If you’re thinking of taking up racing it's a good idea to try all aspects of the sport to discover what suits you best. So it’s worthwhile trying your hand at track racing. Our local Velodrome is at Herne Hill, where our Track Secretary – Brian Laughton often officiates. Brian is generally there at the Saturday morning training sessions and will be glad to help you and give advice. Then during the Track season you can graduate to ride in the regular league races held on Wednesday evenings and then go on to compete in open events on this and other tracks. (We are all looking forward to the use of the new Olympic Velodrome)
Track machines have no brakes but have a 'fixed' as opposed to a 'free wheel' and back pressure is used on the pedals to slow down or stop. Riders soon get used to this technique. We have a number of track bikes for loan to approved young members or you can hire one at the track training session.
Racing often comprises:
Sprints - Generally run over a couple of laps. This is where tactics count, because in a straight out sprint from the gun the following rider is almost certain to win, because they are sheltered and use less energy. Hence the 'Cat & Mouse' strategy employed to try and catch your opponent unawares and sprint to cross the line first.
Handicaps – In contrast to sprinting this is racing straight from the gun. The handicapping is based on past performance. The fastest rider or ‘backmarker’ starts at the back of the line and other riders start at distances in front according to their ability. This does of course give the opportunity of a win for the novice or 'limit' rider with the advantage of a distance lead on the faster riders, so it produces exciting racing.
Distance Races – Run over a fixed distance (say 10 or 20 kilometres) or time (say ½ hour plus a lap). This style of racing suits a 'stayer' because sustained effort is required in addition to bursts of speed. Tactics involve getting and maintaining a lead on the following pack.
Points Races – Are distance races but with addition of intermediate sprits in which points are gained. The winner is the one with most points.
Devil take the Hindmost – This is bunched racing similar to the above but the last rider over the line is eliminated each lap until a certain number remain to dispute the finish.
Madisons – Are like points races but are contested by teams of two riders. One rider races until relieved or tagged by the other. The spare riders then circle the track until they decide to return and relieve their partners.
Pursuits – The aim is actually to produce the fastest time but as the two riders start at opposite sides of the track it easy to gauge who is ahead and by how much. In an Australian pursuit there are several riders who start at intervals around the track and chase it each other. A caught rider is eliminated.
In the past we have been a strong track club with several individual and team national champions and can in fact boast a World Sprint Champion – 'Tiny' Johnson in 1922.