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How to Start Racing Bicycles:
Part 1, Your First Race

By PCG Elite/Master Level Coach James Schaefer


Peaks Coaching Group

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So is this the year your best riding bud finally decided to take the leap from club rides and Grand Fondos and do a race? Is this you? Or do you just want to gain some skills and knowledge to become a better all-round cyclist? In this series of essays I’ll try to compile a few tidbits of advice to help you make that first race or goal event a positive and fun experience.   

Before you can enter in your first race you will need a USA Cycling (USAC) racing license. You have several options for purchasing your first license. At most races, but not all, you can buy a one-day license on race day when you register. You can also purchase a one-time “try racing” single license through USAC at!/c/pricing.

I would suggest this. You will start to have a record of the events you participate in and this makes tracking your upgrade points much easier. Speaking of upgrades, all racers are grouped into categories (think skill level) and age groups: Junior 9 to 18; two-year age groups, Senior 19 – 35, and Masters 35+ five-year age group. A new rider, whether man, women, or child, will start out as a Cat 5 and will have to finish 10 mass-start races to be eligible to move up to the next category. More information on the upgrade process can be found here: and you can contact your upgrade coordinator through your local association.

Greg LeMond

Every racer had a first race, even Greg LeMond. Why not give it a try?

Here are a couple of “make sure you do” things so you don’t get “called out” or worse, depending on the officials on race day. Find out at registration which side of your jersey your number needs to be placed. My advice is don’t skimp on pins, if my number is flapping in the wind it drives me crazy. Your number should be positioned so that it can easily be read by an official standing on the side of the road. Your “kit” jersey and shorts can’t be your favorite Pro-Tour team and your jersey needs to have sleeves (No sleeveless, triathlon type jerseys…It was 80 F in Virginia on February 19th). And last but not least, when you are on your bike anywhere at the event you need to be wearing your helmet.

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