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Road bicycle racing

Road bicycle racing is a popular bicycle racing sport held on the road (following the geography of the area), using racing bicycles.

It is popular all over the world, but especially in Europe. The most competitive and devoted countries are generally thought to be Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, although the United States also has a high international standing, and many countries in the world have great professional cyclists.

Though the objective of a race is quite simple (namely, to be the first rider to cross the line) a number of tactics can be employed to achieve this goal. Usually a rider or group of riders will try to break from the peloton (main body) by attacking and riding away to reduce the number of riders competing for the win. If the break doesn't succeed and the body of cyclists comes back together the winner will often be someone whose strength is explosively sprinting past the bunch to reach the line first. Teamwork between riders (both pre-arranged and ad-hoc) is important in many aspects: to prevent a break from getting away, helping riders in a break get clear of the bunch, and sometimes in delivering a sprinter to the front of the field.

Races often feature difficult sections such as tough climbs, fast descents and sometimes technical surfaces (such as the cobbled pave used in the Paris-Roubaix race) to make the course more selective; stronger riders will be able to drop weaker riders during such sections to reduce the number of direct competitors able to take the win.

In all racing drafting is a very important concept whereby one rider can save a lot of effort by closely following the rider in front in order to stay in his slipstream. This can be used as a strength or a weakness by competitors; riders can cooperate and draft each other to ride at high speed (a paceline), or one rider can sit on a competitors wheel, forcing him to do a greater share of the work to maintain the pace and potentially tiring earlier. This method may not be employed in a time trial race, unless it is a team time trial.

Road race categories

Road races can be categorized by length and type:

Race Length

  • Single-day races: The competitor to cross the finish line first is declared the winner.

  • Multi-stage races: Consists of several stages ridden consecutively, each stage being a race within a race.
    The competitor with the lowest cumulative time to complete all the stages is declared the overall, or General Classification (GC), winner. Many stage races also have other categories of winners such as individual stage winners, the points winner, and the "King of the Mountains" winner.

A stage race can also be a series of road races and time trials (possibly including Team time trial). The stage winner is the first person to cross the finish line that day or the time trial rider with the lowest time on the course.

Race Types

The main types of road races are:

  • Open road race

  • Criterium

  • Individual Time Trial

  • Team Time Trial

  • Stage

Types of riders

The main specialties in a road bicycle racing are:

  • Climber

  • Time Trialist

  • Sprinter

  • Domestique

  • All-rounder

Famous bicycle races

The Grand Tours

The most famous cycling race is the Tour de France, a multi-stage tour over three weeks through France, traditionally ending in Paris. Similar long multi-stage tours are held in Italy (the Giro d'Italia) and Spain (the Vuelta a España). These three races make up the "Grand Tours".

UCI ProTour events

Professional racing is governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale. In 2005 it instituted the UCI ProTour to replace the UCI World Cup series. While the World Cup contained only one-day races, the ProTour includes the Grand Tours and smaller stage races such as Tour of Switzerland, Paris-Nice and the Critérium de Dauphiné Libéré.

The former UCI World Cup one-day races - which include all five Classic cycle races or 'Monuments' - are also part of the ProTour: Milan-Sanremo (Italy), Tour of Flanders (Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium) and Amstel Gold Race (Netherlands) in the spring, and Clasica San Sebastian (Spain), HEW Cyclassics (Germany), Championship of Zürich (Switzerland), Paris-Tours (France) and Tour of Lombardy (Italy) in the autumn season.

Other notable races

The Race Across America, or RAAM is an ultra marathon road race. It is a single stage race without designated rest periods about 3,000 miles or 4,830 kilometers long over 9 days with cyclists racing approximately 22 hours a day.

For a more extensive list see: List of important cycling events

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