ABOUT ROAD RACING
The Basics: Road Racing is massed-start cycle racing on roads or tarmac circuits. First rider over the finish line wins, with anything from twenty to almost 200 competitors, depending on the event. In the UK, events range from short Youth and Juvenile (under16) races of 20km or less, through club level events for adults of between 40km and 100km, to Elite-level one day races of 200km or more.
The majority of adult racing takes place on public roads, though there are an increasing number of circuit events, either on roads closed to other traffic or on specially constructed circuits, some which are shared with other sports like motor racing and kart racing, others are purpose built for cycling. All under-16 racing takes place on traffic-free closed circuits.
Road Races: The classic Road Race is a test of stamina, fitness and tactical acumen. Team tactics often come into play. Riders often have particular strengths: some can climb hills and mountains very quickly; others have a devastating turn of speed or sprint; other have the ability to ride very well against the clock in Time Trials (which often form part of multi day or stage races). The art is to restrict your rival’s gains in the areas where they are strong and maximise your gains in your preferred terrain. Stone Wheelers organise a number of events each year.
Road Stage Races: Some Road Races are contested over several days and several stages. These “Stage” Races or Tours often feature prizes for each stage winner, plus others for the best sprinter in the race, the best climber (aka King of the Mountains), the leading team and, of course, the overall winner, who is the rider with the best aggregate time. The Tour de France is the world’s most prestigious Stage Race and lasts for three weeks.
Racing Qualities: All top Road Racers need to be able to stay in the saddle for hours at a time (endurance). Some are exceptionally good at going uphill and target wins in hilly terrain: these are known as Climbers. Others have a big ‘kick’ or ability to accelerate and are known as Sprinters. They often win races where the finish is contested by a number of riders – a bunch or sprint finish. Few riders can win, however, if they are not tactically very aware and at pro level, team tactics and strategy can be very complex.
Tactical Considerations: Endurance, Sprinting, Climbing, Tactics – these are just some of the qualities a successful road rider might possess. Which is the most important? Well, it’s open to debate, but compared to the sledgehammer tactic of just trying to ride faster than your rivals – something which will not work at anything but the lowest level of the sport – the rapier blade of genuine tactical nous is potentially a race winner for you.
Road & Circuit Racing: Categories, Points, Rankings and Event Classifications: Road Racing is categorised into different classifications of race, open to riders of differing age/ability categories. Many races carry ranking points which are sought after by riders hoping to make it up to the next ability category.
GET INTO ROAD RACING
What’s the best way to get into the sport of Road Racing?
Here are a few tips to get you thinking.
Join a Club: The ability to ride comfortably and safely in a bunch of riders is perhaps the essential skill of Road Racing. Road Racing has a strong club-based culture, so a great place to start is by joining a club like Stone Wheelers which regularly has training rides on the public roads. This will help you to learn how to ride in the company of other riders and what the basic etiquette of group riding entails.
Group Skills: Most Road orientated clubs run a number of rides per week, with a longer option on Sundays and perhaps a couple of shorter evening rides. Riding with other riders is also a great way to improve your fitness and gauge your ability against those who already compete.
Perhaps the most useful trick of all is learning how to conserve energy by slipstreaming behind other riders. The ability to move freely in a bunch of riders is a real skill and many first-timers find themselves continually hanging on at the rear of the group. Seasoned riders have a magical feel for where to ride to minimise effort. These are all skills which will prove invaluable once you start to race.
Circuit Racing: Road Racing beginners usually find their feet in easier events and there’s no better place to start than Circuit Race meetings. These events often have several races catering for a range of abilities and age groups and are an ideal environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills necessary to succeed, without the additional stress of being on the public highway. Lap distance is usually between one and four kilometres, so if you get “dropped” (i.e. left behind), catch your breath and wait for the main group to come round, and join again! A British Cycling or other Licence are usually needed for most events.
This is good way into group/semi-competitive road riding. The sportive road ride offers a range of distances giving novice and experienced road riders the opportunity to ride their bike with like-minded people on some of the UK’s most picturesque lanes and back roads. The routes are fully way-marked and riders are usually given a map to further help with navigation. Medium and long routes (often up to 100 miles) drink stations en route. The routes are fully way-marked and riders are usually given a map to further help Riders are set off in groups of up to 40 at a time and are free to ride a pace which suits the individual. Some riders are keen to go as fast as possible whilst others are happy to simply finish to route. Every ride is timed so it does not matter who gets over the finish line first.
WHAT IS AUDAX?
‘Audax’ rides are run under rules laid down by Audax UK which exists solely as the overall organising body of ‘audax’ style rides. The term ‘audax’, meaning audacious, was the name given to a movement which started a little over 100 years ago somewhere in Europe – hence the fact that distances are measured in kilometres – and referred to challenging events involving walking, cycling and horse riding.
What you need to know is how an audax ride ‘works’. They differ from ordinary rides simply bybeing slightly more organised, in that you are timed through a number of control points. Here then is the process you need to follow if you want to ride an audax event.
Firstly you must complete an entry form – this needs to be done at least two weeks in advance of the event – and send it to the organiser together with the entry fee and two stamped self-addressed envelopes. Details of the ride (where it starts etc) and the route sheet will be returned to you in one of your SAEs.
Next, turn up at the start on the day of the ride, about half an hour before the event is due to start. This allows you time to collect your record, or ‘brevet’, card, have a cup of tea and get ready to ride. You should fill in the back of your brevet card with your address and the phone number of your next of kin.
Look at the inside pages of your brevet card and you’ll see the controls you have to go to on the ride and when they open and close. You must call in at these controls between the times stated, and have your card stamped. Sometimes, instead of getting your card stamped, you’ll need to answer a question; this is an ‘information control’.
Finally, you should get back to the start before the finish time of the event. Sign your card on the back and hand it to the controller who will stamp it and retain it. You’ll receive it back, duly ‘validated’ in a few weeks in the second envelope you provided. And that’s about it.
Why bother with all this stuff when all you want to do is ride your bike? For a start, every route is checked for quality so you know you’re going to get a good ride. Audax events are designed to be challenging and there are numerous trophies and medals you can collect if that’s your thing. Meet an audax rider and you’ll usually be meeting an experienced and motivated rider – the kind of rider you’ll probably want to become, if you aren’t one already!