Special blog post by ALP athlete Manuela Escobar
For my entire life (20 years), I had lived in the comfort of my parents’ home in Colombia, a country I love. But then, time to pick college came and I made the scariest but best decision of my life: moving 3,091 miles away from home to Colorado and start my undergrad at CU Denver. Even though I did not know a single soul in Denver or Colorado, I did know that it is the mecca for cycling in the United States so that was incentive enough for me.
11 months after moving to Colorado I cannot emphasize enough how important finding the correct cycling team has been for me. I joined ALP Cycles racing because it is the team that fits best my personality and goals as an athlete. Today, the question that I get asked the most often is “how did I find the team?” Personally, I think that the perks of cycling or any sport in general is that anywhere you go, usually you will find a strong and friendly community eager and willing to take in a new person to grow and enhance the sport even more. This is why I would like to share some general tips of how to find the correct club anywhere you go.
First of all, it is important to know what you want from a team as well as what you can give in return. In my case, ALP Cycles Racing was looking for more Cat 1 and 2 riders and I was looking for a team in which I could race some Pro and UCI races so it worked out perfectly for both. The team also had two collegiate racers which made it more fun because I was also going to be racing collegiate. Furthermore, the team also hosted two team rides every month with a specific focus such as tactics, attacking, cornering, sprinting, and more. However, if you just want to go on coffee rides, on very early rides, if you want to just race criteriums, race PRO, not race at all, etc. the most important thing is to put yourself out there and meet as many people as possible.
Social media today plays a huge role in the sport. Strava, Facebook, MeetUp, and USACycling.com are great platforms to use. As soon as I moved to the U.S, I began to do some research about how cycling worked around Denver and Boulder. I searched for local teams and bike shops on google, I joined numerous groups on Facebook, and I even started to follow a bunch of random people on Strava to know what were the popular routes around the area. I didn’t even know what was Lookout Mountain before moving to Denver but thanks to Strava, I found my way to the top of it from downtown Denver two days later. During this “research period” I created a list of about five teams I could potentially join. By sending emails to the team’s organizers/managers I then scheduled phone calls with them to chat more about what were my goals for the season.
Being active in the race scene creates a great impact. First, look for the racing calendar on the internet, register to race, and when you are there strike up conversation with the other racers, officials, and coaches. Getting to know how each team works in the racing scene will help you get a better idea of how they work.
Weekly group rides are also a great way to meet people. They will help you to learn more about local routes, make new friends, and learn about how to ride in a group. In most places, there are weekly group rides for all levels of abilities. So if you want to go full gas and prove who is the fastest there is a ride for you. But if you are also looking for an easy social spin there is also a ride for you.
Just remember, the great thing about this sport is having fun and meeting like-minded people. Having a team in which you feel comfortable in will make riding and racing much more enjoyable.