How To

How to prepare for your first road race: a beginner’s guide to racing

Want to pin on a number for the first time? Here are six tips to ensure you stay with the bunch

Has the success of Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and co tempted you to pin on a number and race?

With winter turning to spring, the amateur racing season will soon be in full swing and many riders who have caught the competitive bug will be keen to make the switch from sportive or club rider to racer.

Has the success of British cyclists inspired you to pin on a number? (Pic: Alex Whitehead/

But where to start? First, the basics. Time trialing aside, racing is typically made up of two disciplines: circuit races (or criteriums) and road races. Criteriums typically take place on closed circuits such as Hillingdon or Hog Hill in London and are fast, frantic affairs which last approximately an hour. Road races, on the other hand, are held on open roads with the support of National Escort Group (NEG) outriders on motorbikes to control traffic. Road races tend to take place on a lapped course and last around three hours.

Races are classified according to ability and all new racers start as a fourth category rider having signed up for a British Cycling licence. Riders then accrue points based on finishing positions to move through the ranks (fourth, third, second, first categories and elite). Ten points are required to move from fourth cat to third cat, for example. Some events allow riders to buy a day licence in order to race, but you won’t be eligible for points.

Interested? The route from the club run, to sportives, to racing is well-trodden but how do you best prepare for your first time in the bunch?

We caught up with James Spragg of Dip Deep Coaching to find out how to train for your first race. Read on for Spragg’s advice on base training, replicating race-pace efforts, technique, tactics and goal-setting.


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