A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 1
Where do I start?
You may or may not be aware that I am helping Cycling Development North West (“CDNW”) to promote a new women’s road race league aimed at second, third and fourth category riders, specifically for helping women to develop their racing skills in a competitive environment and providing a platform for women who are new to the sport and who would like to venture out on to the open road in a road race format.
So, with that in mind, I have decided to do a series of articles aimed at those women who may be looking to compete for the first time, to help them with what to expect, including some tips from coaches about what type of training will help, and the things that nobody will probably tell you, including what you need to do to enter a road race.
So, without further ado, here is my first instalment:
Where do I start?
The first thing any organiser will tell you is that in order to ride in a British Cycling road race, you will need to be a member of British Cycling, with at least the silver package. You will also need a racing licence. Some organisers will let you buy a day licence, however some organisers may prefer you to have a full racing licence. There is a cost implication to this, however if you decide that you are going to enter 5 races, it would probably work out cheaper to buy the full racing licence rather than having to buy one at every race. In addition, if you do well and finish in the top 10 (for example), you would be able to keep the licence points you will have earned, which then helps you move up the category system (see next paragraph). For further information on British Cycling membership, go to http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/membership
The Category System
All new members are automatically given fourth category status. There are five categories: 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st and elite. Once you have earned 12 licence points as a fourth category rider, you become a third category rider. Once you are a third category rider, you are eligible to enter the National Series Road Races, and a third category rider needs 40 points before achieving second category status. If you start the year as a second category rider, you only need 25 licence points to retain your second category licence; if not, you will go back to third category status. Once you are a third category rider, you will never be downgraded to fourth category again.
In order to progress to first category status, you need to obtain 200 licence points whilst riding as a second category rider. If you achieve those points and enter the season as a first category rider, you will need to gain 100 licence points to retain your status as a first category rider.
Finally, in order to achieve and retain your elite category status, you will need to gain 300 points in a season.
For further information check out http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/road/article/roadst_Road-Categories_Classifications
The number of licence points you can win depends on what type of race you have entered. Most circuit races are either Band 4 or Band 5, which means points are given to the top 10 finishers, with winners of Band 4 races earning 15 points and winners of Band 5 races earning 10 points, with 1 point being given to 10th in both instances.
The CDNW women’s road race league events are Band 3, with 30 points for the winner and points going down to 15th place, with 15th earning 1 licence point. National Series Road Race events are Band 2, with 60 points going to the winner and points down to 20th place, with 20th earning 1 point.
For the breakdown of how points are given, visit http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/road/article/roadst_National_Regional_Rankings_Explained
Ladies should note that women don’t appear to receive regional rankings as yet, just national rankings.
Races – the different types
You may have heard other cyclists talk about crits, testing, road races, but what does it all mean?
Well, a “crit” is short for “criterium” and is the same thing as a circuit race. The course is usually either a purpose built closed circuit or round a town centre, where the roads are closed to traffic. An example of a crit are the Tour Series events, which are all held around various town centres and are shown on ITV4. These also include the Johnson Healthtech Grand Prix events for women, which Cycling Shorts’ very own Annie Simpson won last year. Many riders start out racing on closed circuits because they don’t have to worry about traffic and there are usually lots of different races available nationwide.
Road races are exactly that – races held on the open road. The road is usually open to traffic, so you will encounter oncoming traffic. Having said that, you encounter traffic when you go out on your bike, so it isn’t anything to be worried about. Some road race organisers utilise British Cycling’s National Escort Group (“NEG”), who are motorbike marshals which help to regulate the oncoming traffic. Road races are organised by British Cycling, The League International (“TLI”) and the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists (“LVRC”).
“Testing” is another name for time trials. The majority of time trials are governed by Cycling Time Trials (“CTT”), and you don’t need a licence, however you do need to be a member of an affiliated cycling club. The CTT time trials are generally over 10, 25, 50, or 100 miles or 12 or 24 hours. For more information visit http://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/Beginners/BeginnersGeneralInfo/tabid/81/Default.aspx
Stage races are usually organised by promoters of British Cycling events and can range from two stages in one day to a number of stages over 3 weeks (such as the Tour de France). Generally, as a woman racing on a domestic level, the longest stage race you will find is probably the Bedford 3 Day, which is part of the Team Series. This event covers 5 stages, including an individual time trial, a team time trial and three road stages.
So, hopefully my first instalment has given you some insight into how the British Cycling road scene works. Tune in for my next instalment in a few days’ time.
Click below to read:
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing