A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 8 – Road Racing

Once you have got a few circuit races under your belt, you might like to have a go at road racing, after all, it’s what many people believe that cycling is all about!  However, there a few differences between road racing and circuit racing, so I thought it would be useful to explain them here.

The Open Road

Yes, that’s right, the majority of road racing in this country, whether you are male or female, is on the open road. That means that you are on the public highway and therefore have to abide by the rules of the road – for those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by this (and I have raced with a few (men and women) who don’t appear to be aware of this), it means that you stay on the left hand side of the road, because in the UK we drive on the left.  With the races being on the open road, this means that you have to be aware of other road users, including cars and lorries that come in the opposite direction.  If somebody goes on to the wrong side of the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle it can have horrific consequences, so you MUST be aware AT ALL TIMES that you have a duty to yourself and your fellow competitors to ride sensibly.  Have a look at my Dance Space article about giving yourself room.

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

Races are longer

This seems like I am stating the obvious but I will do anyway.  The races are longer (generally between 30 and 60 miles for both men and women) which means that the pace tends to be a bit more consistent than in a circuit race, helped by the fact that you probably won’t be sprinting out of a corner every 10 seconds like you sometimes end up doing in a circuit race.  Field sizes are generally larger as road races are more expensive to run and therefore need to have bigger fields, but that helps with the race distance as you get more shelter (in theory at least).  As the races are longer, you also need to have more stamina and endurance than you would in a circuit race, and need to ensure that you carry food with you for eating during the race (see my Practice! Practice! Practice! article for advice in this respect).  This can also mean that those riders who are great in circuit races may not be as good at longer road races and vice versa, so if you don’t think that the flat circuit races are for you, why not have a go at road racing?!

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

There’s different terrain

One of the limiting factors of circuit races is that they tend to be pan flat (there are exceptions, especially where town centre circuit races are concerned) and usually finish in a bunch sprint, so it can become a bit demoralising if you aren’t keen on being a sprinter.  However, road race circuits come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from shorter “kermesse” style races to longer circuits with a couple of climbs and descents in them.  Don’t expect to be great at everything, but certainly try and have a go at different circuits to see what suits you best.

Start at the right level

The good news is that road races can be a lot easier for novices than circuit races, especially those road races that are aimed at 2/3/4 category women, due to the length of the race and there being less corners.  The average speed for regional level races tends to be anywhere between 22 mph and 24 mph depending on the weather and the circuit and more often than not the pace eases up significantly, allowing you to have a bit of a breather.

Staying with the bunch is the key to success

This sounds really easy but it can be a bit of a nightmare when you are new to racing.  Many people will happily let the other riders go up the road if the pace goes up a bit, never to see the bunch again, but the road race that you entered then becomes a time trial, and you don’t get the same enjoyment for spending 35 miles of a 40 mile race off the back of the bunch.  Trust me, it may seem like really hard work at times when you are riding at a pace which you don’t feel comfortable with, however nine times out of ten the pace will ease off slightly and you get an opportunity to recover before the pace increases again.  Road racing is supposed to be hard and difficult, where your legs and lungs are burning as you try to keep up with people who are slightly fitter and faster than you, but the feeling at the end is worth it!

(c) http://martinholdenphotography.com

Be true to yourself

By this, I mean “don’t let other riders bully you in to doing something that you don’t want to do”. There will be many occasions in races where more experienced riders will shout at you to do some work.  You don’t have to do what they tell you to – it’s your entry fee and your race – but sometimes they might be saying it for good reason. Keep your common sense in tow and do what you think is right – if you’re about to blow up, don’t feel as if you have to do a turn on the front, sit in the wheels, get your breath back and you might be somewhere when it comes to the finish.

Road racing is fun, but it is hard work and is supposed to hurt your legs, so don’t give up as soon as they start hurting – battle through that pain for a couple of minutes at least (unless it is pain in relation to an injury when you should stop immediately) and you never know, you might surprise yourself!

(c) Martin Holden Photography

(c) Martin Holden Photography

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
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

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 7 – Circuit Racing

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 7

Circuit Racing

Following on from my guides to racing that I first wrote back in 2013, I thought it would be useful to develop these a bit further.  This guide is on circuit racing and what to expect, as it is this type of race that you will tend to do as a novice first, before venturing out on to the open road in road races.

Licences

These races tend (on the whole) to be run under British Cycling regulations.  This means that you will have to have a racing licence to participate in the event, but you don’t need to have a licence in advance to race for circuit races (unless it is a National Series event, in which case you won’t be able to ride as a novice).  However, you will be required to purchase a day licence for the event, so that you are covered by the requisite insurance. A day licence costs around £10 and will be in addition to your entry fee.  You can find out more about the racing licence position here.

What is involved?

A circuit race can also be called a criterium.  They are held usually on a circuit of 1 mile or less, with the newer circuits averaging around 1km in length.  More often than not, the race distance will be described in terms of minutes rather than laps, with many races being a certain amount of time plus a number of laps.  Generally, the commissaires will know how long a lap takes and will tell you in advance that they expect the race to be however many laps but they will put the lap board up with a certain number of laps to go (usually 10, although this depends on the length of the circuit).

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Who can enter?

This tends to depend on the organiser.  There are many events which are labelled as E/1/2/3/4 and will therefore be band 4 races (this doesn’t mean that Laura Trott or Dani King is going to turn up – they could, but it doesn’t happen very often), however if categories are dropped and the race only caters for lower categories (e.g. 2/3/4 or 3/4) the race will become a band 5, meaning that there are less licence points available for the top 10 finishers.  There has also been a tendency in the past to hold women’s races alongside a fourth category men’s race.  This can be a bit scary, for many reasons, so if you are looking at doing your first event, check to see whether it is a standalone women’s event or whether the women’s event will be on the track at the same time as the fourth category men’s event, as even though they are listed as separate events on the British Cycling events listing, they may have the same or similar start times, which will mean that you are racing at the same time as the men.

Warming up

The nature of circuit races mean that they tend to start extremely quickly, and you therefore need to make sure that you warm up properly before the event.  Most riders nowadays tend to take their rollers or turbo trainer to the race so that they can do some efforts before the race – the key to the warm up is that you need to get your heart rate up to where it will probably be in the race when you warm up, so you will usually need around 20 to 30 mins warm up, although this depends on the rider.  You should be looking to finish your warm up around 10 minutes before you are due to start to give you time to get the final pieces ready, so make sure you have put your number on in advance of warming up.  It also helps to warm up in a separate T-shirt to that which you are going to race in, so make sure you take a couple of T-shirts in your race bag with you.

Before you get on the start line

The riders will all line up on the start line, so if possible try and do a couple of laps of the circuit before the race is due to start.  During these laps, look at the corners, see whether there are any damp patches or pot holes which you may want to avoid, and ride around any particularly tricky sections a couple of times before the race so that there are no hidden horrors which you might encounter.  Check which way the wind is blowing – is it a head wind up the finishing straight or is it a tail wind or a cross wind, as this will give you an idea where riders will be likely to put an attack in (most are less likely to attack in a head wind because it’s too hard on their own).

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The race itself

Remember that the more experienced riders will always go off hard and keep the pace high for a couple of laps.  Keep calm during the first few laps, even though your head might be trying to tell you other things, as the pace always eases off after the first 5 to 10 minutes.  Many riders will try and attack in these early laps as they test each other out, but most of these attacks won’t stay away as they’re more like feints – it’s like a game of poker as the more experienced riders see who’s up for a race and who isn’t.

Corners are either your friend or your enemy

Most riders don’t like cornering and will brake excessively.  Most crashes tend to happen coming out of corners in circuit races, so give yourself room but don’t ease off too much.  Make sure you change into an easier gear going into the corner as it’s easier to change pace on a lower gear and therefore easier to sprint out of the bend.  Don’t make the mistake of staying in the same gear as it will just tire you out.  Hold your line around a corner and don’t “divebomb” other riders (cut up the rider behind you).  Become a rider who loves corners and you will do well.

cornering

You will get dropped

Every rider will get left behind by the first few riders (the term is to “get dropped”) in their first few races.  No matter what you think as you prepare for your first race, 99% of riders struggle with the fluctuating pace and it is only a matter of time before the elastic eventually snaps and you get dropped.  But don’t worry, it is all part of the learning curve, and the next time you come back you will have a better idea of what happens and what to expect.

Don’t give up

Bike racing can be an extremely demoralising experience but don’t worry, everybody goes through that learning curve.  Make sure you set yourself targets (finish the race, finish in the bunch, finish in the top 10) and you will find that it can be an exciting experience!

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
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

Preparing for your next Season #1 – Who do I ride for?

TICKWE123/5146B

Tanya Griffiths

For anybody who is coming to the end of their racing season, one of the things you will no doubt be thinking about is who you are going to be riding for next season.  Given the costs of racing nowadays, it often seems to be a good idea to ride for a team.  This can be a minefield, so we’ve enlisted a new writer – Starley Primal’s Tanya Griffiths (who won the elite women’s Tickhill GP this year) she’s here to give you some valuable tips:

 

Starting the Process

So, how do you get on a team? There are two ways; either you will be approached by a team manager or director sportif (generally riders who have had many notable results and are highly sought-after), or you apply to a team. Probably 90% of team riders are there through application rather than head-hunting, so if you haven’t been approached by a team, that is no reflection on whether or not a team would want you to ride for them.

 

Make sure you know why you are applying

When selecting the teams you want to go for, you need to decide why you want to join a team, because every team is different. Maybe you want a group of riders to get together with so that you are not so alone when you go to races? Or are you attracted to the professionalism of a team, where you get the support of mechanics and soigneurs and get the fancy kit and the bikes and make a real show in front of the crowds? Or are you after results, do you want to be a part of a team that gets good results and always has their riders at the front of the peloton? Do you want to be amongst riders that you can learn from – where you are the support rider for the team, or one that you can lead, where you will be the supported rider? Is a team that rides with tactics and a clear game-plan important to you? If you’ve paid enough attention at races, Le Tour Yorkshire 2014 - York to Sheffieldyou should be able to pick out the teams that are geared towards your goal. But be realistic. Don’t waste your time on a team that you are not suited to. One year’s racing isn’t enough to apply to a UCI team. That being said, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.

 

Do your homework

Firstly, make a note of all of the teams that you have seen out on the circuit this year. If you are not sure, take a look at race results. The British Cycling website has a team rankings list, which is useful for this sort of thing (although you will have to click on each team to see if they are a women’s team or not). Follow teams on Twitter and Facebook and check their website if they have one. These places are where they are likely to advertise for riders and should provide contact details (usually an e-mail address).

Facebook groups are also a good way of finding out about new teams that might be starting up. If there is a local cycle racing group page, make sure that you are a member. The London Women’s Cycle Racing group is also a good one to be a member of, even if you are not based in London, because they have a large following and it is therefore a good place for new teams to advertise.

 

How do you apply?

So you’ve got your potential target teams, then what? Sending an e-mail to a team manager saying that you want to ride for them is not likely to get you anywhere. If you do get a response, it’s likely to be a polite request for your CV. You must look at it in the same way you do when applying for a job, which in some ways you are, although it’s more than likely not a paid position.

A team manager will want to know how you will fit in the team. Whether that’s the level of rider you are, the type of rider you are, or your character. They will also want to know what you can add to the team.

 

Preparing your Palmares

Your palmares (a list of your achievements) will play an important part in your CV, although maybe not as much as
you might think. Put together a list of your achievements this year and anything of note in previous years. They will be looking for something meaningful, so a mid-week win in a race with 3 riders will not say as much about a rider as a 25th place in a national series race, so make sure you think that way about what results you include. You want them to

Tickhill GP 2014 Harry Tanfield & Tanya Griffiths

sum up your level as a rider, so if you have taken part in a stage race, include this result even if it is not as good as you would have liked, that you have experienced a stage race is of benefit to the team. Also, if you came 2nd or 3rd in a race behind a notable rider, include who the winner was. This helps the team manager understand the level of competition that you had in that race.

When selecting which results to include, also think about what sort of races the team is likely to be doing and the type of races you would want to do. You may have decided that you are better at stage races, or longer distance road races, so balance your results to show these types of races. Alternatively, you might want to focus on criterieum races or racing on the track, so show these. Most teams will want versatile riders, as they are not able to support enough riders to have those that specialise, for example, in crits and those that specialise in road races, so ensure that you do show results from your less favoured disciplines too.

You’ve got your palmares sorted, now what? This is your chance to talk a bit about the side of you that your results don’t convey. Very few riders believe that their results show their strengths as a rider, so this is your chance.

You need to think about why you want to join that particular team. Make sure that you tailor what you write to suit that particular team, as you would with a job. Don’t write one generic CV and blast it off to any and every team that you can get contact details for.

 

Why are you applying to that team specifically?

They will want to know why you want to ride for that team.  “I just want to ride for a team” is unlikely to get you anywhere. They also want to know what you will bring to the team. You will need to tell them about your strengths, Epic Cycles-Scott Women's Race Teamwhat type of rider are you? Are you a strong climber, sprinter, support rider, good all-rounder? You may not yet know. You also need to be honest and tell them what your weaknesses are. If you climb like a sack of potatoes, tell them. You won’t feel comfortable turning up at your first race for the team on a course that doesn’t suit you because you twisted the truth a little bit on your CV. The team may ask you to still ride races that don’t suit you, but it will feel much better if you’ve told them. You might also include areas that you are currently struggling with, for example, technical cornering, but also include how you are addressing this weakness.

 

Get the introduction right

So, you’ve now got your palmares and you’ve told them what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you will bring to the team and why you have chosen to apply for that team. You will also need to include a short introduction to yourself. Tell them something interesting that will give you personality. If you work, what is your job, are you still at school/university? What are you studying? When did you start cycling, is there a nice story of how you got into the sport. What inspires you as a cyclist?

 

Sponsors expect professionalism

Once you’ve got this together, it is really important to remember that a team is looking for someone who is going to represent their sponsors. Professionalism is very important both on and off the bike, your attitude and actions will reflect back onto the sponsors. Try to include something that will indicate that you will act responsibly and professionally. Sponsors are after promotion, so if you have been in the local paper, write a blog or do any other promotional work, include this. A sponsor may see you as someone who will provide them with added opportunities to advertise them, so it could bring an added dimension to your application and will give you something to bring to the team that other riders may not have.

 

Bringing everything together

Now you need to put this together into a complete CV. I would suggest no more than 2 pages, keep your paragraphs clear, concise and to the point. Punchy, not wordy, some teams will receive hundreds of applications; they simply won’t read it if there is too much information. Think about the layout, make it look attractive. Include photos, but think about why you are including them. Each photo should be there for a reason; does it show you in a break-away? Riding amongst top riders? You on the attack? It’s a good way of showing the type of rider you are and will provide an attractive element to your CV. Take a look at CVs on the internet for inspiration. It’s not a work CV, so don’t be afraid to add some colour, but don’t go over-the-top. Never lose sight of what your CV is for, keep it legible and clear, but make it stand out!

Don’t forget to add your contact details. Your e-mail address and telephone number are vital. You don’t want to be in a position where a team wants you but can’t contact you!

JadanPressWomensCircuitRace14_1089AOnce it is complete, you are happy with it and you have asked other people to read through and check it for you, put it into an appropriate format. A pdf is the most common format, but you may be an IT whizz and create a website for your CV (just make sure that the link works, it’s easy to use and not open to Joe Public if you don’t want it to be). If you do create a website for your CV, it is a good idea to have a pdf version of your CV too, as some team managers will want to print all of the CVs out to go through them, rather than look at them on the computer.

Job done? Not quite – you will need to write an opening e-mail which will quickly introduce yourself, explain the reason for your e-mail and highlight that you have attached your CV. This e-mail is important, as it’s the first impression that they will have of you, so think about what you write. You don’t want them to dismiss you without reading your CV. And MAKE SURE YOU ATTACH YOUR CV! It’s always a good idea to include any attachments before you write the e-mail. Sending another e-mail saying “oops I forgot to attach it!” doesn’t give a good impression, although don’t panic if this does happen to you, we’ve all been there!

 

Clean up your “online presence”

So, CV sent. Time to bite those fingernails and wait for a response! There’s nothing you can do about it now? WRONG! Remember what you told them about being a professional and understanding the importance of promoting a sponsor in the right way? Well that starts now. Potential teams and sponsors might be reading what you put in your blog, twitter, facebook, instagram etc… go through your old posts and delete anything that doesn’t represent who you want them to see. Once you have sponsors, you are in the public domain. If you are one of those people who thinks “it’s my account, I’ll write what I like”, you are unlikely to be the type of rider that a sponsor is looking for. So keep it positive, don’t “slag” people off, keep swearing to a minimum and avoid writing anything that is overly offensive, rude, prejudice or political . You never know who might be watching!

When waiting for a response, remember, teams don’t make up their minds straight away, they want to see who applies and build a team around who they want. It may take months, so be patient. All teams generally respond in one form or another, so be patient. You may get lots of rejections before you get a call from an interested team.

 

Tanya Griffiths rides for Starley Primal Pro Cycling and is the organiser of the Women’s Eastern Racing League.  You can follow her on Twitter @TanyGriff .  The Women’s Eastern Racing League is also on Twitter: @WERLeague

 

 

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