You may find yourself with an urge to take your cycling to a different stage and to attempt racing. Many start with off-road racing, I did and thoroughly enjoyed it and still do. However, when I was introduced to road racing it opened up a whole new scene and one that was filled with immense disappointment in the early stages, as I saw the peloton disappearing up the road without me; to the exhilaration of finishing in my first bunch sprint.
Anyone who has seen racing live, or on TV, with the peloton at full speed, echelons forming due to cross winds, riders struggling in the gutters trying to 'hold the wheel' in front, yet more riders being spat out of the back, will know just how exciting road racing is.
What is Road Racing?
The sport of road racing has been around since the turn of the century and although it is very popular in countries like France and Italy, where it is the national sport, in the UK, road racing plays second fiddle to football etc. and also to its sister sport of time trialing.
For dedicated road racers it's hard for them to understand why road racing isn't more popular because when it comes to excitement, there is really nothing like being in a road race. It's like being in a swarm of bees and that noise of gears meshed with chain, the smell of embrocation in your nostrils and the closeness of other riders is something that once experienced, is never forgotten, and seems to drag you back for more and more of it.
In a road race, the action involves everything from a casual stroll, where you can chat to fellow riders, to dangerous descents, heated sprints where elbows clash and voices (and sometimes tempers) are raised.
When it comes to media coverage however, although the results of time trialling seem to be plentiful, it's road racing that has the higher profile. If you want proof of how significant road racing is on the world stage, most of what we call the "classics" are road races and only in recent years has there even been a time trial in the world championships; and what about the big one (the Tour De France) and other European tours like the Giro and the Tour of Spain.
That isn't to say time trialing is not exciting, the time trial stages of the big tours are very much so from a spectators point of view. Not only do you get to see each rider on their own, racing against the clock, their performance against a rival is made much more exciting when the overall classification of the tour involved is taken into account.
How road racing and time trialing differ
The difference between the two is simple. In road racing, a group of riders start together. This group is called a bunch or peloton and gives rise to the term sometimes used of 'bunch racing'. Riders generally race over distances from around 30 miles upwards. The top riders (Elites and 1st cats) regularly race over distances in excess of 80 miles depending on the type of race. A national title race will generally be longer than a normal weekend Elite road race.
Time trialing on the other hand is a race where riders compete alone, over a set distance, against the clock. The person recording the fastest time over a set distance being the winner.
Because the two types of events are very different, the bikes used for both can also vary. It is possible to use a road bike to ride a time trial but not generally a time trial bike in a road race.