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Paul Hardy

Guide to getting started with road racing

Getting started with road racing

I can honestly say, getting started with road racing, there is was no better introduction than the  The Wellingborough cycles Saturday shop rides. By their very nature, Group 1 and 2 are very fast rides and are tailored for the discerning racer and I have been privileged enough to be able to ride these with some of the finest local and national racing talent. Safety is paramount and everyone is looking out for each other, keeping together whilst navigating road junctions and roundabouts, but when the roads become more open the ride becomes something that will test your physical ability to the max, this in my opinion is where you can learn race craft from the more experienced, watch what they are doing.

However there are groups that cater for every need, speed and distance, everyone will look out for each other in case  of punctures, mechanical issues etc. We have also recently introduced some extensive cross country routes too, So bring your mountain bike, cyclocross/Gravel bike and have some fun, all  routes will be available to be upload to your GPS device.

Just look for the friendly faces and we will point you in the right direction

VeloElite Captains

                       Paul Hardy                                        Caroline Hewitt                                           Hitesh Mehta

Advice is always on hand for any ability.

For me getting started with road racing was a bit of a daunting experience, in terms of ability I was happy to give it my best shot and see what happened, the thought of getting dropped would only encourage me to try harder next time, but the thought of actually entering the race was all a little bit confusing.

To start with British Cycling Membership, race license – which license? Joining a club – Which club? What races was I allowed to race in?

The only saving grace I had was being around and riding on a Saturday with guys that had this experience, but I had to ask them all these questions, why did I have to ask? Why is the information not just out there? It is if you look but it isn’t easy in my opinion and I have lost count of how many group chats were involved trying to piece together what needs to be done.

Is that not the perfect recipe to put some people off when they want to start racing?

Titchmarch SportiveIt’s fine for those who come in to racing as a junior or a teen usually surrounded by people that are supporting them, telling them where to go, where to sign on, driving them there and even how to pin your number on. People then quickly lose sight of this and naturally become interested in their own racing and personal improvement rather than looking out for those just starting out, perfectly natural.

What kit do I need? will my bike be ok? what time do I need to be there? where do I park? will I be able to warm up? what is the route? (Road Race) can spectators attend?

When I attend a race and now, I know what needs to be done, I look around to see if there are any new faces? and ask myself can I help this person? maybe point them in the right direction for where to sign on, ask them if they need any help, I want to be that friendly face that I looked for when I was starting out.

So if you have never raced before and are interested in Road Racing,  Short Circuit Racing, here are a few pointers.

You will need..

Full race license

If you are planning on taking part in a competitive bike race, there is a good chance that you will need to add on a full race license while purchasing your membership, particularly if you are going to be doing road or track racing. You will also need a full race license to earn points in any national or regional rankings.

A provisional Racing License is awarded automatically with all Bronze, Silver and Gold memberships. A full racing license may be bought as an addition to a Silver or Gold membership.

Please note: If you race on a provisional license you will not be eligible for any license points or ranking points.

You don’t need a race license to enter Time Trials

Stu Plows will give more info on Time Trials.

You will need a Club on your race license in order to race and you will need to specify this when you purchase, this can be changed at any time and there is no charge to do so.

For Road Racing and Short Circuit, for example Milton Keynes Bowl and Rockingham Speedway you need a race license with a club that is affiliated to British Cycling, I.E Wellingborough Cycles or Velo Elite, Wellingborough Cycles will be phased out at the end of 2018. You WILL be able to race under Wellingborough Cycles wearing their kit until the end of 2018.

You don’t always need to enter these events online, you can turn up, sign on, give over your licence, pay your fee, (£17 for Rockingham 2017) get a number, pin it on, warm up either on your turbo trainer or around the circuit you are about to race on, you will then race alongside fellow racers in your category (4th Cat) usually for around an hour, you will be told exactly how long on the de brief prior to the race.

NCRA – Northants Cycle Racing Association will have a spring handicap series and they start early March, These are handicap races on various road circuits around Northamptonshire, this is where riders are placed into categories, when you first start out you will initially be a 4th Category Racer(4th Cat)

In handicap races faster groups of riders are given a later starting time than slower ones (a handicap) so that in theory (if the handicapper gets it right) everybody gets to the end of the race around the same time with a chance of winning. The winning time is the lowest result of actual time less the handicap.

The best way to approach a handicap race is for everyone to work together to keep your group ahead of the one behind and catch the one ahead and place your bunch to the front of the race (on time) so one of you can try and win it.

Paul Hardy VeloElite Mens Club CaptainIn contrast, some people ride handicap races the same as graded scratch races, treating others in their group as threats, and sitting in the bunch conserving energy waiting for the sprint, or even attacking their own group. Others seem to treat handicap races as a group ride and are happy to get towed along, doing little, if any, work. Others may try for a while, then see latching on to a faster chasing bunch when it goes past as an attractive option.

In a handicap event there is a clear expectation that everyone should rotate and do a turn on the front.  Even if you are a sprinter thinking of the win, then you should still try to do your fair share of the work.

It is acceptable though in handicap events to just roll through and drift to the back again. But don’t just sit the entire race and then jump everyone at the finish, leaving other riders wondering whether you’ve actually been in the same race. You’ll make no friends racing this way!

In a handicap event you should not attack your own bunch for most of the race as this disrupts the flow and slows things down. You should be working with them, not against them. But feel free to attack inside the last few miles, and as a group you can attack any other bunch at any time.

Being part of a well-functioning group in a handicap race where everyone is sharing the workload, aiming to close the gap to the group ahead while working hard to stay ahead of chasers behind, can be an exciting and satisfying experience. In your next handicap race get your group working together properly and really have a go!

These are also at Rockingham on some Thursday evening’s, race calendars will be uploaded once dates have been released.

In the meantime have a look at the vast amount of races that are available.[]=21

As you progress through the season you may finish races in the top ten and this will earn you points, as you gain more points you will move up Categories.

  • If you earn 12 points you will move up to a 3rd Cat
  • If you then earn a further 40 points you will move up to a 2nd Cat
  • To retain your 2nd Cat for the following season the rider must obtain at least 25 points
  • You will never drop back below 3rd Cat even if you have a few years break.

I hope you have found this helpful, please feel free to ask me or any other guys anything that I have missed out.

Paul Hardy