If you want to enter your first bike race, road racing or time trialling, read the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy rider’s comprehensive guide on how to get involved.
Introduction to road racing
After cycling for a few months or years you might decide to bite the bullet and throw yourself into the crazy world of road racing! You’ll need to decipher exactly what kind of racing you want to do. The two main forms are Citerium and Road races. Criteriums or “Crits” as they’re referred to are normally fast, technical and held on short circuits either in a town centre or a motor circuit whereas Road races are longer in length will normally go from point A to B and finish on a hill.
Before your first race
In order to take part in these you’ll need to get yourself a race licence if you want to race in the UK it has to be a British Cycling Licence either Silver or Gold. It also doesn’t matter if your 25 or 65 you’ll start as a Category 4 racer. The category system is pretty simple there’s 5 Categories: Cat 4, Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1 and Elite, once you start racing, you’ll accumulate points if you finish in certain positions, say 1st-10th, then over time these points will help you move into the next category.
Once you’ve received your race licence and have decided what type of race you want to enter then get online and enter it! There will never be the right time so just enter it and have some fun. It is best not to enter racing expecting to get on the podium instead go out and enjoy it!
In order to be fresh and prepared on race-day it is best to work backwards from the day of the race for planning your training; in-terms of how many hours you’re going to ride in the lead up. Think about what race fuel is going to help you on the day, then the evening before your race check out what time sign on opens and closes as these will vary depending on what time your race will start. Once you have arrived at sign on leaving your race licence at HQ, don’t forget to factor in pinning numbers on (which is pretty time consuming if you’re doing it yourself). If you have time a quick warmup prerace, consisting of a lap or two to scout out technical factors of the course but apart from that go enjoy racing your first race!
Take a spin back to your car to cool down but don’t miss out on getting over to the village hall to grab that well deserved sandwich and coffee which will inevitably lead you to get chatting with your competition, congratulate the winner in the prize ceremony and don’t forget to pick your race licence back up from sign on!
Introduction to time trialling
Time trialling is an excellent way to get into competitive cycling. You’ll find a mix of local club events (more casual races, usually on an evening), and open time trials (more formal races, usually on a weekend), both of which are a great way to begin your racing career. A time trial simple way to test yourself against the clock over a given distance, all you need to take part is a bicycle, a helmet and a rear light!
Before you enter your first race, you’ll need to choose your preferred distance. Most time trials are of standard length – 10 or 25 miles, as well as longer events of 50 or 100 miles. Other events may be held on sporting courses of other, varied lengths. Being the shortest distance, a 10 is often a good one to start with and will give you a taste of just why time trialling is so popular with such a big range of riders throughout the UK cycling community.
How to enter
Unlike road racing, you don’t need a licence to race, to be eligible for a time trial the only requirement is that you are a member of a Cycling Time Trials (CTT) affiliated club (this is for insurance purposes). A list of affiliated clubs can be found on the CTT website, if you’re not yet a member then your local club would love to have you join, and it’ll be a great way to meet other keen cyclists who can help to advise you on local events you might be interested in too. A list of upcoming races can be found on the CTT website. Most club events can be entered on the day, while open event entry is via the website, closing dates and entry instructions can be found on the event page.
Before your first race
It’s a good idea to research the course so you know where you’ll need to go for the start and finish, and familiarise yourself with any junctions or roundabouts within the race. If it’s an open event, a start sheet will be emailed to you containing all of the information you should need to know, for club events you can contact the organising club if you’re unsure and they’ll be more than happy to race. The day before race day it’s a good idea to check your tires, charge your rear light, and get your kit and helmet ready just to make sure you don’t forget anything.
Double check when the race begins and aim to get to the race between 60 and 30 minutes before your start time. Once you arrive, sign on, pin your number, and turn on your rear light; you’re now almost ready to race! It’s a good idea try to get a little warm up in to wake your legs up, then head to the start with around 5 minutes to spare. Wait your turn, listen to the countdown from 10, and go! Start controlled, and ease into the effort, pacing it as best you can so you can use your very last bit of energy to shout your number to the timekeeper as you cross the finish line. And that’s it – well done – you’ve finished your first bike race.
Return to the race HQ and remember to sign out – then give yourself a pat on the back, enjoy a well-earned cup of coffee and a slice of cake, and get back onto the CTT website to enter your next race! Now you’ve done your first time trial you have a personal goal to chase, next time you ride the same course you can try to go a few seconds quicker!
Now that you know how to get into racing you are ready to go forth and enter your first race… good luck and let us know how you get on. We’ll be cheering for you from afar!
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