Your First Race!
Not sure what to expect when you show up for your first bike race? Here’s a quick look!
Before Race Day
First things first, days, or even weeks, before your race, check the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) website. You can find the full year’sschedule of races, including links to the websites or race flyers for the events that have them. Check the location and the time of your race, so you can make sure to show up at the right place and on time. You can also pre-register for your race, which will save you money and time on race day. Also, buy yourself a racing license there if you haven’t got one already.
Besides getting registered, you’ll want to make sure you know how to race. Road racing requires some specific skills, like group riding and pacelining. You can learn these skills at clinics, by asking friends who race, or probably even on YouTube. The OBRA website has some good resources, including clinics. Take a look at the official OBRA rules.
The day before your race, consider getting your race bag together. Things you’ll need are your race numbers and OBRA license, your kit/racing gear (dress warm – the early season races can be cold!), some food for before and after your race, some water, your helmet, your shoes, gloves, sunglasses if you have them, and some clothes to change into afterward (bring a towel or a “changing skirt” to help avoid flashing everyone else at the race while you change!). You can also bring along your trainer if you have one and want to use it to warm up on race day. Check your bike for issues, and make sure your tires are pumped up to the pressure you like, and your chain is well lubed. Eat a good dinner the night before, and drink lots of water throughout the day.
On race day, try to eat a filling breakfast about 3 hours before your race, but bring some snacks to have closer to your start time. Just don’t eat a big meal or snack right before your race! Get to the race a bit early. Everyone develops their own pre-race routine, but generally, you want time to check in at the OBRA tent, get a warm up (30 minutes on a trainer or the road), use the bathroom if you need, eat a little before your race, and get to the start on time so you’re not rushing around like crazy. If you plan to warm up on the road, be sure you are not on the race course. Ask an OBRA official if you have any questions at all, they’ll be happy to help!
At the Start Line
The OBRA officials will give you a rundown of the race once everyone is ready to start – you’ll want to hear it! Most OBRA races have a neutral roll out, which means everyone rides together at a slower speed than you will probably ride during the race. The lead car (the car that drives ahead of your field during the race) will guide you on how fast to go. When it’s time to start racing, the lead car will beep the horn a few times and accelerate, and the race is on!
Race hard! Never pass your lead car, and never cross the yellow center line. If you get dropped from the main group of racers, don’t sweat it. Keep riding hard, and think of all the good fitness you’re getting. While you’re racing, there will usually be volunteers directing you at the corners so you don’t go off the course. If you finish with the main group, be safe in the finishing sprint and don’t swerve when you’re sprinting. Ride in a straight line across the finish line, and be sure to roll down the road a bit to give others room to finish.
After the Finish
When the race is over, whether you won, lost, or placed somewhere in between, be a good sport. Drink some water, chat a bit with some of your fellow racers, have a recovery snack, and plot your moves for next time around.