A Junior Exploring Racing

I was sent an email asking “I have a junior that races BMX and would like to explore racing road, criterium and cyclocross.  How do we get started?”  I have just returned from USAC Junior / Elite Track Nationals so my opinion on what you should do has a lot with what I saw at Nationals this past week.

Junior Race Team:  The first item on the list for a junior exploring racing is seek out the local cycling clubs and see if they offer a junior race team and ask the following questions:

  1. What is the team’s philosophy?
  2. What disciplines does the team stress – road, criterium, cyclocross or track?
  3. Do they have a team coach?
  4. What is a typical week of training?
  5. Where do they normally train?
  6. Does the team train together?

Have your athlete go on a ride with the team and see if they click, if the athlete feels uncomfortable or does not like what they see or hear, look for another team.

A good junior team will expose the juniors to all types of racing.  Road races in early spring, Criterium in summer, Track racing spring through fall and Cyclocross fall through winter.

Do not let free equipment cloud your decision.  It is my experience that athletes that jump from team to team because of free equipment, usually do not stay together.  Your junior should be working on developing his skills, his endurance and his speed vs. getting a free equipment.

Benefits of training with a Junior Race team is:

  1. The juniors are having fun while learning.
  2. Juniors prefer to train with other juniors
  3. Since training with other juniors is more fun your athlete will be more opt to go train.

If the team does not have a coach, then the second item on the list for a junior exploring racing is hire a coach.  At the age of 14 they will need help to get ready for next year, the 13/14 year olds I saw racing this past weekend were fast and 15/16 year olds were even faster.

Private Coaching: If you start looking for a coach ask these questions:

  1. Are they a USAC certified coach? Certified coaches have the education, the insurance and participant in Safe Sport program.
  2. What tools do they use to monitor the athletes data?
  3. What experience do they have working with juniors? Juniors are not just little people nor does a junior have the same mental capacity as an adult. Again they are all over the board.
  4. How often will they speak or see the athlete?
  5. How often will they produce the training schedule?
  6. Will they help the junior develop a goal to work toward?

Cycling is a great sport for juniors to participant in.   The sport teaches discipline and commitment that the junior will use throughout their life time.  Working with a team or having a private coach will be the junior’s support system, so make sure it is a good fit.


Who Thinks He Can

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a person’s will–
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But soon or late the one who wins


Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill 1937



“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.” – Kobe Bryant 


What’s Next for Young Trackies

During the summer, the Alkek Velodrome offered a free program for kids to learn to ride or race the track.   After the first session, I was at the Velodrome training and racing with my kids and husband every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and some Saturday’s for the next 9 years. My kids are now grown, married and attending college after retiring from cycling in 2012. Currently, I coach at the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, Georgia and have about 30 kids who attend the Junior League programs. Dick Lane’s program runs from April through October. Throughout the program we teach skills on the track, try to teach different racing techniques, and race a lot. In the final week of the program I thought it would be helpful for the parents (some are non-cycling families) to know what their kids can aim toward.

Junior Program – Almost every track in the U.S. has a program – a 3 day summer camp or a 7 month program like at Dick Lane to introduce track racing. Some tracks offer junior race teams whose goal is help develop the junior toward National championship and beyond. All skills learned on the track will be used in other cycling events – road racing, criterium racing, and cyclocross or off road.

Local Races – Every track has a certification program to teach adults how to ride the track. Some tracks may require juniors to attend the class. The juniors would then have opportunities to race with the adults.

State Championship – Offered once a year, can be a single or two day event, age based races.

National Championship – Offered once a year, this event may be offered in another state (Carson, CA – Rock Hill, South Carolina – Frisco, TX – T-Town, PA) – if your junior is not part of a team that sponsors National Championships then save your money. You will have entry fees, travel, bike fees (fee for flying your bike to your destination), hotel and food expenses. But your junior will learn so much, they will meet kids from all over the U.S., they will learn how to lose and they may learn how to win. Even if your junior wins at every race at the local track this does not mean your junior will win at National’s. Leave the big egos at home. The success of your 17 / 18 year old junior at Track Nationals could lead to an invitation to attend Junior Worlds, Pan American Championship or Pan American Games.


There are four Track National Championships offered every year: Junior National Championship – ages 9 to 18; Collegiate Track Championship (the college must have a cycling club); Elite Track Championship – ages 19+ (juniors 17 & 18 can attend Elite Track Nationals, check with USAC for rules); and Master Track Championship – ages 35+.


International Competition


Junior Worlds – for ages 17 & 18. The junior must meet the time standards USAC requires. If the junior meets the time standards, then USAC will sponsor the trip. If the junior does not meet the time standards and wishes to attend Worlds, then the junior must fill out a petition requesting to go. If the petition is approved, the parents will need to pay for some or most of the expenses. You will need to check with USAC for more information.


Jr. Pan American Championship – for ages 17 & 18 held every year, except for the year of the Jr. Pan American Games. A competition offered to athletes in the “Americas” – North America and South America.


Jr. Pan American Games – Wikipedia writes “The Pan-American or Pan American Games (also known colloquially as the Pan Am Games) constitute a major event in the Americas featuring summer and formerly winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The competition is held between athletes from nations of the Americas, every four years in the year before the Summer Olympic Games. The next edition will be held in Toronto in 2015.”


World Cups for Elite Track racers – To attend a World Cup you must be invited by USAC to represent the US. The racers that are in the top 10 will receive points, the countries with the most points will be invited to attend Elite World Championship where a racer can win the World Champion title and jersey.


Master Worlds – always held in Manchester, England. No requirements required to attend by USAC. A master athlete that wishes to compete in their age group with folks from all over the world. Sponsorship to attend Master Worlds could come from your team, if they offer sponsorship, or from yourself. Check with USAC on the proper workout required to attend any international event.


Olympics – The US must qualify to attend the Olympics.   The US qualifies by winning points at the Track World Cups and the World Championship.



Summer Riding

A cycling tip for your summer riding is – drink cool water to help keep you riding strong during the hot summer months.

A few years ago I sat through a seminar with Dr. Stacy Sims, her specialty is thermoregulation.  What is thermoregulation and how does it affect your cycling?

Thermoregulation is the process our body uses to keep the core temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.   When our bodies are over heating by exercising, being outside in the hot temperatures, humid conditions,  or nervous our core temperatures raises and we sweat.  Sweating cools off our bodies.   Sweat is made up of 99% water plus mineral salts (sodium chloride) and other ingredients.

According to Dr. Sims

  • Approximately 63% of the entire body mass is water
  • Greater than 50% of the blood plasma is water
  • Water is the medium for biochemical and metabolic reactions
  • Thermoregulation of the body is regulated using water
  • The body is highly sensitive to dehydration

So we are outside training / riding our bikes and we are sweating buckets what happens to our bodies if we are not replenishing the water?  We have loss water and as little of .5% can put a strain on our heart muscle and our cycling performance.

Dr. John Ivy wrote in The Performance Zone that:

  • .5% loss of water could increase strain on the heart
  • 1%  loss of water  could reduce aerobic endurance
  • 3%  loss of water could reduce muscular endurance
  • 4%  loss of water could reduce muscle strength, reduced fine motor skills; heat cramps
  • 5% loss of water could cause heat exhaustion; cramping; fatigue; reduce mental capacity
  • 6% loss of water could cause physical exhaustion;  heat stroke; coma

If you do become dehydrated the Mayo clinic suggests:

Treating dehydration in athletes of all ages
For exercise-related dehydration, cool water is your best bet. Sports drinks containing electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution also may be helpful. There’s no need for salt tablets — too much salt can lead to hypernatremia dehydration, a condition in which your body not only is short of water but also carries an excess of sodium.

Treating severe dehydration
Children and adults who are severely dehydrated should be treated by emergency personnel arriving in an ambulance or in a hospital emergency room, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously) rather than by mouth. Intravenous hydration provides the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do — something that’s essential in life-threatening situations.

After completing your ride or during ride say at a rest stop if you are hot and thirsty do not put ice on your body.  The ice or even ice water is too cold, according to Dr. Sims, and the ice will constrict vessels and send the hot blood back to the core rather than cooling the core down.  Drink cool water and dip or pour cool water on your bare feet, hands or head to help the body cool down.

How much water should you drink during your ride will depend on how hydrated your body is prior to your ride.  Just drink before, during and after your ride  and remember what you eat and drink today will affect how you ride tomorrow.