Road Racing 101 - Michael Carsten

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Michael Carsten is a Cat 4 racer on the road and spent a few years learning the art of crit and road racing. He weighs in with his thoughts on how to get started below.  

Personally, I think the most important part is just not to be intimidated by racing. At the entry levels of racing, everyone else is trying the exact same thing as you are.  Everyone is a little nervous, everyone lacks the experience that you lack. They all thought it would be fun (just like you) and are giving it a go. Also, you will never know until you try. I have found that simply jumping in head-first is the best way to learn. Just like in every group, there will be someone there stronger than you, and someone there weaker than you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will beat the weaker person and that the stronger person will beat you. It just means that you can learn from everyone in the race to try and get better at it next time. It also means you don’t have to be the strongest to jump in, and if you feel like you aren’t strong enough, its ok. It sounds cliché, but most importantly have fun! Simply put, if you don’t have fun, maybe its not the right thing for you.

What are the two most important things I should be aware of when considering racing my first crit/road race? 

MC - Assure you are comfortable riding in a pack or in close quarters with other riders.

It’s January and I want to race in May, what should I be doing between now and then to train?

MC – This one is hard to answer.   Intervals are key, I found success in finding training plans online and following them.  One that really seemed to work for me was the “Time Crunched Cyclist."

How fast do I need to be able to ride to be able to race in a Cat 5 crit race? 

MC – Just as fast as you can J, its one of those things that I don’t think you know until you try.  With the draft and everything a cat5 race could average over 22mph (or more), but that doesn’t mean you have to be able to hold 22mph for 30minutes on your own.  You just need to be able to go as hard as you can for the entire length of the race.

How important is it to ride with others come spring? 

MC – It is important to be comfortable riding in a group and having other riders close by at speed.  This may be the most important thing about getting comfortable in these races.  Being comfortable is the most important part toward having fun

How do I find others that want to train? 

MC – look to local clubs and groups that have weekly group rides.

Do I need to be a part of a team to do well at races? 

MC – I personally don’t think this matters until you get up to cat 3.  There is so much going on in a race that it takes a lot of experience to know how to execute as a team.  Some cat 4 teams will be able to execute, but this seems much less common than the higher categories.