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Your first ever race

TjgoodhewTjgoodhew Posts: 628
edited June 2015 in Amateur race
I have signed up, paid money and will be taking the plunge into racing on Saturday at Cyclopark in Gravesend in a Cat 4 only race

Im excited and nervous and slightly worried i will make a fool of myself and get dropped half way round the first lap but i guess thats all part of it.

So I would be interested to hear about some of the more experienced riders first ever races. How did you get on, what was your training like before your first race and was it anything like you thought it would be?
Cannondale Caad8
Canyon Aeroad 8.0


  • VarianceVariance Posts: 130
    This is my first ever race. About 6 weeks ago.....

    My first ever race - Salt Ayre Winter Warrior series 7th March (10th out of 26) 1 point!

    I know the course pretty well as I've done quite a few TT's there over the last couple of years. It's a pan flat 0.8m loop with 2 long straights.

    I'd planned on arriving an hour or so before the 2.30 start to get my bike set up and give me enough time to get a proper warm up in but the traffic was bad so I only got enough time to do about 4 laps warm up. I ended up right at the back of the bunch as we were all waiting to set off and my nerves were really starting to bite, especially as I'd felt sluggish warming up and hadn't really felt great all week.

    Anyway the race was 40 mins plus 3 laps so I had 3 goals - 1. Stay with the bunch for as long as possible 2. Try not to get lapped 3. Try to keep going even if I got dropped or lapped!

    I've not lost as much weight as I wanted and at 93kg I was clearly the chubbiest rider there and a day before my 35th Birthday I was starting to wonder what the hell I was doing!

    As we set off, the pace was ok until the first half lap was over then quickly upped to about 25mph which I was ok with but being at the back was difficult with the big changes in speed for the corners so I decided to try and move up towards the front which I found a lot easier than I thought I would. Once up near the front I found it difficult to find a wheel to follow and often found myself riding about 4 or 5 off the front but into the wind. As the race wore on I was more confident in holding my own space and started to feel better as I realised I was ok with the pace.

    Then it went a bit crazy for 3 or 4 laps when a couple of guys jumped off the front and everyone decided to chase them. Then another couple went off so everyone decided to chase hard again. I was feeling the surges in my lungs and my HR was very high. I knew I couldn't handle another 20 mins at this rate. Thankfully the pace slowed slightly once people realised a break wasn't going to get away but soon after this there was actually a split but I found myself at the back of the lead group of about 7. I had put in a decent effort to hang on and was in no position to pull on the front and everyone else thought the same thing so it all came back together as the 3 to go board went up.

    As we came round with the 2 to go board I felt strong and started to move up to the front before kicking and seeing if I could get away. It was a token effort really and I shouldn't have done it but hey-ho I was excited!

    I let the bunch swallow me up after about 10 seconds of glory and as a result I mis-judged my speed going round a corner and ended up on the grass and nearly on the floor! I managed to keep on 2 wheels and re-joined towards the back. I thought my chances of a decent finish had gone but the pace slowed again a little as we took the flag. I found myself being able to slip up the outside quite easily as we headed down the home straight and round the last bend. There was a group of 4 or 5 off the front as the sprint opened up and I managed to pass a couple of others on my way to line for 10th place.

    Overall I am very pleased with the result but I know I could have been in better positions for most of the race and should not have attacked when I did.

    I'll be there again on Saturday, trying to learn from my mistakes!

    Link to the ride is here
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 6,335
    Mine was a 3/4 circuit race at Mallory on a hot evening which brought out a field of 100 plus riders. Unaware of the way things worked I thought I'd ride round in the bunch til half way then see how I felt. Started at the back and straight away people were getting shelled and I was desperately jumping across gaps til my lack of a decent warm up forced me too far into the red and I was shelled with a group of others on the second lap. Carried on riding with those til close to the end when I sat up as I think the bunch were coming round to lap us and I had no idea what the etiquette was if that happened.

    Don't start at the back and do warm up well - more than most probably do - those were the main lessons - still don't always get the warm up right - as I get older I reckon ideally I need to be riding for 20 minutes minimum structured warm up to be really ready if not more.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368 that was mine.

    Reading it back even now amuses me regarding my comments about the other peoples bikes. How little I knew!
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing -
  • iron-cloveriron-clover Posts: 737
    Mine was a bit odd- it was the 4th cat race at the Portsmouth Easter circuits back in 2012 (just before the 'boom').

    No previous TTs, never belonged to a large club before, only experience riding in a group was in relatively small groups with the uni club- but over a couple of months several people (including a complete stranger who caught me up when out on a solo ride) encouraged me to have a go at racing, so I did.

    There were only 15 entrants, and one of the other racers even pushed me up to my wheel to follow in the first lap, and we just did a 2 line chaingang for 40 mins. I tried to tease a breakaway, and not knowing what I was doing I ended up 1/3 of a lap up with 3 laps to go by myself, and being on a day license just went with it. I blew up at the bell and the rest sprinted past, so I finished last by some margin.

    Training was basically just going out and riding- there was a 30 mile loop that had a mix of small climbs, drags and a few flat strips as well, and trying to make sure I would ride it at an average speed of 18mph or more- I was told if you could average 18mph for an hour then you should be able to hang on in a 4th cat race.

    It was a lot friendlier and an awful lot easier than I thought it would be, although to be honest I think I got very lucky.

    All of the 4th cat races I have been to since (post 'boom') have been a lot more cut throat, and it's unlikely I'd have had such a nice experience if I repeated that today- not that I could race at the Mountbatten center as its been closed by BC and the council...
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Mine was a 3/4 race with no points on offer so the aim was to have fun, mix it up and learn. Try and avoid doing anything too over enthusiastic like going for gaps that barely exist. I hear CycloPark has a few pinch points to be wary of.

    If you do get shelled, be off the circuit on the final laps if the bunch is close.
    Back markers who's sole aim is to say they finished can really mess up someones race. ... 1-step-up/
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    okgo wrote: that was mine.

    Reading it back even now amuses me regarding my comments about the other peoples bikes. How little I knew!

    Good blog mate. Passed a half hour lunch break nicely :)
  • thegibdogthegibdog Posts: 2,106
    Don't worry about getting dropped, lots of people get dropped at 4th Cat level so even if you get tailed off in the first lap you won't make a fool of yourself.

    My first was a 4ths only race a couple of years ago and I found it ok, the pace was easily manageable and the riding standard wasn't as bad as I'd feared. It was towards the end of the season and I'd been doing a couple of hundred miles a week over the summer so was in decent shape.
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    sheffsimon wrote:
    okgo wrote: that was mine.

    Reading it back even now amuses me regarding my comments about the other peoples bikes. How little I knew!

    Good blog mate. Passed a half hour lunch break nicely :)


    I'll read it all back one day and wonder how I found the enthusiasm.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing -
  • Turned up, fresh from smashing it about on a fixie in central London (and had previously rowed, so was fairly fit but there was no planning to my training - I was basically just cycling places, although I had done some group rides), had no idea what I was doing in terms of tactics but had a vague idea I was supposed to conserve energy. 4th cat only race.

    After about 5 laps I got bored of the conserving energy malarky and rode hard for a bit until I couldn't pedal hard any more (maybe 15 minutes) - in doing so I pulled away a break of 4 others. They could see I was ruined and didn't know what I was doing so let me sit in behind them for the last 20 minutes or so (this was not easy given the state I'd put myself in - I was at the ragged edge). In the final sprint I jumped from slipstream to slipstream, overtook everyone and won. I can remember the surreal moment of disbelief when I passed the leading two guys who were sprinting neck and neck (and the look of disbelief on their faces as I looked back at them as I passed!).

    Then I lay on the floor, absolutely ruined, and was promptly sick in front of my team-mates kids who were about 2 and 3 years old who were standing peering at me trying to work out why this man was lying on the floor and making strange noises (I'm asthmatic).

    Absolutely no regrets in trying bike racing; I've tried many sports, from swimming to running to rowing to triathlon to football and hockey; bike racing is definitely the one I enjoy the most - there's just so much to it, so much to learn. Only downside is occasionally losing a bit of skin in crashes, but this is rare (once every 15-20 races or so - maybe twice in a big season of racing).

    Just get stuck in and have some fun! I wouldn't recommend following my tactics though...
  • TjgoodhewTjgoodhew Posts: 628
    Well i did get stuck in on Saturday - for about a lap before i was promptly dropped by the majority of the field.

    I was pretty nervous at the start but made sure i got a good half hour warm up in so felt my legs and lungs were ready. What i didnt expect was the speed. I tried my best to follow wheels and stay in touch but saw my HR shooting through the roof and knew i wouldnt be able to keep up for long.

    I was a bit nervous going into corners as there was a field of 100 riders so probably slowed down a bit too much and had to then accelerate to catch back up. The race was at the Cyclopark in Gravesend and for those that dont know it does have quite a few sharp corners and its far from flat

    I spent the majority of the next 40 mins riding around on my own or occasionally picking up with a few other stragglers before being lapped by the bunch and withdrawn at the 5 laps to go board.

    For me it was a real eye opener and felt pretty demoralised after but on reflection I simply dont do enough structured training. So the Cat 4 racing is going to be on hold for the next 8 weeks whilst i complete a Trainer Road plan and hopefully can improve my performance on my next outing. The fact i was so un-competitive i didnt really enjoy it but it has made me more determined to improve.

    In the mean time there are a few Go Race events in the next couple of weeks so will stick to those to try and get a bit more confidence.
    Cannondale Caad8
    Canyon Aeroad 8.0
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    Stick at it. Having spoken to club mates at the same race, it is very technical and quick compared to say somewhere like Hillingdon that also has smaller fields and might be easier to stay with the bunch (should trying out other circuits be an option).
  • daddy0daddy0 Posts: 686
    I've been toying with the idea of giving racing at the cyclopark a go. Checked out some of the rides recorded on Saturday and it does look brutal. The chap who came 10th averaged 38km/hr... I've have ridden round the track once before and it is quite tight IMO, doesn't sound like much fun if there are 100 other riders trying to get round those bends.

    Anyway, I'm thinking I might sign up for the Thursday evening race league starting in May, see you on the track!
  • AK_jnrAK_jnr Posts: 717
    Mine was the april easter classic at Castle Coombe in 2013. Absolutely huge field (biggest ive ever raced in since).
    warmed up by riding in circles in the paddock.
    Sat last man for the whole race and decided I had better try and sprint so started from the back at the last corner and managed to keep going for 10th. Probably one of my most impressive results even if not the highest placing.
    I think it gave me a bit of an unrealistic expectation of my sprint prowess though, I think as I went so long I just had more endurance than the others rather than real power.
    So frustrating seeing a guy from the club race overweight and then smash the sprints for top 3 every time.

    I have only done one road race since, which was last year but got dropped on the 3rd time up the Stockbridge climb.

    I just need to work out the best way to maximise my strengths, which I assume are long climbs but not much chance there! Haha.

    I really enjoyed the following races at Mountbatten and Ludgershall in my first year though!
  • bluemoon17bluemoon17 Posts: 732
    This thread is making me want to try racing this year. Told myself that this year would be the year but after a poor winter doubts have started to set in again. Unsure whether to try a 10 mile TT first or whether to jump straight in and do a 4th cat crit. over at Tameside....
  • ProssPross Posts: 25,467
    My first race a 45 mile handicap road race in 1990. I was a junior so off in the first group with the vets and women (only senior riders were categorised back then so the group had international level juniors and women). I got myself well and truly worked up on the start line, there was no neutralised zone and I pushed off hard only to drop my chain and see my group disappear into the distance. I eventually set off on my own and rode about 10 miles of the first 15 mile lap before the second group containing the 3rd cats caught me. I jumped in with them and did a few turns of the through and off before sitting on the back. I eventually got dropped about half way around the final lap as the scratch group of 1st and 2nd cat riders caught us and blew the group apart as they forged on to try to catch the juniors. As it turned out the juniors held on that week and I crossed the line a few minutes behind the bunch.

    My first season saw me struggle to even finish in the bunch, I only managed it once. Closed circuit races didn't really exist so you had to race 3rd and junior races over around 45-60 miles which, as I said above, usually had national level riders. The only crits we had were technical town centre circuits which I really struggled with. I finished every race I did that season, bar one where I punctured, despite getting dropped and rode the Junior Tour of Wales (Gwent 2 day as it was then) where I 'won' the lanterne rouge despite a top 30 finish in the prologue hill climb. I also rode in a Peter Buckley race and several other races with international fields during Manx International Week. Nowadays I still get dropped on my rare races but find it hard to find the motivation to keep going when I do.

    Keep at it, the satisfaction the first time you cross the line with the bunch is worth the pain. Often it's not fitness that gets you dropped, it takes time to learn where to place yourself and when plus having the confidence to follow a wheel or take a gap so that you don't lose contact.
  • whatleytomwhatleytom Posts: 547
    Mine was a 3/4 crit at castle combe, came straight into it after having trained for a couple of triathlons. Spent about 6 laps struggling to keep up with the surges. Normal riding was fine but the surges out of the chicanes I had no fitness for. Eventually dropped with a couple of laps to go.

    Left bike racing for half a year and came back to it in much better shape, got my 4rd cat licence four crits later with a 6th and 2nd place in the last two.
    Blog on first season road racing
  • earthearth Posts: 934
    I was going to start a similar thread with the intention of repairing my battered ego.

    My first race was at Odd Down in Bath on Tuesday last week. It started at 6:30 in the evening so I had to ride 17 miles there from work and the last mile is up a reasonable 7% hill. Despite this I recovered enough for the start. But the weather was something else. Wind, rain, thunder, lightening and I think someone said hail - can't say I noticed that though. I did 35 minutes + 3 laps. But I was well off competitive pace and dropped off the back almost immediately. So I did the whole thing mainly as a solo TT. Incidentally the guy who won went off the front in the first lap and did the whole thing on his own as well. Problem was he lapped me. 3 times. :oops: But at least I can say that I did not give up and the next day for the first time in a long while I felt I had done some hard riding.

    Yesterday was my second race at the same circuit and the weather was good. I was still not competitive but I stayed with the bunch for the first two laps before dropping off the back and this time I got lapped only twice :roll:

    I drop back on the exit of some corners where I can't muster the same acceleration as others and I am nervous in the bunch when entering corners. The last thing I want is to crash or cause a crash. That's unlikely when I am at the back but then I drop off. I also noticed I was taking a line out of the corners that lead me to being on the other side of the track to the bunch. Finally I just need more endurance to keep up with the blistering pace.

    Thing is though, because I am so far off the pace, when the race is over people look at me as if I'm a lepper. :(

    But from reading some of the posts above I think Odd Down must be baptism by fire. A earlier poster suggested with an average pace of 18mph you should be able to stay with the bunch. Strava reports my first lap average yesterday was 24.8 and my average over the whole race was 20.5 mph. The week before it was 18.5.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,027
    17 mile ride in for an evening race is probably at the very cusp of myself getting a lift in unless I could have more time to re focus beforehand... which you dont get at that time.
    You probably did very well considering all the elements.. first race... lack of what you say is endurance which for very short races is just more oomph and then more.
    Mind you when some people go gooey eyed over some soft Strava segment you know now what it takes to be that little bit better.
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    Its hard work with the evening rides as said.

    I've done 30 miles before I get to a midweek evening race, so always gunna be slightly hindered by that!
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing -
  • damocles10damocles10 Posts: 340
    I haven't raced for years but I went from cat4 to cat2 in half a season (crits) first race was at Eastway, London. It was a non BC race and I won it. The funny thing was I had never used the big chainring before the race and didn't realise how fast you can go on it. My tip is to wait for the intermediate sprint ( the 'hotshots' will bust a gut for a book token ) and counter attack when they ease off. The chances are you will break away and avoid all the dangers of a cat4 race. If successful, you will be a marked man in future races.
  • angry_birdangry_bird Posts: 3,784
    First race was a 3/4 crit at Hillingdon. I'd joined a club earlier that year and everyone said I should give racing a go, so I did, booked in two races over the August bank holiday weekend. Didn't realise there were any points up for grabs at the first one but managed to finish 10th which was nice, next race was two days later at Hog Hill which I won from about 10th wheel in a bunch sprint up the hill.
  • ju5t1nju5t1n Posts: 2,028
    My first race was at Milton Keynes Bowl, it was 1987 and I was 15. I travelled to the Bowl with my riding buddy Paul and his dad. Paul was much faster than me and had raced there before.

    This was back in the days when cyclists generally didn’t use helmets for normal riding and consequently I didn’t own one. So I borrowed my dad’s old leather track helmet. This was the helmet’s first race since the mid-1950s.

    We warmed up on the circuit and I was a bit nervous looking at the other riders and their bikes. Everyone had thoroughbred racers. I’d just removed the mudguards from bike before the race – it was a tourer.

    Milton Keynes Bowl has a small hill which we sailed up with ease during our warm up, but come the race I was immediately struggling. The first lap was hard, the second even harder, and the third time up the hill I was dropped. No problem I thought, I’ll just coast for a bit and re-join the bunch when they come past again. I soft pedalled for a couple of laps until the bunch caught me on the hill. They went straight past me – and I quit the race. I think Paul came 5th.

    Fast forward 28 years and I still do the odd race at the Bowl.
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