Unlike time trialling, road racing is a “mass start” event, held on open or closed roads, or specially built circuits such as at Hogg Hill, Hillingdon or Milton Keynes Bowl. There is no doubt that you have to be fit but the object is not necessarily to go as fast as possible from A to B, but rather to win an event through a combination of tactics, bike handling skill and ability.
Race tactics would cover knowing when to make additional efforts to clear the bunch such as jumping across to a “break”, or staying sheltered in the bunch to conserve energy. Bike handling skills would cover the ability to ride safely at speed in the wheel of another rider, or to “counter steer” around an obstruction without affecting the line other riders have to take. All round ability includes riding at a constant pace at the front of the bunch taking the wind, climbing hills efficiently, sitting down, coping with pace changes, and to recover quickly after a succession of hard efforts.
For the beginner, closed circuit racing is a good place to start because:
There will be other beginners, or those returning from time off the bike.
The races are usually short, no more than an hour, and tend to be mid-week.
You can take a lap out if you puncture or suffer a mechanical problem.
Entry fees tend to be much less than normal open road races, about £10
Although full BC points are up for grabs, the atmosphere tends to be more jovial than open road events.
Circuit races are often handicapped such that lower ability riders are sent off with a head start and a chance to win.
Circuit racing takes place on private closed circuits off the highway and is therefore a relatively safe environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills to succeed in road racing.
Whilst the pace is often more frenetic than on the open road, it is good training and many riders use mid-week evening races as a good opportunity for some interval training.
The circuits of most interest to Icknield members are Milton Keynes Bowl and Hillingdon. There are other circuits further afield such as Thruxton, Mallory Park or Eastway.