Class is in Session Starting January 5th with the Early Bird Criterium Training Series
By Chris Lyman
Tales of Cat 5 misadventures are voluminous enough to fill blogs faster than Google can build data centers. This is especially true when it comes to the weekend circumnavigation of an office park, with 50 comrades bumping bars as if steaming towards the finish line on the Champs-Élysées.
Thankfully, in the 1990s, Northern California promoter Velo Promo and a handful of highly qualified coaches set out to create a skin preservation program. The Early Bird Criterium Training Series was born and has since taught countless new riders about pack bike handling, race tactics and generally how to conduct themselves in a safe and civilized manner.
This year, five directors—Laurel Green, John Cheetham, Matt McNamara, Dan Smith and Larry Nolan—are putting the final touches on 2013’s clinics and training events, scheduled for January 5th, 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th and February 3rd.. Directors set a weekly curriculum and catch up racers who may have missed the previous week(s). They also coordinate 70+ volunteer leaders (folks comfy instructing 50 or more racers) and mentors (those helping smaller groups of racers) who help make the series possible.
I remember attending an EB Crit to get my final Category 4 upgrade point as a soon-to-be former triathlete. Even as a newbie I recognized the World Champion stripe-bedazzled jersey on the imposing figure of Larry Nolan, who was riding along mentoring the action.
For those who don’t know Larry, he’s earned 14 Masters Track World Championships and needs a storage unit for all of his Masters National gold medals. I still laugh with Larry about that day because just two years later we ended up as teammates, and I was able to absorb much more knowledge from him about how to how to race a bike.
Back to today, or perhaps January 5th, Larry & co. will be back at it, offering a helping hand to those new to the sport and/or wanting to improve handling & race skills. If you missed it the first time, mentors include a WORLD CHAMPION with double-digit titles to his name – someone who can teach most any of us a thing or three about bike riding.
Early Birds are just $15. They kick off January 5th with an evening clinic at Palo Alto Bicycles and introduction by Jim Ochowicz. Outdoor action commences January 6th at 8:30am with numerous category events taking place throughout the day. Cat 5 participants receive 1 point per training race and .5 points for each clinic. Cat 4s receive .5 points for each clinic that they complete. Details and registration information at http://www.velopromo.com/ebcr-ent.htm.
Now, since not everyone lives in Northern California and is able to attend in person, Larry was kind enough to proffer a few tips and suggestions as we head into race season.
Larry’s tips and facts for the new racer
– Early Bird mentoring starts with group drills. Presumably a friend proclaimed how strong you are and that “you should race.” Congratulations! We’ll help you get more comfortable in a group, but the Early Birds should not be your first group ride.
– A 75-minute clinic is not enough time to get you race ready. Best to continue to learn and develop race skills from teammates, friends, coaches and by attending other clinics outside of EBs.
– On the road, protect your front wheel. Assert your position in races. Do not race passively or aggressively.
– Be humble and never pretend that you have all of the necessary skills to race through a corner at 30 miles per hour, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.
– The 2013 Early Birds comprise five weeks of “training races,” which is to say that no one tracks your finish placing. Therefore there’s no need to sprint at the end for a result. Practice your sprint in your training and if you’re not yet a fast sprinter, then continue to practice and observe how others go so fast.
– Come back to the Early Birds years from now when you’re experienced and ready to help others. There really is no greater feeling than giving back to a sport that gives us all so much.