The Amateur Ranks
Even if you're not one of the few riders cut out to make the pro tour, American racing is at a pretty high level. USA Cycling has a classification system for amateur riders that starts at "Cat 5" and goes to "Cat 1," the highest ranking.
A breakdown of the categories is as follows:
- Cat 5: Entry level. Any athlete with strong aerobic/anaerobic fitness can hang, usually upgraded if you win a race.
- Cat 4: Typical weekend warrior. Probably doesn't stay on the bike throughout the winter, just learning how to race and train.
- Cat 3: Intermediate level. Trains more consistently, has won a handful of races and placed a few top 10's.
- Cat 2: More elite. Much higher commitment level.
- Cat 1: Elite. "Probably looking at anywhere between 600 to 750 hours on a bike each year," Miller says.
For more details on the demanding criteria of category upgrades, visit USA Cycling
Where to Start
Whatever level of cyclist you are or want to be, the first step of your journey should be finding a coach in your area. Coaches can help you navigate inevitable errors and point you in the right direction. Remember, success as a competitor does not automatically make someone a good coach, so do some research to find a cycling coach to meet your needs.
There are also several regional development camps that will expose you to some valuable people and resources in the sport of cycling. Check out USA Cycling to find a camp near you.
Even if you don't make it all the way to the top as a competitive cyclist, it's a very positive sport that can benefit you in several non-athletic ways. Long training rides require discipline as they cut into time for other activities, so cyclists tend to learn excellent time-management skills, and are very detail-oriented and self-motivating.Search for a cycling event.