North West England is one of the UK’s hotbeds of cycle road racing, with men’s and women’s events throughout the season
Am I ready to race?
Make no mistake, road racing is challenging. As with time trials, you need to be pretty fit but you also need to be able to accelerate, climb, sprint, recover quickly and then do it all again. Unlike time trials, where the strongest rider will win, road racing is as much about tactics as fitness; you need to be able to read the race, to ‘sit in’ where necessary, spot the breaks that matter (and get into them) and attack when the time comes.
You need to be confident riding in a bunch at racing speed since everyone’s safety depends on everyone else’s competence. Club training rides are an excellent way to build your experience of riding fast close to other riders and going ‘through and off’ (taking short turns at the front). British Cycling’s video series on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of road racing is very useful.
Am I fit enough?
You never know until you try but, as a general rule, if you can ride on your own for 30 to 40 miles at an average of 18 to 19 mph, you’re fit enough to give racing a go.
How do I get started?
You’ll need a roadworthy racing bike (no tri bars) and be aged at least 16.Three organisations oversee most cycle road racing in the UK:
If you’re under 40, you can join both BC and TLI Cycling. If you’re 40+, you’re classified as a veteran and can join both of these and the LVRC. However, BC doesn’t organise races specifically for veterans.
All three organisations allow you to enter a race on the day, but it’s much better to enter in advance rather than get there and find that your race sold out months ago.
British Cycling (BC)
British Cycling (BC) is the governing body for most road, track and cyclocross racing. To race at a BC event you’ll need to:
BC has three levels of membership, Bronze, Silver and Gold (details and costs on the BC website). All three include a Provisional Racing Licence that enables you to join entry-level races in BMX, road, track, cyclo-cross, cycle speedway and mountain bike racing. If you join BC as a Silver or Gold member, you can buy a Full Racing Licence. This will allow you to enter regional, national and international events at which you can compete for points to move up the categories from 4th through 3rd, 2nd and 1st to Elite standard.
TLI Cycling organises age-related road races, particularly across the North of England. These are an ideal way to start road racing, or get back into it, as competitors are split into different races by age (in five-year bands). An event will typically involve two or three races with several age bands combined as follows:
You don’t have to race in your own age group. For example, if you are 40+ but feel you’re not up to the standard of that age group, you can ride in a 50+ or even 60+ race. It works the other way round too, with some top older riders choosing to race in a younger age group. You may well find yourself racing against former professionals and national champions.
TLI membership is considerably lower cost than BC membership. Adult TLI membership for 2014 is £10 and free if you’re under 18. If you want to try out a race, you can buy day membership for £4. TLI races cost around £8 to enter.
The League of Veteran Racing Cyclists
The League of Veteran Racing Cyclists is organised in a similar way to TLI Cycling but is specifically for men and women racing cyclists aged 40+. As with TLI Cycling, you don’t have to race in your own age group. Membership is currently £20 a year and each race costs £10 to enter.
Further information and advice
If you’re interested in road racing for the first time and would like any help or advice, please contact the club’s road racing secretary