Mass Start Road Race
Competitors begin together on either a large circuit of roads or a point-to-point course, with the first rider over the finish line winning the event. Terrain and weather conditions take their toll on the riders, as does the length of the race. A common tactic in road racing, as for many cycling events, is to take advantage of the phenomenon of “drafting”. The leading riders are usually doing 20-30% more work to overcome wind resistance than the riders following them closely. Because of this, small groups of riders can often be seen trying to “break away” from the main group or “peleton”. The riders in the “break” share the work, each taking a short turn at the front and then dropping back to rest; in this way they hope to stay away from the chasing group and improve their chances for victory. At the same time, their teammates in the bunch will try to block chase efforts by latching on the back of chase groups and refusing to share the lead. Should a chase group catch a break; the teammates who were blocking can be expected to launch counter-attacks. Critical moments in road races occur when riders use steep climbs or other difficult conditions to launch a “break”, and, of course, at the end of the race when finishing groups of riders muster their strength and courage for the final sprint. The rider that can share the work in the breakaway and out sprint all rivals in the finish or, even better, break away for a solo victory, is a true champion.
Ontario’s Steve Bauer captured the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in the Men’s Road Race while Linda Jackson, from Nepean, ON. won the bronze medal at the 1996 World Road Race Championships. Steve also won medals at the 1984 and 1988 World Championship Road Races. Sue Palmer-Komar of Hamilton won silver at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. Most recently, Ontario’s Michael Barry finished 7th at the 2003 Road World Cycling Championships in Hamilton, ON.
A Criterium is a massed start road race consisting of multiple laps on a short, 1 to 2 km circuit. Originating on the city streets of Europe, “crits” are exciting races to watch, as the riders are in almost constant view. From a rider’s perspective, these races place a premium on speed and nerve as tight corners demand bike-handling skill and rapid acceleration from the corner exits into the straights. High speeds become higher when the race organizers include “primes” or special sprints for prizes. These events can often finish in mass sprints of 50 riders or more.
In these events the individuals race against the clock, commonly over distances of 15 to 40 km. Known as the “race of truth”, the time trial demands the utmost stamina and concentration from riders, where discipline, conditioning and technique are the traits leading to a victory. Time trials also can be ideal introductions to competition for novice riders who are still learning the basics of group riding and may not be confident enough to participate in massed-start events. Efficient riding technique and good aerodynamics are essential and make time trials one of the most technically exacting of cycling events. Ontario’s Anne Samplonius won the silver medal in the Senior Women’s ITT at the 1994 World Championships.
Everyone has heard of the world’s most famous stage race, the Tour de France. Canadian cycling fans remember Steve Bauer defending the Maillot Jaune during an extended stay as leader of the Tour in 1990. Stage races incorporate elements of all of the types of races described above. Each event is known as a stage. Racing over a different distance day after day is only for the fittest of the fit. The winner with the lowest aggregate time is the winner. There is a winner for each stage, and of course an overall winner. A crafty, consistent rider may win a stage race without ever winning a stage.
Point-to-point time trials in which the finish line is at a considerably higher altitude than the start line are commonly referred to as hill climbs. The steepest, toughest climbs in Ontario are sought out for these events, which pit the riders against both the clock and the hill.