What a difference a year makes.
A year ago I was “race-curious”. I’d joined TCC in the summer, ridden some sportives and was a hardened commuting cyclist of modest fitness. I wondered whether I was fit enough to at least finish a race. Then came the October club championships, which sadly I had to miss (and again this year), followed by a first race at Hillingdon with a group of new racers. If you enjoyed the club championship, or missed it and are still thinking of racing, then read on:
“How fit do I need to be?”
Good question. And the answer is not as fit as you might think. If you can ride in the medium paced club ride, then you will finish in the bunch and could be competitive. If you are in the medium/steady group, you may struggle to hang on in your first races (but will soon get fitter). If you can stay up with Liam, Alex et al, then you will win your first or second race and you can stop reading now (Well done James!). Average pace may seem fast at about 24-25 mph, but this is in a large group on a closed circuit. A sub six hour century time is a good marker.
“My bike isn’t fast/light/good enough”
It’s not about the bike. In fact if you are going to start racing you might want to ride something you aren’t precious about. No mudguards, racks, fixies or lights, but almost anything else with drop bars goes. I bought a used racing bike to start racing because I was worried my nice bike was too nice.
“Will I crash?”
I won’t lie; crashes do happen, and they can happen more often in beginners races (not always). But with good group riding skills, a willingness to listen to others and a modicum of self-preservation, you can minimize the risk of going down. In a year, I have only been forced onto a grass verge twice and have not crashed at all.
“Any other kit I might need?”
When you start, you can race in any kit, but a TCC jersey shows you are part of the team.
“Do I need a license?”
To race under British Cycling you will need a racing license. You can turn up on the day and pay extra, but only by signing up for BC do you really step over into being a racer 🙂 . To start this transition, you will need British Cycling membership. The good news is that, if you are a member of an affiliated club (i.e., TCC), THE FIRST YEAR OF MEMBERSHIP IS FREE! Sign on here
. Be sure to select the “I belong to a club” button and enter Twick (it will find TCC). The promotion code you require is NEWCMRA (NEW Club Member RAte – Wish I’d known this before I joined!) You will then need to purchase a (silver) race license. If you are a Youth or Junior, they are free, if you are older, then you will have to pay. Licenses expire at the end of the year, membership is renewed from the date you join BC.
Now onto the racing… And this is where TCC can give you an advantage that you won’t find elsewhere.
You will start as a lowly Cat 4 racer. Races are mainly on closed circuits (e.g., Hillingdon) and you need to acrue 10 points for promotion to Cat 3. Points come from finishing in the top 10 in races, and you must have a full race license to earn points (no turn-up-on-the-day-racers, points need commitment). There are 10 points for a win so in principle, you might only need to race one Cat 4 race. In practice, you need to serve an apprenticeship and Cat 4 is quite competitive locally.
Now I’ve convinced you that you really want to race, what are the opportunities? The new season has just begun with the Imperial Winter Series
at Hillingdon. There is also a SERRL winter series at Cyclopark in Gravesend.
Now the TCC advantage. You do not race alone! Having completed a season of racing, and spending most of my time racing E1234 veterans (read fast old men) rather than Cat 4, I shall be concentrating on helping new racers to find their feet in Cat 4 during the winter season. To this end I will commit to riding the first Points Chaser on October 26th and subsequent races. I will also race the Winter Series. So if you want to have a go, I’ll be there to help you make the jump from race-curious to racer. I’m also training to be a BC Coach, so will use this as part of my coaching training!
If you are keen to race or just curious and have some questions, give me a call or email, or catch up with me on a Tuesday evening.