CW.CC riders tell us their tales from when they first bit the bullet and took on road racing

Racing is intimidating. Well, at least that’s the primary emotion that sticks in the brain when you consider the prospect of your first race. But for many riders who’ve taken on difficult sportives and can ride at a high enough pace for extended periods, racing is the logical next step in progressing your cycling.

If you’re a regular reader of Cycling Weekly, you may have spotted Simon Schofield’s look at preparing for your first race in the Fitness section last week. Here at CWCC, we thought we’d get some of our riders’ stories, tips and fears about getting into racing.

The prospective racer: Andrew Sarling, Essex

“I’m apprehensive about two things. Firstly, causing an accident riding in the peloton. Being really new to this I don’t want to get carried away, focus on trying to go as fast as I can and end up forgetting other people are around me and cause an accident. Secondly, getting dropped. I have no idea what sort of speeds the races are contested at, and training alone I’m not sure if 32kph on my own would be 35kph in the peloton etc.

I’m looking into a local club (Ford Cycling Club) which run a GoRace series through the Spring and Summer on a closed track. This seems like an ideal place for me to start. Category wise I’ll start with GoRace and Regional C and see how I get on, if I am doing ok, and my Cat 4 licence permits I’ll look to go higher.

Am I ready, who knows, training on my own and being fairly new to the sport I have little to compare myself to but what’s the worst that can happen? I’m 34 now so eager to start racing as soon as I can.

Will I shave my legs? Possibly the hardest question to answer! I was looking around at a recent Sportive I rode to see if anyone else had hairy legs – if I end up racing at a decent level then I suppose I will have to or I’ll probably be the only hairy legged cyclist there!”

The experienced racer: Graham Armit, Buckinghamshire (High Wycombe CC)

“I initially joined High Wycombe CC in 1989 as a fresh faced youth, just keen to do some structured riding, but they soon had me hooked on the Tuesday night evening league TTs.

My first race was at Hayes for the weekly Tuesday night crits. One of my club mates suggested it as we were more road raced minded than other older members of the club. I remember the nervousness of starting and also of the opposition. I lined up every week with Roger Hammond, Matt Stephens and a few others so there was the feeling of: ‘am I prepared enough or will I just get dropped?’ The one thing that didn’t worry me too much was riding in close proximity to others; my club had prepared me well for this with the regular club runs.

Back then continual racing was my main prep…I was competing 3/4 times a week (track, crit and RR) but if there was a gap the old ethos was get the miles in!

My main advice for new racers is to get yourself into a club and train with them first before hitting the start line. This way you’ll be best prepared for group riding, following wheels and choosing lines. All too often I have seen and heard tales of a new rider causing crashes or just causing mayhem in a fast moving bunch through inexperience.

Above all else, a new rider looking to race should enjoy it, but not get too down-hearted if you don’t win, or even place. There’s nothing that can beat racing. Never give up and keep trying…one day it’ll be you crossing the line with your hands in the air!

Shaving legs? I will be shaving my legs before re-entering the bunch. More to do with conforming to other riders (and to remain fully compliant with The Rules) but also it’s what’s done…isn’t it?”

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