10 Tips for Junior Racers
By PCG Elite Coach Mark Orton
Racing as a junior can be very rewarding, but it can also be very stressful. Here are some quick tips that will help aspiring junior racers keep enjoying the sport, and keep from burning out.
• Take school stress into account. Don't plan any big race events within a week on either side of finals, midterms, prom, homecoming, or anything else that may stress you out. Don't have a tough training week on any of those weeks either. If you can work it into your schedule, make those weeks your rest and recovery weeks.
• Try all kinds of disciplines. Give cyclocross, track, trials, bmx, mountain bike, road, or gravel a try. Different disciplines allow different strengths to shine. I’ve seen racers struggle to be an XC racer, then transition to Enduro and Downhill and excel! You’ll never know if you missed your calling if you haven't tried them all.
• Have fun and don't take things too seriously. If you get too serious, and specialize in one thing too early, you will burn out. We ride bikes because it's fun, don't forget that! Even if you’re on a serious training plan with a dedicated coach, be sure to work social and fun rides into your plan.
• Play other sports and do other activities at least up until mid-way through high school, if not through college. A well rounded athlete is more attractive to college programs, and has developed a better sense of themselves, resulting in higher overall confidence levels.
• Do well in school, take school seriously. Your biggest supporters are your parents, keep them happy and willing to support your sporting endeavors by keeping your grades up. Most of us won’t make a living on the bike, so keep your options open by keeping your grades up. Plus, cycling is expensive, so when you move out you’ll need a good job to pay for this sport!
• Work with a coach that has experience with juniors and knows the differences between training juniors and training adults. Junior racers are not just small adults. When interviewing prospective coaches, ask questions about their training plans, ensure that they know the differences between coaching masters athletes and junior athletes.
• Junior females, learn about the female athlete triad. If you are a female racer, you need to know about this. A great place to start is . If you are working with a coach, this is something you need to make sure they are aware of as well.
• Enjoy your success, and always strive to get better. Don't assume your success as a junior racer will automatically lead to success as you grow and progress. Differences in development create situations where there are imbalanced race fields. Junior racers each mature at different rates, so someone who may be underdeveloped this season, could have a growth spurt and be the most developed in the field next season.
• Work skills and the fundamentals more than you think you need to. Skills can keep you and other racers safe. Skills can keep you out of trouble. Skills will help you win. No matter the discipline you race, having well rounded skills can pay dividends and get you out of a tricky situation. It can mean the difference between touching wheels and riding away, and touching wheels and causing a pile up in the peleton.
• HAVE FUN!!! I can't say that enough, HAVE FUN!!!
Racing bikes is fun and rewarding. It will keep you in great shape, it teaches you lessons that you can apply to your everyday life, and it helps you develop into a responsible adult. However, if taken too seriously, too early, it can be a recipe for burn out. Using these tips will help you get the most out of your time on the bike, and add enjoyment to your training and racing.