his personality (bit of a loner), I think it will be harder for him to be accepted if he can't at least hang with the kids his age. I've ridden with him a lot, and there's no way he could ride Cat 4, or even Cat 5 now. Also, the team is practicing indoors now, so aside from metrics like watts/kg, it's impossible to tell if he will be dropped in 2 seconds the minute they get out on the road. I know we'll find out in the spring (assuming he's sticking with it) but as a parent, it's natural to have some anxiety.
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Old 11-24-14, 07:36 AM
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I'm a parent too so I understand your concern, but I would worry less about your kid and his capabilities and focus your energy on his team, their mentors and coaches. Have a chat with them. Get their opinions and what they have planned for him. Your parent gut will tell you where to go. I've seen kids without genetic superiorities end up being very good racers who enjoy the sport because they were surrounded by the right people. It's like any sport. Your kid doesn't have to be picked first to enjoy a team sport.
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Old 11-24-14, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by jgrosser
Thanks for your replies.

This is the sort of thing that concerns me. I honestly don't care if my son wins or does well in races. I just want him to be accepted on the team. Given his personality (bit of a loner), I think it will be harder for him to be accepted if he can't at least hang with the kids his age. ...
Loner and cycling go together well. On the bike no one is forced to talk. My son was a bit on the quiet side. My responses were for a competitive junior. But by no means are all the kids on the team competitive. Cycling is much socially kinder than soccer for those that are not at the top. I would think more about can he keep up on the team rides. If he can stay with the team rides, his peers won't care so much how he does at races. In juniors especially cycling is executed pretty much as an individual sport.

There is more to cycling than being fast that teammate will care about. If they have to wait for him to get his bike ready, he isn't dressed right (for cold or hot), has ignored his nutrition, has mechanicals he's unprepared for (for got his tube and air) or he cannot maintain a tempo pace, then I've heard kids complain a bit. Depending on his personality he may be fine where he is, use the challenge to get better or decide cycling is not for him.

But if you have a number of kids his age interested in cycling and meeting together - I'd recommend getting him involved.
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Old 04-23-15, 05:57 PM
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Update: my son has been on the road with his team for around 6 weeks now. He hasn't been in any races yet, but his riding is really improving. He's already crushing most of my Strava PRs, and it seems he's faster than at least some of the kids in his age group on the team. So far, so good.
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