Road Racing is massed-start cycle racing on roads or circuits. First rider over the finish line wins, with anything from twenty to almost 200 competitors, depending on the event. In the UK, events range from short Youth and Juvenile (under16) races of 20km or less, through club level events for adults of between 40km and 100km, to Elite-level one day races of 200km or more. The majority of adult racing takes place on public roads, though there are an increasing number of circuit events, either on roads closed to other traffic or on specially constructed circuits, some which are shared with other sports like motor racing and kart racing, others are purpose built for cycling. All under-16 racing takes place on traffic-free closed circuits.
The classic Road Race is a test of stamina, fitness and tactical acumen. Team tactics often come into play. Riders often have particular strengths: some can climb hills and mountains very quickly; others have a devastating turn of speed or sprint; other have the ability to ride very well against the clock in Time Trials (which often form part of multi day or stage races). The art is to restrict your rival's gains in the areas where they are strong and maximise your gains in your preferred terrain.
Some Road Races are contested over several days and several stages. These "Stage" Races or Tours often feature prizes for each stage winner, plus others for the best sprinter in the race, the best climber (aka King of the Mountains), the leading team and, of course, the overall winner, who is the rider with the best aggregate time. The Tour de France is the world's most prestigious Stage Race and lasts for three weeks.
All top Road Racers need to be able to stay in the saddle for hours at a time (endurance). Some are exceptionally good at going uphill and target wins in hilly terrain: these are known as Climbers. Others have a big 'kick' or ability to accelerate and are known as Sprinters. They often win races where the finish is contested by a number of riders - a bunch or sprint finish. Few riders can win, however, if they are not tactically very aware and at pro level team tactics and strategy can be very complex.
Endurance, Sprinting, Climbing, Tactics - these are just some of the qualities a successful road rider might possess. Which is the most important? Well, it's open to debate, but compared to the sledgehammer tactic of just trying to ride faster than your rivals - something which will not work at anything but the lowest level of the sport - the rapier blade of genuine tactical nous is potentially a race winner for you.
Road & Circuit Racing: Categories, Points, Rankings and Event Classifications
The structure of the sport of Road Racing is undergoing a major overhaul in Great Britain. A new event classification system and an extended ranking system are just two of the changes. Follow the link below for a detailed overview of how the category of events ties into the ranking and licence points available - plus how your own category is determined
Please see the British cycling website or Contract the club BCF secretary for more information.