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“Road racing is the oldest discipline in cycling, stemming back to the late 1800’s with the world’s biggest annual sporting event taking place in July each year for 3 weeks, the Tour de France.”Cycling has it’s roots in Europe were the worlds largest and most prestigious races take place with many professional teams coming from the heartlands of cycling in countries such as France, Italy, Belgium and Spain.
Road racing traditionally is in large bunches consisting from any number up to 200+ riders in bigger events. Cyclists can start to road race from 10-12yrs old in the school boy category to the masters category of 60+yrs old. Most road racing takes place on public roads and occasionally closed circuits. The public roads are normally marshalled by volunteers to assist the flow of traffic which helps with race safety whilst the road racing takes place alongside the general public. In international racing roads can be completely closed to allow the bigger bunch of riders to race traffic free to allow use of all sections of the road to race on and increase race safety.
Physical ability and tactical awareness are the two biggest areas a competitive road cyclist needs to develop in the pursuit of enhanced performance. Tactics play a major role within road racing, because of the extreme physical demands put under the riders, this causes rival teams to co-operate in drafting and ultimately work toward a common goal. This explains why large groups of riders work together during a race whilst having the mutual aim to beat each other at the finish.
Road racing can be run on every sort of terrain from flat straight roads to long twisting alpine climbs that can see riders race from altitudes at sea level to over 2,000m. This variation of terrain lends road cycling open to many different physics and body shapes to be able to succeed within the sport.
Distances of road races vary depending on age category to elite standard. They range from 40km up to 260km in the longer international professional races.
Road racing can be competed either as a individual or as a team in local amateur races, international and professional racing it is necessary to race as part of a team as entry to races. As a rider progresses in the sport through to elite ranks they rely more on team mates to be able to compete and succeed.
Criterium racing – race length can be determined by the number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event’s duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race. These events are normally held in city or town centres to be more spectator friendly and are commonly a very popular event for spectators because of the fast and furious style of racing that is part of this style of road racing.
Road racing popularity has spread to more non traditional cycling nations. Many of the worlds top racing cyclists now comes from non-European nations with the emergence of America, UK and Australia as the main driving force outside of Europe.
The world governing body of cycling, the UCI, has made a consorted effort to bring high profile racing to areas of Asia and America to help boost the popularity of the sport. To date this had been a huge success with many top ranked races being organised in these regions bringing road racing to new cultures that have traditionally never been open to such sport. This onward growth will continue over the coming years bringing the one time dominance of European riders and teams to a end but with most of the worlds top races still taking place in the old heartlands of the sport which will continue to keep cycling linked to that unbreakable love within these regions and cultures.