Fusion RT Fierlan rider Lizzie explains exactly how you can get into women’s road racing!
Getting started in women’s road racing can feel like navigating your way around a labyrinth with a blindfold on. That’s certainly how I felt at the beginning of last year.I wanted to get started and was really struggling to work out how best to do it.
Here are some of my tips about the best way to get started along with a bit of information about what I did!
Step 1 : Get a licence
If you are wanting to take your first steps into women’s racing then first and foremost you must have a British Cycling racing licence. There are two ways of doing this, you can either buy a day licence or an annual licence which runs from January to December.
Day licences are exactly what they say on the tin…. Licences that last for…. (wait for it!) a day! They can be a really good idea if you’re not sure whether racing is for you and you want to give it a try without shelling out for a full years licence.
If you only decide to enter your first race in August or September it might also be a good idea to do it on a day licence – as you may find that as the season comes to an end it is difficult to get your money’s worth out of an annual licence. A day licence will cost you £10 for each race.
If you are starting racing nearer the end of the season or know that you want to give it a good go then I would definitely recommend getting a full licence. Once again BCs website can be more than a little confusing with so many options to choose from… But what you will need is a British Cycling Silver Race Membership and a Full racing licence (NB you cannot race on a bronze licence).
On BCs website you will first need to sign up for the silver membership. You will then have the option to add the full racing licence afterwards as you will need both of these to compete.
The BC silver race membership is usually £42/year but if you are a new member it is only £20 in your first year using the code NEWCMRA. The racing licence itself is then a further £37 taking you to a total of £57 for your first year!
Step 2: Categories explained and finding a race
Finding a race to start off in can vary greatly in difficulty depending on where you live. Unfortunately there are far fewer races for women than men. You may often have to find yourself travelling quite far (but it will be worth it!). When you first start out you will be a ‘category 4’ rider.
There are 5 different categories and you move up by gaining points in races. Each race will also only be open to certain categories so it’s worth bearing that in mind when you are looking for races to enter later on! Everyone starts out as a 4th category rider and once you have gained 12 points you earn your 3rd cat licence. At this point British Cycling will post you out a shiny new licence with your updated category!
Once you have gained enough points to be a 3rd category rider you will never go back down to 4th cat again. Those wishing to progress up the categories will need a further 40 points to gain their 2nd category licence.
Now for finding a race! Back to the BC website – this page above will provide information for all the races on the BC calendar however many of them will not have women only races. You will need to click on ‘more filters’. Then tick the women only box under the ‘Event/race classification’ tab. Then under ‘rider categories’ tick the 4th box and update. From there on it’s just a case of finding a time and a place that is suitable.
In the event details you should be able to find the closing date for the race as you will need to enter some races in advance online and some can only be entered on the day.
Step 3: Group riding
Depending on your previous cycling experience your first race can be really daunting finding that you are riding much faster than when out on your own and in very close proximity to the riders next to you.
If you haven’t had much experience of riding with other people before it’s a really good idea to go out on some group rides with a local club first. British cycling has a list of clubs on their website. You can even filter by women only sessions so you’ll be sure to find something not too far away.
Facebook is another good place to look! There are lots of different women’s groups across the country which are really friendly places to find riding partners, find out about which club runs are best to go to and get the low down on which races might be best to start off with.
Step 4: Preparation
With race day approaching hopefully you’ll be beginning to get that excited feeling (no doubt laced with a few nerves if you’re anything like me!). It’s really important to give your bike a once over the day before you race, check the gears are all tuned correctly and the brakes are aligned.
If you are lucky enough to have a second set of racing wheels then don’t forget to put those wheels in and check everything is still running smoothly!
If you’re still not quite sure what to expect at the race then why not spend the evening watching British cycling’s Racesmart videos which have loads more tips for those new to racing and riding in a bunch.
Prepare all the bottles and gels you might need for race day the night before and put them in the fridge. Don’t forget to make yourself up a recovery drink for afterwards because it’s going to hurt!! Pack the car with the bulky bits like turbo trainer or rollers, track pump and a small tool kit.
Don’t worry at all if you don’t have anything to warm up on as you can usually get onto the circuit to warm up before the race. You can always go up and down the nearby roads too! Make sure your racing licence is in your purse!
Get to bed early! A good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do for your legs, along with a little stretching 😉
Step 5: Race day
Try to arrive nice and early, about an hour and a half before the race should give you plenty of time but it’s always a good idea to leave a little extra time in case of traffic. When you arrive you will need to go and sign on in the HQ where they will either ask to see your racing licence or where you will be able to buy a day licence.
In return you will get given your race number. (Don’t forget to pin it on! Sounds silly but I have managed to do this just as a road race was leaving and I had already given my car key to the commissary to look after!!)
Once your number is pinned and your bike is ready it’s always a good idea to just have a quick 2 minute spin to check everything is still working (again) as if not it’s better to find out now than during your warm up.
I tend to start my warm up about 35 minutes before a race start so I can ride for 20 minutes and get my legs properly warm before nipping for a last minute nervous wee before the race!
The commissaries will generally call you to the line about 5 minutes before the race start and at this point I will often have a caffeine gel to give me a bit of a kick start!
Once the flag drops, you’re off. This is when the pain starts! Give it all you’ve got as there’s really nothing quite like the exhausted satisfaction of knowing that you left everything out on the tarmac!