How to Choose Your Team's First Road Race

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How to Choose Your Team's First Road Race

How to Choose Your Team's First Road Race

Road racing is experiencing a resurgence in recent years, as the Tour de France's early stages have taken in parts of England several times now, and always generate great interest from spectators and local residents.

But cycle road races have been around almost as long as the bicycle itself - and longer than track or velodrome events.

If you want to get into road racing, give some thought to your team - are you better suited to the high pace and repetitive course of a fairly flat multi-lap event, or to the endurance and varied terrain of a long cross-country challenge?

You don't have to switch to mountain biking for the latter, as there are plenty of long-distance road races, like the Tour de France itself, with stages varying from flat to mountainous.

Safety First

It's only natural to want to hit the road for some practice, but make sure to stay safe - if you are heading out alone for a practice run, don't assume other road traffic will realise you are in race mode.

When going out in groups, it's often wise to have support vehicles marking the front and rear of your riding group.

This has the advantage that any stragglers will not be left behind on their own - remember, the person at the back is often the most likely to need help, so have a good-sized car that can rescue them and their bicycle.

Types of Race

Standard road races are often over a circuit of a set length, where you must complete a certain number of laps, and it is customary to allow the more experienced riders to form a peloton at the start.

Circuit races are sometimes held on closed 'roads' such as converted airfields or disused motor racing circuits, and this is obviously good for safety, although it usually means each circuit will be shorter.

These may be referred to as 'criterium' or 'crit' races, and the nature of the venues used can often mean the corners are more challenging than riding a relatively straight public road course.

Time trials use a staggered start to set riders off one by one, and rather than a head-to-head sprint finish, it is simply your time that determines your position at the end of the race, or after each stage.

How to Start

Local cycling clubs can often help you to hone your road racing skills, as well as to find your first competitive event to take part in.

The peak time for road races is spring-summer, but there are events all year round, just in smaller numbers; you're likely to find the race split into men's, women's and children's categories, too.

It's a much more inclusive sport than you might first imagine, so anyone who doesn't want to actually ride can still go along to spectate and offer their support to passing riders along the course.

As mentioned above, drivers are needed for support vehicles - especially first-aiders - and a competitive event may have openings for timekeepers and judges too.