"Pretty Damn Quick"
Winter racing is a great way to keep up your winter fitness and intensity as well as learning how to race in challenging cnnditions. Most riders may think that winter racing is just like summer racing but with worse weather! Well maybe, but there are a few things to take into consideration when racing in the winter that can help your safety, comfort and chances of winning the race! These are dependant on the weather you are expecting to race in.
Use the wind
Using the wind to your advantage is a really key factor, which can be the difference between getting dropped and winning the race. All it takes is being smart with your positioning. When warming up for your race, check out which way the wind is blowing. In particluar, highlight cross-winds around the circuit and the wind direction on the finish line. Decide where you need to be to shelter from the wind during the race, around the circuit. This will require you moving around the bunch based on the wind direction to conserve energy. Cross-winds are particularly important as strong riders will be able to dictate the pace knowing that little sheltering from the wind is provided to riders behind. If you are that strong rider, ride in a position so that the riders behind can't echelon, unless you are working in a break or protecting team-mates, and then only allow room for your team or breakaway companions. Practice riding in an echelon in training so you know what to expect.
At the finish, the wind direction and strength will determine when you launch your sprint. If it's a headwind finish you will need to wait til you are closer to the line to launch your spint. If it's a cross-wind you ideally want to be sprinting up the sheltered side.
Positioning in the bunch
As always, don't sit at the back. Splits happen quite quickly in windy conditions and will take a lot of wasted effort to chase back on or may not be possible if chasing into a head-wind. You also want to avoid sitting at the back when it's wet due to poor braking conditions, surface spray making you cold and lack of visibility, all increasing the chance of a crash in the bunch. You may also want to increase the distance beweeen you and the rider in front in the wet as braking distances increase.
It is likely to be lower temperatures and/or raining. Keep layered up until the flag is about to drop and have a happy helper to grab your extra layers on the start line. Wearing a waterproof gillet can really help to keep your core warm when racing in the cold and/or wet with less chance of over-heating. Make sure you have a really good warm up so you are ready to go when the flag drops and it reduces your chance of injury. So get to the race with more time beforehand to incorporate a thorough warm-up.
This will depend on the weather on the day of the race. If there is a chance of rain during the race, reducing your tyre pressure can help improve your tyres' grip and reduce your chance of slipping on any corners, this will boot your confidence cornering on the day. Test this out during your warm-up laps.
You will probably want to select winter racing tyres that will have more grip than your summer racing tyre. Race circuits can be quite succeptible to grit in the winter months, especially when wet, so select a tyre that is less likely to puncture to be in with a chance of finishing the race.
The wheels you select to race on will again depend on the weather. If it is windy you should save your deep rims for another race and go for a shallow section wheel. Deep section rims can make racing dangerous as the larger surface area is susceptible to getting taken in cross-winds making the bike difficult to handle.
If its wet you may want to avoid using carbon rims as brake blocks struggle to grip onto them when wet.
Check the weather forecast before the race to help decide what kit you need to take. Use your warm up laps wisely to check out the wind direction, road surface and whether you are happy with your tyre pressure and wheel and tyre selection.