Bike Racing: Frequently Asked Questions

What different types of races exist?
There are three types of racing: Criterium, Road, and Time Trials. Criteriums are looped races on closed courses and are based on duration versus distance. They are much shorter, more technical and higher in intensity. Road races can be out-and-back, point-to-point, or large laps (circuits). Both crits. and road race duration and distance vary by category. Time Trials have their own rules. For reference, BTR is a Criterium, Race for Wishes is a circuit road race.

How do I upgrade to a higher category (Cat.)?
All riders start at Cat. 5 if you are male and Cat. 4 if you are female. To upgrade to Cat. 4 and 3, respectively, riders must start and finish 10 mass start events on the road, either crits. or road races. The next category requires earning points. These points are awarded for placings and number of participants, and requirements vary from category to category. Most racers take at least a year to upgrade a category. Category upgrade submissions go through the USAC website (

What is the “Wheel Pit”?
Criteriums allow a rider to change out a flat tire or other wheel mechanical with a spare wheel the rider has provided. These wheels are placed in the wheel pit, which the official should signify the location of during the race announcements prior to the race start.

What is “lapping the field”?
A rider that goes off the front of the race and proceeds to catch back up to the main group or riders has lapped the field. This rider (or riders) is now leading the race. If these lapped riders attack the field, any other rider can go with them.


Attack: A rider tries to make a hard, sprinting effort to get away from a rider or groups of riders.

Breakaway: This is a group or rider that has gotten away from the main group and are technically leading the race.

Bridge: When a rider or riders leaves the main group and catches the breakaway or solo rider leading the race.

Catch: When a group brings back a rider or riders from a break away.

Counter: When a group begins to catch a rider(s), the pace often slows. A rider may attack at that moment to take advantage of the situation, and is “counter” the catch.

Cover: A rider from another team gives immediate chase to an attacking rider/riders. This may happen so that a team is represented in a break or to discourage the attacking rider if the covering rider has a team mate further ahead and refuses to work.

Leadout: When a rider or group of riders pushes the pace at the front of a race in an attempt to prevent other riders from moving up so that their designated sprinter is in good position and in the draft for the final sprint.

Off the front: Refers to any rider that has attacked a group and is now breaking away.

Off the back: Refers to any rider that can’t stay with the group and slips back.

Sitting Up: When a rider makes a conscious effort to slow up, not staying in the draft of the rider they are following (results in a gap).

Up the road: Used to refer to any rider or group that has escaped and pulled away from the main group or the breakaway.

Additional rules and further explanations can be found at the following USAC website link: