So you finally have this road racing thing down and along comes the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic and track racing. Well we have you covered with our Velodrome 101, so read on and get ready to cheer on the racers when the action to begins in June.
THE TRACK BICYCLE
Track bicycles have no brakes and only one gear. The gear is “fixed” and so doesn't allow the rider to coast. Riders apply backward pressure to the pedals to slow the bike. Since track bicycles only have one gear, size selection is important—a lower gear allows quicker acceleration, but a bigger gear makes sustained speed easier. Other differences include a higher bottom bracket so the pedals do not touch the steeply banked track and a longer and steeper seat tube for a more aerodynamic position than a road bike.
Velodromes are steeply-banked oval cycling arenas. Banking in the turns attempts to match the natural lean of a bicycle moving through that curve
All velodromes are not the same, some have very gentle banking, and others are very steep. Although all are oval, some are elongated, with sharp turns, while others are almost round with short straight-aways. The NSC Velodrome, designed by the world-famous Schurmann design team from Germany, is 250 meters long with 43-degree banking in the corners and 15-degree banking in the straightaways.
Velodrome tracks are constructed from a variety of materials, including concrete, cinders, wood – and in the early days, grass. The NSC Velodrome is one of only three outdoor wooden tracks in the US and is made of 42 miles of ultra-durable African Afzalia wood. A unique part of the design is the orientation of the surface boards - the 4cm X 3cm boards are laid narrow side up so that riders race on the edges of the boards, not the wider surfaces.
All velodromes have a series of standard markings on painted on the track’s surface:
The blue band (cote d’azur), marks the tracks inside boundary. Racers may not ride on or below this wide band, except for emergencies or during the slow tactical maneuvering during match sprint competition.
The black “measurement line” is used to measure the distance around the track.
The red line is the “sprinters line” and the space between black and red lines is the optimum route around the track. A rider leading in this zone cannot be passed on the inside; other riders must pass on the longer outside route.
The uppermost blue line is the “stayer’s line.” During Madison races it marks the boundary between faster and slower traffic, with the faster riders below the line and the slower “relief” riders above.
There many different types of races in track cycling, though all can be broken down into sprint or endurance events. Here are the details about the events that the MN Fixed Gear Classic will be featuring and what to look for in each race.
The most fundamental race in track cycling. All riders start together (on scratch) and race for a specified distance. The winner is determined by finishing order.
What to watch for: Look for riders to work together to distance themselves from the pack while their allies try to keep the pack from chasing. Watch for tactical maneuvering for the final sprint at the finish.
The points race may seem confusing at first glance, but it can be one of the most fun events to watch. Essentially, riders cover distances of 10-40 km, and the rider who accumulates the most points, wins the race. Points are awarded to the first four riders during sprints every 8-10 laps. If a rider laps the field, he/she is awarded 20 points and any rider that loses a lap on the field has 20 points deducted from his/her total.
What to watch for: Watch for riders to position themselves before unleashing their sprint in attempting to gain points. Riders will attack off the front in an attempt to lap the field alone or with other competitors. Lap cards are turned based on the leading rider. Sprint points are awarded, starting with the leader on the track at the time when the bell is rung.
The tempo is a variation on the points race in which the first two riders across the line score points. Two points for first and one point for second. At the end of the race the points are totaled and the rider with the most points wins. The points are awarded on every lap or every other lap.
What to watch for: With points being offered so frequently, sprinters try to get points early when they are fresh. Later in the race, the endurance specialists battle for points as the sprinters tire
Match Sprint Race
This is the classic sprint race on the track. The race matches two or three riders against each other over three laps of the track. The first one to cross the line at the finish is the winner. Only the final 200 meters are timed.
What to watch for: The race usually starts out slowly with one rider designated to lead out at a minimum of a walking pace but others may voluntarily overtake him. The first two laps usually find the riders maneuvering for their favorite position from which to launch their sprint for the finish line.
Some prefer to stay in front of their opponent blocking them and forcing them to take the long way around to pass. Other riders prefer to ride the race from the rear position in an attempt to use the leaders slip stream to sling shot past in the final meters of the sprint. Watch for the race to slow to a crawl in the early laps as each rider attempts to gain their preferred position.
A massed start sprint event of 2 km (8 laps) in length with the riders paced by a motorcycle for the first 5 ½ laps. The speed starts slowly at 15 mph and gradually accelerates to 28 mph before the “pacer” pulls off the track, leaving the riders to sprint for the finish. Riders often qualify for a final through preliminary heats. Keirin races are extremely popular in Japan, where they are the object of heavy legalized gambling.
What to watch for: All the riders have the advantage of drafting as even the lead rider gets a draft from the motorcycle. Watch for riders to lean and bump each other as they vie for the best position or fastest wheel from which to launch their sprint for the finish. Riders may move forward or back, and side to side but they may not pass the rear axle of the motor bike while it is still on the track.
Miss and Out Race
Sometimes known as “devil take the hindmost,” it is an elimination race in which the last rider across the finish line every other lap is withdrawn from the race. The tension builds lap after lap as the riders fight for position at the back of the pack. One by one the field is whittled down to the final three riders who then sprint for first second and third place.
What to watch for: Watch for crowding at the rear of the pack as riders attempt to move forward to avoid elimination at the line. Some riders will purposely ride at the back to “play the devil” by sprinting at the last second to pass the other riders. Later in the race, the field is smaller but often more tired and the ability to sprint fast is important.