Welcome to the good life
As I start my racing season plenty of people have been asking me about what goes on in a cycling race. This is the first of a couple of posts answering that question. Not all of this stuff happens before every race but here are some things that IMHO need doing.
What happens before a race?
1) Get your licence. USA Cycling (USAC, said "You Sack") is the governing body for American cycling. You need to pay for an annual liceance or pay a one-day race insurance fee. I think you break even at 4 races. Since I'm doing 10+ this summer I shelled out the dough.
2) Get your upgrade. Cycling is divided into catagories. On the road they are 5 through 1 followed by pro on the men's side and 4 through pro on the women's. The first upgrade (from 5 to 4 for the men) just requires that you start 10 USAC sanctioned mass-strart races (no triathlons, no TTTs or ITTs). All the other upgrades require that you score points in races (TTs and TTTs count for points). The last upgrade to Pro requires that you sign on with a registered Pro team. I just got around to requesting my 4 -> 5 upgrade last week though I had been eligable for a while. I hope to get my 3 by the end of the summer but I have a lot of work to do for that.
3) Tune up your bike. If you're doing this on your own (as I'm trying to learn to do) you should do this a few days ahead of time so you have time to work out all the kinks. Unless...you know...you actually know what you're doing. I like to stip down my bike as much as possible before a race. Take your seat bag off. Either there's going to be neutral support or you're going to be screwed - you're not changing a tire and catching up. The races in my cat are short so unless it's a really hot day I use one bottle (1/2 full for a crit). I take the extra cage off.
4) Get Pretty. Maybe this is a just a Wisconsin Cycling thing or maybe just because I'm vain but I take after the Europeans when it comes to race prep. In Europe cycling is a mainstream sport. People follow it, kids grow up wanting to do it, chicks dig it. Maybe it's because Europeans drive tiny Vespas and Fiats instead of SUVs that are modified military assault vehicles so they're more than happy to share the road - but I digress.
Go the extra mile to look like a baller...who decided to shave his legs and wear spandex. You don't show up to a bike race looking like your going to your local adult softball game. Throwing on your team T-shirt over some shorts and heading out the door won't cut it. Your bike has to shine. Throw on some coats of BikeLust or your polish of choice on there. You legs should shine. Take extra time to shave them real nice. Sunscreen (or baby oil) just before the race help add the extra glow. Wash your kit. Unless you have a beard or are going to the grizzled look shave your face. Clean the crud off your glasses. If you have team bottles, wind covers, armwarmers, gloves etc; make sure you bring them. You should look like a pro. It makes you feel legit when you roll off the line and it's just more fun that way.
It's not just how fast you go when you looking good. It's how good you look when your going fast.