Track racing; what is it and how to start - Total Women's Cycling

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Track racing; what is it and how to start

So you’re thinking of doing your first track race…

If you were tempted by our article on the AnaNichoola Velo Jam set to take place on Saturday October 5  but worried about what to expect. Worry no longer.

We asked Sarah Brook who not only rides for Team MuleBar Girl-Sigma Sport but also coaches track sessions at Herne Hill Velodrome to demystify track racing for us!

Just a few members of Team MuleBar Girl-Sigma Sport, including Sarah Brook (2nd from left).
Photo © Paul Burgoine

There’s a full run down of track race categories you can enter, the types of races that take place, where to train, how to dress, what to eat – the works – we’ve left no stone unturned.

There’s truly something for everyone at Velo Jam, from experienced racers, to complete novices – everyone is welcome and catered for.

There are three categories of racing – A (Elite), B (Club) and C, (Go-Race/Novice) so there’s something for everyone and you don’t have to race against some of the fastest girls in the country. Unless you want to of course!

Each category will have 5 races run as an omnium, which means you get points for every event you race (1 for 1st, 2 for 2nd etc). The person with the least points after all 5 events wins. Alongside over £1000 cash prize pot at the Velo Jam thanks to AnaNichoola, Sigma Sport and Cicla for the overall winners, there will be lots of prizes for individual events and riders who stand out.

Experience the thrill of the chase – get involved with Velo Jam 2013 – everyone is welcome.
Photo © AE Photos

So, just what will you be getting yourself into?

If you know which category you’ll be in, check below to see the races that will take place on the day. If you’re unsure of the category, we have a FAQ section at the bottom of the article, where you’ll be able to decide!

Category A (Elite) races;
Race 1 – 2km Individual Pursuit
Race 2 – Points race (run over 12 laps of the 450m track)
Race 3 – Scratch race (run over 12 laps of the 450m track)
Race 4 – Devil race (run over 12 laps of the 450m track)
Race 5 – 500m Time Trial

Category B (Club) races;
Race 1 – Australian Pursuit
Race 2 – Points race (run over 10 laps of the 450m track)
Race 3 – Scratch race (run over 10 laps of the 450m track)
Race 4 – Devil race (run over 10 laps of the 450m track)
Race 5 – 500m Time Trial

Category C (Go-Race/Novice) races;
Race 1 – Australian Pursuit
Race 2 – Points race (run over 8 laps of the 450m track)
Race 3 – Scratch race (run over 8 laps of the 450m track)
Race 4 – Course de Primes (run over 8 laps of the 450m track)
Race 5 – 500m Time Trial

The Madison will be run as a standalone event not counting towards the omnium and will be a rare opportunity to see a women’s Madison race. The race, which is popular at 6 day events in Europe, will be a points race contested by riders working in pairs, one racing at a time, and using a hand-sling to throw each other into the race. Technical, fast and chaotic, it should be very exciting to watch, and race.

Racing is fun, promise! Look at the grins on these ladies!
Photo © AE Photos

What’s actually involved in each of the races?

Scratch: A simple race where all the riders start together and the first across the finish line after a set number of laps wins.

Points: A race where points are awarded to the first four riders to cross the line on designated laps during the race as well as at the finish. The winner is the rider with the most points at the end of the race.

Devil: To give it its full name ‘Devil take the hindmost’, this is the race where the last rider or riders to cross the finish line every lap are taken out of the race, this continues until only 3 or 4 riders remain who then sprint for their positions on the last lap.

Course de Primes: The most painful, but potentially the most rewarding race of the evening, like a points race but with one prize awarded every lap to the first rider to cross the finish line. However, you must finish the race to claim your prize!

Individual Pursuit: 4 laps of the track alone, as fast as you can, from a held standing start.

Australian Pursuit: All the riders are started from a held start at the same time, spread equally around the track. The objective is to catch as many other riders as you can. If you catch the rider in front of you they are out and must leave the race, if you get caught, then you are out and must leave the race. The winner is the last rider remaining or in the event of a ‘Mexican stand off’ the rider who has ridden the furthest after a designated time limit.

500m Time Trial: Just a bit more than one lap of the track as fast as you can, alone, from a held standing start.


Keen to take part in Velo Jam 2013, but worried about what to expect? Read through these FAQs and they’ll soon put your mind at rest!

Do I have to compete in every race?
No, you don’t have to do every race in your category but you will not be in the running for the omnium overall unless you ride all 5 events. You are welcome to ride only the events that you want to, especially if it is your first race. To be honest, once you get started you’ll probably find you won’t want to miss anything!

How much experience do I need?
You need to have had an induction at Herne Hill and be confident to ride under the floodlights. On top of that you need to be comfortable riding in a bunch at speed – but don’t panic, you’ll be racing in groups with girls of a similar ability.

Do I need my own bike?
In short – no. You can hire a bike (at no cost) from Herne Hill, and a helmet if you don’t have one.

What should I wear?
We recommend wearing comfortable cycling shorts and a jersey that covers your shoulders. Saying that, with Velo Jam being held in October I’d imagine you might want to cover even more than that!

Also on your kit list should be gloves, cycling glasses (not compulsory) and a helmet. You should also bring a warm jacket as there will be breaks between races and it can get chilly in the evening.

What should I eat and drink?
It can be hard to eat enough at track events as the breaks between races are short and you won’t want to eat too much. Try light, carbohydrate rich foods; rice cakes are a favourite, as are bananas and sweets, in each riders goody bag will be an energy gel and MuleBar to help keep you fuelled through the evening.

What category should I race in?
If this is your first track race you should ride in the Cs category. The Bs cater for those who are more experienced but perhaps not so fast, while the As is for those seasoned, experienced track racers. You don’t have to decide your category when you enter, you can choose on the day.

How can I get an induction and some experience?
– Herne Hill Velodrome run mixed inductions every Saturday at 1pm and basic track training is before it from 12-1. There is also race training on Monday evening from 7-9pm.
– If you prefer a smaller group and a less testosterone fuelled environment then you can come to the last Team MuleBarGirl-Sigma Sport Women Only Track Training session at Herne Hill Velodrome on Sunday from 5-7pm, where you can do an induction and get some race practice in – the session will be geared towards preparing for Velo Jam!

Where can I find out more?

Team Mule Bar Girl
Velo Jam
Women only track sessions



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