What Are the World’s Top Bike Races?

Bicycle racing has been around for a long time – since the mid nineteenth century. However, it didn’t take the form it has today until around the beginning of the twentieth. Now, some of the first races that were established for cyclists are still among the most prestigious. In general, the world’s most famous bicycle races include the Grand Tours, races at the Olympics, and professional races under the Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI. These are road bicycle races. Other types of bike racing that aren’t as well known include mountain bike racing (first recognized in 1990) and cyclo-cross racing (originally developed for road racers in the off season).

Grand Tours

There are three Grand Tours of cycling, of which the most famous is the Tour de France. This multi-stage race takes three weeks, and passes through France, ending up in Paris traditionally. Founded in 1903, this bike race covers almost two thousand miles, and consists of twenty different stages between specific towns. The winner is the person with the shortest times in each stage. The other Grand Tours are the Giro d’Italia (sometimes just Giro), which was founded in 1909, and inspired by the Tour de France. In Spain, a similar race is the Vuelta a Espana.

The Olympics

Cycling has been a part of the Olympics since the 1896 games, in which a 12 hour race was attempted. Many Olympic cycling events of the past have now been forgotten, including 1908’s 660 yard bicycle sprint. Today, bike competitors in the Olympic games compete in track cycling, road cycling, mountain bike races, and BMX or off-road competitions. The races are divided by gender, and in some cases are done in teams.

UCI Races

The UCI ProTour was created in 2005, to replace the older UCI World Cup. The World Cup was made up of only races lasting a single day. The ProTour, however, contains the famous Grand Tours, as well as the Tour de Suisse, Criterium de Dauphine Libere, Paris-Nice, and other well-known multi-day races. It also still contains all the one day races that made up the World Cup: Belgium’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, Italy’s Milan-Sanremo and Giro di Lombardia, France’s Paris-Tours and Paris-Roubaix, the Zuri-Metzgete in Switzerland, Spain’s Clasica de San Sebastian, the HEW Cyclassics in Germany, and the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands. Some races are spring only. Others are held in the fall. In general, cycling is a sport for summer, this definition is often stretched so that the season really begins in early spring, and ends in autumn.

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Simple Training Tips For Bike Racing That Will Get You to the Winner’s Circle

Preparing for a bike racing event is absolutely vital to each racers success. It is equal; to if not more important than a racers strategy during the actual race. Here are very important tips to consider before a bike race to improve your performance.

A bike race doesn’t begin when the start gun goes off, it starts much earlier in the form of homework and training sessions. Whether you are a participant of a local street race or major competitive tour event, you need to train yourself adequately to be able to physically and mentally cope with the challenges you will face. The training procedures differ somewhat on the kind of race, but in most cases, the basics are the same.

What is most imperative in any sort of racing is the participant’s cardiovascular endurance. This refers to the rider’s ability to generate energy to the working muscles during hours of intense exercise, day after day.

Having good cardiovascular endurance requires your circulatory and respiratory system to supply energy to your muscles to meet the demands of sustained physical activity.

Therefore, undergoing significant endurance training before a race is a must. You may be practicing for a ‘long distance slow training’ which is the most common form. This involving long biking sessions at regulated pace or ‘tempo training’ consisting of training at a steady, but fairly high intensity slightly higher than “race pace” for a shorter duration, usually 20-30 minutes at a steady pace.

‘Interval training’ of short, repeated and intense physical efforts and ‘circuit training’ of a series of specific exercises performed for short durations and rotated through in quick succession with little or no rest in between are important and will build both strength and stamina that pushes your fatigue and exhaustion limits higher up.

A well-rounded cyclist does need to kick up the pace towards the end of the race. Sprint stamina can be achieved by explosive exercise training routines. One way of increasing the power to deliver the final stint is through weight training exercise. This promotes muscle strength, tone, power, and core strength. Full squat exercise is highly recommended for long distance bikers.

Choice of bike and nutrition are also important.

Apart from choosing the most comfortable bike that fits you well, it’s essential to maintain proper food habits. Balancing of calories and nutrients helps to achieve peak performance. Eat plenty of carbohydrates and proteins that provide ultimate energy and body muscle repair. Maintain a proper diet chart as suggested by a nutritionist. Also adequate fluid intake for athletes is essential to comfort, performance and safety. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind and amount of fluids.

Due to the repetitive nature of cycling, it is important for cyclists to maintain flexibility and muscle balance.

Cyclists tend to develop muscle tightness in the hamstrings, hip flexors and chest if these muscles aren’t stretched regularly. So, don’t forget to stretch early in your exercise routine and at the end.

To improve your bike handling skills, join a local club or bike racing team that matches your skills and goals. You will sharpen your team strategies and tactics which are a huge part of every bike race.

As a final preparation before starting off, plan a relaxing night before the race and remember to carry all your special clothing. Appropriate jerseys, socks, shoes, gloves, bike helmets play a significant role during a race.

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Tips For Successful Mountain Bike Racing

Contrary to popular belief, mountain bike racing is not just a sport for young, adrenaline-crazed muscular macho men in leather jackets. Rather, today’s “adrenaline-crazed” bike rider is as likely to be middle aged as he is young, flabby as he is muscular, and feminine as he is macho. Mountain bike racing is an equal opportunity sport that only requires one thing from its participants-that they have fun.

Before you can enjoy this activity, however, you must learn a few basic rules of the game. Fortunately, learning these rules is almost as enjoyable as competing in the bike race.

Mountain Bike Racing is for Everyone

Unlike other sports, mountain bike racing does not discriminate against gender, age, or particular body types. Because this sport’s focus is on fun rather than competitionit is open to all to participate.

To enable fair competition, however, a number of competition levels, or categories, exist within this sport. There are categories for beginners, categories for different age groups – even a category for those weighting more than 220 pounds (the Clydesdale category.) Thus, do your research and find the category that best suits your particular needs.

But choose carefully. If you overestimate your ability, you might well end up with a bruised ego (and dust on your face) as your competitors cross the finish line way ahead of you. Conversely, if you underestimate your riding ability and choose a category that is not sufficiently challenging, you might be labeled a “sandbagger” (e.g., someone who enters a lower division race simply to increase his/her chances of winning) by your competitors.

Of course, as always, prior to embarking upon this new pursuit, however, it is wise to obtain your doctor’s approval. Mountain bike racing is loosely considered an “extreme sport” for a reason-it can be (and frequently is) quite physically taxing.

Why Choose Mountain Bike Racing?

If you are an avid bike rider (but not a racer) you may be surprised to learn that taking your beloved bike out for an occasional race will actually turn you into a better rider. Experts say that the varied, sometimes dangerous, terrain of a racing course forces the mind to focus on quick solutions for safely traversing unpredictable course. These “split-second” decisions, made with full concentration, enables a rider learn techniques faster than years of casual riding, in addition to sharpening reactions in response to sudden changes in terrain or unexpected conditions.

Tips for Choosing (and Maintaining) Your Bike

A common misconception by those new to this sport is that they have to have a “special” bike. Certainly to compete at the highest level, a bike of a certain quality is required to enable a level playing field. However, the most expensive choice is certainly not a necessity. Rather, the most important aspect of the bike is that it be sturdy and reliable.

While suspension and dual hydraulic disc brakes may be appealing, with respect to off-road racing it is crucial that the bicycle be lightweight. Towards the end of a race every extra pound will begin to feel like fifty. Additionally, excellent quality front shocks will substantially absorb the rocky terrain encountered in mountain bike racing.

Finally, as may be obvious, the essential factor in choosing the right racing bicycle is that it be suitably matched to the racing course. Cross-country mountain bikes are better suited for trails, whereas downhill mountain bikes are clearly designed for enhanced safety for downhill racing.

To ensure that you are able to address repair or maintenance issues, the following items (at minimum) should be carried by the rider: extra tire tubes, toolkit, and a puncture repair kit.

Rules of the Road

In mountain bike racing, the rules of the road depend upon the type of the race. The three most popular types of mountain bike races are cross-country (XC), hillclimb (HC) and downhill (DH).

Cross-country: This is the most common type of mountain bike race. The riders compete directly against one another while riding around a circular track of varied terrain. In instances where there are significant numbers of racers, the group is typically divided into sub-groups by age or ability levels. This is a rigorous form of racing, as riders must jockey for position and understand the mechanics and timing of passing other riders.

Hillclimb: This race pits rider against the mountain as compared to rider against rider. The riders are paced as they climb the hill, individually, a few moments apart. The winner is judged by how fast he, or she, reaches the top of the hill.

Downhill: The riders in this race are timed by the speed with which they navigate the hill. As with the hillclimb, each rider is released downhill individually. The courses in downhill racing frequently involve difficult obstacles for the riders to surmount, thus accounting for the challenge of the this type of race.

Dos and Don’ts of Mountain Bike Racing

Although becoming a skilled mountain bike racer takes training and experience, a few basic dos and don’ts should be noted:

DO:

· Practice. Practice. Practice. To become a skilled mountain bike rider, you must ride-often.

· Cross-train. Mountain bike racing takes strong leg muscles, in particular, and you will be at a disadvantage if your are not physically ready for the challenge.

· Accept the fact that you are embarking in a potentially risky activitym where injuries are not only not uncommon, but even to be expected.

· Research the course before the race. Ensure that you ‘pre-ride’ the course (or one similar)prior to the race day.

· Carry an adequate supply of water with electrolytes.

· Thoroughly inspect your bicycle and ensure that all maintenance appointments are up-to-date.

· Conserve your energy during the race by appropriately pacing yourself.

· Allow other riders to pass you – never try to block a passing attempt.

DON’T:

· Worry about the other riders with the (perhaps) flashier bicycles, gear or outfits. Their ability to buy expensive racing equipment is no indication of their skill level.

· Ride when you should walk. Almost every racecourse has small sections and obstacles that are difficult to traverse. Endeavoring to muscle your way (via the pedals) over such hurdles may seriously tax the remaining energy required to complete the race, and heighten the probability of injury.

· Arrive late. You should arrive at least an hour prior to the start of the race. This will provide sufficient time to enable a 20-minute warm up ride and listen to the pre-race briefing to ensure that there have been no last minute changes to the course.

· Consider the other racers. Doing so will simply increase anxiety levels and inhibit optimal performance. Instead, focus upon the upcoming excitement of the race.

· Don’t pass other riders, during the race, without appropriately notifying them of your intent. A simple “passing on the left” or “passing on the right” is sufficient to prevent collisions and resulting injuries.

The Finish Line

The finish line in mountain bike racing is rarely the finish line. Those who love extreme sports, such as this one, are rarely satisfied by the thrill of just one race. It is likely, therefore, that you will one day look back on dozens of races that consumed every ounce of your energy and tested your stamina.

Whether you won or lost these races is incidental – what you will remember is the fun that you experienced.

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