If you are thinking of entering your first race, then be prepared for a whole new dimension of riding, training and improving. Goal setting, like racing, helps to keep your focus and gives you something to ride and train for. We have some tips to make sure you are well prepared, after all, you don’t want to go into the first race and be caught out in the middle of a crash or at the back.
Are you confident in a large group? If not, then club runs can be a great starting point for most riders, acting as a good way to teach you the etiquette of road riding and how to stay safe in the bunch.
Now, although club runs are great, they don’t often get too fast and furious. You don’t get many people attacking off the front and ducking and diving for wheels, it’s all very civilized. That said, we all know the saying ‘Don’t run before you can walk’, so get savvy and join a club run. The weekly club run will set all the groundwork you need for growing your confidence improving your technique, particularly learning to sit comfortably on two wheels in a group for 50miles plus.
Now the mistake a lot of us make is that we think we are ready to race when we actually aren’t; you will probably have to put the hours in beforehand and do a month of interval training before you attempt a race, however another stepping stone is to find some local reliability rides.
Leading up to the spring/summer most clubs will run reliability races, and these are normally a little quicker than a normal Sunday run. They usually consist of the local club members and draw in other members from other clubs, so this will take you out of your comfort zone a little and encourage you to ride with people you may have never met before. Their riding styles will be different and you will have to keep your wits about you a little more, making them likely to stretch you without putting too much pressure on you.
Another good idea is to find your local chain gang, this is fast paced and can simulate race pace but in a controlled way. In chain gangs, the ‘through and off’ technique is used here, there is a structure to the riding but it can also really stretch your ability. Most chain gangs will not wait if you are dropped, so it’s a good idea you know where you are and how to get home if this does happen. Most Chain gangs start at the beginning of Spring, and some even run through the Winter. It’s a good idea to gauge where you are fitness wise, and if you are capable of staying on a wheel and doing a turn. This also helps to train your awareness of others and how you are positioned.
Choose a course that you think will suit you
For your first Race, choose a course that you think may suit you, things to consider are where your strengths lie – are you’re you a good hill climber or a good sprinter? Which is going to suit you the most? Most flat races end up in a sprint finish so if you aren’t good at sprinting you aren’t likely going to get a good result, having said that flat races are easier to hold onto so if your goal is to finish, then they may not a bad idea. Look for local races, as you will have likely ridden on these roads before, this way you will know what’s coming up.
Have the right kit
Okay, so you will turn up to your first race and there will be guys riding in kit worth thousands of pounds, but don’t’ let this intimidate you if you haven’t got it, there’s a lot of high-quality gear you can get at great value.
Firstly, a skin suit is always a good start, which will provide aerodynamic gains for the flats – you can even add in an aerodynamic helmet if you want to push it further. However the most significant thing you can change on your bike is your wheels, so take a look at some nice lightweight wheels to grab those marginal gains, ensure you have smooth shifting and if you can’t afford a brand new Dura-Ace groupset, get your cables and shifting spot on and at least you aren’t going to be stuck fumbling to find a gear. As always, looking after your bike is a safe bet for avoiding any hiccups and disasters, so arm yourself with maintenance and cleaning set-up. Finally, don’t forget to fuel, energy gels will be your friend during the race so make sure you have a couple in your pocket to see you through to the end.