What to Expect at Your First Bike Race

Unlike other sports, cycling places a heavy dependency on your equipment, with dozens of components that must be finely tuned and working well together. Cyclists often fret to the point of obsession over their bicycles. Racers may dwell on the amount of food they packed, what clothing should be worn on a cool day, or the proper tire pressure for the race.

You can reduce your own race-day anxiety by checking your bike thoroughly the night before each race. If you aren't experienced in the mechanics of your bicycle, consider having your local bike shop check it over a few days before.

All USAC sanctioned events require the use of a hip number to identify cyclists. Lately, timing chips are also being used. Be sure to allow sufficient time to affix your number and/or timing chip by checking-in and picking up all your materials at least an hour before your race start. If necessary, ask someone nearby to help you pin on your number.

More: Off the What? A Bicycle Racing Glossary

Numbers must be placed in the proper orientation on the correct side of the body according to the race officials. You may be disqualified if a number is missing or not visible. Unique bib colors or numbering ranges can be used to differentiate between the different categories in mass start events.

During some road events, different categories may start within a few minutes of each other, allowing a 5-minute gap between groups. It is not uncommon to have three or four different categories on the racecourse at the same time.

Color-coded numbers are used by race officials in these circumstances to separate which riders are allowed to be working together. If you didn't start at the same time with a group on the course, you are not allowed to work with that group. This means drafting from others in different groups is prohibited, and you must pull to one side if being overtaken by a faster group.

More: 6 Pre-Race Mental Preparation Tips for Cyclists

When it comes time to start, a race official will call your category to the staging area. This may be on the racecourse after the end of a previous criterium or on a driveway near a road course starting line. At this time, the USAC race official will give any special instructions, advisements or course alterations. Although uncommon, questions are allowed from participants if anything remains unclear.

The Yellow Line Rule

You will hear this rule mentioned more often than any other rule in the USAC rulebook. While criteriums are held on closed courses, most amateur road races are conducted on open roads with automobiles traveling in the same or opposite directions. In these circumstances, the yellow line can be a lifesaver in preventing head-on collisions with automobiles.

More: Pre-Race Homework: Knowing is Half the Battle

PREV
  • 3
  • of
  • 4
NEXT

About the Author

Jim Castagneri

Jim Castagneri is a 30-year veteran of competitive cycling and father of two junior cyclists. He spends is spare time coaching the Black Sheep Junior Cycling Team in Denver, Colorado as a USAC certified level-3 coach.
Jim Castagneri is a 30-year veteran of competitive cycling and father of two junior cyclists. He spends is spare time coaching the Black Sheep Junior Cycling Team in Denver, Colorado as a USAC certified level-3 coach.

Discuss This Article