Why You Should Take a Learn to Race Clinic
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
Do you find yourself struggling to follow a fitness routine? Does cardiovascular training seem tedious and boring? Is your exercise program uninspiring? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider finding a local club that offers a learn to race clinic.
After spending some time in early summer with a variety of bicycle racers, I learned that racing can be a fun, friendly, inclusive sport. Bike racing involves fitness, endurance and a whole lot of strategy. Even better, it is a real motivator to get fit and stay fit. The thought of entering a bike race, however, can be extremely intimidating. An ordinary cyclist like me needs to perfect a few skills before attempting to ride a bike in a competitive environment. Who is willing to coach a novice through the complicated process of learning to race?
The answer to my question came when I was introduced to Michael Longfield, the president of Toronto based Midweek Cycling Club. The goal of Midweek Cycling is to demystify bike racing and to help people from all walks of life to learn and develop skills associated with the sport.
In addition to hosting criterium races on Tuesday nights, Midweek Cycling offers a learn to race clinic on Mondays. Cyclists who lack experience racing are able to attend the Monday night clinics in order to learn and practice skills. When a cyclist feels ready to try their hand at racing they can register for a Tuesday night race. Michael explained that their club eliminates the barriers that people associate with bike racing.
In Michael’s words, “all that you need is a functioning drop bar bike, a quality helmet and an Ontario cycling licence and the coaches at Midweek Cycling can teach you the skills to ride a bike race”.
Michael was kind enough to introduce me to two of his top coaches, Roland Fletcher and Mike Little, who answered more of my questions about racing.
What can I learn at one of your Monday night learn to race clinics?
Roland Fletcher (RF): On the most basic level the learn to ride clinic helps a cyclist to build confidence on a bike. Mike Little (ML): We teach the tactics of bike racing, bike handling and cornering. Over the course of a summer if you come out you can really hone your skills. Everyone is different but at some point most of our riders progress to a Tuesday night race.
Why would I choose to ride with a club like Midweek over just training on my own?
RF: The coaches at Midweek are always there to teach, answer questions and motivate. There is always a degree of suffering with physical training, but riding with a club like ours makes the suffering communal and much more manageable.
ML: It is so much more fun to find a group of people to ride with. Even on days when you don’t feel like riding, once you show up on a Monday or Tuesday night you really get into it.
What is a “criterium race”?
ML: Criterium races are held in a circuit that is smaller than that of a traditional bike race. The race is based on a pre-set amount of time – there is no specific distance that must be ridden. Criterium racing is the perfect blend of fitness, fun and strategy.
RF: Racing in this style is not purely about baseline fitness, it requires bike skills and a whole lot of strategy – which you acquire over time.
What has bike racing brought to your life and why would you recommend it to others?
ML: Bike racing allows me to push myself athletically which is good for my mental health. It is an amazing outlet for stress.
RF: I have played sports most of my life. When I got into bike racing I realized that sports do not have to end, you can ride a bicycle well into old age. It is a sport that has amazing longevity.
Talking with Mike and Roland really inspired me to show up and learn to road race with the team at Midweek Cycling. Their passion for racing is contagious. Perhaps Michael Longfield’s last words to me summed it up the best.
“I love it when we dissolve a person’s preconception of themselves. It is amazing to witness the moment that a rider realizes that they are stronger and more capable than they ever thought possible.”
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All photos courtesy of Mathew Chan Tin (@mat_ct on Instagram).