THE MENTOR PROGRAM
Because there's more to learn after you learn to ride.
Many consider local criteriums to be the ideal place to start racing bikes. While mostly true, here in Austin, the Driveway Series’ growth, its yearly increasing competitiveness, and growing field sizes often made the races intimidating for beginners. Intimidation leads to apprehension and anxiety. That anxiety leads to mid-race distraction and an overall poor experience for those willing to line up despite their nerves. And poor experiences or even just not feeling good about trying racing leads to a disinterest in competition and worse, possibly a loss of interest in riding generally. To combat this and help riders learn to enjoy racing, the Mentor Program was created in 2016.
Initially, the Mentor Program was simply a veteran racer riding at the back of the field as a sort of safety marshal, offering advice to riders who asked. Quickly though, mentors began sharing their knowledge on their own accord helping riders choose good lines through turns, explaining when to shift, sharing basic pack dynamics, and more. It was quickly realized that mentors could provide this basic "coaching"—as well as encouragement and good cheer—to new racers and that in turn those new racers were more likely to return, regardless of their race placing. Moreover, by riding with a race radio, mentors could speed up communication with and between race officials, race staff, and on-site medical personnel.
Thus the Mentor Program grew to offer new racers basic tips from registering to race the Driveway all the way to positioning for the final lap, and gave more experienced racers peace of mind with mentors serving as radioed course marshals in higher skill category races. In 2019 the program expanded beyond the Driveway Series to local road races. A mentor handbook was written, a video was produced about the program, several off-bike informational clinics have been held at local bike shops, and jerseys were designed specifically for mentors to make it easy for riders to find help. In 2021 The LeadOut Foundation formally took over operation of the Mentor Program and reimagined it.
While novice level race assistance and course marshaling advanced skill races is still part of the program’s function, the Mentor Program now also serves non-racing cycling events.
Mentors have worked at local social rides as on-course marshals helping with things like punctures and offering a healthy dose of positive, can-do spirit. Our mentors are invaluable in communicating with ride directors regarding mid-ride issues that require additional assistance. In so doing, the Mentor Program offers ride promoters and event organizers added help in producing their event and are a value added service for all riders.
The ultimate goal of the Mentor Program is to develop cyclists’ skills and confidence through instruction and example—regardless of pace—from highly skilled, veteran riders increasing riders' enjoyment and thus expanding the pool of avid cyclists.
“Thank you so much to my mentors and the program.
I believe it made my transition into crit racing
much safer and more fun.”
- First-time racer
HAVE THE MENTOR PROGRAM AT YOUR RIDE OR RACE
If you or your orgainization are producing a ride or race and you’d like to have The LeadOut Foundation operate the Mentor Program as part of your event please contact us.
“Not only did the LeadOut Foundation’s mentor and clinic program make our races at the Driveway more attractive to beginners, they also cut our emergency medical response time in half and added a layer of professionalism to the event. My only regret is that they were not around sooner.”