So you’ve had some success on the bike and you’re competitive with your friends or your club compatriots. You want to take it to the next level and see if you can stay with the bunch in a race or maybe you think you are strong enough to win your first crit! Maybe you are!!

I was this rider back in 2013 / 14, I had bought a proper road bike in 2012 (a Cinelli Experience). I felt I was strong enough to race having been holding my own in the “fast group” of the Cowley Road Condors in Oxford. The Condors had been instrumental in setting up a new Oxfordshire road league and I was keen to get involved!

This is what Mike and I learned:

1. “Hold your line”

The best thing I did was read up on and talk about how to stay out of trouble in a race. The last thing I wanted was to be in a pile-up or even worse – to cause a pile-up. Piles ups are something all cat 4 races (the races you will do when you first start racing) are plagued by. You will hear people yelling “hold your line” at all and any corner that the bunch approaches. It is as it sounds! You can’t take the racing line and hit the apex of the turn if there are other riders around you, you have to leave space on the inside for people who are already there. More experienced riders and any rider come to think of it will get extremely upset if they are cut up risking a crash. You will also feel terrible and it may put you off and we don’t want that! So “HOLD YOUR LINE!!”

2. Try to stay at the front

Obviously everyone is trying to stay at the front out of trouble, so it’s going to be tricky. You don’t want to stay on the actual ‘front front’ cutting through the air for everyone else to take advantage of. You want to be around the top twenty percent. The reason for this is so that if there is a crash there is more of a chance that it will be behind you. If you are at the back then there are maybe 80 riders in front of you and if there are any crashes you will be going into them or having to dodge them. But if you are at the front the chances of going into a crash are massively reduced as they will (hopefully) all happen behind you!

The other big advantage of being at the front is that when it comes to the end of the race it’s kind of the idea to be the one at the very ‘front front’ over the finish line!!

3. Don’t forget the admin

  1. Have you got your race licence? In my first race, I used my provisional race license as it was cheaper. But I came 7th and would have been awarded points! In the initial 4th Category races you’ll be doing which are on the Reg C+ points system (more on that later) 1st gets 10 points, down to 10th who gets 1 point, unless you are on a provisional race licence and then you are not allowed to get any points!

Also, you must have a provisional or full race licence to enter as this gives you third party insurance, you are not allowed to race without it.

  1. Insure your bike. You and I hope you won’t be in a crash and crunch your pride and joy. But if you are: Avio partners with Yellow Jersey bike insurance who will give you a great deal AND will cover your PowerSense as an accessory add on! As Avio customers and PowerSense owners you are entitled to 10% off! The code will be available in the forum area behind the user log in. Go to Yellow Jersey bike insurance to get a quote.

4. Preparation

It’s no fun being dropped. This was what I was most worried about (even more so than being in a crash) before my first race. But I had been training hard with my club the Cowley Road Condors in Oxford and I was pretty strong, so I had no need to worry. We do this training ride called “The Screamer”. It’s epic, you put the route we are doing into your Garmin and everyone does “through and off” as hard as they can. WHEN you get dropped – that’s it – you get dropped, and you meet up again at the end. If you are with the final few at the end you know you are in pretty decent shape!! This is one way to train.

The other thing you should do is get yourself a PowerSense if you don’t already have one and check out some zone based training. This will give you a serious advantage.

5. It’s not that intimidating

I remember being quite intimidated before going to my first race, I went along on my own, but met other club riders when I got there. This helped massively, we were chatting and talking tactics (which went straight out of the window as soon as the race started!!). But it stopped me from feeling the nerves too much. I recommend going with a friend or two who have some race experience as it will take the fear out of it. Mainly because there is no fear to be felt! It’s actually a very welcoming crowd. People do shout a bit in the bunch, but it’s not because they are horrible people it’s just because they’ve probably been in a pile up before and they want to try to avoid being in another one!

Mainly you need to enjoy the exhilaration of the race, there is nothing like it, just writing this is putting the hairs on the back of my neck on end! I distinctly remember the feeling after the first race I did. It was at Brize Norton Aerodrome, just outside Oxford and I had this amazing post sprint feeling of exhilaration from the adrenaline and endorphins (and maybe the caffeine gel) that you just can not beat!

Get out there and go get em, if you’re anything like us you are going to bloody love it.  

Further reading:

Give yourself the edge with a PowerSense: