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Book Review: Bike Racing 101 by Kendra and René Wenzel
By Staff
Date: 6/24/2003
Book Review: Bike Racing 101 by Kendra and René Wenzel

Bike Racing 101 - Cycle Racing from Start to Finish

Review by podofdonny

Experienced trainers and cyclists Kendra and René Wenzel take on a daunting challenge in this book. Starting from the assumption that the reader is a proficient cyclist, it introduces the sport from step one (getting a racing licence) and then offers practical advice across the whole range of topics which a racing cyclist would need to know to enjoy and successfully compete in the sport.

The book's first big plus is its clear and concise layout, with an excellent Contents page at the start which makes it easy for the reader to cross refer and select which section they wish to refer to. The layout is methodical and logical, which means that the book is extremely reader friendly and it is easy to review sections as experience and skill develops. The authors are also not afraid to acknowledge that certain advice, for example bike set up, simply cannot be efficiently done by the written word alone and throughout the book encourage the reader to make use of their local resources (for example, your local cycling club - which is, as they rightly point out, good advice whether you are in Arkansas or Italy).

The book is an excellent introduction to the sport because it assumes no pre-knowledge from the reader. For instance, early on in the book clear definitions to the various types of Road racing events and categories are established; which help to “de-myth" the sport and make the book accessible and easy to read, and give the reader confidence to establish goals and targets.

Every page of the book is full of practical advice which is not only essential for the beginner to learn, but also to remind the more experienced rider what he may have forgotten or neglected to do. It may be the case that the experienced rider is well aware of his bicycle's set up and accessories, as covered in Chapter 2, but the addition, for example, of the small chart covering Routine Preventive Maintenance means that the book is an excellent tool for every rider. In addition, the book is also aware that not every cyclist has an unlimited budget and it offers good tips and advice for purchasing and maintaining equipment in a cost effective way.

Having introduced the reader to the world of cycling racing in part one, the book then moves onto “Training for Performance.” Once again the advice and programme is well set out, easy to understand and makes no assumptions on the reader's knowledge . The experience of the authors is clear and they are well aware of the pitfalls that each and every rider is liable to fall into. “Set a Realistic Schedule” they warn; acknowledgement that early enthusiasm may lapse and that goals need to be realistic and achievable is far better than an overtly optimistic approach.

Once again each topic in this section is dealt with clearly and comprehensively, and particularly welcome are the small sections such as 12 Rules for Healthy Daily Eating, which again provide a good reference source at what ever standard the reader may be. Part 3 of the book is concerned with Racing Skills, and this section once again gives a comprehensive and detailed account of group dynamics such as drafting, race skills such as sprinting and climbing, and confidence tips such as cornering and descending. The use of diagrams and real event situations such as the sprint in the 1984 Olympics between Grewal and Bauer emphasis the authors' points nicely and this section would be of interest not only to the active racer but also to the many roadside and armchair fans who wish to understand the dynamics of a major road race more clearly. That said, some of the advice given in the Drills for Skills section should perhaps carry a health warning; two rider bumping and "ring of fire" may sound like a good idea but an evening in the casualty department is not.

The book concludes with “Racing Strategy and Tactics" and once again the experience of the authors is evident on every page, giving sound advice and a solid backbone of strategy; course, competition, conditions and confidence. Sensibly, the authors concentrate on Road Racing, Time Trialing, Criteriums and Stage Racing separately, and each discipline is covered in a logical and systematic approach.

Bike Racing 101 is a thoroughly enjoyable book. It sets out to encourage the beginner in the world of cycle racing and it not only achieves this goal, but also has enough depth and weight to be of interest to the more experienced rider too. The book deserves to be successful because the authors offer excellent coaching and training experience and expertise while maintaining a clear, concise and realistic approach. Highly Recommended.

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Bike Racing 101 - Something for Everyone

Review by Janna Trevisanut

When I agreed to review this book, both the publishers and I knew my review would not be from the viewpoint of an aspiring racer, since I had just started riding after many years off the bike and do not have racing as a goal, even as a "pie in the sky" dream. However, I was very pleasantly surprised on many fronts - I half expected to be written at a level much advanced from my own, but this is not the case. It is straightforward and highly informational, and I have found myself picking it up at night, re-reading sections that apply to that day's (sometimes torturous) introduction to "fitness" bike riding.

Bike Racing 101 is of course written for cyclists who have a firm grasp on biking basics and are ready to compete - this book answers the question "What do I do now, and how?" But there is also a ton of information in the book that will allow racing fans to learn about different aspects of racing strategy and skill, making them more "educated" fans, just as "Fast Freddy" Fred Rodriguez, who began working with Rene Wenzel as a 16 year old, says in the foreword to the book:

"I would encourage anybody interested in cycling to listen carefully when the Wenzels speak. This book will get you on the right track, from choosing your first race to becoming a more knowledgeable fan of the sport."

The Wenzels first cover the basic information needed to race, including getting a license in the United States, determining in which category you should be, and choosing your first race. There is a very clever checklist entitled "Am I Ready to Race?" which will help you specifically assess whether you should tackle a race, and if you "come up short," has great solutions as to what your next steps should be. In this first section the Wenzels even provide checklists for what gear to bring, arriving, pre-race registration, fueling up and so on. If you want to start racing, you can literally use this book to get to the startline, on time, all set and ready to go.

The next chapters deal with training for performance, including basics, building endurance and strength, speed and power, nutrition and hydration, and a very important chapter on Rest and Recovery. The Wenzels provide a typical goal-based season plan to ready you for a season of racing, with sections on tracking your progress, what to expect in group rides, indoor and cross training, and how to build each one of the basic skill sets you need as a racer: endurance, speed and power. As I have gone along in my riding to build up general endurance and fitness, this section is the one I have referred to most often - in very smooth fashion it does not omit covering basics which I myself have needed.

As a racing fan, the next section, Racing Skills, is fascinating.  The Wenzels discuss group etiquette, drafting and riding in pacelines, rotating through echelons and how critical it is to maintain the right position in the group - like so many other factors in racing, this one can make or break your ultimate result, and your "racing smarts" will also determine whether you are looked upon as a "peril" by your fellow racers. There are even various drills you can do to improve your comfort level while racing in a pack. Finally, there is a discussion of how to crash and what to do if you do, to minimize your injury and any long-term effects from hitting the road, and how to regain your confidence.

The next chapters deal with the racing skills of sprinting, climbing, cornering and descents. The Wenzels' common sense approach comes through again in these sections, as this passage shows:

"Sprinting isn't about the maximum speed of top pros such as Mario Cipollini or Petra Rossner - it's about enough speed. The goal of sprinting isn't to be the fastest. The goal is to be faster than the people you are with, faster than the dog chasing you, and faster than the speed of the paceline behind you."

There are excellent discussions of proper technique -  they get the budding racer to think about what he knows and how to practice his skills properly. As is mentioned elsewhere in the book, with the many hours riders spend training, they must be aware that they are training in habits - and the habits must be the right ones to be a successful racer. Again, from a fan's point of view, I have seen some of what the Wenzels say when I now watch the pros race, so to me, even this information is very interesting from a fan's point of view.

The final section covers racing strategy and tactics. The introduction to the chapter entitled A Systematic Approach to Racing is interesting, and may strike a chord:

"Often, riders train for years, getting stronger with time, but their racing results actually plateau. Usually, it's not that they aren't capable of doing more; it's just that they are approaching their races the same way weekend after weekend, year after year, without applying the lessons they have learned. With all of bike racing's gears, terrains, conditions, racing lengths, and athlete types, it is a complicated sport even on its most basic level. So it's easy for riders to give in, follow the pack around weekend after weekend, and think they are racing well just because it hurts and they are still with a group."

This section then discusses basic tactical moves, how to manage the situations that will arise in a race, and specific discussions of requirements and tips for road races, time trials, criteriums and stage races. The racing fan will gain just as much from this final section, because he or she will observe in races what the Wenzels talk about. George Hincapie says of this book: "Bike Racing 101 is the perfect book for anyone who's serious about getting into racing. Rene and Kendra combine their coaching and racing experience and expertise to cover every aspect of this highly competitive sport, making this the one book you'll use again and again."

I agree - if you are racing, think you want to, or want to learn more about what this sport is about, pick up a copy of Bike Racing 101.

Library of Congress:
Wenzel, Kendra, 1967-
Bike Racing 101 / Kendra Wenzel, Rene Wenzel.

ISBN 0-7360-4474-4 (soft cover)

Human Kinetics

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