First time racers !

The number of riders turning up to cycle races this year has grown substantially . Each of the new categories has seen a large number of participants enter at every race so far this year . Ideally , there should be a separate race for each category but logistically this can be difficult for race organisers to achieve . Often the A4 bunch will be given a handicap head start of a minute or two , or possible five on the A3 bunch . When both groups merge , which tends to be happen very soon in the race it creates a huge bunch of riders , many of whom may not have experienced riding in a large group before . So what should you do if you find yourself in that position , here are a few examples ;

1 : Find a place where you are comfortable . Try to stay on the inside of the bunch next to the ditch , or else stay at the back of the bunch . Riders are constantly moving up the outside so it is harder to hold your position there . Whilst there is more chance of a puncture on the inside at least there will only be riders on one side of you which halves the tension .

2 : Forget about winning the race until you are at ease in the bunch , or find yourself in a small group near the finish . Trying to get up in a bunch sprint takes nerves of steel and some very good bike handling . Kelly may have won his first ever race , but for most people it’s a learning curve . Aim to finish safely with the bunch for the first few races and then work from there as your confidence and ability grows .

3 : Always be aware of the riders around you . If you are changing position within the bunch , always glance over your shoulder first to make yourself aware of where the rider next to you is positioned . Then point down at the ground to where you intend to move out to . If you just move out without doing any of this you may well switch the front wheel of the rider behind and cause a crash .

4 : Let others know your there . If you do decide to move up along the outside of the bunch shout ‘outside’ as you come up behind riders . This lets them know that you are moving up along their ‘outside’ and hopefully they won’t switch out in front of you .

5 : Make friends in the bunch . Whilst the adrenaline and testosterone are in full flow even the mildest mannered of people can be prone to a little verbal aggression . An English rider in the Ras a number of years ago enquired as to what a ‘ f**king f**k ‘ was after hearing pretty much nothing else in the bunch all week . But it is important not to alienate people within the bunch . If you are seen as basically a nice guy , you will be given space in a line out to move into for shelter , room will be made for you within the bunch , a gentle push to help you hold the wheel in front and many other little dig outs that can make all the difference . More experienced riders will also give you little tips and hints which will speed up your progression in becoming a better rider .

6 : Enjoy it . There is a great sense of achievement to be had in bike racing . Whatever goal you may have set yourself , whether it be to win a race or just finish in the bunch , you know just how hard you have worked to get there when you achieve it . The friends you make racing will be friends for life . You get to see parts of the country you would never see otherwise , before and after the race . You make progress . Even if you are dropped in the first few miles there is always next Sunday and you will find yourself getting stronger each week .


3 thoughts on “First time racers !

  • April 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Barry,
    First of all, great blog, and as a relative novice myself, the above is well heeded.
    I’m actually responding to an older entry re your participation in this year’s Marmotte. Having done the Ventoux Etape last year with Sean O Leary’s group, including yourself, I decided to give the Marmotte a shot this year. As I actually live in Luxembourg I’m rather detached from the Irish cycling scene and was wondering if you were aware of there being a large Irish contingent heading to France for the Marmotte?
    Hope training is going well despite the challenging weather.


    • April 3, 2010 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Ciaran,

      There are a good few Irish riders heading over as far as I know . Sport active have about 25 or so and there seem to be a good few individuals heading over also . Being able to enter yourself makes it more accessable than the etape . I’m heading over with a friend so we might see you on the road . Hope the the training’s going well !!

  • April 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Cheers for the info Barry, good to hear there’ll be a decent contingent.
    I’ll keep an eye out for any green.


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