Posted by Josh Liberles (Contributor) on March 2nd, 2012 at 1:43 pm
(Photo: Jose Sandoval)
Early season road racing is upon us in Portland, and right on cue the Banana Belt Series of circuit races around Hagg Lake starts this Sunday. The 11-mile lap challenges racers' late-winter fitness as the different categories complete from two to seven loops.
The event has historically proven popular among those looking to give racing a try for the first time.
David Hart of Wenzel Coaching is helping to organize a free clinic for beginners (Cat 5 men and Cat 4/5 women) on Sunday, March 4th. It's the second year the company has selected the kickoff race to entice new Oregon racers. "We felt that most racers pick this race as their first of the season. We saw an opportunity to be available to those racers who might be a little gun shy and want a little extra advice before the event," Hart tells BikePortland. "The race is also close to Portland, so we knew there would be a higher interest in the clinic."
The race course caters to someone with good overall fitness and blends short, punchy climbs with long power sections. As Hart says, the main requirements of a would-be racer are the knowledge to effectively use their gears and the confidence not to be intimidated by rolling hills. "Typically the weather is the biggest challenge so bring your extra gear," says Hart. "I have been snowed on as well as sunburned at this race."
For those who have the basic skills covered, the clinic will demystify some of the race-specific factors, such as pinning on your race number, effective warm-up, pre-race nutrition, riding in a group, paceline riding and how to stay relaxed on the bike. Just make sure to bring a road bike with drop bars that's in good repair and a willingness to learn.
Megan Chinburg, a local racer on the Upper Echelon team going into her third season of road racing, got her start as a beginner in a Banana Belt race two years ago. According to Chinburg, the course is ideal for beginners: "Because it's an 11-mile circuit, you see the terrain multiple times – and week after week. You can focus on improving different things every time you come around. It's also very accessible from Portland, there's a low traffic volume, and riders can even head out there to practice on the course."
"Participation has grown every year in most categories," says Jeff Mitchem, who has promoted the series for the past 10 years. "Beginner men's and women's fields are the largest fields at between 60 and 80 riders."
Another factor encouraging new folks to get out and race is the bottom-heavy prize list, a relative rarity in cycling. "Fuji is back with bikes and frames for Banana Belt overall series winners in the men's and women's Cat 4 and 5 fields. [Other categories will receive] combinations of my personalized home made medals, gift certificates and product from Rapha."
For more info on the series, check the race flyer on the OBRA website.
[Note from publisher: Please join me in welcoming Josh Liberles to the BikePortland contributors team. Josh is a Portland resident and veteran bike journalist known to many for his work in Cyclocross Magazine. Josh is going to help us cover more of Portland and Oregon's huge and exciting race scene!]