Your first road race FAQ
If you are new to bike racing or new to bike racing in Qatar, this page will give you some idea of what to expect. Most importantly, reading this page will help you to keep racing safe for yourself and others.
Racing is thrilling. In a bunch of 30 to 40 riders you’ll be moving faster than you’ve ever been before. Add the tactical elements: Staying out of the wind behind other riders to conserve energy; avoiding the back of the group where the effects of changes in pace can be most extreme; and, if you are trying to reach the podium, plotting to make the right move at the right time. It’s a physical challenge with the excitement of gamesmanship.
What makes racing thrilling brings inherent risks. Falls can happen but are not inevitable. Everyone can contribute to a safe race. Here’s how.
The etiquette of racing is pretty much the same as that of a group training ride, so If you normally ride solo, you should take part in some group rides to get confident with close-proximity bunch cycling. Or try a time trial, sportive or mountain bike event where these skills are less essential.
Don’t look only at the rider ahead of you. What are the riders at the front doing? By looking ahead you can anticipate changes in speed and direction.
Overlapping your front wheel with the rear wheel ahead is a big no-no. If that rider changes line and clips your wheel, you will fall, possibly bringing down others behind and it will be your fault. Don’t suddenly brake, change direction or jump onto another rider’s slip stream without checking it is safe to do so. Leave the barging to the pros – they have the bike handling skills and experience. They also have the scars to prove it!
In the shelter of the pack, you’ll be riding at higher speed than you are used to. The bunch will go into a turn or roundabout faster than you might normally attempt. At this point, braking, or failing to ‘hold your line’ is particularly hazardous so you should practice:
1. Get on the dropped part of the bar to keep centre of gravity low
2. Press your body weight on the left side when turning left and vice versa for right
3. Look ahead to where you want the bike to go
Fast is relative! Qatar’s standard of racing is lower than that of more established cycling nations, making it more accessible too.
Exactly how fast you need to be is very hard to state. If you can ride in a group at 30 kph, you’ll be probably be fast enough. The average race speed will be faster than this because strong riders at the front are sheltering everyone behind. Races can also have slow periods where nobody is willing to take on the pace. An attack, where someone tries to escape from the bunch, produces a rapid acceleration and it is often in these moments that the group splits. This is part of the fun of racing and the only way you’ll find out if you are fast enough is to try it.
No. But it could help. One difference between group rides and a road race is the sudden acceleration as someone attacks. At these moments, it’s no longer the average speed that matters but your top speed and how fast you can accelerate. Training including repeated short sprints will help you to not get ‘dropped’. If you want to be the one making the attacks, you’ll train to hold high speed for a kilometer or more. And of course those long Friday group rides will give you the endurance to still feel fresh at the end of the race – ready to sprint for victory!
Also remember that there is a strong tactical element to road racing. The internet and YouTube are full of advice on road race and crit tactics, this is a good start but the only way to learn race-craft is to race, so when you are confident riding in a bunch just come and do it.
Road racing comes in these forms:
- Road races : bunch races over longer distances
- Time trials : solo efforts against the clock, no drafting allowed
- Criteriums or ‘crits’ : short races over a multi-lap course, often for a fixed time rather than distance.
A crit is therefore a road race in miniature and usually competed at a higher pace. A crit will be described as, for example, Forty minutes + two, the ‘two’ being two laps at the end of a fixed time. The commissar will indicate the final laps.
- Australian Handicap race : the field is split into groups of a similar standard who work together to chase down those starting ahead of them. In a perfect handicap, everyone would reach the finish at the same time. Handicaps are ideal races for beginners as the collaborative aspect is more like a group ride, even if ultimately it turns into a race.
- Sportive, Gran Fondo, Mass ride: The cycling equivalent of a running marathon. There are those racing to win, those trying to beat a target time, enjoy the camaraderie, challenging themselves to complete the course.
As of 1st December 2018, you are free to choose any grade suitable for your ability level.
A grade winners average 39-41 kph, B grade 36-38 kph and C grade 34-35 kph but remember that it is easier to go fast in a bigger bunch so if you average 32 kph in a group training ride or 30kph solo, you are certainly capable of C grade.
Beware of being a ‘sandbagger’; racing in an grade below your ability level just to take the win won’t make you popular or a better cyclist!
A race licence is not always required but offers discounts and other advantages. Full QCF membership (including annual licence) is required to participate in the league and Qatar National Championships. More about QCF membership
No. Racing is at your own risk and you should read and understand the disclaimer which you will sign on entering the race.
Provision for children is growing in Qatar with most mountain bike and triathlon events offering children and youth categories. Road races are typically held on public roads open to traffic, which limits what can be offered to younger children. With growing demand, that is changing.
There is no minimum age for participation and the Qatari national junior and development teams race with the adults. It is left to parents and coaches to decide when their charges have the fitness and skills required. Of course, awareness of how to make a safe race is particularly essential for this group as teens can be less risk aware and averse than adults.
You’ll find women racing at every event, with their own categories integrated into open races. e.g. Women B category races with Men C. There have also been women only races. Numbers of women in road racing are still small but growing.
There are teams here, who may work together in races but it is equally possible to race as an individual in all categories.