Road bicycle racing is the cycle sport discipline of road cycling, held on paved roads. Road racing is the most popular professional form of bicycle racing, in terms of numbers of competitors, events and spectators. The two most common competition formats are mass start events, where riders start simultaneously (though sometimes with a handicap) and race to set finish point; and time trials, where individual riders or teams race a course alone against the clock. Stage races or "tours" take multiple days, and consist of several mass-start or time-trial stages ridden consecutively.
Professional racing originated in Western Europe, centred in France, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. Since the mid-1980s, the sport has diversified, with professional races now held on all continents of the globe. Semi-professional and amateur races are also held in many countries. The sport is governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). As well as the UCI's annual World Championships for men and women, the biggest event is the Tour de France, a three-week race that can attract over 500,000 roadside supporters a day.
Professional single-day race distances may be as long as 180 miles (290 km). Courses may run from place to place or comprise one or more laps of a circuit; some courses combine both, i.e., taking the riders from a starting place and then finishing with several laps of a circuit (usually to ensure a good spectacle for spectators at the finish). Races over short circuits, often in town or city centres, are known as criteriums. Some races, known as handicaps, are designed to match riders of different abilities and/or ages; groups of slower riders start first, with the fastest riders starting last and so having to race harder and faster to catch other competitors.
Individual time trial (ITT) is an event in which cyclists race alone against the clock on flat or rolling terrain, or up a mountain road. A team time trial (TTT), including two-man team time trial, is a road-based bicycle race in which teams of cyclists race against the clock. In both team and individual time trials, the cyclists start the race at different times so that each start is fair and equal. Unlike individual time trials where competitors are not permitted to 'draft' (ride in the slipstream) behind each other, in team time trials, riders in each team employ this as their main tactic, each member taking a turn at the front while teammates 'sit in' behind. Race distances vary from a few km (typically a prologue, an individual time trial of usually less than 5 miles (8.0 km) before a stage race, used to determine which rider wears the leader's jersey on the first stage) to between approximately 20 miles (32 km) and 60 miles (97 km).
Randonneuring and ultra-distance
Ultra-distance cycling races are very long single stage events where the race clock continuously runs from start to finish. They usually last several days and the riders take breaks on their own schedules, with the winner being the first one to cross the finish line. Among the best-known ultramarathons is the Race Across America (RAAM), a coast-to-coast non-stop, single-stage race in which riders cover approximately 3,000 miles (4,800 km) in about a week. The race is sanctioned by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association (UMCA). RAAM and similar events allow (and often require) racers to be supported by a team of staff; there are also ultra-distance bicycle races that prohibit all external support, such as the Transcontinental Race and the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
The related activity of randonneuring is not strictly a form of racing, but involves cycling a pre-determined course within a specified time limit.
Post time: Jul-02-2021