Choosing my first race

Hi all, have been cycling the majority of my life (am currently 35) but have only recently gotten serious about the sport and structured training. I’m almost through SSB1 and planning out the rest of my training / what events I would like to sign up for next year.

I saw some great discussions around others goals and “A” races for ‘19.

Question: For someone who is new to the sport, how did you get started? What would be a good race to start with? Where do you find information about races?
( For background I’m located in Toronto Canada and would prefer road events)

Thanks in advance and apologies if this has already been covered.


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This runs a little counter to the whole idea of an A race and the structure associated with TrainerRoad but…

For a first time racer I think you’re best bet is not targeting it to win or even do well. Find a race that’s easy to get to and relatively low stakes (for you at least) and go do it.

I think many people put way too much emphasis on their results (myself included at times) in their races. You are essentially trying out a new hobby (racing is very different from riding) and you may or may not enjoy it. Get out there and do it - don’t put the pressure on yourself to do well. By all means you should race as hard as you can when you’re out there, but I would strongly encourage you not to plan an entire base/build/specialize cycle around a first race.

To pick a first race I’d say the ideal scenario would be a weekly training series (usually these run throughout the year, or at a minimum for the beginning portion of the season) and commit to yourself that you’re going to race the first four of them (or some other number that works for you). Go into the races without expectation of results, but expectations of learning and (hopefully) enjoying the test you’re putting yourself through. At that point you can evaluate the sport and whether you love it or hate it and possibly start thinking about peaking for certain events later in the season.

I think many new racers end up racing way less than they should because they build up the race in their head to the point that they get nervous and jittery and stressed out about every single race which leads to them not racing because of this extra mental stress. All of this adds up to create a negative experience so you end up seeing a lot of strong riders burning out from racing because of this after only a year or two.

Personally, when I’m lining up for my A race I’m a bundle of nerves - I love the challenge that comes with it but I’ve put a lot of effort into that specific peak so I still get stressed out. As a new racer I felt that way for every race, then only for B and C races, and now only for my A races. So it’s been a progression for me - but I definitely enjoy the experience a lot more when I’m out there to have fun and not care about results than when I’m there to win it (this is common even in the pros - see Landa, Mikel)


Great response. Your first race: one your friends will be at. Close by. The next race: One your friends will be at. Go to have fun and learn.

Ask those you ride with what race(s) to look at. Experienced riders will tell you if you should avoid a certain race for whatever reasons. My buddies would tell me “That course is perfect for you – definitely do that one.” Or “you can do it, but the course is like this and will be tough for you.”

Honestly, while I am now 100% dirt focused, the most fun I had was a night crit series where you popped in/out and back in as needed for the time allotted. The entire focus was learning how to race.

Race for a season and then worry about “A” races, etc. If there is something you really want to do, then plan for that. For example, I loved to do the Mohican 100/100k. Never would win it, but planned it a long ways out.



Make a habit of doing group rides at least 1-2 times per week. Get used to the varying dynamics and demands of the pelotons and its members. Once you gain experience here you’ll be able to judge your next step with regard to racing. Befriending riders in these groups can give you some direction as well.

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I chose cyclocross as my first race as I have no experience of riding in groups, and with a job/family I struggle to find time to do enough group rides to get familiar with the dynamics of riding with others.

From my experience of this I would agree with what @dprimm said and find one that a friend is going to and just go for it. You won’t win, but everyone is super friendly and you’ll have a blast!

I don’t know what the setup in Canada is like, but in the UK we have tons of local clubs (at least one in every town) that have just turn up and race events, and also the British Cycling web site has a great search facility to allow you to find everything from local fun rides to national level races.

I started racing with a triathlon:

  1. Learned to run a bit with a friend

  2. Had a beer

  3. Signed up online for a local sprint triathlon only two weeks out

  4. A few days later bought the cheapest bike I could find

  5. Hey presto, Im racing!

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Thanks all for the feedback, appreciate it!
Will take your advice and look into joining some group rides first and see where that takes me.


I had a background of racing XC in the expert category and thought I’d give a crit a try. What a wake up call that was. Dropped after three laps., Never got lapped thankfully. A few more crits later I finally got the hang of it.
Cat 5 crit with a training part prior would be ideal.