Age Doesn't Hold Me Back
I started racing my bike when I was four years old at the North Boulder Criterium event. I’ve always been the youngest one in the bunch, but that never bothered me! I just went out, rode as fast as I could, and after a number of cycling events it started to pay off with results. I started to race in age categories older than my actual age, which helped me feel more comfortable and got me over the fear of being the “kid” in the group. I gained a lot of experience by racing with these more experienced and older riders.
I remember feeling a little out of place being a twelve year old and lining up against the local “fast guys,” but after a handful of attempts I started to feel like I belonged. Even when toeing the line with the pros, my goals have always been the same as theirs—go as fast as you can and do better than the last time. I began to push harder, and the older guys were forced to recognize that I was someone they had to actually race hard against.
The biggest difference I feel between racing in the adult categories locally and racing in my age group at national events, is that the good results feel bigger when I race in my own age group. In my age group, whether at a USA Cycling National event or in the NICA High School series, I tend to feel more pressure. I am racing my friends, and there are higher expectations of me to compete with my peers.
Nerves are a big part of racing, and over the years I practiced how to handle nervous energy. Even with more pressure, I’ve gotten quite good at handling it. Talking about how I feel has really allowed me to get through the nervousness and get on with my racing.
Here’s what I’ve found to be the keys to my success:
Learning from mistakes
Balancing my high school studies with training, travel, and racing can get hectic at times, but having a well-thought-out schedule allows me to stay focused during all the chaos. I focus on getting my studies done first thing, so I can focus on training when I am out riding. This isn’t always easy, and I have to study at different times to get the work done, but it is part of the process. When it comes to my training, organization and preparation are key. Knowing what I have coming up on my schedule allows me to drive towards the goals that I set earlier in the season.
Setting goals is a big part of the process too. Without goals, you can feel lost and not know why you are doing all the hard work. The more I think about my goals, the easier it is to remember why the hard work is so important. Throughout my race season, I talk a lot with my coach about what’s going right and what I need to change in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the next race or training session. Learning from my mistakes and discussing them is super important to my racing progression.
In the end, I try and focus on what I am doing, and why I like doing it. These help me remember that I am in charge of my efforts, and I will see all the results from those efforts. There is no winning without the hard work.
Hope to see you all out on the bike...
- Bjorn Riley.