The pinnacle of most cyclists’ seasons, regardless of discipline, are the national championships. These national events entertain athletes of all levels over the course of several days. Oftentimes, the location for these events change yearly, or every two years, presenting completely different courses that suit different abilities. For all cycling disciplines except for road, there are races for all categories at the events: from the 9-10 year olds, to the pro field. For road cycling nationals, however, they break up the categories into three separate nationals: professional, masters, and amateur.
As of now, I have attended 5 cycling national championships (4 road and 1 cyclocross), and will be attending my 6th nationals this winter. From a young age, I always made an effort to get to these events, as it was the only place where I would have a large quantity of competition. Since I grew up going to these events and have centered my seasons around them for years, I always thought that it was odd when people either didn’t know that the national championships existed, or voiced that they were frightened to compete there. However, I can see where they are coming from. If you approach the national championships solely hoping to earn a spot on the podium or come out on top, then this would be an extremely nerve wracking time. If you have never been to a cycling national championship, then you may think that this is all there is to it: race your bike and try to win the stars and stripes. But what actually goes on is quite different. These races are often accompanied by amazing vendors, sometimes comedic commentary, and if you know people who are also attending, then it becomes a fun time to see friends who you would not normally see. Of course, you also compete in some of the toughest races of the year, but that is overshadowed by the fantastic courses and relaxed atmosphere. Also, the courses are often what you could call “spectators’ courses,” which is great for watching the races, hanging out with friends, or meeting new people.
I strongly feel that all cyclists should attend national championships. There is no other place where you can compete against as big or as strong of a field, see as many people, or have as good of a time. You are also able to learn so much and can come out of the races as a totally different and more tactical rider, which makes the whole experience priceless. And who knows! If you do well, you may catch the eye of USA cycling or some sponsors!