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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last fall I posted a question about getting involved in racing. I had many very informative posts, but generally everyone said "enter a race and see if you like it". So in early April I will be entering my first race. It is a 44 mile road race in Hillsboro, Illinois. I have my USA Cycling license and am looking forward to my first race. I am 54 years old and have no expectations of competing to win but want to at least be competitive. Can you please tell me how it works and what to expect. Items of interest are:
1) Do I just line up at the approprate start time and take a position
2) As a real beginner should I start at the back of the pack
3) Are there water stations or do I need to carry enough water to finish
Any guideance is appreciated. thanks. Mick
 

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Because if it's a Masters Race, no offense, but you're likely to get your butt handed to you. What are the age brackets? 40+ guys are fast, fast, fast. 45+ are fast, fast. 50+ can still be mighty fast. If it's a Cat 5 race, you just don't know -- I have seen Cat 5 fields catch 50+ fields if they're both out on the course at the same time (although I don't think that they're supposed to be, it has happened). Depends who's diving the 50+ field. Some areas run Cat 5 Masters, which sounds like a great deal -- guys that have to go to work on Monday are usually more sane, and you don't have to deal with the 3's and 2's and 1's who make up much of the Masters fields.
Generally, you are better starting at the front. Not only do you then have less yo-yo-ing to deal with, but you have farther to fall through the field, so that you might even recover before getting spit out, if you run into trouble
Go have fun.
 

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megmarc said:
Last fall I posted a question about getting involved in racing. I had many very informative posts, but generally everyone said "enter a race and see if you like it". So in early April I will be entering my first race. It is a 44 mile road race in Hillsboro, Illinois. I have my USA Cycling license and am looking forward to my first race. I am 54 years old and have no expectations of competing to win but want to at least be competitive. Can you please tell me how it works and what to expect. Items of interest are:
1) Do I just line up at the approprate start time and take a position
2) As a real beginner should I start at the back of the pack
3) Are there water stations or do I need to carry enough water to finish
Any guideance is appreciated. thanks. Mick
You're doing Hillsboro-Roubaix for your first race? It is a big, tough race with a 90 degree corner at the bottom of a long, fast hill. I think the corner is also brick. Enter the Cat5 - it's limited to only 50 riders. The 4/5 pack will be huge and the 45+ will probably have guys with Worlds warm up jackets on.
1 - Yup, you just line up. First come, first serve. If you really want to be competative, remember that the race has already started long before the gun goes off.
2 - My first road race was a big time race and my strategy was to get through the first corner upright and then latch on to any wheel that passed me. I was not in the lead pack at the finish, but I loved it and was hooked on road racing.
3 - It's 44 miles. Just take a couple of bottles of sports drink (if that's wahat you use) and maybe an extra bottle in your jersey pocket. The flyer says nothing about a 'feed zone', but I assume there is one since the Pro/1-2 race is 88 miles long. If you are going to do this, you need someone to pass you your bottle. Practice this before the race - you have to grab the bottle at speed. Be careful in this area because there may be bottle flying every which way.

Also be aware that everybody - Pros though Juniors - are out on the course at the same time. The main packs will never see each other, but stragglers will be overtaken by the next group(s).

I may be there, but I will have to race either 4/5 or 45+. Good luck - you will love it!

TF
 

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My first(and only) road race

I'm 49 now and a couple of years ago I went to a road race and entered Cat.5. My goal was just to sit in and ride with the pack. Even though I was fit for Febuary and had done a little MTB racing in the past I was intimidated and decided to sit at the rear of the pack. The race was 4 laps of an 8 mile loop that included one 1/2 mile climb. I hung on ok for the first lap. As a matter of fact if it wasn't for the yo-yoing after the corners I was feeling like I was just on a fast training ride.I would stand up after each corner and catch the peloton- "I can do this" I thought. And then came that climb at the end of the first lap. Boom! Off the pack went-standing and cranking for high heaven. There was a turn right before that hill and by the time I got around it and could see the climb I was blown off the back.. Never saw them again . I rode the last 3 laps mostly alone. A couple of times I tried to form my own group but nobody could ride at my pace. I did set a new PR for 34 miles. But I have often wondered what would have happened if I had not stayed at the rear and instead asserted myself and rode closer to the front. You see those guys near the front don't have to deal with energy-robbing yo-yoing at the turns. And you can be sure that they knew they were going to attack that hill under their own terms right after they rounded that corner. So I echo the previous advice- ride near the front. And be ready when the hammer drops. I was as fit as those guys but clueless as to the strategy- a strategy which I think proved to be more important than raw fitness. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks

Bill, yes it is a cat 5. I have not registered yet as the registration does not appear to be ready but a link to the St Louis Bicycle club shows that category 5 is limited to 50 riders.

PJ, Your experience is about what I am expecting. While I dont want to get dropped I expect I will. I just need to try it. I hope to finish and stay upright the entire race. I too am in pretty good shape but have to admit that I am apprehensive. If I were on reasonably flat ground I would expect to average about 19 mph, but this race sounds like it is much more hilly than I am used to.

TT, do you think I am getting in over my head for my first race. Their is another race in early May in Marine, IL which is just a little further for me to drive, so I could delay my first race a few weeks. I need to try it but dont mind admitting that I will probably be the last one in. Mick
 

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megmarc said:
Bill, yes it is a cat 5. I have not registered yet as the registration does not appear to be ready but a link to the St Louis Bicycle club shows that category 5 is limited to 50 riders.

PJ, Your experience is about what I am expecting. While I dont want to get dropped I expect I will. I just need to try it. I hope to finish and stay upright the entire race. I too am in pretty good shape but have to admit that I am apprehensive. If I were on reasonably flat ground I would expect to average about 19 mph, but this race sounds like it is much more hilly than I am used to.

TT, do you think I am getting in over my head for my first race. Their is another race in early May in Marine, IL which is just a little further for me to drive, so I could delay my first race a few weeks. I need to try it but dont mind admitting that I will probably be the last one in. Mick
I did not mean to imply that you should not do this, just that it is a hell of a place to start. I can't tell you what strategy will work for you, but you will learn a lot more at the front than at/off the back. The speed, the colors, the sound, the closeness, the smells - just enjoy racing. - TF
 

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Expect to have fun and get addicted.

Expect to get dropped, though.

Whatever you do, just ride smoothly and predictably, don't cut through corners, don't crash anyone out, don't crash anyone out, and try to find a good wheel to hang onto. Don't feel obligated to pull.

A cat 5 pack won't go very fast most of the time, but it's the accelerations that catch out most first-timers.

If you get dropped, just ride your race till the finish.

44 miles, like said above, shouldn't need more than 2 big bottles. Bring 'em.

Don't crash anyone out.
 

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Hillsboro Roubaix was my first race as well

TurboTurtle said:
I did not mean to imply that you should not do this, just that it is a hell of a place to start. I can't tell you what strategy will work for you, but you will learn a lot more at the front than at/off the back. The speed, the colors, the sound, the closeness, the smells - just enjoy racing. - TF
I was in the Cat 4/5 race. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the increase in pace about halfway through the first lap. Subsequently, a gap opened up, and I was stuck out in the wind by myself. The following year, I was ready for the "kick", made the break and ended up finishing 9th.

They do have (or they did a couple of years ago) a feed zone on the first hill that comes towards the end of each lap.

I say do the race, and if you get dropped, suffer to the end and take what you've learned to your next race.

BTW - I plan on being at Hillsboro Roubaix and the Marine, IL race since I grew up in the area.

Bill
 

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Expect the yo-yos. Don't worry about chasing attaks down, let somebody else do it, but anticipate and go with it. Ride to one side of the pack or the other, so you have an "out". You don't want to be boxed in the middle with guys all around you if there's a crash ahead of you. Plus you can't see what is going on ahead. Ride with one finger on the brakes at all times but don't use them unless you really have to. Adjust speed by soft pedaling. Identify the squirels (this is cat5, there will be some)...guys who can't ride a straight line and don't look stable or confident about what they are doing... and stay away from them. Try and conserve energy the whole race and let 'er rip on the major hills and in the last 5 miles. That is where the speed and intensity will ramp up considerably. Set your computer to miles, and keep alert about where you are in the race. Don't worry about anything else, speed, avg, time, none of that. Keep alert at all times. In a 44 mile race, especially if the pack is moving at a sane pace, you might start thinking about something else and want to space off, be careful and aware. Since this is the first time out, don't worry about your placing, make it a goal to finish with the pack. That will be a goal enough, because it will proabably be faster than you expect.
Don't take the outcome too seriously, you're not racing for a spot on the Olympic team, just have some fun. Post your experience.

brewster
 

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TurboTurtle said:
You're doing Hillsboro-Roubaix for your first race? It is a big, tough race with a 90 degree corner at the bottom of a long, fast hill. I think the corner is also brick. Enter the Cat5 - it's limited to only 50 riders. The 4/5 pack will be huge and the 45+ will probably have guys with Worlds warm up jackets on.
1 - Yup, you just line up. First come, first serve. If you really want to be competative, remember that the race has already started long before the gun goes off.
2 - My first road race was a big time race and my strategy was to get through the first corner upright and then latch on to any wheel that passed me. I was not in the lead pack at the finish, but I loved it and was hooked on road racing.
3 - It's 44 miles. Just take a couple of bottles of sports drink (if that's wahat you use) and maybe an extra bottle in your jersey pocket. The flyer says nothing about a 'feed zone', but I assume there is one since the Pro/1-2 race is 88 miles long. If you are going to do this, you need someone to pass you your bottle. Practice this before the race - you have to grab the bottle at speed. Be careful in this area because there may be bottle flying every which way.

Also be aware that everybody - Pros though Juniors - are out on the course at the same time. The main packs will never see each other, but stragglers will be overtaken by the next group(s).

I may be there, but I will have to race either 4/5 or 45+. Good luck - you will love it!

TF
Hey, I'm planning on doing my first race at Hillsboro too. You've done it before evidently, so I've got a question - how big is the Juniors field?
 

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megmarc said:
Last fall I posted a question about getting involved in racing. I had many very informative posts, but generally everyone said "enter a race and see if you like it". So in early April I will be entering my first race. It is a 44 mile road race in Hillsboro, Illinois. I have my USA Cycling license and am looking forward to my first race. I am 54 years old and have no expectations of competing to win but want to at least be competitive. Can you please tell me how it works and what to expect. Items of interest are:
1) Do I just line up at the approprate start time and take a position
2) As a real beginner should I start at the back of the pack
3) Are there water stations or do I need to carry enough water to finish
Any guideance is appreciated. thanks. Mick

Umm, have you done a training ride or a group ride/century ride of some sort?
 

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I am not writing specifically about that race, as I have never raced in the mid-west. My experiences have been in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Expect the pace to be much faster at times than what you are used to. Don't get discouraged. It won't last forever. The pain does go away eventually. Expect there to be lulls in the action. Don't get false security. Stay on your toes. Don't stray from a line a lot. Don't worry about what the guy behind you is doing. it's his responsibilty to either be paying attention, or find someone else to ride behind. Just be deliberate, but not sudden.

There. How hard does that sound? :D
 

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I am excited too. I will be entering my first race on April 22. Its only a 25 mile long race, but I am sure it will be very difficult. I keep trying to set a goal for good placing, but I know that most feasible goal is finishing with the pack.

I have been racing and competing in bicycling since I was 12 except it was in BMX and Freestyle. I tore my knee up twice really bad and switched to road. I anticipate I will do well, but I have a lot of training to do.

GOOD luck to you and the only advice I can give is that remember you are racing the track/course and not the other competitors. Yes there is some disagreement with that, but it helps you focus and get rid of the nervousness. This memory will live with you forever so make it a good one. To make it good doesn't involve placing well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
thanks again

Argentius, Brewster, Ashpelham and EOC-thanks for the great advice and encouragment. I am looking very forward to this first race and have no expectations other than to learn and enjoy.

Bas, I have done several group rides in the 50-60 mile range. Only mildly competitive, but with much younger riders. In most situations I get dropped about the 40-45 mile point. I should say though that these have been on reasonably flat terrain. Have never done or attempted a century.
 

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important racing revelations include:
racing hurts.
don't ever, ever, never let a gap form. ever. once you know your body and how the demands of racing feel, you can gauge things better, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you've already closed three gaps you've allowed to form, and you're thinking this gap thing is just not that much of a problem, I can close gaps, and then group really goes on the fourth time, and you are going backwards baby.
don't sprint if you can help it out of turns or to close gaps. power up. anticipate the demands. look ahead.
and, remember, racing hurts. that one never changes. if you haven't experienced, as one Cat 1 described it to me, that kind of eye-popping effort, it can be a real surprise. you will wonder whether you can do it. but you can. no one in that race is better than you. well, a few probably are. but most aren't.

it's a blast.
 

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pjfinch said:
I'm 49 now and a couple of years ago I went to a road race and entered Cat.5. My goal was just to sit in and ride with the pack. Even though I was fit for Febuary and had done a little MTB racing in the past I was intimidated and decided to sit at the rear of the pack. The race was 4 laps of an 8 mile loop that included one 1/2 mile climb. I hung on ok for the first lap. As a matter of fact if it wasn't for the yo-yoing after the corners I was feeling like I was just on a fast training ride.I would stand up after each corner and catch the peloton- "I can do this" I thought. And then came that climb at the end of the first lap. Boom! Off the pack went-standing and cranking for high heaven. There was a turn right before that hill and by the time I got around it and could see the climb I was blown off the back.. Never saw them again . I rode the last 3 laps mostly alone. A couple of times I tried to form my own group but nobody could ride at my pace. I did set a new PR for 34 miles. But I have often wondered what would have happened if I had not stayed at the rear and instead asserted myself and rode closer to the front. You see those guys near the front don't have to deal with energy-robbing yo-yoing at the turns. And you can be sure that they knew they were going to attack that hill under their own terms right after they rounded that corner. So I echo the previous advice- ride near the front. And be ready when the hammer drops. I was as fit as those guys but clueless as to the strategy- a strategy which I think proved to be more important than raw fitness. Good luck!
You did all that, felt as strong as the field, wondered what could have been, yada, yada, but didn't go back for a 2nd race?!?!??! Why the heck not?
 

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bill said:
important racing revelations include:
racing hurts.
don't ever, ever, never let a gap form. ever. once you know your body and how the demands of racing feel, you can gauge things better, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you've already closed three gaps you've allowed to form, and you're thinking this gap thing is just not that much of a problem, I can close gaps, and then group really goes on the fourth time, and you are going backwards baby.
don't sprint if you can help it out of turns or to close gaps. power up. anticipate the demands. look ahead.
and, remember, racing hurts. that one never changes. if you haven't experienced, as one Cat 1 described it to me, that kind of eye-popping effort, it can be a real surprise. you will wonder whether you can do it. but you can. no one in that race is better than you. well, a few probably are. but most aren't.

it's a blast.
This is mostly sound advice, but "never let a gap form" certainly isn't. There are plenty of times in racing when it is advantageous to let gaps open. Here are a few:

- Floating backwards from the front to the back on a hard climb on purpose to save energy.
- In a crit at non crucial moments when you'd like to wear out your competition who you know will come around to chase.
- Letting your teammate roll off the front and into a break when the field isn't paying attention.

Just saying. : )
 
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