While we here at Montague and the Folding Bikes Blog concentrate on certain aspects of cycling more than others, we still like to take the occasional foray into areas we don’t focus on as much. We do a lot of commuting and recreational cycling, but we also harbor an avid interest in bike racing. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with local racer Tim Mitchell, who rides for CCB International, and talk about his experience in the bike racing world. While Tim does a lot of his racing here in New England, he’s also a world champion – this past August, he took both the Time Trial and Road Race Masters titles in St. Johann, Austria.
FBB: So you’ve had a pretty successful season this year. Can you tell me about some of the races you did?
TM: Sure. Well, the biggest races for me personally were the World Masters Cycling Championships over in Austria. I was over there about two and a half weeks. The first week I was in Deutschlandsberg, for World Masters Bike Week, which is a stage race, and from there I travelled to St. Johann, for the World Championships. I wasn’t really sure how it would go – especially the road race, it was raining, and about 40 degrees. Towards the end of the race, my fingers were so cold I couldn’t work the shifters. After I crossed the finish line, I didn’t even stop – I rode straight to the hotel to warm up. Aside from the results, which I’m really happy with, it was a great opportunity for me to race against guys from other countries.
FBB: So how long have you been racing your bike?
TM: I’ve been racing about five years.
FBB: You’ve come a long way in five years! How did you get started in cycling?
TM: The way I got started, well I’m from the Boston area, and I’d recently moved back to Massachusetts. One night, I called up a friend from college I hadn’t talked to in a while to see if he wanted to get together the next day, and he said, “Well, I’m doing this bike race tomorrow morning – want to come?” It was like 10pm, and I looked over at my bike in the corner of my apartment that I probably hadn’t ridden in a year, and said “Sure.” So I showed up the next day at 8am, it was probably 30 degrees and super windy, but I did the race, and as cold and miserable as it was, it was also totally awesome – I was hooked.
FBB: You didn’t have much preparation for that first race. What kind of training do you do now?
TM: It really depends on the time of year. Right now, I’m racing a little Cyclocross – just to stay in shape and keep the legs going. Over the winter, and in early spring, before the road season really gets going, I do a lot of longer rides at a slower pace – “base miles”, they’re called – to build up endurance. Then as the season gets underway, I do shorter rides at a faster pace, along with intervals, and hill repeats. It’s all about getting used to the kind of effort it takes to cover attacks by other riders during a race, or bridging a gap to the breakaway, or being able to have that extra surge at the right time to get away from the rest of the field. You want to have practice making your body do that kind of effort, so you know exactly what you are capable of during a race.
FBB: So what’s your favourite type of race?
TM: Without a doubt, time trials…although not while I’m riding them. In a time trial, you find out just how hard you’re willing to go, and the person who wins is the person who pushes themselves the furthest.
FBB: Any advice for people who are looking to start racing?
TM: I’d say if you’re interested, just go for it. You can get a 1-day license for maybe $10. [FBB note: licenses are required for all races sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body in the U.S.] And since most races separate riders into different groups by experience, the idea is that you’re racing with people who are at, or close to, the same level you are. Once you’ve decided to start racing, it’s pretty basic at first, pretty much just ride as much as you can. For beginning racers, time on the bike is the biggest limiting factor in performance. Just go out and ride at a steady pace, as you build up endurance, then you can start adding in intensity and intervals. Most importantly, keep it fun, that’s why we all get in to the sport to start with!
FBB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Tim, and good luck next season!
What’s Your Racing Story?
Riding a bike is a great way to get some exercise, and for some people, racing provides that extra motivation. Are you a bike racer? How did you get started? Is it something you do primarily for fun, or to stay in shape? Are you thinking of trying it for the first time this coming spring? What’s the furthest you’ve travelled for a race, and what was the best part about it? If you’re not interested in organized racing, do you ever race other commuters on your way to work?