I love and hate this time of year. I call this the silly season. I know this doesn’t sound like my usual positive self but it’s true. I really hate seeing some form disappear as racing winds down and my racing goals completed. On the flip side I love that I have put in a hard year and benefited from more training and completing plans I laid out a year a go. I also love meeting new beginner racers that want to join a team but don’t know where to begin.
I have written several articles on joining your first team or even securing sponsorship but I thought I would revisit the subject since I have learned even more since I last covered the topic. I would strongly recommend reading those articles too!
First and foremost if you are wanting to join a team this is the time of year to do it. Not in the spring! Teams need time to order new kits, schedule next year’s races and update websites with team details and yes this does take a bit of time.
Before joining a team be honest with yourself about your abilities before jumping in with both feet. While there are many tests you can do to measure your current fitness the easiest is to ride with the team you are thinking about riding for. Contact the team director and ask them if they have any spots open. If they say yes then be ready to tell the following about yourself:
- Health and current medical issues
- How much racing you have done
- How you have finished in your races
- Other sports you may have competed in
- How often you do and can train
- If you train by heart rate and or power
- Are you a coached cyclist
- Who your coach is
- How much travel you may be willing to under take
- Other cyclists names you may know in common
- Your cycling strengths and weaknesses
- What kind of bike(s) you have
- What kind of races you enjoy
Then you should ask the following questions:
- What racing disciplines does your team race in? Criteriums, circuits, road races, time trials, stage races, track, cyclocross, mountain bike…
- How many races a season will I be expected to compete in?
- Will I need to race multiple disciplines? Road and track, road and cross…
- Are most of the races the team participates in local, regional or even national?
- How much will it cost me to join the team?
- What paper work will I need to fill out? Liability waiver, insurance, anti doping agreements, member policies and expectations…
- Do I buy my kit? How many of each kit item am I expected to have. When do you need money for the kit and when will it ship?
- Does the team host a race(s) or event(s)?
- How can I help at the team hosted races or events?
- How can I help the team reach its competitive and even organizational goals?
- How often does the team train together? Are their mandatory training rides?
- What are the big no-nos on the team, meaning what would get me ejected from the team?
- Who is the team captain and or the designated sprinter?
- Who are the teams sponsors, what are their business about and how can I best support the sponsors?
I think by now you will notice a few things about the above concerns. First it sounds like a job interview and second that you haven’t asked what the team is going to do for you but what you can do for the team! Don’t be fooled it is an interview and you are being scrutinized! It’s getting tougher and tougher to secure sponsors and team directors at all levels want to make sure they are going to not only get a strong athlete that is willing to work hard but one that also isn’t going to cause strife in the team or with the sponsors.
The other point I am making is that if you are new or newish to racing, expect to receive nothing from the team. No freebies, no deep discounts, no free coaching, no cherry spots in the pace line! Unless you have been recruited you are likely the low man/woman on the totem pole. There are of course exceptions. If you are a sponsor that races, bring sponsors with you, are an untapped talent or even make everyone laugh. These will help you blend in better for sure.
Doesn’t sound like I am painting a very rosy picture of competitive cycling but new cyclists really need to understand what is a typical outcome for first time racers. I have raced for a while now and must say I am still in love with racing and still look forward to yet another season. You also must understand that Road Racing is an Investment in Time and that the hard dollar costs associated with racing are very real.
If all of this sounds daunting I understand, I have been there. If you want an easier go of it and a leg up on your competition then its time to hire me!
Good luck and don’t forget that we do this for fun!