Recently I helped instruct the USA Cycling Beginner Racer Program which was held at the Dominguez Hills California Bicycle Racing criterium race. We were fortunate enough to have one of the local professionals, Brian McCulloch from the Elevate KHS Pro Cycling Team assist us in helping teach these new racers technical skills to stay safe and perform well during the race.
For those not familiar with BRP, the program is sanctioned by USA Cycling to provide survival skills to new racers through training disseminated by coaches registered as Category 3 or higher. BRP events are held concurrently with many racing criteriums, typically taking place in the early morning hours before the main events begin.
The BRP program is divided into 5 separate clinics, with each building off the previous curriculum. They are meant to be attended in series, and putting space between each clinic can help solidify the learned skills.
- Basic Pack Skills — Protecting Your Front Wheel
- Cornering — Choosing and Holding Your Line
- Pack Awareness and Skills
- Sprinting Basics
- Bringing it All Together
Each clinic is comprised of three components: on-bike instructional clinic, mentored race, and race debrief. Beyond the knowledge and skills learned, the BRP also adds points to the USAC scoring system with 2 points awarded for each clinic, instead of the usual 1 point that goes towards the minimum 10 points required to upgrade from Category 5 to Category 4. Even if you have no intention of moving up the ranks of amateur USAC categories, the skills you will learn will be valuable, no matter the type of riding you do.
An Example Topic
One of the items we discuss each and every BRP is to race in the drops, not on the hoods. There are several important reasons for this. Each time we teach these clinics, we are continuously telling the attendees to “get into the drops.” Over and over again, they keep putting their hands back up onto the hoods, where we say again and again, “get in the drops.”
I asked Brian why so many racers (all categories) race on the hoods instead of the drops. Brian concluded (a) that he spends 85%-90% of his time training and racing in the drops and that (b) the main reason that it is difficult for cyclists of all categories to ride in the drops is because they have been fitted to ride on the hoods. I thought about this for a second and this makes sense. See, even us veteran road-warriors can learn something new at the BRP.