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Busy race league offers skill training to new racers

A road race full of inexperienced riders can be a dangerous place. To try and minimise the 4th Cat carnage the Surrey League is introducing compulsory bunch ride training for new racers.

Road racing has boomed in popularity in recent years as riders step up from sportives. You have to be quick to get an entry in some of the more popular races, according to the Surrey League, which attracts over 1300 riders to more than 150 races per year.

The Surrey League Safer Racing Initiative aims to help make that transition to racing as safe as possible.

Bike racing is a potentially dangerous game of high speed chess, and when a wrong move at speed can result in expensive damage to kit and equipment, or worse yet, broken bones. When you throw together a bunch of 30 or 40 riders who are relatively new to the sport (4th category riders), the risk of a crash is higher.

To reduce the risk of crashes caused by rider error, the Surrey League has introduced Novice & 4th Category training days. All novice and 4th Cat riders (both men & women) must attend two of these training sessions before they will be allowed to ride any Surrey League events (the only exception being time trials). On completion of the training, the riders will be issued a card to show event organisers when signing on before a race.

To make sure everyone is up to the same standard, all riders will have to undertake the training mo matter how many 4th Cat events they have ridden in the past. Riders coming back to the sport after an extended absence but who previously held a 2nd Cat or higher licence may be granted a dispensation.

Surrey League training sessions will be run by qualified British Cycling coaches, assisted by a number of experienced riders, who will be on hand to ride alongside those attending the course, offering advice and tips throughout the day.

Chatting to these riders is a great way to learn about the sport, Surrey League says, because you can learn something in two minutes from an experienced rider that may have taken you months to figure out the hard way. This is essentially what the training days are about, as they offer a condensed syllabus of competitive riding that would usually take years for a rider to gain from riding without more experienced mentors. Riders attending the training will be coached on everything from safe riding to training methods and race winning tactics.

Sessions will be held throughout the year at various locations within the Surrey League area. Details will be announced on the League's website and Facebook page.

The training sessions will cover: basic riding techniques; and basic and advanced group riding skills. There will be coach-led mock races and where conditions allow there will be video analysis of certain elements covered during the session.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.