Race Recap | Natural State Criterium Series
One of the cool features about the Natural State Criterium Series is the First Chance Category designed to allow participants to “get their feet wet” in bike racing. Two former professional riders/coaches Ernie & Scotti Lechugas (Natural State Rock & Republic) take time to encourage, give tips and lead the group around the course. We checked in with first time bike racer Joseph Nguyen to see how it went.
OCA: How did you get started riding bikes?
JN: Honestly, it was doctor’s orders. I was having high blood pressure issues and he said I had to get more active to help control it. AKA LOSE WEIGHT! Tried running, hated it. Then I tried cycling and I fell in love! I joined a cycling team (Fayetteville Wheelmen) so I could try to get faster/ride further and it helped tremendously. The camaraderie was amazing. Learned a lot along the way too. It definitely helped to get my blood pressure more under control, but recently I’ve gotten really busy and haven’t ridden much. That has got to change! Our area is the perfect place to live if you’re a cyclist and I feel extremely fortunate to call NWA home. I love it here! Cycling MECCA!
OCA: How did you get interested in racing bikes?
JN: I just wanted to push myself and see what I can achieve. I know I probably won’t be winning any races anytime soon, but it would make me set a goal. Something to get motivated for. I love watching crit races especially during the Joe Martin Stage Race and ever since I saw my first one in person, I knew I wanted to try it one day. Also watching and hearing about my friends that race bikes got me wanting to also. I mainly want to see what I can achieve if I really put my mind to it. I’m ready for my next race already since I learned a lot from my first one. This time I’ll train!
OCA: How did your first introduction to racing go?
JN: It went well! During the “first chance” beginners ride, we learned a lot from Ernie and Scotti of Natural State Rock & Repuclic. They taught us the basics during the 20 min session, but it was all informative stuff. They are pros, so they definitely know what they are talking about. There were some things we did wrong and they would point it out, but in a helpful way and not just barking orders at us. It can get intimidating, so I’m glad I signed up for the First Chance Category. There were some seasoned riders that signed up also, so its pretty much for everyone. I highly recommend it!
OCA: Any advice for those curious about bike racing?
JN: I recommend everyone to try it out at least once in their lives. Its fun and I’ve got the itch to do it again and again. Crit racing is awesome and I learned a lot during my first attempt. Even though it wasn’t a great “race’ for me, I still came away with a lot of info for my next attempt. Most important thing I learned was to pace myself. In the beginning I tried too hard to keep up with the lead group. I haven’t been riding so I was totally out of shape. For some reason I thought in a crit race we had to stay in the lead group or else we get pulled out of the race. That’s not the case. We can get lapped and still ride almost the entire time until we get pulled at the end. Didn’t know that! Another important tip that Ernie kept telling us was to always look up and ahead. Anticipate what’s ahead like turns, riders, obstacles in the road etc. That was a good tip from Ernie for sure. All in all, just go out there and try it out. Think of it as just for fun. If you think you’re fast, you might get humbled real quick out there. But you won’t know it until you try it!
OCA: A big thanks to Joseph for doing this interview. We wish him luck! And if you ever need to know where to eat in Northwest Arkansas check out his Instagram handle hangrypedalernwa he has one of the best food micro blogs in our region. Ride your bike and get hangry!