Road racing is one of the most challenging facets of cycle racing. As with time trials you need to be pretty fit but you also need to be able to accelerate, climb, sprint and think tactically - recover quickly and then do it all again! Road racing is about fitness but to be good you need to be able to read the race - sit in where necessary, chase the breaks that matter and attack when the time comes.
There are three main bodies organising road races in the UK.
British Cycling (formerly the British Cycling Federation) - BC is the official governing body for cycle sport in the UK. The vast majority of road races in the UK are organised under BC rules. Macclesfield Wheelers come under the North West region but we also tend to race in the adjoining regions of Yorkshire and the West Midlands. BC racing is organised into ability categories. New members start as 4th category riders and can progress to 3rd, 2nd, 1st and Elite based on race results. Fourth category races are few and far between and 3.4 races are the usual starting point. Most races are on Sundays and courses can be flat, rolling or quite hilly. See www.britishcycling.org.uk for details on races, results, coaching, interviews etc.
The League International (TLI)- The League International are a smaller organisation than BC but TLI races tend to be popular with riders from Macclesfield Wheelers. This stems both from connections the club has with the TLI and the fact that the TLI use courses which are conveniently close to Macclesfield. Most of the TLI racing occurs on Tuesday evenings through the summer. The Tuesday night series are relatively short (30 miles or so) and fairly flat. Racing in the TLI is age related although if you find that your ability is vastly different to others in your age group it is possible to switch. The TLI series is an excellent place to gain road racing experience for beginners
The League of Veteran racing Cyclists - The LVRC organises age related races for riders of age 40 and over. The standard can be quite high stemming from the fact that BC cater poorly for the over 40's. Hence many very good veteran racers tend to switch to LVRC events from their early forties onwards. Macclesfield Wheelers has an active group of LVRC members who race at most of the local events.
How to start racing ?
If you've never raced before how do you start and how fit do you need to be? To race in BC events you need to be a member of BC and have a racing licence. This is actually quite expensive - £53 or £65 depending on what level of membership (different insurance) you take. For juniors there is a reduced fee. BC also offer a day licence which, for £8 (plus the race entry fee - usually around £10), allows you to compete in just that race. The day licence is often the best way for someone to try a few races before committing to full membership. There is of course a risk in turning up on the day that you won't get an entry. Road race fields are usually restricted to 60 and the 3-4 cat races on flat'ish courses tend to have full fields.
The TLI make 'trying it' rather easier in that because races are run in age groups separated on the road by a few minutes, it's very unlikely that any one group gets up to the 60 limit. Hence you can be pretty sure that if you just turn up that you'll get a race. Also the TLI charge a flat £10 entry fee for an on-the-line entry and you pay no more even if you aren't a TLI member. The first TLI Tuesday evening event is a 30 mile road race starting at 7pm in early May. The circuit will be centred around Byley (near Middlewich). We are targeting this race for any club members who'd like to try road racing for the first time. The Byley circuits are generally flat and with the 'protection' of a few experienced club members around you are unlikely to get dropped. If anyone is interested in racing for the first time please contact Mick O'Connor
How fit do you need to be? - Fitness requirements vary with the quality of the field and the profile of the course. For the TLI Tuesday evening races the courses are flat and the 'general' quality of the field is reasonable. If you can ride on your own for 30 to 40 miles at an average speed of 18 to 19 mph then you shouldn't find yourself going out of the back of the bunch in these races. It is important to be reasonably confident riding in a bunch. Taking part in club training events (see below) would be an excellent way to gain experience.