Collegiate Cycling - Racing


Road Track Mountain Bike Cyclocross My First Race

Collegiate cycling offers something for everyone. Whether you are into road, mountain, cyclocross, or track racing, collegiate cycling offers it all. Better yet, you can do it all since all four have their own seasons. Most importantly, though, it doesn’t matter how good or how experienced you are. There is a level for everyone, from novices to pros, with the chance to move up the ranks as you gain experience and get hooked, which we know you will. Getting started with racing in Collegiate Cycling is easy. With almost 200 events every year, divided among 11 conferences, the chances are good that you'll find a race in your area. You can find a calendar of all upcoming events on your conference website. Depending on what season it is, there will be different kinds of events available:



The road season spans from February through May, culminating in the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in early May. As it's the final discipline of the academic year, a lot of pressure rides on the road season, as everyone in collegiate cycling waits to see who comes out on top. Collegiate road cycling is split up into 11 conferences, with schools competing within their conferences until they all come together at the Collegiate National Championships. Each race weekend usually consists of three events over a two-day span: a time trial, a criterium, and a road race, with all three contested at Nationals.


Time Trial: A time trial is a pure race against the clock, with racers going off one at a time to see who can record the fastest time over the designated course. Some weekends will have an individual time trial, while others will pit teams against one another as teammates work together to produce the fastest time. At Nationals, it is the team time trial that counts.

Criterium: Possibly the most exciting of all races to watch, criteriums take place on a small closed-street circuit, with short laps (one mile or less) and LOTS of cornering. Races last 20-90 minutes, depending on the category.

Road race: This mass-start event sends riders out onto some of America most sceninc roads for what ends up being as much 50-70 mile race for women and a 60-100 mile race for men (less in the lower categories), with plenty of ups and downs along the way.


The track has countless types of races that vary by location. Chances are, you'll find one you like. Check out the USA Cycling Rulebook for definitions of all the different races. Track racing is incredibly fun because it all takes place on an enclosed, embanked oval called a Velodrome. Track bikes have no brakes and can't "freewheel," which means that as long as the wheels are moving, your pedals are locked in motion with the movement of the bike. So don’t stop pedaling! The track season starts in the summer and goes into September, with Track Nationals in mid-September. The types of races that occur at USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships are:

Match Sprints: Two riders race against each other for two laps. The first lap or even lap and a half are often very slow, with each competitor watching the other and waiting to see who will make the first move.

Individual Pursuit: Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and race for a pre-determined distance (3km for women and 4km for men) in pursuit of one another.

Points Race: A pack of riders race for a pre-determined distance (20km for women and 30km for men), sprinting for points every five laps. The rider with the most points at the end of the race wins.

Time Trial: The race of truth: 500m for women, 1km for men, as fast as you can. Go.

Coed Team Sprint: A team of 2-6 riders (with at least one woman and no more than four men) races for six laps, with each rider pulling off after his or her turn at the front of the line.

Team Pursuit: Two teams of 3-4 riders each start on opposite sides of the track and race for 3 km in pursuit of one another.

Mountain Bike

The mountain bike season spans from August to October and is divided up into two categories: Gravity and Endurance. Gravity races are technically challenging and rely on the forces of, yes, gravity for speed while challenging the reflexes and courage of each rider. Endurance events, on the other hand, depend more on the athletic abilities of their competitors as they traverse all types of terrain, both uphill and down. Collegiate cycling is unique in that it rewards the most versatile of riders: for those who manage to succeed in both endurance and gravity events, the Individual Omnium prize awaits them at the end of the season, and at USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. A typical race weekend will comprise numerous events. Below are the types of races that occur at these weekends and that are contested at Nationals:

Cross Country (endurance): This mass-start event lasts as much as 1.5-2.5 hours, covering a large loop of singletrack with plenty of elevation gain and descending every lap.

Short Track (endurance): Another mass-start event, this race takes place on a short loop with lap times in the 2-5 minute range. Races are short, around 30 minutes, but very intense.

Downhill (gravity): One rider at a time descends a long stretch of treacherous terrain as fast as he or she possibly can.

Dual Slalom (gravity): Two riders on two parallel and similar courses race downhill, weaving around gates set up throughout the course. (Think ski racing on two wheels.)

Four Cross (gravity): Four riders per heat descend a course that challenges their athletic, strategic, and technical abilities. The top two riders advance from each round to the next. (Note: either Dual Slalom or Four Cross are contested at Nationals, but not both.)



Cyclocross is the perfect transition between the fall mountain bike season and the spring road season. Racing takes place on mostly dirt or grass courses, featuring hairpin turns, natural obstacles like steep hills (called "run-ups"), and man-made obstacles such as barriers and stairs. Laps are short, between five and ten minutes, and the entire race is between 45 and 60 minutes long. The race is contested on what basically amounts to a road bike with knobby tires. The ‘cross season runs from November to January, and the USA Cycling Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships are held in conjunction with USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships  in January.



BMX (which stands for Bicycle Motocross) racing finds its roots starting in the late 1970s in southern California. Today it is an Olympic sport with participants from countries all over the world. Riders start on a gate and sprint around a track consisting of a variety of jumps and turns. The race is entirely from the start line to the finish line — there are no laps — and the goal is to cross the finish line before your competitors. A typical race only lasts about 30-40 seconds. Typically, qualifying heats are used to determine who will race in a single main event for the victory.

Collegiate BMX has several regional events in the spring culminating in the Collegiate BMX National Championship late Spring held in partnership with USA BMX.

Your First Bike Race

When you go to your first bike race, you will start out in the lowest category (C, D, or E for men; B, C, D, or E for women). Most road, track, or mountain bike races will include some form of clinic for beginners, so you can feel comfortable starting out. Once you have some race experience under your belt, you can submit for an upgrade from your My USA Cycling account page under "License Info". You can find information about the requirements for upgrading here. Finally, be sure to sign up for your conference's list-serv so you get all important conference e-mails and get in touch with your conference director with questions about starting to race. You can also feel free to contact the Interscholastic Cycling and Club Development Coordinator.,

And make sure to check out the "My First Bike Race" webinar by Kristin Dieffenbach, PhD, and USA Cycling Level 1 coach.

This Article Updated October 26, 2016 @ 06:47 PM For more information contact: