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
With the recent announcements that Maxgear RT’s women’s squad (the Maxgearettes) have made recently, I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with the girls to find out what has been happening in their world. The riders for next season are Nicola Soden, Melissa Bury, Lauryn Therin, Frankie White, Eve Dixon and Jo Blakeley, together with the Team Manager, Ian Bury
The Maxgearettes line up has changed slightly ready for next season. Have you changed your targets as a team for next season?
N (@nicolasoden) – As a team, the targets will be broadly similar to last year – National Road Race Series, Team Series, Tour Series and Track Nationals although the way in which they are targeted will change. The team will use a planned approach to each race based on differing courses and rider strengths. Each rider also has personal objectives within each race. There are a couple of stage races some of us would like to ride in Ireland and Jersey (Lauryn’s home turf) and we plan to make a few trips over to Belgium again.
M (@smelissabury) – This year we are aiming to have more of a presence as a team at the national series and team series races. This will hopefully enable us to get to know each other well and get to know each others riding styles so we can work to every ones strengths.
L (@lauryntherin) – From our initial team meetings we have all agreed that our targets for the coming season are to be process focused not outcome focused. A strong team ethic and developing as a group of riders who support one another is an integral part of this process. From this, we see our team developing significantly and it’s something we are all very much looking forward to.
J (@jo_blakeley) – This season we have both team and individual targets which will no doubt develop over the winter and racing season as we learn what each others strengths are and how we can work together. I think its important to allow both focuses to maximise the team potential.
You’ve brought some new riders into the fold, how do you think they will fit within the team’s dynamic?
I (@rugbyleague1) – We are delighted to have both Jo and Lauryn on board, they both bubble enthusiasm and bring new things to the team. Lauryn has an extremely exciting sporting background including world class Bobsleigh and has proved in the National Track Champs this year that she is a particularly good sprinter! Jo is very strong at Time Trial, so both riders will add new strengths to the team which should allow us to target more race types. The new team mates also means that five of our six riders are now based in Manchester within 5miles of each other, which should allow us to socialise and train better as a team, rather than just meeting up at races.
F (@frankiewhite7) – They are fitting in perfectly already! I went out with Jo on the MTB last weekend and we had great fun!
E (@eve_dixon) – We all get on really well and enjoy cycling together rather than cycling as individuals, I also think it is the strongest line up we’ve had in Maxgear in the three years I’ve been on the team!
M – After a couple of team meetings I am very excited about the new riders for next year. It will bring and open up new and different opportunities for races, as each of our riders have different strengths.
L – Being one of the new riders myself, I can see already that each individual brings something exciting to the dynamic of the team. And the best bit is, we haven’t even been out on our bikes yet!
J – I’d like to think I fit quite well into the team dynamic!! We all get on well and work/study in a variety of different areas so we all bring something a little different to the table. We also all want to
ride as a team – which I believe is one of the most important things.
Have you seen any increased level of interest since the Olympics/Paralympics, with people approaching your team for help?
E – no but there has been a rise in interest to join the team
M – We have seen an increased level of interest this year, however many seemed to be seasoned riders, so I am not sure if it was the Olympic/Paralympics that triggered this.
L – From discussions with Ian, I am aware that a number of girls contacted him displaying their interest and this was certainly more than previous years. For this reason, it is all the more important that I work hard to prove to the squad I was the right rider to choose.
How do you expect the season to unfold next year? There are new races on the calendar in the North West, how do you expect this to impact on your team?
N – It is great to see the development of a new women’s league as part of the CDNW series limited to 2/3/4 category women. It is a brilliant step forward in womens cycling in the UK as there is currently only racing available at National Level, sometimes against some of the countries or even worlds best riders. The alternative are short criteriums on closed circuits and not much in between. This new series fills this gap, offering road racing more in line with the mens split E/1/2, 3/4 system. The series will be extremely beneficial to our team as it will allow our riders to practice team tactics, build confidence and try things they may not get chance to in a National level race.
E – All new races are good for the whole of the country I think there will be women prepared to travel if they are well run events rather than just cyclists in the North West.
F – We’re really excited about the CDNW 2W/3W/4W series mainly because it should give us an opportunity to be able to dominate races as a team but also because they are local it means our family and friends can come watch.
M – I am very pleased that there are more races being put on in the North West, as I am at Manchester University so it makes getting to races a lot easier! Also a lot of the team have work commitments, so being able to get to and from a race in a day is a massive help both financially and time wise.
L – As a team we have already planned an idea of what we would like our season to look like. The North West based races is something we will target and we are confident about our team working hard for one another.
J – It’s great there’s some events close by. It’s the nature of women’s racing at the moment that races are few and far apart. To have a set of races that are close to home is great news. I’m looking
forward to them.
How would you like domestic women’s cycling to evolve?
F – Personally I would like to see even greater advancements on those made with the entry level CDNW 2W/3W/4W series this year. When I first had a go at racing 18 months ago there didn’t seem to be a great deal out there for those unable to keep with an elite women’s bunch. Jenny Gretton has done a brilliant job with season starter crits at Tameside and Palatine Circuit, but these don’t last the whole season. Things are obviously changing, though until a hoard more ladies turn up, beginners will only continue to try and hang on to the super speedy for much of the season.
E – I would like it to become more feasible for the women to be the best they can and get a wider range of cycling in Britain rather than just an elitist sport with very few individuals getting the support.
M – As I race in Belgium a lot, I would love to see closed roads in Women’s racing. This seems to increase the quality of racing as the riders don’t have to worry about cars, and closed roads just seem to make the event more impressive.
J – I’d like to see more women taking cycling further and more publicity for womens’ cycling. This has definitely grown recently with the Olympics but there’s still a lot of people who don’t realise about the cycling groups/activities that are available around the corner. I didn’t know until just after I started cycling that there was a grass track at the park which we often went to – there’s so many different types of cycling and not enough people who know about them.
There are a number of new networks that have popped up on facebook for of regional groups for women’s cycling, so this should help massively.
Phil and Anna Weaver of Epic Cycles opened their doors on a sunny Sunday morning to welcome the class of 2013.
Team Scott Contessa Epic formed in 2011 and with 8 junior riders on the squad for the 2012 Road Season and they managed to secure victory in the National Womens Team Series in their first year.
Today (25 November 2012) the team was announced with a 10 strong line up for the 2013 season retaining talented juniors from last year and introducing some exciting riders to add even further strength and depth to the team.
Now in only their 2nd year the team are already planning an assault on the major events for womens bike racing in the UK starting with a defence of the Team Series title.
The team has developed and become more commercially focused for the coming season and as such they have positioned a strong management team to support every aspect. One such position is Directeur Sportif and Scott Contessa Epic have aimed high in securing Alan Gornall, Commonwealth Gold medallist and well respected former professional cyclist.
On accepting the position Alan wasted no time in introducing himself to the team along with his clear and direct ambitions for them.
He went on to say “It is an honour to be involved with some of the best young female cyclists in the UK and having spent the day with the riders I am very excited about next season. My wife Sue and I have been involved with cycling at every level both in the UK and internationally and the future of our sport looks very promising. Scott Contessa Epic was very quickly recognised as the team to be involved in for Womens bike racing and has already played a part in producing a World Champion, European champions and providing 3/5ths of the GB Junior Worlds squad. That is some accolade for a team that is only one year old!”
Phil Weaver of Epic Cycles has tirelessly worked on behalf of the riders ensuring they have world class equipment, clothing and support.
“Both Scott UK and Epic Cycles are very proud to be part of the team and more importantly the development of its riders. 4 girls moved up to the next level of cycling and we are proud to have been part of their development as riders. With 3 girls now full time with the GB academy and 1 focusing on UCI events in Europe I feel we have every right to be proud and we will endeavour to do all we can in supporting the future of women’s cycle racing. I know that the 10 riders we have for the coming season perfectly match the team ethos, which, as we have proven, will ultimately lead to success” he commented.
New appointments to the team are;
Crystal Lane, Paralympic Cyclist and London 2012 Team GB member
Laura Wasley, TT specialist, IoM Commonwealth/Island Games hopeful
Alice Barnes, National MTB Junior Champion GB ODP rider
Kim English, 1st Year Junior former National Champion
Beth Hayward, 1st year Junior and GB OPD Track and Road rider
Amy Gornall, 1st year Junior, Road Race and Hill Climb specialist
Joined from last season by;
Emily Kay, Multi-National track champ, GB OPD and 2012 World RR rider
Rebecca Hunt, 2nd year Junior Track and Road all rounder
Anna Christian, 2nd year Junior Road and TT specialist
Zoe Armstrong, 2nd year Junior Road, Circuit Racing and Cyclo Cross
Scott Contessa Epic line up for 2013 L-R
Emily Kay, Anna Christian, Rececca Hunt, Zoe Armstrong, Laura Wasley, Crystal Lane, Beth Hayward, Amy Gornall, Kim English and Alice Barnes
With the National Road Series for Women being open to E/1/2/3 only, with no room at the inn for 4th category riders, British Cycling are working hard to engage with women who are new to bike racing. From the circuit races that are being held at Saltaire, Lancaster, to the training sessions held at Tameside Cycling Circuit, which are complimented with the Tameside Season Starter races at the same circuit, British Cycling are obviously keen to develop women’s riding skills, which Jenny Gretton, North West Regional Event Officer, has been working hard to promote.
You may be forgiven for thinking that these events are just happening in the North West, however this is not the case. There are events across the country, from the North East, to the Midlands, to London and the South West. The purpose of these events is to get women used to riding in a bunch, on closed circuits, where it is safe to learn, without the added fear of some random motorist driving headlong into the bunch, which happened last year on one of the National Road Race Series races.
The majority of these events seem to be in March and April, though, which leaves a gap for the rest of the season. Hopefully, the theory is that the women riding these events will pick up sufficient points to become fledgling third category riders, who are then able to ride the National Road Series.
For those of you who are keen to get on the road though, as opposed to closed circuit races, the Team Series events may be just what you are looking for. These events are put on with the idea of promoting women’s racing, without putting anybody off, so the courses are not necessarily too difficult, more “manageable”. Their popularity has grown over the years, with more and more women entering them – the Bedford 2 Day being one of the most coveted wins in the Series!
But don’t despair if you are looking for an event that caters for everybody later on in the year! That is where Andrew Parker, South West Regional Events Officer at British Cycling can help you. He is organising a three stage, one day event on 15 July 2012 for women, and he is encouraging women who aren’t members of BC to come along and have a go, with the idea that the South West Road Race Work Group will cover the cost of a day licence.
Andrew’s reasoning for the event is as follows: “I think a lot of women’s events tend to be shoehorned into a busy day’s racing and the competitors aren’t given the recognition they are due. I thought it would be good to have a dedicated days racing which can showcase the sport. The format is based on an omnium, with points awarded for each stages placings instead of time, the overall winner will have the least amount of points. I’m hoping that it will be really successful and not only encourage more local women to take up racing but also draw in riders from outside the region.”
The event will include a time trial, handicap road race and a circuit race, and you won’t need to worry about staying over as it is all done on the same day. If you would like any more information, please contact Andrew on [email protected]
Click here to be taken to the stage race webpage.
So there’s even less excuses to ride a stage race now – you don’t even need a racing licence! What more could you need? Get your entries in, it is bound to be popular!