CRCA Race Clinic Info Session & A Guide For New Racers

CRCA Race Clinic Info Session & A Guide For New Racers

As highlighted in our journal entry on the Demographics of Cycling, the Century Road Club Association (CRCA) serves a vital role on introducing new racers to categorized USAC racing in the New York City area. One key aspect of that process is the annual CRCA Men's and Women's Intro to Racing Clinic that gives riders the opportunity to experience racing in Central Park in an instructional format. 

Ahead of this weekend's Clinic the Club also hosted an open Information Session for new racers at the Rapha Store in Soho. With former CRCA Board Member and current NYSBRA representative Lucia Deng leading the way several representatives from CRCA sub-teams, including Lisa Vandivort from CityMD Women's Racing, spoke about racing in the city and some of the terrific programming offered by CRCA. 

To help memorialize some of the information discussed at that session a quick summary is included below along with a few pictures from the event as captured by To Be Determined's Daghan Perker (follow him on Instagram). 

Lucia Deng, a former CRCA Board Member, helped organize the New Rider Information Session.

Lucia Deng, a former CRCA Board Member, helped organize the New Rider Information Session.

Information for new racers:

Governing bodies (USAC/NYSRBA) 

  • USAC: USA Cycling is the primary governing body for organized cycling in the United States. As such USAC issues racer licenses that are required to participate in USAC registered events including for all CRCA events (see below for information on one-day licenses).
  • NYSBRA: New York State Bicycle Racing Association. NYSBRA is a USAC local association - essentially a regional sub-organization - whose mission is to support bicycle racing in New York State. NYSBRA coordinates category upgrades, runs State Championships and offers a variety of grant programs.

the usac category system

  • USAC races are generally organized by categories that are identified on your racer license. Categories start at 5 ("Cat 5") and run through Cat 1 and Pro. All new racers start at Category 5 and from there work up through the system through "upgrades"
  • Category 5 to 4 upgrades are based on completing a minimum number of races to insure riders have the opportunity to build sufficient riding and racing experience before moving onto Category 5. Certain race clinics and coaching sessions may count against this requirement as well.
  • To upgrade beyond Category 4 upgrades are largely based on earning "upgrade points" awarded for finishing position in races with the number of points awarded based on the length of the race and the number of participants. See the USAC upgrade guidelines for additional detail. 
  • When registering for races (see more on that below) it is important to always register for your current USAC category. For example Cat 4 riders cannot race in Cat 1/2/3 fields.
Several representatives of CRCA sub-teams attended the information session and spoke about various elements of racing and riding in New York City. 

Several representatives of CRCA sub-teams attended the information session and spoke about various elements of racing and riding in New York City. 

Types of USAC racing

  • CRCA is primarily focused on road racing but USAC offers a variety of race formats including road, track, cyclocross and mountain biking. 

  • Within the road format there are a number of types of road races with distance of the race and the style of the course as a key determinant. 

  • Sunday’s racing clinic is a circuit-style road race - known as a circuit because the field will complete multiple laps of a medium distance circuit (the Central Park Loop).

  • Criteriums typically use a very short loop (as short as 0.5miles) that will be completed a significant number of times during the race. CRCA criterium (Grant's Tomb, Zach Koop/Orchard Beach, Tour of Fort Lee) length is typically based on time rather than distance (ie 40 minutes). 

USAC Racing License

  • All USAC events require a valid USAC annual racing license - as described under "USAC category system" this helps categorize riders based on experience and skill level as well. This insures that new Cat 5 riders will generally not have to race against highly experienced (and very fast) Cat 1 racers.
  • Many races will permit Category 5 racers to purchase a one-day license - this cost is included in the Clinic registration fee - and a one-day license is a good way to try a race or two before deciding whether you want to buy a full annual USAC license. 
  • Be prepared to show your license when checking in at bike races - the easiest way to do so is to download the USAC mobile app and sign-in. That will insure your license is always handy (as long as you have service - if you are racing in a rural area it's not a bad idea to screenshot your license in advance).

Bikereg & Registering for races

  • Bikereg is the registration website used by most races on the East Coast (a few will use the USAC website for registration). It is also a great resource to look for race opportunities - you can sort by location, race format, etc. 

  • Two notes on Bikereg: the site charges a small fee to cover credit card processing and operating costs and the site does not provide or authorize refunds for registrations. Any refunds must be authorized and processed by the race in question.

  • All CRCA Open Races (the events not included in the CRCA Club Series in Central Park) are pre-registration ONLY. This means you must register in advance on Bikereg. Some non-CRCA races will offer day of registration if they do not sell out but they generally charge a ~$10 premium for day of registration.

  • Once you register for a race make sure to pay attention for any e-mails from the race director. Often race guides or last minute instructions will be distributed via the Bikereg e-mail system.

Attendees participate in Q&A as part of the CRCA Race Clinic Information Session.

Attendees participate in Q&A as part of the CRCA Race Clinic Information Session.

other NYC race opportunities

New York City has perhaps the richest calendar of race opportunities anywhere in the country. Some other race opportunities that may be worth considering

  • Central Park: the CRCA hosts a 12-race Lucarelli & Castaldi Club Series throughout the year that is only open to club members. In addition the Club hosts three "Open Races" in Central Park that are open to all participants

  • Prospect Park: there are two series that are organized throughout the year in prospect park, this year they are known as the Lucarelli & Castaldi Cup and the Castelli Series. Both are open to all USAC licensed riders who are eligible for the relevant categories of racing

  • Floyd Bennett Field: features Tuesday and Thursday night race opportunities during the summer as well as selected weekend races. As an abandoned airfield the roads as rough and the crosswinds can be challenging making for exciting racing. 

  • Rockleigh Crit: Thursday evening racing hosted across the GWB. Rockleigh is a great race experience though if you're riding to the M4/5 field make sure to bring bright lights for the return trip to the city. 

  • Kissena: New York City's only track, Kissena features a vibrant community of racers and offers Wednesday night racing as well as selected weekend race opportunities. There is a Kissena Facebook group that is a good source of information about the event calendar.

CRCA Coaching Program

  • In addition to a full race schedule, CRCA offers coaching sessions throughout the season. These sessions are FREE to members - for new racers this benefit alone is arguably worth the cost of CRCA membership.
  • Coaching sessions are usually held in Central Park and feature a variety of formats from climbing to sprint work. There are also women's only sessions offered this year as part of the CRCA Women's Development Series.  
  • Seriously, if you're a new racer don't miss out on these sessions - it's one of the biggest benefits of being part of CRCA.
CRCA's website (CRCA.net) is a great source for new racers looking for information on the race and coaching schedule.

CRCA's website (CRCA.net) is a great source for new racers looking for information on the race and coaching schedule.

Sponsored Teams and Biking Groups 

  • CRCA is the largest USAC organizing body in the city and is led by an all-volunteer Board of Directors. All CRCA racing members are required to marshal during the season to help maintain the CRCA calendar of activities.

  • CRCA sub-teams: there are twenty plus CRCA sub-teams that are part of the CRCA community and participate in the CRCA Club Series in Central Park. Sub-teams are organized by their respective members and have a variety of distinctions (women only, development focused, elite riders, etc). Sub-teams are required to complete team duties (i.e. helping with the Rider Clinic) as part of their contribution to the club.

  • NYCC: is the largest body of riders in the city with more than 2,000 members. NYCC has historically focused on recreational riding with weekend group rides for a variety of experience levels. This year NYCC also started a CRCA sub-team to get involved with racing as part of CRCA. 

  • Rapha Rides / Bike Shop rides: outside of CRCA and NYCC there are also a variety of Bike Shops that will organize group rides. Rapha is probably the most active in this regard. 

Preparing for a Race: A BRIEF CHECKLIST

Getting to the start line can be a stressful process but here are a few checklist items to help get ready:

  • Get your Bike Ready
    • Inspect your bike: check tires, wheels, brake pads, chain. If you have any questions or concerns take your bike to a professional mechanic for a quick check!
    • Foot retention: clip-in pedals are not required for the upcoming CRCA Race Clinic but they are strongly recommended. 
    • Drop handlebar geared bike: aero bars, flat bars and fixed gear bicycles are not allowed in USAC road races. 
  • Nutrition & hydration before, during and after a race
    • Make sure you're hydrated and make sure you bring water on your bike for the clinic. 
    • Nutrition is subject to personal preference and experience but it's recommended to eat something on race morning. 
  • No accessories on bike (saddlebag, lights, fenders, etc.)
    • Garmins, water bottles, and snacks are okay! 
  • Helmets and jerseys with sleeves are a must!
  • Given the early start times for many CRCA events it's a good idea to get organized the night before to insure you're at registration on time!

Photographs by TBD's Daghan Perker



Daghan Perker is a creative director, photographer, and an athlete. You can see more of his work on his instagram handle @dperker He is also a founding member of tobedetermined.cc