You could see some new faces at your next road race, now that a rule change has forced triathletes to practise their bunch riding

A change to the rules of certain triathlon events could mean an increase in riders training in chain gangs and competing in road races in the UK.

At the moment the bike leg of amateur triathlons is like a time trial, in which drafting is not permitted. However, British Triathlon has confirmed that the bike legs for its qualification races for the 2016 age-group sprint world championships will be draft legal, akin to a bunch road race.

>>> Ride and race smarter: improve skills to stay safe in the bunch

Experienced cyclist and triathlon coach Joe Beer, of Joe Beer Smart Training Ltd, confirmed that triathletes wanting to represent the Great Britain sprint distance age-group team will need to change the way they prepare.

“They will need to train to the needs of the new race format,” Beer told Cycling Weekly. “This will mean cycling club chain gangs and taking part in road races.”

However, Beer warned that there will be a steep learning curve, and a possible increase in accidents.

“Some riders will undoubtedly be new to group riding and will need to improve quickly — otherwise there could be lots of crashes,” he said.

>>> Improve your bunch riding skills: up close and personal

Category four and three road races are notorious for crashes. The biggest problem for cyclists new to road racing is that they are often fit enough to ride fast, but haven’t yet gained enough experience to cope with touching elbows down a descent or following the racing line around a tight corner.

Tips for group riding

New to training or racing in a group? Here are some principles to keep in mind:

  • Communicate with the riders around you, including pointing out any holes to the riders behind you.
  • Keep your head up and look beyond the rider in front you (especially on open roads).
  • Avoid overlapping wheels.
  • Hold your line, avoid sudden movements and try to ride smoothly. For example, do not over compensate when another rider leans on you or touches you with an elbow.
  • When getting out of the saddle remember to push down on the pedals, otherwise your bike will effectively slide backwards or momentarily stop.
  • If necessary brake when approaching a corner, not when going round it.

>>> Group riding: the essential guide

If you’re an experienced rider then always be aware that others may not yet have your proficiency — and if cat four/three racing suddenly gets a lot more competitive, you know why…

 Our guide to a warming up for a quick race 

  • pwmedcraft

    The training sessions have been happening throughout the season, and there are more to come in the autumn. There must have been 20+ so far and they are not just for 4th cats, 3rds are welcome too.

  • WryGuyHi

    The only thing that has saved the Tridorks from not hurting anyone but themselves has been the no-drafting rule. BikeSnobNYC should be all over this.

  • Rod

    Triathletes in a bunch. What a terrifying thought.

    Not sure about the “not overlapping wheels” bit though. Don’t know what it means; but whatever it is, if not doing it means slowing down or leaving a gap, you should do it.

  • Yes I think Surrey League have a training session for 4th cat riders in the early season. A fit triathlete could definitely time trial away from a 4th cat bunch and not learn much about group riding if they come straight into road racing from their sport. Hence the problem might not really occur until they get into the 3rd cat races. But putting all 4th cats through some sort of training is a good idea.

    Could there be a shortage of skills to teach the basic even in Cycling Clubs these days ?
    I don’t race anymore but when I did the idea or the thought of crashing would never be on my mind before a race. Yes crashes did happen (in the 80s /90s) but not it seems as often as it happens these days at all levels of the sport.

    I think there is more to the increase in crashes in road racing than meets the eye. There is more than one reason. It does need to be addressed though.

    I think what Surrey League does training 4th cats, is a great idea as riders should be tested to see that they are fit to race before racing. We are talking about peoples lives and livelihoods at risk, and in turn less people taking up the sport or staying in the sport because of the increase risks of crashing. Racing is dangerous but more could be done to limit those risks.

    Of course I am presuming that crashing is more prevalent now. Are there any figures ?

  • J1

    “Avoid overlapping wheels.” – Impossible when racing.

    There was an article on here a while back in which a racing organiser set up bunch riding skills sessions and you couldn’t race if you hadn’t completed them, that’s a brilliant idea, should be compulsory. It would improve the overall ability of the group and save a lot of damage to both racers and bikes.

  • David Bassett

    Tips for group riding.

    One of the best bits I have ever seen on this site.
    We on Merseyside saw this problem many years and set up Saturday morning sessions early in the season and this could have been the list we used.
    Brill. I do hope this brings more to road racing.