Friday, January 28, 2011

Bike racing in Belgium, a check-list

Here is a checklist for those of you who are considering going to Belgium to race their bikes in 2011. I will briefly discuss each topic and link to the earlier blog posts that explain that topic in greater detail. Most of those write-ups were posted from September to December of 2010 so you can also check the archive or use the search option.

Anyone, (racing) age 15 and up can go to Belgium to race their bikes if they so desire. All that is needed is a bike in good working order and some paper work. You also need to find a flight and housing. Finally, it is really helpful if you know how to read the Belgian race calendar so you can find appropriate races.

Going to Belgium to race your bike may sound crazy and horrendously expensive but it is neither. Going to Belgium is cheaper and will get you more races than flying across country. Although anyone can go the people that will benefit most and for whom a trip is really worthwhile are men ages 15-35. Women and masters racers will find plenty of opportunities too, but US riders especially, will find that these categories are well represented over here and the level of competition is often not that different in Belgium. 

There are many reasons to go but the main reason is critical mass. If you are a junior and considering a career in racing, here are the reasons why you should go.

The infamous Koppenberg. Don't worry it looks much better now!!

To go to Belgium you need a passport, a UCI license, a foreign permission letter and if you are under 19, a kalenderkaart from the Belgian Federation. US, Canadian, and most European citizens do not need a visa for stays of less than 90 days. If you think you need a visa, check here.

To get a UCI license, go to USA Cycling (or your national federation) and apply on-line. You can also request a foreign permission letter this way. For younger riders a kalenderkaart can also be ordered online. For information on these documents and how to get them, check here.

To find out more about flights, good airports to fly into, what to bring, and ways to ship your bike, click here.

If you are a "junior" you need to know the special rules that apply to you. There are many restrictions, ranging from how often you can race (hence the kalenderkaart) to what distance you can race and what gear you can use when racing. If your racing age is 15-16, read nieuwelingen (novices). If you are 17-18, read junioren (juniors).  

If you want to know about hotels, rooms, vacation housing and rentals, read housing for bike racers and where to stay. If you want to know how to get around, read how to get around in Flanders.

To find races, here is how to find the on-line calendar and how to read it. Here is some useful information regarding the calendar.

To find out what to expect when you go to your first race, read Belgium, the race layout.

There are many other topics that I covered going from things to know about Belgium, to cuisine, haute cuisine, cartoons, beer and chocolate.  Hopefully these will strike your fancy but they are not required reading. But I do suggest you read the posts on liability issues and medical care before you leave.

Happy reading and please feel free to leave some feedback.

1 comment:

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