Types of Road Racing - Cycling Magazine

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Saturday 27 May 2017

Types of Road Racing

Types of Road Racing

The beautiful thing about road racing is that there’s a little something for everyone. You can dip your toes in with a time trial or go for the whole enchilada with a stage race. All of these take place on paved roads.
CIRCUIT racing is often what most people imagine a road race to be. A mass start that takes place on some kind of large loop—usually from 5 to 25 miles—that competitors cover for a specific number of laps. It is usually a longer distance race (men cover around 60 to 100 miles, women around 40 to 80 miles) that takes place over one day. Riding in the middle of the peloton, racers are both protected from wind and pulled along by the speed of the riders surrounding them, giving opportunities to rest and recover after the overall speed of the pack surges. In this kind of race, it’s extremely helpful to have a team or people you work with to take turns pulling to help you stay in the peloton without getting popped off the back. Teamwork and cunning are key factors since you’re trying to conserve energy over a longer period of time. If you like working with others and games with strategy, this type of racing might be for you.
POINT-TO-POINT road races are the brothers of circuit races, with the same kind of race start and similar skills required but with tactical differences. In a circuit race, riders will have a chance to get to know the quirks of the course and their opponents over every lap. During a point-to-point race every moment is new, so it’s harder to predict how your competitors might handle changes in terrain and tactics. Also, it’s not uncommon for these courses to include steeper, longer climbs.
CRITERIUMS (“CRITS”) are as thrilling for spectators as they are for competitors. It’s also a mass start race, but the course is a very short—usually 1 mile or less in length—loop. Instead of curves, visualize lots of turns around tight corners in city blocks. These courses are often the crown jewel of urban areas. The course may follow only a few blocks before screaming around another turn, but the racers are often traveling at speeds well over 20 miles per hour in a pack so close together that shoulders touch and handlebars are in danger of hooking, making positioning key and technical bike-handling skills a must. Crits usually last for shorter time periods, but at a much higher overall intensity than circuit racing. Primes are offered to make the race more exciting by encouraging different riders to sprint throughout the race instead of conserving energy for the big win at the end. Even if you don’t have a chance at the podium, primes are a good way to practice sprinting within the race.
TIME TRIAL is the only road race that doesn’t have a mass start. This time, it’s you (or your team riding as a group) against the clock for the fastest overall time. The courses are usually 10 to 25 miles in length, can be flat, hilly, or entirely uphill, and often play to the strengths of endurance riders who can hold a very hard pace steadily for a long time. In triathlons, time trials are the biking portion of the swim-bike-run race. In this racing, there are no packs to rest in and no sprints or surges to keep pace with. You are going it alone, and this is a mind over matter style of racing.
STAGE RACES are a combination of some or all the above rolled into one fantastic event. The most famous example is the Tour de France, which features most of these types of racing, but over a course of nearly 21 days straight. Don’t worry, your local races won’t be that tough. There will sometimes be multiple races in 1 day or spread out over a series of days. These events favor the “all rounder” rider, someone who is fairly good at all the qualities needed for each type of racing.


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