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Road racing Beginner's Guide

What is Road Racing?


Ever fancied riding a road race or does the idea of riding in a bunch of 60 other cyclists scare you to death? The following is a quick guide, which hopefully answers any questions you may have about starting your first road race. The main difference between road racing and any other form of cycling competition is the fact that you will be riding alongside other cyclists for anything up to 4 hours, although most races are usually an hour in duration.

You should be competent in riding in a bunch and understand the potential dangers in doing so. A Club Run is a good place to learn this. Club Runs teach you the basics of ‘riding on a wheel’ and ‘in a bunch’ whilst also learning not to suddenly brake without warning or wobble going around a bend.


What equipment do I need?

To ride a road race you will need a roadworthy bike, comfortable cycling clothing and a hard shell helmet. Ask a member of the club to advise you on whether your bike is suitable for Road Racing. They will be happy to help you and offer advice. You will also need to be a member of British Cycling or take out a Day License at the event. For information on Licenses, Memberships and how to enter races – check out British Cycling. You will also need a club jersey or a plain jersey as you will not be allowed to ride in you favorite Pro team clothing if you aren’t sponsored by that particular company.


How fit do I need to be?


Those people new to racing shouldn’t waste energy worrying! Yes it'll be tough but everyone else finds it tough too and in terms of pace, Fourth cat (entry level) races are generally like fast club runs – only they don't wait for people who can't keep up! Providing you can beat 28 minutes for a 10 Mile Time trial, you should be able to handle the pace in a large bunch. Everybody feels nervous and apprehensive in the first few races; after all, it’s a totally new experience. Just feel your way through your first few races and don't feel too disappointed if you don't finish every race just yet. Look to progress in every race. This could be how long you stayed in the bunch, or how much more you discovered about tactics. As long as you are comfortable riding amongst other cyclists, you should be able to keep up in a race. You will be surprised how much easier 20mph+ is when you are riding behind many other cyclists.
 

How do I take part?


For your first few races, it is acceptable to sit at the back and observe, watch how others ride in the bunch, around bends or over hills. When riding in a bunch, remember to keep your eyes open and keep your line going round corners and don't brake suddenly, keep the gears low so you are ready to accelerate when everyone else does, as this is often without warning. If you get dropped once the speed quickens, don’t give up… because it is very likely that it will slow down again for everybody to get their breath back as you will not be the only one finding it hard going! If you're dropped you can choose to ride round the circuit on your own or in a small group of other unfortunate riders or you can call it a day and head back to the HQ.


I want to have a go


We are lucky in our area as we have Thruxton, Upavon, The Mountbatton Centre Portsmouth, Hillingdon, Castle Combe and Bransfield Health within an hour of Andover. These wide and open circuits are free from traffic and hold regular races for cyclists. All are less than 2.5 miles in length which means you are never far from the finish should you have a ‘mechanical’ or get dropped.

It is possible to race most nights of the week, plus weekends from April to September. This year sees the introduction of many ‘Go Race’ races for novices. These are usually about 20 minutes long. Again, check out British Cycling for all details on forthcoming in races.