The number of riders turning up to cycle races this year has grown substantially . Each of the new categories has seen a large number of participants enter at every race so far this year . Ideally , there should be a separate race for each category but logistically this can be difficult for race organisers to achieve . Often the A4 bunch will be given a handicap head start of a minute or two , or possible five on the A3 bunch . When both groups merge , which tends to be happen very soon in the race it creates a huge bunch of riders , many of whom may not have experienced riding in a large group before . So what should you do if you find yourself in that position , here are a few examples ;
1 : Find a place where you are comfortable . Try to stay on the inside of the bunch next to the ditch , or else stay at the back of the bunch . Riders are constantly moving up the outside so it is harder to hold your position there . Whilst there is more chance of a puncture on the inside at least there will only be riders on one side of you which halves the tension .
2 : Forget about winning the race until you are at ease in the bunch , or find yourself in a small group near the finish . Trying to get up in a bunch sprint takes nerves of steel and some very good bike handling . Kelly may have won his first ever race , but for most people it’s a learning curve . Aim to finish safely with the bunch for the first few races and then work from there as your confidence and ability grows .
3 : Always be aware of the riders around you . If you are changing position within the bunch , always glance over your shoulder first to make yourself aware of where the rider next to you is positioned . Then point down at the ground to where you intend to move out to . If you just move out without doing any of this you may well switch the front wheel of the rider behind and cause a crash .
4 : Let others know your there . If you do decide to move up along the outside of the bunch shout ‘outside’ as you come up behind riders . This lets them know that you are moving up along their ‘outside’ and hopefully they won’t switch out in front of you .
5 : Make friends in the bunch . Whilst the adrenaline and testosterone are in full flow even the mildest mannered of people can be prone to a little verbal aggression . An English rider in the Ras a number of years ago enquired as to what a ‘ f**king f**k ‘ was after hearing pretty much nothing else in the bunch all week . But it is important not to alienate people within the bunch . If you are seen as basically a nice guy , you will be given space in a line out to move into for shelter , room will be made for you within the bunch , a gentle push to help you hold the wheel in front and many other little dig outs that can make all the difference . More experienced riders will also give you little tips and hints which will speed up your progression in becoming a better rider .
6 : Enjoy it . There is a great sense of achievement to be had in bike racing . Whatever goal you may have set yourself , whether it be to win a race or just finish in the bunch , you know just how hard you have worked to get there when you achieve it . The friends you make racing will be friends for life . You get to see parts of the country you would never see otherwise , before and after the race . You make progress . Even if you are dropped in the first few miles there is always next Sunday and you will find yourself getting stronger each week .