So you are thinking about taking the plunge and pinning on a number and trying your hand at club racing, but not sure where to start? This guide to entering should hopefully answer most of your questions and remove some of the mystery.
Want to put all of that training to good use and take your riding to a whole new level? Looking to get a little more competitive in your riding or perhaps you haven’t competed in an event since your Year 10 athletics carnival – then road racing may be your fix. This simple guide isn’t a how to race guide, but rather it aims to remove the mystery in actually entering a race.
To race here in NSW and most of Australia you will be required to have a Cycling Australia Race Licence. If you are under 18 this will be a Junior licence, if you are over 18 but under 30 years old this will be an Elite licence – this applies to everyone under 30 from your first timers to your actual ‘elite riders’ so don’t be put off by the name of your licence. Once you have reached the grand old age of 30 – you now qualify for a ‘Masters’ licence.
Ensure that it is a race licence, a ride licence is just a recreational licence and doesn’t cover you for racing. If you don’t have a race licence then you won’t be able to race, so consider that when picking your membership status. It is possible to upgrade your licence via Cycling Australia.
While the upfront cost of a Race Licence may seem a little high, the cost of racing is quite low and you can be racing a few times a week during the year, so you will get your moneys worth and with a bit of luck maybe even win some of the cost back!
Most club races are entered on the day, usually just 30 minutes before. The exception to this would be our pre entry which is available from two weeks out, however even these races can often be entered on the day. So don’t worry about having to book your entry 6 months out, just turn up on the day and pin on a number. The only events you will have to pre enter are those ‘Open’ races which are listed on the Cycling NSW website and these are larger events on the cycling calendar, entries usually close two weeks prior to the event.
With a race licence you can race at your own club and also any other club that is hosting a race, unless they are having a closed event for a Club Championship event. So your options are almost endless.
When going to a club race, wear your club kit this not only shows which club you are from but may make it easier to approach other riders from within your club for advice. If you don’t have club kit, plain white or black jerseys are best.
To enter at most clubs simply turn up around 30 minutes before hand with your licence and entry fee (correct change will get you in the good books) and nominate your grade. A Grade is reserved for elite and top level riders and then the grades work themselves down to C/ D grade and even F at some venues – so if you are racing C Grade and it starts at 8am, generally sign on for your race at about 7:30am. Races generally cost between $10-$25. I will leave the state of handicapping to another post, but if you are a first timer with little or no racing experience you would be recommended for your safety and learning experience to start in the lower grades. At most races this will be C or D Grade.
Pin on your number and remove any loose items, like spares kits, lights from your bike (to stop them bouncing out during the race) and then go for a bit of a warm up. Generally about 5 minutes before your race start you will be called to the start line. Here you will be given a brief race briefing – don’t expect too much information and then the call will be made to ‘roll out’ and the race will be on.
I won’t give you any race tactics, but just try to sit in and learn in your first few races, learn the corners, learn where the pace picks up and where it slows down. Look, Listen and Learn. Hold your line on the corners and don’t do anything unexpected – that is how accidents happen. You may find your first few races, you may not finish with the bunch, don’t worry you won’t be the first or last person for that to happen to. Take it as a learning experience and the more you race the easier it will become. Just because you have watched some cycling on TV or read about it on the internet, don’t assume that you know it all. e.g If you are on the front, don’t just swing off like you see on TV – this will cause an accident!
Different circuits also have different challenges, some are on wide open circuits and others can be reasonably narrow, some can be a little technical and will have a bearing on how people ride or react.
We have a brief description of most of the courses here in Sydney. The title reflects the location/race name and in brackets the Cycling Club.
West Head, Kurring -gai Chase (MWCC) :-
Not a criterium race. This one is pure road racing.
Rolling terrain the whole way with short punchy hills, good energy sappers. The course starts at the Elvina Walking Track carpark, it doesn’t go all the way to the West Head look out but turns at the toilet block.
A to C grade. A tough course and a good place to try road racing. First time racers would be recommended to try C Grade.
Second Sunday of the month – $25 entry.
HART Centre, St Ives (MWCC)
Approx 1.5km circuit at the old Police driver training school (now a motorcycle learner school). It’s a wide 2 lane roadway with use of the whole road. Another course of either going up or coming down and little flat area. It’s a fun circuit a little technical in places particulary a double switchback corner up a short sharp rise and general rise to the highest point of the circuit and back down the main straight for a downhill sprint.
Due to it being privately owned racing only occurs here occassionally. MWCC typically hold races on the course over summer during daylight saving. As such makes it a really good place to learn and get a feel for racing.
Three grades A to C with 10-15 per grade.
It’s a hard course, yet pretty safe but you do have to watch yourself on the sharp turn up the switchback.
Check calendar for race dates.
Beaumont Rd, Mt Kurringgai (NSCC) :-
A wide long hot dog circuit. 3km total per lap Industrial Estate Rd. Usually 20 to 30 per grade. Pretty flat course with only a couple of small rises which depending on the race can feel a bit tough after the stop start U-turns.
Safe and a good place for a first up Crit. A to C grades and sometimes if numbers turn up a D grade. All grades race at the same time. First time riders would race in C/D Grade. They also run some junior races at the same time.
Watch your speed because it will almost come to a dead stop at the turn arounds.
Every couple of weekends on a Sunday. $15 entry.
A dedicated Crit circuit approx 2km and min 4m width, rolling terrain through bush area. It’s a fun circuit not to technical but can be a tough one to race and has a fast finish. The faster the race here the safer it is, a slow race can get congested if the groups large. It’s a fun circuit but not much rest, there is little to no flat riding your either sweeping down hills or working your way back up.
Waratah races generally have between 20 & 40 (A to F albeit E & F don’t have many and may combine). LACC have slightly lower numbers.
2 grades race on the circuit at the same time.
Saturday & Sunday depending on the calendar and host.
Waratah Park, Sutherland- (SCC) :-
A dedicated Crit circuit approx 1.5km long an 3 to 4m wide. One grade at a time on the circuit.
A few corners but not very technical only 1 fast approached corner. Volume of racers might spook a first timer but it’s a pretty safe circuit and from what I’ve seen usually the grades string out a fair bit.
It’s a fun circuit but not much rest anywhere (unless it’s a slow race). A circuit that if your towards the back will make for a very hard race with the rubber band affect from surges and pace change from the downhill run to the false flat and back around.
Friday night races get good numbers approx 20-40 per grade.
Friday nights and some weekends.
Dedicated crit circuit 2.5km long and generally 4-5m wide with a short narrower section,
It’s a tough bumpy circuit open to cross winds, which can change the dynamics of the race.
The course winds it’s way around some playing fields on what used to be an old long gone defence force base.
Not too technical but some may disagree with that, there’s a few corners where you can lose out if your cornering sucks.
The rubber band affect on this course is pretty hard going, more so as it’s a bump slow surface. Racing here is hard work and bad placement in the bunch makes it harder. It could be a tough place to try crits for first time, however with so many clubs using it as a venue you will end up racing here a fair bit.
A-D grades. Two grades (sometimes 3) race on the circuit at a time.
Randwick Botany every Saturday 3pm $20
SUVelo monthly $10
Eastern Sydney Tuesday nights during summer $20
Eastern Creek (Main circuit) (Waratah’s) :-
Not a criterium more of a road race. 3.8km long big wide open motor racing circuit. Some rolling terrain with a fast long wide open finish area. A really good circuit to race on.
All grades run are on the course at the same time. A great place to try your hand at racing.
Numbers vary between grades but can range from 20 to 100. Super smooth and fast circuit. With Waratahs racing restricted to men over 30 and all ages for women.
Check the calendar for the location of the Waratahs race for that weekend but otherwise Sunday mornings.
Sydney Dragway (Eastern Creek) (Waratah’s) :-
Likewise to the main circuit, the Dragway races are not really criteriums. Approx 3.5km long and the width vary’s from 6m to 15m+
Depending on what variation of the circuit is used. A pretty open circuit and not technical albeit a few 90 deg turns and a 90 to 90 deg dogleg, helps if you corner well then you won’t need to chase back to wheels.
All grades race on the circuit at the one time. Another good starting place to try your hand at racing.
Check the calendar for the location of the Waratahs race for that weekend but otherwise Sunday mornings $15 entry.
Oatley Park (St George CC)
Over winter there is Oatley Park road racing – U9 to U15 junior racing starting at 1:30pm which is followed by the Open handicap race at 2:30pm.
Junior racing is held on the closed 1.34km ‘top circuit’ which runs from the end of the Steamroller Park along Mallard Drive and Christensen Circuit. The 8 lap Open race is held on the closed 3 kilometre circuit made up of the ‘top circuit’ plus the hill section alongside Lime Kiln Bay.
The Armory – LACC
Located in the old Armory site opposite Silverwater jail, this is a short loop course, that is renowned for one tight corner after that straight that turns into the finishing straight.
Races are usually run during the week in the daylight saving period.
Penrith Regatta Centre (Penrith)
Check out our review of the Regattas Centre racing here.
During winter there is also the Calga Road Race put on by Central Coast and their new Crit course at Ourimbah. There is the monthly time trial run by ATTA which is a 25km or 43km time trial on the first Sunday of the month up along Peats Ridge Road.
So as you can see there is plenty of racing to be had and you can find yourself racing up to a few times a week particularly during summer, then add in some track racing and cyclo cross and the calendar is full. There is typically a grade for all standards, so your fitness level will be catered for and don’t let age put you off, there are plenty of riders who are over 60 that regularly put on a number and rip some legs off.
Also after you have raced make sure you stick around, not only can you watch other grades finish, but have a bit of a chat with other riders and all grades typically pay prize money – so if you collect a podium you can almost class yourself as a semi pro with all that prizemoney.
So time to stop thinking about it and take the plunge.