How to race
Quite simply, to win a race all you need to do is have the fastest average speed. Easy to say but harder to do!
Surviving a race is a key point in making it to the finish line. How do we manage to survive and do we actually know what we are doing or are we just lucky to arrive at the finish line somehow still intact?
The point has been made previously that we all start at the same place but not all at the same time, hence such a variety of different levels of expertise in one and any grade.
Making it to the finish line successfully requires a number of different factors but probably one of the most important is the multi-faceted: RESPECT. Respect for ourselves as individuals, each other, as a group and also the discipline of the sport.
It might seem that “respect” is an unlikely candidate for one of the most important things in a bike race but let’s contemplate the notion for a moment…
Respect covers: Safe riding practices during a race; riding predictably; refusing to submit to learned bad habits and recognising the need to retrain ourselves in better ways; obeying the road rules; being ever mindful of not being in the wrong place; listening to the brief by the commissaire before the start; considering the rights of other road users; updating our skills set to ensure an honest confidence in ourselves that we are as good and as competent as we can be; keeping things in perspective
( it’s just a bike race); sharing “turns” in the race to the best of your ability; attacking only when it is safe and legal to do so; consideration when passing or being passed by other grades; riding within our limitations and having a good idea of what they are; humility and a hunger to learn.
Athletic ability alone does not make a competent racing cyclist. Cycle racing is specific sporting discipline which requires the application of proven concepts and practice to achieve competency. Ignoring these factors and relying alone on athletic ability makes one a “very loose cannon”, a danger to themselves and to those around them. Ignorance and arrogance do not fall under the banner of “respect”. Remember, there is no honour in crossing the line first if you have caused a mass pile up. Nor will it earn you the respect of your peers.
Ours being a Masters club consists of a majority of men with a small percentage of women. All of these people have commitments and/or family who depend on them at their varied stages of life. All members participate in cycle racing because they enjoy the activity and interaction and they recognise the benefits in taking part. Although all are aware of the risks, all are entitled to return home in one piece after having ridden a good race without incident.
Irrespective of your level of expertise, consider as part of your training spending half an hour of each week off the wind trainer or bike instead researching, reading and contemplating what constitutes safe riding practices and what knowledge you need to acquire and implement in your race so that you know you are the best you can be, racing safely for yourself and others.
You might have thought by now, well how DO we race on the road then?
Quite simple really:
- Obey the road rules;
- Share the road with other road users. We do not have exclusive rights;
- Know the rules and regulations of the sport you are participating in;
- Behave within the expectations of the Commissaire;
- Respect your fellow competitors, ride predictably, don’t look back or move erratically, share the work load to the best of your ability, be aware of where you are in the bunch at all times;
- Ride appropriately for the conditions, road, weather, wind, etc;
- Pay attention, think about what you are doing and communicate through the bunch;
- Hold a straight line in a sprint, be realistic if you know that you are not a sprint contender, move to the back of the bunch a couple of kilometres before the finish.
There might be more but that covers most of it.
Always remember that as a collective or as individuals, we are representatives of our families, club and sport and as such when racing on the open roads, our every move is scrutinised and every slip-up is tantamount to a ‘nail in the coffin’ of cycling club road racing. To preserve this privilege we need to be disciplined in our conduct and always mindful of the scrutinising yet critical eye.
How about a race plan? That is up to you to work out for yourself, bearing in mind all of the above points.
Whether you ride in A grade or Z grade or anywhere in between, take the time to read or re-read all of previous Dynamo articles as they all tie in together. They can be found on the “news” page on the SMCC website. You may need to flick through a few pages to find the earliest articles.
A passing note: An old time racing cyclist asked a relative newcomer to cycle racing, “what is the most important thing was in a bike race?”
The newcomer replied, “ Oh, it’s your wheels!”
The old timer responded sternly, “No son, it’s your head!”
See you out there,