Tips on 4th cat road racing

by nicstevenson   June 17, 2013  

Hi guys,

Wonder if I could ask a little bit of advice - I'm a keen leisure cyclist, reasonably fit, average ride speed solo is about 19-21mph if I push a little bit... I've ridden in groups a bit but not a huge amount.

And now, as the headline suggests, I'm thinking about trying out racing! I live pretty near to Hillingdon Cycle Circuit and am thinking about trying one of their 4th cat Tuesday night races - just wondered if anyone on here rides them or has done, and if there are any tips you guys might be able to give me?

In short, I'd like to know if I'm going to get monstered or would I be able to keep up, will it be aggressive, will I crash? Oh and I ride a Boardman Team - will they laugh at me too much?! Sick

I'm not hoping to win or podium, but I'd like to try a race and be able to finish in the group for my first one - after that, who knows!

Nic

25 user comments

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I started at Castle Combe on a steel Bianchi and no-one laughed at me - A Boardman is a competitive machine at Cat 4 level in the right hands (or should that be legs?). Sounds like you are fit enough to stay with the bunch on average speed but you will have to be careful about the constant accelerations and stay super-aware of what is going on around you. Yes it will be a bit aggressive so concentrate on riding smoothly and keeping your line and HAVE FUN!

posted by jimmo62 [59 posts]
17th June 2013 - 21:45

5 Likes

I've seen people racing well on £300 bikes and very old machines, if its road worthy then its ok. Never think your equipment is slowing you down unless your body fat is below 8% and you've been riding 300hrs+ for a few years.

You already know the answer - just do it.
These newbie questions always crop up tho and the usual response is always the same because its important - get as much group riding in as possible, this is the bets preparation and training, you'll also know pretty much if you're gonna be ok after several weeks riding in local groups, a lot of which probably already have race experience, so just get out with your local club or chaingang. You'll find in time that often group rides get harder than races at times!

posted by pmr [172 posts]
17th June 2013 - 22:26

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I do the Litherland circuit races up here on a £300 roadie, I notice the extra weight coming out of the hair pin, but other than that if you can do that pace you'll most likely keep up with a Cat 4 race. If it's anything like the one I do, group riding won't matter that much, it strings out into a single pace line, so you only have to follow a wheel. But other than that get stuck in, get points, and move up (It seems points are easier to come by in a circuit race than a traditional road race)

posted by pdows47 [103 posts]
17th June 2013 - 23:16

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Thanks a lot guys...

Sounds like I should just knuckle down and do if Smile

And I wasn't worried about the bike being slow or heavy - I love it - just know Boardman's have a bad rep with some snobbier types!

Definitely appreciate the advice though...

Nic

posted by nicstevenson [31 posts]
18th June 2013 - 6:30

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Think the suggestion about group riding is the best one as it's usually people not holding lines or unaccustomed to riding in large bunches that either have or cause crashes at Hillingdon and you don't want that for your first race.

The accelerations and recovery is also key as that is probably what will kill you quickest rather than the overall average speed which you seem to be quite comfortable with so perhaps try some intervals to try and replicate this, perhaps tabata intervals to simulate the all out push with then minimal recovery before the next one. It'll hurt but should be worth it if you want to keep up.

posted by mattyb95 [29 posts]
18th June 2013 - 9:18

4 Likes

Are you sure it wasn't your English teacher, Raleigh?

Wink

Short and sweet is the key. Concise and precise.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2000 posts]
18th June 2013 - 10:16

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Just wrote a super long essay about racing at Hillingdon but my Geography teacher made me delete it.

I'll try and reproduce it later.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
18th June 2013 - 10:27

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OK.

I race at Hillingdon every week, sometimes twice. Got some seconds and thirds last year, but still chasing that win. I am though, I think, in a position to offer some helpful tips and advice, tailored to the circuit.

I race in the E123 group, which is usually smaller than the 4ths, and also quite a bit quicker, but smoother as well.

Try to get to the startline early so you can be right on the front. What I normally do is to drill it off the line, then if anyone wants to come with you, you may get a nice lead, otherwise at least you can jump into a good position when you get caught.

Make sure that you are good at clipping in quickly, everyone sprints off the line so if you mess that up you can easily fall behind before the race really starts.

Hillingdon is a very fast circuit, which shouldn't worry you; its got no hill. You can pedal through every single corner, trust me. I've done it.

Make sure that you don't hang around the back of the group, you'll be grabbing handfuls of brake the whole time, and the acceleration and deceleration will knock you out fairly quickly. Far better to be in the top 10-15 at all times, then you get nice lines through the corners etc.

If you're nervous in the sprints, either sit up for the first one, or make sure that you go straight down the middle of the course. Either side, and you'll be forced onto the grass, which isn't fun at all.

The best place to move up is on the inside by the clubhouse, ot if there's a tailwind on the final straight itself. The radce is normally won or lost on the last but one corner, so make sure that you've got a wheel to follow, and get a good line. Try to be in the top 5 there.

In terms of eating/drinking, the races on tuesdays are normally about an hour and a quarter for the slower group, so you don't need food. Take a bottle, and get used to drinking at speed, or at least in the natural slow bits.

Proabably go around the sweeping bends on the hoods for the time being, if it makes you feel safer, I normally do if there are laods of people around me.

Don't be spooked by the fourth cats with expensive bikes.

If you're not moving up the pack, you're moving back, even if you're picking someone's wheel to sit on the whole time. Ensure that you're always taking places on corners and slower bits.

Other than that, just go and do it basically, you'll enjoy it.
Big Grin

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
18th June 2013 - 11:32

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Wow - thanks a lot Raleigh... that's a great load of info - although I might be a bit more scared now than I was before!

Practicing cliping in is a great tip, thanks - it's something I'm rubbish at... probably a bit more used to the starting / stoppping / slowing / accelerating as I am commuter cyclist, but use bike without clipless pedals for that, so obviously don't practice clipping in quickly.

Are you racing there tonight? I'm going to ride down on my home from work to watch I think so I can better idea of what goes on before getting involved.

Thanks again to everyone who has replied - really grateful for the advice!

posted by nicstevenson [31 posts]
18th June 2013 - 12:24

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I've raced in the 4th Cat at Hillingdon. I think the average speed for the hour was about 24mph, which will be fine for you given the speeds you mention you ride at solo.

Raleigh's points are good, but also watch the descent where there are occasional crashes - the track narrows and has a slight jink, so don't overlap wheels there.

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
18th June 2013 - 12:57

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I've raced the 4th Cat races at Hillingdon a few times, I would agree with the points about holding your line through corners and trying to be efficient when the accelerations and decelerations come along.

In the 4th Cat, getting a good start isn't as important, people don't tend to race off in the first lap, if they do, they usually get reeled in (and dropped) but it is important not to be near the back of the bunch, if people in front of you get dropped, you either have to go round them and catch up or you get dropped too.

And I ride my Ribble Winter/Audax bike, no one laughs, people are on all sorts, steel racers to £5k carbon machines, if anyone does smirk, make sure your legs do the talking on the track!

One last thing, there's usually a intermediate sprint half way through, the race should last an hour or more so don't get fooled into sprinting early.

Good luck

Si

posted by sim1515 [139 posts]
18th June 2013 - 13:56

4 Likes

Simon E wrote:
Are you sure it wasn't your English teacher, Raleigh?

For some reason got into a li'l panic there thinking that you were an English teacher at my school Whew! Whew! Whew!

Yep, I'll be racing there tonight, trying to see how much form I took away from the National Junior Series RR on Sunday.

Big Grin

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
18th June 2013 - 15:02

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Don't worry about what bike you ride - I watched someone race with mudguards and a rack in the Kermesse at the IG Nocturne

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
18th June 2013 - 15:58

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Here's the strava from today:

http://app.strava.com/activities/61282157

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
18th June 2013 - 22:41

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I start racing with very limited experience bunch riding. Survived, got better, won a few races, raced in bigger bunches just to get the experience, also do regular group rides to improve my skills and confidence.

Still prefer to be on the front or back of a racing group, call it the David Moncoutie factor (my balance is poor)

So do not let lack of bunch riding experience stop you from racing.

I started racing on a 25 year old steel frame with 5600 105 group set, it was just accepted, no comment.

A few weeks back a young guy raced his 1st race with an old steel bike with down tube shifters that was too bigfor him and dressed in baggy clothes and a skate helmet. He finished dead last. He was cheered over the line more loudly than anybody else in any of the races. Everybody just cheered and clapped as he finished, no comments about his bike or attire.

posted by nickobec [260 posts]
19th June 2013 - 6:28

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Thanks a lot guys - that's all really reassuring... Got some specifics for training and practicing now! Smile

posted by nicstevenson [31 posts]
19th June 2013 - 7:57

4 Likes

This is an interesting and useful thread, as I am in the same position as the OP: curious, interested and reasonably fit, but somewhat scared of the idea of racing, don't want to disgrace myself, risk crashing or being taken out by fellow amateurs

This thread does provide some reassurance, id be very interested to know how the OP gets on..

Raleigh, your strava posting of 28mph average over 30 miles of very impressive. Is this typical for the higher category racing you do?

I cannot ever imagine averaging those speeds, even in a fast group

posted by 700c [559 posts]
19th June 2013 - 12:01

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700c wrote:
This is an interesting and useful thread, as I am in the same position as the OP: curious, interested and reasonably fit, but somewhat scared of the idea of racing, don't want to disgrace myself, risk crashing or being taken out by fellow amateurs

You just need to try racing once or twice and see how you go.

The worst thing that is likely to happen is you do not finish with the main bunch. About 50% of riders get dropped in their first race. The aim is to comeback and do better next time.

Crashes are rare, went my whole first season of road racing without a crash or even seeing a crash. Yes they do happen in racing, but they are not that common in smaller, shorter amateur races.

I was much the same as you, a little over a year ago, curious, interest, reasonably fit for 51 year old but a little scared. Took the plunge entered my first race and am so glad I did, I really enjoy racing.

posted by nickobec [260 posts]
19th June 2013 - 14:10

3 Likes

Quote:
This is an interesting and useful thread, as I am in the same position as the OP: curious, interested and reasonably fit, but somewhat scared of the idea of racing, don't want to disgrace myself, risk crashing or being taken out by fellow amateurs

EVERYONE disgraces themself at some point in a crit! I'd be very surprised if anyone on here could genuinely put their hand up and say they've never once been dropped, never once been out of position or ballsed up that dead cert sprint win.

Main thing is not to worry. You hear all sorts of rumours and "banter" spoken about 4th cats being a crashfest or the nickname of "the carbon graveyard" for venues but realistically, it's OK if you're sensible. Ride like a twat and you'll be treated like one.

If you get at all nervous, just sit up, slide backwards through the bunch and call it a day (or wait for the bunch to lap you then sit in for a bit). Don't be ashamed. No-one is judging you. All the "rules" bollocks that gets bantered about (about slammed stems and shaved legs and all) is just that - banter. I've raced at Hillingdon on a singlespeed. I've seen people race on £300 steel bikes and on £5000 carbon wonder bikes. Everything from Sora to Di2. Don't sweat it. Relax, learn, enjoy.

It'll make you a better rider in the long term, whether or not you ever win anything.

posted by crazy-legs [537 posts]
19th June 2013 - 19:20

1 Like

Quote:

If you get at all nervous, just sit up, slide backwards through the bunch and call it a day (or wait for the bunch to lap you then sit in for a bit).

Ok well don't do that. You'll probably get fined, or at least shouted at by the comms.

Quote:
Crashes are rare, went my whole first season of road racing without a crash or even seeing a crash. Yes they do happen in racing, but they are not that common in smaller, shorter amateur races.

I'd say that this is either a fabrication, or a very lucky anomaly. There's been a crash in almost every race I've done this year. I've only been brought down in one, but I did still manage to chase back on.

-

That was a fast race at Hillingdon on Tuesday, but yep, racing is... fast. There's no way that you can experience that in training.

If you're not feeling good, just treat it as a massive group ride.

The least I'd do is to remove saddle bags/lights etc.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1730 posts]
19th June 2013 - 22:39

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Further to my earlier comments, due to illness I've been massively down on where I should be, and have been judging performance based on how many laps I was down (I'm not happy about that but my chest infection knocked me for six) Just get out and enjoy it like I said before

posted by pdows47 [103 posts]
19th June 2013 - 23:09

1 Like

Raleigh wrote:
Quote:

If you get at all nervous, just sit up, slide backwards through the bunch and call it a day (or wait for the bunch to lap you then sit in for a bit).

Ok well don't do that. You'll probably get fined, or at least shouted at by the comms.

For the OP, the commissaire will shout at you for sitting on after being lapped, not for sitting up and sliding to the back.

Raleigh wrote:
Quote:
Crashes are rare, went my whole first season of road racing without a crash or even seeing a crash. Yes they do happen in racing, but they are not that common in smaller, shorter amateur races.

I'd say that this is either a fabrication, or a very lucky anomaly. There's been a crash in almost every race I've done this year. I've only been brought down in one, but I did still manage to chase back on.

That is the truth, it might be a lucky anomaly, though with 20 riders in a race, crashes are less likely.

Also was trying to give the OP confidence to race, not every race is a crash fest, or has a crash in it. Though I had 4 races in a row this season where a rider in front of me crashed on the last lap. One brought me down and resulted in a DNF for me, as the rider who touched wheels had to be taken to hospital with serious head injuries. (I stayed put to direct traffic while others did 1st aid).

Also had the equivalent of a cat 2 rider crash in front of me on a straight road with no other riders around, both on breaks from our bunches, he went past me and then 15m is front lost his front wheel on a rough but straight road. I ended up in the dirt to avoid him, stayed upright but lost all momentum and lost my advantage.

posted by nickobec [260 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:37

1 Like

Has anyone raced at Crystal Palace before? That's my local and I'm thinking about having a go. Seeing as I always do my best to beast the road climb at the end of my rides there, I figure I should be used to the gradient for the park circuit!

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:42

2 Likes

700c wrote:

Raleigh, your strava posting of 28mph average over 30 miles of very impressive. Is this typical for the higher category racing you do?

I cannot ever imagine averaging those speeds, even in a fast group

I've raced quite a few 4th Cat races at Hillingdon and the 123 race (that Raleigh was in) is quicker but it still tends to average 24mph-27mph. You also have to take into account it's a pretty flat course with no sharp bends, no junctions or reason to stop and no traffic.

You'd be surprised at how fast you can go in a race when you're not doing any work on the front, the first couple I did I just sat in the bunch until near the end when I tried to get in a position to sprint. As you get more used to it and stronger, you can move around and even do some work but until then, just you can sit in the wheels and get the experience.

Si

posted by sim1515 [139 posts]
20th June 2013 - 14:10

1 Like

Raleigh wrote:
Quote:

If you get at all nervous, just sit up, slide backwards through the bunch and call it a day (or wait for the bunch to lap you then sit in for a bit).

Ok well don't do that. You'll probably get fined, or at least shouted at by the comms.

Quote:
Crashes are rare, went my whole first season of road racing without a crash or even seeing a crash. Yes they do happen in racing, but they are not that common in smaller, shorter amateur races.

I'd say that this is either a fabrication, or a very lucky anomaly. There's been a crash in almost every race I've done this year. I've only been brought down in one, but I did still manage to chase back on.

I've also never witnessed a crash although I've probably only done 15 races or so (most 4th Cat at Hillingdon). I've seen plenty of bad/dangerous riding, riders not holding their lines, near misses, cutting up, pointless sprinting (e.g. when in 20th place on the final straight) and so on but luckily none have resulted in any crashes.

Si

posted by sim1515 [139 posts]
20th June 2013 - 14:15

3 Likes