Club Tool Kit

Your First Race Day

You’ve found a club or team. You’ve learned the basics of racing through slow speed drills, pack riding clinics, cornering and sprint drills and you are ready to do your first race What next? How do you ACTUALLY get started racing your bike.

A great thing about being part of a club is you’ll have teammates who are familiar with the local races and will be able to give you guidance about where to start and insights into the various courses. Check the event calendar on or on the webpage of your Local Association to find races near you. You’ll find options! Criteriums, circuit races, road races, time trials, cross country mountain bike races, enduros, gravity events, cyclocross and track races. Look for the event discipline you are most interested and go ahead and register! Most events offer both online and on-site registration but make sure you check and avoid any surprises!

All USA Cycling events require a racing license - either an annual membership or a one-day license. Racing is categorized by experience level. For road cycling, track and cyclocross events Category 5 is the entry level category and Category 1 or Pro is the most experienced. Each Category is achieved by race results. In mountain biking there are three categories and you have the ability to self-select categories based on experience and skill level. Be prepared to show your license at registration or purchase a one-day license if you have not already.

On race day, give yourself lots of time. If you can, carpool with a teammate. You’ll want to:

  • Have time to find a parking spot. If your team has a tent or is set up together, set yourself up with them.
  • Get to registration and sign waivers and pick up your number. Don’t forget to grab safety pins!
  • Make sure you confirm what side of your jersey your number should be pinned on. Make sure it’s not upside down! Have a teammate help you pin, help a teammate!
  • Get in a nice warm up. Rule of thumb - the shorter the race, the longer/harder the warm-up.
  • Pre-ride the course when it’s allowed. Look for bumps in the road, cracks, manhole covers - any type of road hazard that you’ll want to avoid in the race. Remember where they are!
  • Try the course at speed!
  • Get to the start in plenty of time!
  • Have fun!

What goes in your race bag:

  • Helmet, shoes, race kit
  • Change of clothes for after race
  • Towel (for covering up while changing)
  • Race nutrition. Depending on the length of your race, you may need some form of in-race nutrition (gels, blocks, chews, etc). Right before your race, have a gel or chew at the minimum.
  • Race hydration. Again how much and what depends on how long your race is and the conditions you’ll be racing in.
  • Extra safety pins for pinning your numbers on(in case the race runs out)
  • Spare hanger for your rear derailleur

Some other things to thing think about before race day:

  • Get your bike tuned up. Make sure your tires are in good shape and your shifting and braking is in good order.
  • Know in advance if there is a safe place to warm up on the road or if you should bring a stationary trainer with you.
  • If you have a spare set of wheels bring them. In crits you can put them in the wheel pit in case of a flat, in the wheel truck for road races and in the pits for cyclocross. Don’t forget to pick them up after your race is done!
  • Know the rules before you start. Your teammates will be super helpful with this. Know what to do if you’re lapped or in a breakaway!

Finally, pay attention to the officials on the start line. They are there to help and make sure your race goes smoothly. Often times they are going to provide you with valuable information that you may need - alerting you to where medical tents are located, reminding you of the rules, where results will be posted, any changes to the course or specific things to look for on the course.

Mostly importantly have fun! When your race is done, stay and cheer! Volunteer to be a course marshal. And have more fun!