6. USA Cycling
A non-profit corporation, USA Cycling is the organization supporting the Olympic movement for cycling in the U.S.A. Specifically, "The supreme purpose of the Corporation shall be the preservation, development, and administration of the sport of bicycle racing within the United States of America."
You can locate clubs and teams in your area through this site. They also offer education programs for coaches, mechanics and race officials.
7. What Kind of Race?
For most people, it is preferable to enter a time trial, hill climb, a road race or a circuit race as your first event. Depending on where you live, a criterium might be your only local option for racing. Crits require better bike skills and are generally leg-searing fast from the start. Be ready for close quarters and some bumping.
8. Which Category?
Racers are divided up into racing categories. Some races have "Citizen's Races." If you are new to the sport, this is where you will likely begin. They are split by gender, and sometimes (but not always) there are age-group splits. These events are for non-licensed racers and event brochures often have the word "fun" before "race." Make no mistake, there are people that focus on the second word more than the first.
The next categories are split into age groups that look like, "Senior Women 35+ or Senior Men 55+." Some races have only a couple of categories and others have more.
Races also have "Category" divisions, such as Cat I, Cat II, Cat III, Cat IV and Cat V. People new to the sport begin as a Cat V. As you do well in races and score points, you can apply for an upgrade to the next category. Cat I racers are the most experienced and fastest racers.
9. Learn About Rest
Eager to improve, it will be tempting for you to train, train, train. You do need to train; but you also need to rest. Plan to decrease training volume every third or fourth week so your body can rebuild and gain new levels of fitness. Know that anyone can ride "hard", not everyone rides fast.
10. Just Do It
Entering a new sport can seem overwhelming. Everyone that is a great racer now had to start somewhere. Just pick a race, get out there and give it a shot. After that first race is over, it's easy to make gains in fitness, nutrition, skills and race tactics.
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