RACING Guide part 5
Finally, we have come to the last in our series of racing guides, and you’ve woken up, opened the curtains and race day has dawned. I could go on for hours about this topic, but I will refrain from boring you all too much. Instead, I will endeavour to explain some of the jargon that you will come across, with the help of a British Cycling Commissaire. I will also try to guide you through what to expect at the race headquarters (“HQ”) and I have also enlisted the help of a couple of top female riders to give you their tips on what to do when you get to the event. So, without further ado…
When you arrive at the HQ, the first thing you have to do is “sign on” – this is regardless of whether you have entered a road race, time trial or any other event – and (in the case of British Cycling events) it is here that you will have to hand over your racing licence. You then get to pick up your number (make sure it is the same number that your name is allocated on the signing on sheet). If you remember, in one of my previous guides I mentioned about safety pins – this is when you will undoubtedly need them, unless you are going to have a flapping number (which is NOT cool)!
In order to perform to your best ability, you should ensure that you warm up properly. Some people take rollers or a turbo with them to warm up on, others content themselves with a ride around the circuit or a 10 minute spin up the road (don’t go too far though!). Keep warm and drink fluids (but not too much that you’ll end up needing the toilet half way through the race). Some people also put embrocation on their legs to warm them up, which can help especially early season, BUT bear in mind that embrocation tends to stay on your hands unless you wash it off PROPERLY (with soap and water).
Cycling has a lot of jargon and one of the main words that you may come across in your racing careers will be “commissaire”. A commissaire is the race referee and there is usually a chief commissaire and an assistant commissaire on most road events. The chief commissaire will be in the second car behind the bunch at a road race, with the assistant commissaire in the vehicle immediately behind the main bunch (some events also have commissaires on motor bikes, called “Moto Commissaires”). Before the start of the race, the Chief Commissaire will give a rider briefing, which all riders have to attend.
The Start of the Race
In events which are held on a closed circuit, the start will be on the finish line, with everyone setting off once the flag is waved or the Chief Commissaire tells you to go. However, on road races, it is quite normal for the HQ to be away from the actual circuit, which means that you have to ride out as a bunch from the HQ until an appropriate point on the circuit. This section of the race (from the HQ to the circuit) is often “neutralised”. This means that the racing does not start until the race is “de-neutralised”. Cycling uses a number of flags to communicate things to riders, and the neutralised flag (a red and white checked flag) is held out of the assistant commissaire’s car until the race proper. Having said that, it can be difficult to determine at what point the race actually starts if you are in the middle of the bunch, but a rule of thumb is that riders will generally ride close to the commissaire’s car (who usually does around 20 mph in the neutralised section) during the neutralised section but will accelerate quickly away once the race starts.
The “Race Convoy”
That sounds very grand, doesn’t it? But yes, in every road race (as opposed to closed circuit race) there is a race convoy. This includes a lead car, which usually maintains a distance of around 1 minute to the lead riders, to warn the marshals on the circuit that the race is coming.
Next is the Assistant Commissaire. This official is the eyes at the front of the race to ensure the riders are racing to the rules of the road as well as the rules of road racing under British Cycling (if it’s a BC event). This vehicle will slot in behind any break away that reaches over 1 minute gap. They will also move forwards again if this gap is closed so as not to interfere with a chasing group, so be aware that they may pass you again. A simple ‘toot’ of the horn repeated rhythmically will warn riders that they are coming past. Normally on the right hand side of the riders but may also pass on the left if the riders and road allow.
The third vehicle will be the Chief Commissaire, who is essentially the overall ‘manager’ of the race. This person is in radio contact with all vehicles and is in charge of their movements. They keep the timing of breakaways, with the assistant commissaire calling time check points that are landmarks on the route. This is also the person who has the authority to impose penalties for any racing infringement.
The next vehicle will be neutral service, if it is being provided (usually only at bigger events), who will offer a wheel if you puncture – but beware that the neutral service will generally follow the lead riders if the race splits, so if you puncture and you’re at the back of the race, it may be the end of your race.
The final vehicle will be the first aid provision.
There is also the National Escort Group (“NEG”) on some road races, who are the outriders (on motorbikes) that guard side roads and assist in making the roads safe for you to ride and will, if asked, act on the commissaire’s behalf to supply riders with information such as time gaps or even disqualifications.
Thanks for reading hope you find this useful.