The Basics: Road Racing is massed-start cycle racing on roads or circuits (criterium races). The first rider over the finish line wins, with anything from a few to almost 200 competitors, depending on the event. In the UK, events range from short Youth and Juvenile (under16) races of 50km 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 a number of circuit events in the North West, either on roads closed to other traffic or on specially constructed circuits such as at Preston Arena and the Salt Ayre circuit at Lancaster.
Youth Road Racing: All under-16 racing takes place on traffic-free closed circuits. Youth riders in the 16 and under age categories are not permitted to race on the open road under British Cycling rules, this is for safety. Cycle Sport Pendle prepares young riders to compete safely in closed circuit racing at regional and national events.
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. There are a number of road races in the local area, supported by our local cycling clubs.
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. There are a a number of youth stage races each year in the UK, two of which are fairly local: the Isle of Man and at Blackpool.
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.