In 2018 both male and female riders from the club competed in road races, local criterium races, cyclo-cross and the Berkhamsted Castle Revolutions Festival, in addition to competing in various Time Trial and Hill Climb events. We want to build on our successes in each of these areas in 2019.
The BCC Academy ethos is to be inclusive and we welcome riders from across our membership, from seasoned competitors, to those who are new to racing, those keen on opportunities to train harder or indeed anyone who wants to find out more about what we do. For more information please click here to send an email to our Performance Coordinator Paul Gardner.
The club will run performance training rides and they will be announced on our Facebook page. When the weather starts to warm up training rides are likely to be on Sundays from 10am at M&S Costa.
If there is enough interest we will organise a race school at Hillingdon for coaching sessions. Please click here to contact Paul if you would be interested in a group coaching session. In previous years the coaching sessions were very popular.
If you have an indoor trainer and need some motivation over the winter months BCC run weekly turbo training sessions. Contact Paul for more information.
The club caters for women’s racing and are able to guide those lady members that want to train for, or are ready to compete, in racing. We are particularly interested in growing our ladies’ racing section, so if you are interested in having a go or upping your training level click here to contact Paul.
We are a young club with a strong number of enthusiastic riders, so though there are several seasoned racers among our ranks, the majority of our racing riders are relatively inexperienced and many are just dipping their toe for the first time. Whilst it can seem daunting to enter races the purpose of the club’s performance section and racing Academy is to help you get to the level you want to be – both in terms of demystifying the processes and offering advice, and in providing the benefit of our various tips and experience. TT’s and hill climbs are also a great way for novices to get the competitive juices flowing, being just you on the road against the clock, with riders usually set of at 1 minute intervals.
What do I need before I start racing?
Not an awful lot more than you already have, except that anyone wanting to race must have a British Cycling racing licence. There are some novice races or introductory races where a provisional licence will suffice in order for you to give racing a try without significant commitment. However, to score points and move up the rankings (see below) you will require a British Cycling Race membership at either Silver or Gold level, both of which include a racing licence and allow you to collect points. There is more information on the British Cycling website and the performance committee can assist with any specific enquiries. You will otherwise absolutely need a helmet and a road-worthy bike. You definitely do not need an expensive carbon bike or aero kit or anything else like that. You will need to be wearing the club jersey to race, but other than that, you probably have everything you need already.
How fit do I need to be?
The answer to this depends a bit on your ambitions and what you are looking to get out of racing. The most basic category 4 races (see below for an explanation of categories) are open to anyone to turn up to and enjoy. There is nothing to prevent anyone from enjoying the buzz of pinning numbers on and putting your bike on the start line and giving it a go, even if you are quickly dropped and then time trial around at the back. In fact, it is quite likely that this may be the case for the first couple of races as you find your feet. You will still be representing the club and will be supported, cheered and encouraged. And unless you begin to get in the way of the action at the front (when the race commissaires might pull you out for safety reasons) you will be able to get your fix of racing excitement at your own pace.
However, clearly you will get more out of racing once you are able to stay in the mix with the peloton or able to get involved in the excitement of breakaways. For this, a certain level of base fitness is of course required. However, again, if you are regular on the club ride and enjoy pushing yourself every now and then, then you are probably at or not far off the required standard. As a very rough rule of thumb, if you can complete a 10 mile solo time trial in normal conditions in around 30 mins (averaging around 20 mph) then you are probably at the required standard to give category 4 racing a go. If you are not there but still interested – never fear – that is the point of the Academy!
However, base fitness is only a part of the story, since key to bike racing is the drafting effect. By sitting close to a rider in front the effort required to maintain your speed is reduced (by around 20%, apparently). In a peloton, the required effort can be reduced by around 40%. The fact that being in a group or in a slipstream makes cycling faster easier is fundamental to how bike racing works and the tactics that have evolved. For any of you keen in giving racing a go, it means two things: (a) Those Cat 4 MK Bowl races you have found on Strava with an average speed of 25 mph are not actually as tough as you might think; and (b) being confident staying in a group and holding a wheel are as important if not more important than your base fitness – simply put, if you are “on a wheel” you are getting speed for free.
Whatever your fitness level, nothing will quite prepare a novice for the shock and hopefully the excitement of your first race. As above, we hope to get a number of rides going in Spring, including chaingang rides and specialist sessions which are designed to be good practice for gaining the skills necessary for riding closely in a bunch at speed, and learning how to ride through and off that will support people wishing to work towards this level of fitness and skill, and there is provision for some official coaching supported by the club. We anticipate that our friendly neighbours Hemel Hempstead Cycle Club will run coaching sessions at their Bovingdon Circuit. These have been a great hit in and have helped a number of the club’s academy riders.
How do British Cycling rider categories work?
Once you’ve joined British Cycling, you’ll find that their website has a great ‘my membership’ feature that allows you to see all of your racing history, rankings and points. The other really useful feature on the BC website is the event calendar, which allows you to see information on all of the races coming up; if you spot an event you’re interested in you can add it to your own calendar on the site. If you’ve just started and have no racing history you’ll be ranked as a 4th category rider. If you want to move up a category then it’s good to start racing at the beginning of the season to give yourself enough time to accumulate the necessary points. Here are the categories:
• 4th Category: A new junior or senior licence holder.
• 3rd Category: Any junior or senior licence holder who has gained 12 points during any one season whilst holding a 4th category licence. Note: Riders are never downgraded to 4th category once a 3rd category licence has been achieved.
• 2nd Category: Any junior or senior licence holder who has gained 40 points during any one season whilst holding a 3rd category licence. To retain a 2nd category licence for the following season, a rider must obtain at least 25 points in events open to that category of rider.
• 1st Category: Any junior or senior licence holder who has gained 200 points during any one season whilst holding a 2nd category licence. To retain a 1st category licence for the following season, a rider must obtain at least 100 points in events open to that category of rider.
• Elite Category: Any Senior licence holder who has gained 300 points during the previous season whilst holding an Elite or 1st category licence. A rider who, at the 31st December of the previous year, was listed in the top 10 in the elite men’s British Cycling Cross-country MTB Series Rankings may also claim an Elite licence.
Races are categorised so that only riders of similar ability race one another: 3/4th cats, 2/3 cats or E/1/2 cats. As you race in higher categories the races become longer, more tactical and, obviously, harder.
How do British Cycling points work?
Points awarded for finishing positions in each race depending on what category race it is. National A events award the most points, down to Regional C+ events. For example, the MK Bowl Crit is a Regional C+ race meaning that there are 10 points for 1st, 8 points for 2nd, down to 1 point for 9th and 10th places. Longer races like 80km 3/4 cat road races will have 15 points for 1st place down to 1 point for 10th.
Where can I race / what type of races are there?
Again there is an enormous amount of helpful info on the British Cycling website (not particularly intuitively laid out if you ask me, but there is a host of info available). By searching for events and setting the filters to suit you (location wise / date wise / rider category wise / day of the week you are available etc etc) it is easy to see what events there are locally for you to get involved with.
With the recent cycling boom, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to deciding which race to enter. Different people will have their own opinions of which races are easiest or hardest.
The academy have identified a number of races that we will be focusing on in 2018/19, click here for more details.
The shortest races are criteriums or ‘crits’, which are on short circuits with lots of laps. Riders normally complete laps for a specified period followed by a specific number of laps (i.e. 45 mins plus 5 laps).
Different circuits have different dynamics, and we have several options close to home. I would strongly recommend that anyone starting out begin at the Milton Keynes bowl or Hillingdon. Both are simple circuits, easy enough to get to, friendly, the standard required to stay in touch is not so high as some others and they run a category 4 only race (newbies only) and there will be a number of BCC riders competing there over the Summer.
Hillingdon has circuit races running throughout the summer and even in the winter with the Imperial RT winter league (which Richard Metcalfe and Simon Pearce have already been competitive in). Hillingdon is a closed circuit similar to MK Bowl (although a little more technical) and they also have special 4th cat only races so it is another good option if you’re just getting started racing.
VeloPark is the newest circuit in London and is part of the Olympic Legacy located in Stratford next to the Velodrome forming part of the Lea Valley sports park. The circuit has one short climb but is predominantly fast and flat with minimal technical corners and two bridges that straddle the canal.
Bovingdon circuit is very close by and HHCC run crit races there on a Wednesday (summer months). It is a good quality of surface and the racing proved to be good and exciting but I would recommend that people starting out begin at MK or Hillingdon rather than Bovingdon for two reasons (1) the standard in my experience is higher at Bovingdon; and (2) there is a hairpin in the Bovingdon circuit which effectively requires an energy-sapping sprint each lap.
There are generally changing rooms, lockers and showers available at all of these places, with the exception of Bovingdon, which is a bit more of a back of the car job (although you can also just ride there and back of course).
Most Central Road Race League road races are around 80 km long for 3/4th cat races and normally take 2 hours to finish. Racing on the road is very different to crits as the races are longer and you’re sharing the road with other road users, so there are more hazards to look out for. A road race is therefore more of an endurance challenge than a crit with a different, less frantic feel. There is a race convoy of commissaires in cars leading (and following) the race which warn traffic that the race is coming. However, the roads are open to everyone so you must not cross solid white lines in the middle of the road, go round corners on the wrong side of the road, etc. Marshals do try to stop traffic at junctions so you can usually go straight through, although this isn’t to be taken for granted as cars do occasionally ignore marshals. British Cycling do usually supply Accredited Marshals that have to authority to stop traffic (normally at the race finish) and Motos (motorcycle out-riders) that can also stop traffic. The road races HQs are normally based in village halls or schools and start at around 9:30. Most races are on a Sunday with the occasional Saturday. Fields normally consist of between 40 and 80 riders with the lower category races being more popular. Pre-entering these races is a good idea as they’re often full by the time race day comes.
How do I enter a race?
First you need to find out the race details. Look out for these messages, the BCC website, the BC website, the race organiser’s website, the What’s App Group or RiderHQ to find out what races are happening and whether you are eligible to enter. You normally enter in advance online, and races often fill up quickly. Sometimes limited places are available if you turn up on the day.
Importantly, don’t forget to take your race licence along to the race for signing in or you’ll either face a fine or have to buy a day licence.
Should I do it?
That is up to you! There is no doubt that racing a bike is more dangerous than simply riding one, but it is also faster, more exciting and more fun. No-one in the club is ever going to force anyone to race and the risks are for you to weigh up for yourself. All the equipment and fitness in the world aren’t going to help you to race unless you want to do it for yourself. For many in the club racing will be of zero interest, and we will try not to bother you too much with it. However, the idea of a performance section in the club is to ensure that for those interested, even tentatively, there are resources and a network around to encourage, support and make giving it a go easier.
Above all, we are simply members of the club who like riding our bikes fast. If you do too, get in touch!
For more information please click here to send an email to our Performance Coordinator Paul Gardner.
Many thanks and here’s to a successful year!