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  1. #1
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    Abosolute beginners guide to racing sport clase

    The following is meant to help anyone thinking of starting off racing in sport class. I learned several very basic lessons through 12 races this year so I am going to post them in hopes you don't repeat my mistakes and if any more experience riders would like to critic my opinion please do, I know enough to know I need to know a lot more.

    1. Just because you think you are relatively fast and in good shape, be prepared to get blown out. I don't regret starting out in sport, I do believe I was too good for beginner. Before your first race besure you can handle a 2 hour ride, most of my races didn't last that long but several were right up on that time limit for me. Now at the end of the season I can breeze through that time but at the beginning I thought I was going to die.

    2. I don't recommend the baggy style of riding shorts. They never gave me any problems while training but racings is way different than training, you will sweat more and by the end of really long races the shorts will begin to sag due to sweat and will catch on your seat.

    3. Gloves are a must. I was wasting way too much energy trying to hold onto the handle bars with no gloves and sweaty hands.

    4. Good glasses are highly recommend, and a Helo is a must to keep the sweet out of your eyes and off the lenses.

    5. How to eat before a race. This was one of my biggest hurtles. I read may posts with advice on how to eat before a race, none of the suggestions worked for me and it was killing me. What worked for me was to eat my regular breakfast of either Quinoa or Ham and Cheese Omlet then eat a peanut butter or almond butter and jelly sandwich about and hour later but still 1:45 - 2 hours before the start of the race. I suggest scheduling a few weekend rides to start at the time your races will start, this way you are not trying to figure it out on the fly, I had wasted half of my season riding with no energy.

    6. Tire pressure!! My 1st race I ran 60PSI, what a mistake. By the end of the season I was running tubeless at 28 PSI. If you have extra money for your bike, I think the best upgrade you can make is a good wheelset.

    7. Energy gels. Starting out I relied very heavily on gels just to get me through the races. By the end of the year I had decreased my use of them almost completely in training but still us them in races. I like the taste of GU the best but hammer gel in a flask is the only way to go in a race, GU will not come out of a flask.

    8. Involve your family. I felt like was leaving my wife and kid all time to do the races so I bought an used pop-up camper. Now my daughter loves to go camping. Now I can go race bikes and spend time with my family, this was my best investment of the year.

    9. By the last race of year I was locking out my fork on climbs and I had a huge increase in speed. I learned this by looking at the singlespeed bikes and trying to figure out how they could go down the trail so fast.

    I could go on and on with this list but it is a good start.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    I could go on and on with this list but it is a good start.
    feel free to continue. I plan to do a few beginner races next year. I'm sure advice from sport class would come in handy for a beginner as well?
    SS ==> Nut up or Shut up!

  3. #3
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    Nice thread idea!

    One of the most important things I have learned as this year (my first year racing too) is hydration and during race nutrition is so very very important. Everybody is different, so play around with this. I found that I need to be consuming ALOT of water and nutrition. I am now using cytomax, which has been awesome!

    I also will use two bottles (luckily collegiate races have feed stations and my buddies can hook me up!) for hour plus races. And even during short track I will consume over half a bottle, I pick a spot in the track that is slow and smooth enough to take a swig... I really feel this helps keep me in top notch energy shape

  4. #4
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    I will add that taking rest time is HUGE when it comes to training! Everybody gets so amped up and rides like crazy too often. But take a few days after a race to rest up, and even after long training days, take the next day off.

    Your body needs time and energy to recover and build stronger, so take good care of yourself!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pyrotyro View Post
    Nice thread idea!

    One of the most important things I have learned as this year (my first year racing too) is hydration
    I typically try to drink enough water leading up to a race so that my urine is clear the day before the race, the only draw back to this is I typically have to get up the night of the race 3 or more time and go to the restroom. I also take 2 endurolights just before the race. If it is really hot I will take them throughout the race.

    Even though I still get cramps the endurolights really help. I have found that as the season progressed I got less cramps though the never went away.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the thread! I am looking forward to trying Sport next year. Going to wait till I podium in Cat3 first (or get top 10 2x), but I expect that to happen by my 3rd or 4th race of the year.

    I totally get what your saying about the family! I bring my girlfriend and my kids (one of the boys races too) and we have a blast!
    People ask me all the time "who beat you up"? I tell them "a tree". They just look at me funny....

  7. #7
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    Sport Cat 2 races:

    Very intense up front (the top 5 or 7 racers in sport classes, can usually race Cat 1 expert and do pretty well), laid back in the back...

    If you are going to contend, get up on the line, if your not, the back half of the race is a good place to learn.

    If you elect to get up front, be prepared to be on the rivet for a while, as the top tier racers will try to string out the field (and they will).

    (I would be one of those racers, and I can tell you in all honesty... there was a group of about 5 to 10 of us who would drop the hammer... the rest of the field was left behind for good in less than 10 - 15 mins. Usually, there was/is no catching this group. Be prepared to keep a group like this in sight if you want to contend, if you don't, the next time you see them, they will be drinking beer at the finishline.

    A very good warm up is a must!!!

    What really makes a difference is pace... Once the field is strung out, pace becomes very important... you need to know how to ride at a good pace for a long time (our races last 1:45-2:15 hrs, and usually 2-4000k in climbing). Pace!

    Recovering from the intense start and getting into a high but manageable pace will go along way to improving your finishes.

    ... you can make up ground on the descents, and leave racers behind in the bottom half... but the top 7 or 8 places will be determined on the climbs.

    ...if you are in the back half of the class, expect to be passed often by the leaders of the classes behind you. If you're up front, and contending, be prepared to deal with a ton of traffic in front of you. Have a good method for passing, be polite and pass where it's safe AND efficient so you don't blow yourself up in the process (or crash).

    So, there are some thoughts... perhaps a few are applicable
    Last edited by strat819; 10-13-2011 at 09:55 AM.

  8. #8
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    #9 is a good one but can get you into trouble on long climbs when you're tired and forget to unlock before decending. I've done that a few times. Just dont forget.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    I typically try to drink enough water leading up to a race so that my urine is clear the day before the race, the only draw back to this is I typically have to get up the night of the race 3 or more time and go to the restroom. I also take 2 endurolights just before the race. If it is really hot I will take them throughout the race.

    Even though I still get cramps the endurolights really help. I have found that as the season progressed I got less cramps though the never went away.
    I don't know how much is required to get you up three times a night but drinking too much water can actually sap the electrolytes from your body. I find it works best for me if I always stay hydrated then I don't have to try and 'top off" before an event or long training ride.

  10. #10
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    I did my first XC race this summer in 4 years after doing the Endurance thing for the past 3 years. Finished 5th/32 I did get the comment of racing Expert when I past someone on a fireroad. The top 10 people in sport could race Expert and hang. I'm going back to XC racing next season the go fast bug bit me again.

    Doing more fast pace group road rides help alot. Did a bunch of them this summer in the 50 mile range. Need to figure out what timed intervals to practice and such. I'd like to be competive in Sport/Cat 2 next season.

  11. #11
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    I skipped Cat 3 and started in Cat 2 also. In the women's field, this is easier to do than in the men's field because there are a lot less competitors in the lady's classes. The chances of winning are higher as a result. But I noticed a lot of the same parallels that you guys are mentioning.

    The most important thing I learned was that I had been fueling myself all wrong. In Cat 2 races, I was trying to eat cliff bars and shot blocks mid race. Way too hard to unwrap and chew. It really messed up my breathing. I figured out that gel packs (Gu) worked better for me.

    It wasn't until my next season in Cat 1/Elite that I realized I wasn't fueling frequently enough. I used to eat a gu pack every 30-45 min. I would fatigue at the end of the race. I learned that one of my Elite competitors eats a gu pack every 15 minutes. I tried it and it helped immensely! I did not hit the wall or run out of energy.

    To eat gel this often, I found the soft flask works best. It's pliable and easy to suck or squeeze out the gel. Also Hammer Gel flows better than Gu.

    If I'd have known this in my Sport level races, I know I could have done even better than I did.

    Also, be sure to load up on slow burning carbs (like quinoa, long grain rice, multi grain stuff... not white rice and pasta) for not only 1 day, but 2 days before the race.

    And the warm up is crucial, to me at least. Some people can go hard out of the gate, but I always feel like I ride better once I've spent 30 minutes on the bike. If you don't get your heart accustomed to being at 160-180, that first 10 minutes of the race is going to make you feel like death. I try to arrive at the start line warm and after spending at least 10 minutes at my race pace zone.
    Angie
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by strat819 View Post
    Sport Cat 2 races:

    Very intense up front (the top 5 or 7 racers in sport classes, can usually race Cat 1 expert and do pretty well), laid back in the back...

    If you are going to contend, get up on the line, if your not, the back half of the race is a good place to learn.

    If you elect to get up front, be prepared to be on the rivet for a while, as the top tier racers will try to string out the field (and they will).

    (I would be one of those racers, and I can tell you in all honesty... there was a group of about 5 to 10 of us who would drop the hammer... the rest of the field was left behind for good in less than 10 - 15 mins. Usually, there was/is no catching this group. Be prepared to keep a group like this in sight if you want to contend, if you don't, the next time you see them, they will be drinking beer at the finishline.

    A very good warm up is a must!!!

    What really makes a difference is pace... Once the field is strung out, pace becomes very important... you need to know how to ride at a good pace for a long time (our races last 1:45-2:15 hrs, and usually 2-4000k in climbing). Pace!

    Recovering from the intense start and getting into a high but manageable pace will go along way to improving your finishes.

    ... you can make up ground on the descents, and leave racers behind in the bottom half... but the top 7 or 8 places will be determined on the climbs.

    ...if you are in the back half of the class, expect to be passed often by the leaders of the classes behind you. If you're up front, and contending, be prepared to deal with a ton of traffic in front of you. Have a good method for passing, be polite and pass where it's safe AND efficient so you don't blow yourself up in the process (or crash).

    So, there are some thoughts... perhaps a few are applicable
    I'm currently in sport and will second all this. Great info.

  13. #13
    Rod
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    I've read some good things that I agree with in this thread. Strat819 summed it up well. Along with what he said you need to have a good place into the woods or the race is over. The few people who get to the woods first don't have to pass anyone so they're making time while you're sitting behind a slower person. This is common knowledge, but it's also extremely important. You have to sprint to the woods.

    Also setting pace is very important. You have to be able to do this even when you don't see the person in front of you. This was my big downfall last year. I wouldn't know I was so close to the person in front of me and I would relax a bit. I lost several races doing this.

    Racing for the win or position is a complete mind game. Use this to your advantage.

    Get a lot of rest after big rides or races.

    Others have said this, but a Gu flask is mandatory.

    Don't race if you're feeling bad.

    Don't ride a lot during the week you're going to race.

    Find out what works best for you on race day. I couldn't eat the OP's breakfast and race. I would have gotten sick.

    Don't enter the race dehydrated.

    Don't buy semi-slicks thinking faster tires will make you faster. Used in the wrong conditions, low profile tires can be very dangerous and life threatening. A friend hit a tree on a downhill. He was lucky and some how dodged the tree that he hit so he walked away.

    Most race courses I race aren't technical at all. My full suspension bike is complete overkill even though I need it in my local area. Extra weight for nothing.

    If you read the one above this, I need to spend more time working on my motor. Check out your local race courses if you have the time and money to see if you need to spend more time working on your motor or technical skills. In North Carolina, I needed my technical skills.
    There is not much choice between rotten apples.

  14. #14
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    Please make sure you can actually ride a mountain bike over obsticals at speed without becomming one. If not start in Novice, I grow tired of people with very little bike skill starting in Sport, they are a danger to themselves and other racers.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ErickKTM View Post
    Please make sure you can actually ride a mountain bike over obsticals at speed without becomming one. If not start in Novice, I grow tired of people with very little bike skill starting in Sport, they are a danger to themselves and other racers.
    I second this. I have been racing my bike for 4 years and I'm still amazed at the amount of Sport riders who cannot negotiate technical obsticals. I hate when a coursed is nerfed and some of the harder obsticals are removed. If you need to walk a simple rock garden or drop then you should not be racing.

    For a simple Sport race, I tend to not eat anything during the race and just use a water bottle filled with NUUN. I found that by trying to eat gels/other food on the bike just slowed me down and had zero effect on my time/position. The night before a race top I top off my glycogen reserves with a nice pasta dinner.

    Another tip is to work on getting up climbs fast. Hammer up to the top and when you finally reach the top don't let up until the downhill.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by "Rod" View Post
    Others have said this, but a Gu flask is mandatory.
    I would be curious as to what distance and durations some of you experience in your local/state series with regard to having to fuel with GU or Hammer Gel while on the bike.

    At least in many of the Midwest state series races, some CAT II Sport races target 60-75 minutes for the finishing time of the CAT II winners. Obviously, not all races end up being exactly that time duration for the winners due to conditions, race directors misjudging the speed of the finishers, or not being able to adjust the lap length to target the suggested finish times (or simply ignoring the series guidelines), but I was curious what other areas of the US (outside of the Midwest) use for targeted finish times and distance in the CAT II Sport class.

    Wisconsin WORS

    Sport (USA Cycling Category 2*): (Men & Women) A Sport competitor is an experienced racer of average ability. Women with 3 top 5 and men with 3 top 10 overall finishes (not age class) in WORS Sport category for the year must advance the following year. USA Cycling Road category 4 & 5 racers may compete in this category, however men competing on the road at category 3 level or higher on the road with USA Cycling and/or any other road association must race WORS Comp or above. Winning time in this category will generally be approximately 65 minutes (course length of 12-18 miles dependent upon course & conditions).

    Minnesota MMBS

    Sport: Course length for the Sport class is approximately 15 miles or 70 minutes to 75 minutes in length for the top finishers. A Sport class racer is an experienced racer with good conditioning. The Sport class also offers both a Clydesdale category for male racers weighing 200 pounds or greater and a Singlespeed category.


    Nebraska Psycowpath

    CAT 2: More experienced riders who can ride for 2+ hours with no problems. Race duration 70-110 mins.


    Iowa IMBCS

    CAT II: 60-70 Minutes

    I should say one caveat is that Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa all have a non-USA Cycling sanctioned category between Sport (CAT II) and Expert (CAT I) called COMP. It's a category targeted with a 90 minute finish time and is usually one lap more than Sport and one lap less than Expert.

  17. #17
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    I live on NC and our Sport XC races are anywhere from 13-20 miles. Refueling is completely unnecessary at those distances(unless you happen to bonk out on the course, and if that happened you need to re-evaluate your eating habitats before a race). My local summer series races have a category between sport and Expert that I compete in. The distance is the same as sport but the competition is harder.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PainkillerSPE View Post
    I live on NC and our Sport XC races are anywhere from 13-20 miles. Refueling is completely unnecessary at those distances
    Just not sure this is good advice. Not saying that it can't be done... but for the majority of us, fuel and hydration every 30 minutes is pretty much a must do. I "get" the 13 mile race, but 15 to 20? That's a 90 minute to 2 hr race in Sport... unless you race on flat fire roads... and I am pretty certain you don't.

    edit: maybe less than 90 minutes (not really sure of your courses), but 20 miles would be an 1:30-1:45 race for us.

    My bet is, if you refueled at least once, you may just be a bit faster.

    Just sayin', ya know?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    I would be curious as to what distance and durations some of you experience in your local/state series with regard to having to fuel with GU or Hammer Gel while on the bike.
    Colorado Front Range: Sport/Cat II, typically 18-26 miles, ave ~3k in vertical ft of climbing. Race starts at 9k ft. Top 5-10 racers typically finish in 1:45 to 2:15 hrs.

    I can't tell you how many Sport/Cat II racers bonk in the last 30 minutes (more than you would expect). Having done races like that w 1 bottle of something, versus 2 bottles plus choking down something like EFS goop and bonk busters every 30 minutes... Personally, I am wayyyyy stronger in the last 30 mins with all the additional fuel. I bet most others are too.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by strat819 View Post
    Colorado Front Range: Sport/Cat II, typically 18-26 miles, ave ~3k in vertical ft of climbing. Race starts at 9k ft. Top 5-10 racers typically finish in 1:45 to 2:15 hrs.

    I can't tell you how many Sport/Cat II racers bonk in the last 30 minutes (more than you would expect). Having done races like that w 1 bottle of something, versus 2 bottles plus choking down something like EFS goop and bonk busters every 30 minutes... Personally, I am wayyyyy stronger in the last 30 mins with all the additional fuel. I bet most others are too.
    Yes, at that duration and distance, I would certainly want Heed in my bottle and a GU or two in my jersey pocket (anything approaching 2 hours or 2+ hours I keep some GU with me in the pocket). That's a pretty decent length CAT II race.

    CAT I races in the Midwest target a 100 minute finish time (25-32 miles) for Wisconsin; 130 minutes (25 miles) for Minnesota; 110-140 minutes Nebraska; 120 minutes in Iowa, so I'm pretty impressed the Colorado races are 2:15 (135 minutes) for CAT II. What's the targeted duration for the CAT I races in Colorado?

    BB

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by strat819 View Post
    Colorado Front Range: Sport/Cat II, typically 18-26 miles, ave ~3k in vertical ft of climbing. Race starts at 9k ft. Top 5-10 racers typically finish in 1:45 to 2:15 hrs.

    I can't tell you how many Sport/Cat II racers bonk in the last 30 minutes (more than you would expect). Having done races like that w 1 bottle of something, versus 2 bottles plus choking down something like EFS goop and bonk busters every 30 minutes... Personally, I am wayyyyy stronger in the last 30 mins with all the additional fuel. I bet most others are too.
    Quote Originally Posted by strat819 View Post
    Just not sure this is good advice. Not saying that it can't be done... but for the majority of us, fuel and hydration every 30 minutes is pretty much a must do. I "get" the 13 mile race, but 15 to 20? That's a 90 minute to 2 hr race in Sport... unless you race on flat fire roads... and I am pretty certain you don't.

    edit: maybe less than 90 minutes (not really sure of your courses), but 20 miles would be an 1:30-1:45 race for us.

    My bet is, if you refueled at least once, you may just be a bit faster.

    Just sayin', ya know?

    I'm not saying that it works for everyone. For my race conditions the climbing is not that bad and the races are less than one hour or a little over an hour. The top three riders in my class averaged between 12.0 and 14 MPH each race. I did well in my series netting me a third place overall with two second place finishes. The leader in my class was a beast that just demolished everyone. Trying to open and consume gel on tight single track is almost impossible with out slowing down and with those guys one slowdown or mistake was enough to lose and the leaders never touched a gel during the race.

    Hydration is extremely important. I never said to skip on that. Not eating during a 1-hour race works for me without affecting my speed. If I'm doing a long distance race I will switch to eating every gu, shot blocks, or Stinger Waffles every hour.


    Typical Race for me.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post
    What's the targeted duration for the CAT I races in Colorado?

    BB
    Here is a profile of one of our races: Some had different distance for Expert (while others were the same). Just for reference: in my age group, the winning time of this race (the Crankworx), Sport ~21miles was: 1:51. The winner of Expert (25.5 miles) same age: 2:07. The pace of the Sport winner: 5:26 And the Expert winner 4:58. At a pace of 5:26, the winner of this Sport race would have finished 8th in Expert if he could maintain that pace for another 15 minutes or so. The top 5-to-8 racers would have likely finished above DFL in Expert, to the point that... don't underestimate the quality of racer in Sport... there are really good racers in Sport, the field just isn't as deep as Expert...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Abosolute beginners guide to racing sport clase-cwc.jpg  


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    painkillerSPE... yup, ok... im with you... I would only take one bottle with me and nothing more for a race of this type.

    I guess a good lesson is: know the course and be prepared with only what you need. Nothing more.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown View Post

    What's the targeted duration for the CAT I races in Colorado?

    BB
    Here is another: Sport Cat 2 and Expert went same distance and course: Expert winner: 1:57. Sport winner: 2:07. (both same age class) Sport winner would have finished 9th in Cat 1.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Abosolute beginners guide to racing sport clase-kor.png  


  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by strat819 View Post
    Here is another: Sport Cat 2 and Expert went same distance and course: Expert winner: 1:57. Sport winner: 2:07. (both same age class) Sport winner would have finished 9th in Cat 1.
    That's a heck of a XC race right there. I would definitely need food and a camelback for that one. I agree 100% with you the course definitely will dictate your hydration and nutrition needs.

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