Q: Why should I join a racing club?
A: Joining a racing club might seem like an unnecessary step to get into bike racing, but it's actually highly recommended. Through a racing club, you'll meet experienced racers who will help you develop the good habits and skills necessary to race safe and in control. By being part of a club, you'll be aware of the club activities such as: group rides, clinics and races. As an unattached rider, you don't have those opportunities, or it's more hit-or-miss. There is usually a small cost to join a racing club, for a membership fee and a jersey. However, since most clubs also provide discounts on merchandise and services, the discounts can offset the costs.
Q: How do I find a club to join?
A: Most new racers find a racing club by talking with their bike riding friends and acquaintances. Check the NEBRA member clubs and see if there are any racing clubs that interest you. Also, check with your local bike shop; they may have contact information for a racing club. There is also a club locator page at the USA Cycling website.
Q: How do I join a club or change clubs?
A: Officially you are not recognized as a member of a club (or new club) until this new information is recorded in your record in the USA Cycling database. You can change clubs online using your USA Cycling web site account. Use the edit club link under your USCF license information to change your current club or add a club to your USCF record. You can also contact the NEBRA administrator to make your club change and send you a C sticker to put on your license to indicate your club status has changed from what is printed on your license.
Q: What types of races are there?
A: There are four primary disciplines to bike racing: road, mountain, track and cyclo-cross. A detailed description of the differences is provided at USA Cycling's Bike Racing 101 web page.
Q: How can I learn the rules of the various races?
A: You can download the current rule books for USCF or NORBA races from the NEBRA website.
Q: Are there some basic training guidelines?
A: USA Cycling maintains a database of licensed coaches. You can search the USA Cycling coaches database. Many clubs have experienced riders who may not be licensed as a coach yet can still offer basic training guidelines. Before joining a club you might want to ask about coaching help the club can provide.
Q: How are riders classified, what are all these categories?
A: Riders are classified based on two things, your age and your skill level (category).
RACING AGE GROUPS:
Youth - Riders under 10 years of age
Juniors - Riders 10-18 years of age
Under 23 - Riders 19-22 years of age
Elite - Riders 23-29 years of age
Master - riders 30 years of age and over
Junior and Master races can have additional age sub-groups so you may see races listed as "Junior 15 and under" which would be a race for riders 10-15 years old or "Master 35+" which would be a race for riders 35 years and older. In Northern California and Nevada most Master races are for riders either 35 and over, 45 and over, or 55 and older. (Elite races can be considered an open age group since Juniors and Under 23 riders can ride up in age and Masters can ride down in age.)
Cat 5 - Entry-level racers with less than ten mass start races' experience (men only, women start w/ Cat 4)
Cat 4 - Local level racers
Cat 3 - Regional level racers
Cat 2 - National level racers
Cat 1 - International level racers
Pros - Cat 1 riders who have a contract with a registered Pro team.
The races you can enter are based on the combination of your age group and your category. A race listed as a Masters 35+ 4/5 race is open to any rider who is 35 years or older and has a category of 4 or 5. A Masters 35+ 1/2/3 race is for a rider who is 35 or older and has a category of 1, 2 or 3. An Elite 4 race can be entered by a rider from any age group who is category 4. Note that Cat 5's may not enter a race just for Cat 4's and Cat 1,2 or 3's may not enter a race open only to Cat 4's. You may only enter a race where the advertised category restrictions match the category listed on your license. If you enter a race that doesn't match the category or age group listed on your license you may be subject to a 30 day suspension. It is the rider's responsibility to make sure you have entered the proper race.
Q: How do I go about buying a license?
A: A USA Cycling license can be purchased at most events, but you can simplify your pre-race schedule by purchasing the license online at www.usacycling.org. All licenses are valid for one calendar year, which expires on December 31st.
Q: Where do I find race information?
A: There are three main sources for race information. Information for almost all Road, Track, Mountain bike and Cyclo-cross races for the New England region can be found on NEBRA's events calendar. For information about races in other parts of the country you can go to USA Cycling's events page and look up any USA Cycling permitted race.
Q: How do I register for a race?
A: In order to register, you must pay your race entry fees and turn in a completed, signed liability release form. If you will be racing a lot you can fill in your name and address information on a release and make several photocopies. Note that a release form is not valid unless it is signed in ink. Photocopied signatures are not acceptable.
You can either pre-register for races or wait until race day to enter. In the official race Ads that you find on the NEBRA website, there will be information about pre-registering for each race. Some races offer the ability to register online only for the race. Other races offer a combination of online entry or the old-fashioned mail option. A few races only offer mail-in pre-registration. The advantages to pre-registering are that you normally get a reduced entry fee (pre-registering usually saves you from $5 to $10) and you stand a better change of getting into the race before it fills up. For safety reasons all races have field limits. Many races will reach their field limits during the pre-registration period. This means that riders who wait until race day to enter will be put on a waiting list and may not be able to participate in the race.
On race day if you have pre-registered for your race all you need to do is check in at the registration table. You will need your USCF license so the registration people can verify you have a license and you have entered the proper race category. If you pre-registered online you will also need to turn in a signed liability release form. Once you have checked in at the registration table and the registration person has verified your license, then you will be given a race number. The registration person should tell you which side of your jersey to pin your number to. If you haven't pre-registered then you need to fill out a liability release form at a table near registration and go to the registration table and find out if there is still room in your desired race. If so, turn in your liability release form, pay your entry fees, show your license, and get your race number.
When registering, you can only enter races that match your racing category and age group as listed on your license. If you are a Category 5 rider you can only enter races for Cat 5s only, or Cat 4 and 5 riders or open race (open to all category numbers). As a Cat 5 you cannot enter a race open only to Cat 4 riders. If you are 37 years old you can enter an Elite race or a race for Masters 30+ or Masters 35+. You can't enter a junior race or a masters 45+ race. (The number after the word "Masters" refers to the minimum age that can enter that race — a Masters 35+ race is open to riders 35 years and older.)
Q: What should I do for pre-race preparation on race day?
A: Your pre-race preparation should really start the day before your race. The day before your race you should put all the things you will need for your race together in a race bag. These include your jersey, shorts and cycling shoes. You should also have your racing license, helmet, water bottles, and food you might want to eat before, during or after your race. You should also have directions to the race. Remember to bring a signed liability release form, money if you haven't pre-registered, and any other items you might need.
Once you have arrived at the race site, check in at the race at the registration table. If you have pre-registered there might be a special line for pre-registered riders. When you get your number be sure to ask which side to pin your number to. Since the proper placement of your number is critical in making sure you get placed in the results, be sure to review the information at www.sonic.net/~caseyk/badnumbers about how you should (and should not) pin your number.
Once you have checked in you probably want to get ready to ride. You really can't do a good job of pinning on your number by yourself. It is best if you find a friend to help put your number on once you have your jersey on. Once you are dressed and ready to ride you should check out the course. For criteriums, you can't be on the course during another race. This means you need to wait for the period between races to grab a quick practice lap or two on the course. Be sure to keep an eye out for any pot holes, broken pavement, cracks in the road or any other obstructions on the course.
After pre-riding you might want to start your warm-up. For most criteriums there isn't a really good spot for a proper warm-up, so many racers now bring their own stationary trainer. If you don't have a trainer then you are stuck warming up as best you can on the city streets. (Remember to obey all traffic laws since we don't want to upset the local residents and run the risk of losing the race course in the future.) Your warm-up is also a good time to talk to teammates, hammer out a race strategy, and catch up with friends you haven't seen in a while. About 15 minutes before your race starts you will probably want to go back to your car, take off any excess clothes, take a final drink and take anything off your bike you don't need in the race (like a pump or saddle bag). If the officials allow it, you probably want to grab a final practice lap around the race course before you line up for the start. You should plan on being on the start line 3 to 5 minutes before your race begins, so you can hear the final race instructions from the officials.
Q: What should I do after the race?
A: Immediately after you cross the finish line, make note of who finished around you. Try to remember the race number of one or two nearby riders. If you can't get a race number then take note of the type of jersey(s) of those racers. This information could help you if there is a problem with the race results.
Most riders take a cool down lap after their race (in a criterium). When coming back to the finish line be careful since the next race may be lining up and the road may be blocked by riders waiting to start their race. You will want to check out the tentative results when they are posted. Results are normally posted somewhere near the registration area. For criteriums, it normally takes 10 to 15 minutes for the tentative results to be posted. In a road race, it may take from 30 to 120 minutes for the results to be posted. Once the results are posted there is a 15 minute protest period. If you feel a mistake has been made, you must call errors to the attention of the Chief Judge during the protest period. Mistakes in the results are most often due to your race number not being placed in the proper position where it can be seen by the finishing video camera, or another rider next to you obscured your race number from the camera. The Chief Judge can be found near the finish line area and is the official responsible for determining the race results. The Chief Judge will try to correct any results errors during the protest period.
Once the results protest period has passed, the results are final and prizes can be handed out. Award ceremonies usually take place near the registration area. (Note, once the protest period has passed, under USCF rules the results are final and no additions or corrections can be made.) In general, officials will make corrections to the results as long as the place in question doesn't affect the prize positions. Once the race day is over and everyone has gone home, no additions or corrections to results can be made since the officials no longer have access to the video camera and other notes they would need to correct the results.
Race officials in the New England region always try to place all finishers in races. There are several problems that can prevent riders from being placed: video camera failure, missing race numbers, unreadable race numbers, riders obscured from the camera, and emergency situations that require the attention of the officials.
If you can't remain after your race to check your results at the race, then you can normally find results posted online at either the race web site or on the NEBRA results page. Remember, if you discover an error in the results posted online, it is too late to make any corrections or additions except for misspelled names or where the wrong name is associated with the indicated race number. For this type of error you should contact the race promoter.
Q: What are some things I should watch out for in my early races?
A: It's important in your early races to refine your pre-race routine. So give yourself extra time before the race begins so you won't be rushed. This process actually begins the night before the race, when you set aside all the gear and equipment necessary for the next day's event. Plan for time to meet with your teammates to discuss your team goals for the race. During the race, relax, ride safely, be smooth and use your racing skills. Don't be afraid to communicate with the riders around you. After the race, catch up with your teammates and discuss what went wrong and what went right.
Q: Why aren't my results in my account at usacycling.com?
A: Each race promoter is responsible for submitting race results to USA Cycling for inclusion in the USCF national ranking program. If some of your race results are missing from your USA Cycling account this indicates that the promoter for the missing race hasn't submitted the results yet. You might want to contact the promoter of the missing race to see if they plan on submitting the results to USA Cycling. Unfortunately, some promoters never get around to submitting their results. This is why you should keep your own log of your race results, so you can be sure to have a resource with all your races when it comes time to upgrade. For additional reasons as to why your results may not be appearing, see the USA Cycling's Results and Rankings FAQ.
Q: How do I upgrade to the next higher category?
A: See Road Upgrade Guidelines.