Prior to dealing with the specifics of training and racing for the Masters athlete, I will write briefly on the subject of cycling competition in general. Many of you reading this are probably active competitors, but for those of you who have not experienced the exciting world of cycling competition, let me give you an overview of what is available for the Masters competitor. I will primarily be speaking of road events, but understand there are many track, off road, mountain and ultra cycling events available.
Most states have various Senior Games competitions throughout the year culminating in a state championship event. Various sports are offered including cycling. Here in Florida, for example, the Senior Games comes under the auspices of the Florida Sports Foundation. You can find a schedule of all local qualifying events and information about the state championships on their website at http://www.flasports.com/page_seniorgames.shtml. The National Senior Games Association oversees the events nationally and organizes and runs the Senior Olympics every two years. Their website is www.nsga.com.
In most states, you must qualify for the state championships by placing at least 5th in your 5 year age group in a local event for the sport in which you wish to participate. To qualify for the Senior Olympics, the competitor must place at least third at a state championship event to qualify for the national event.
The cycling events offered in the Senior Games system are the 5k & 10k time trial events, and the 20k & 40k road race events.
There are also various cycling events offered under the auspices of the USCF (United States Cycling Federation), including state and national championship events. Unlike the Senior Games, which offers competition in 5 year age groups commencing with age 50, the USCF has a full array of age group and classification (various categories) competitions. In the local USCF events, the masters events are categorized in the following groups: Masters 35+, Masters 45+ and Masters 55+. In the state and national championship events, however, the USCF reverts to 5 year age groups, but unlike the Senior Games there is no need to qualify to compete in the state and national championships. Your racing age is the age that you will attain by December 31st of the year of the race. One exception is the Senior Olympics at which your racing age is your actual age on the day of the competition.
To compete in USCF events, one must buy an annual license ($60). More information on their events can be found on their website at www.usacycling.org.
Those of you who are interested in World Championship competition, the UCI World Cycling Championships are held every August in Austria. Although the following website is written in German, the results are in English so you can compare your times with past performances at the event. This is the website: http://www.masterswm.org/v4/?start/en
Domestically, the Huntsman World Senior Games are held in Utah every October. It is an incredibly well run event and offers cycling competitions in various cycling disciplines including time trials, road races, criteriums and mountain bike events. You can win a legitimate rainbow, world champion jersey at these events, but they also offer events for novice riders apart from the open class. Both of the above venues offer competition in 5 year age groups. This is the website:
In future articles, I will deal with the specifics of the cycling races including specific training, racing techniques, equipment and miscellaneous other tips that I have accumulated from my own successful participation in cycling competition.