So you've decided to race! Circuit races.
Racing at Mallory Park
You're training hard, getting stronger, developing great skills. You've completed a few cyclocross races and now it's the circuits season - and you want to give it a go.
But what is it like and what happens on the day?
Well, this guide will help you get ready for your first race on the closed circuits of the West Midlands and beyond.
Before you race
Getting your bike ready
As with all youth races you can get involved without spending loads on expensive kit. A well maintained bike and a good helmet are all you need to get started, though there are a few more things to consider when getting ready for circuit racing.
Firstly, you need to make sure that your gears are set correctly for youth racing. Unlike cyclocross, all youth races use restricted gears. This limits the gears you can use, making sure that young riders are not having to pedal too hard, which can damage young legs, and keeps races fair by limiting the speed riders can achieve.
There are lots of guides to setting gears correctly, but the official guidance is published on the British Cycling website: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/zuvvi/media/bc_files/volunteer/Youth_Gear_Restrictions_for_Riders.Parents.pdf
This article is also useful: https://kidsracing.co.uk/blogs/bikes/british-cycling-triathlon-youth-gear-restrictions
It's well worth performing a roll out of your bike to make sure it is correctly set up. Tyre widths and even air pressure can all have an impact on roll out.
If you have any questions, ask your coach for advice.
Secondly, you should swap out knobbly tyres for slick road tyres. Tyres with a heavy tread will just slow you down and be a lot harder to ride with.
Note that lots of riders use flat bar bikes rather than drops for racing circuits - you don't need a full on carbon blinging drop bar race machine to get stuck in!
Make sure your bike has bar ends in - don't let a missing plug spoil your day!
Finding races usually means a good search on the BC website. The youth races are grouped into age bands, so you search on the Rider Category for your age:
- U8 - Youth E
- U10 - Youth D
- U12 - Youth C
- U14 - Youth B
- U16 - Youth A
Registering on the BC website requires you to be a member of British Cycling - it's well worth getting a race licence as it makes the whole process a lot easier and provides a number of benefits.
Unlike the WMCCL, you don't register for a whole season at once with the circuit races. You need to sign up for each individual race, usually via the British Cycling website. There is a fee for signing up, but this is not usually very much for the youth races.
You may be able to sign-on on the day, but this is not guarenteed, so it's usually a good idea to register early. If you are not a BC member you will likely need to pay a Day Licence fee on top of the race fee.
The day before you race!
Time to get your bike and kit ready!
Make sure your bike is ready to race and in good working order. Give the brakes and gears a check and make sure everything is running smoothly.
You should also get your race kit ready to go. Having a kit bag is a great idea and can really help you stay on top of things so you are not too stressed on race day.
Things to consider for your kit bag:
- Race kit - bib shorts, base layer, club jersey, helmet, gloves, shoes,
- Wet weather gear - race cape, shoe covers, long-fingered gloves
- Other useful clothing - leg and arm warmers, a buff, glasses with lenses for sunlight, low light and clear
- Spare inner tubes, multi-tool, tyre levers
- Water bottle and snacks
It's also useful to have a track pump in the car as these can be a major bonus when you arrive and need to get tyres up to pressure.
As you get more experienced, you may also want to start taking rollers with you for warming up before your race - but this not a must-have.
It's also worth checking the route to the circuit and what time it opens for practice and races. Unlike WMCCL, the timings are set by the organising club, This means some races will be earlier than others - Lichfield CCC like an early start, for example! Make sure you check so you don't miss out!
Then get a good nights sleep!
On the day
Make sure you get a good breakfast! On the way to the race make sure you take a few drinks and stay hydrated!
Getting the admin out of the way
Once you arrive, there is a fairly standard process to get through:
- Bike check: when you arrive, get over to the bike check area and get your gears checked. Your bike will be rolled along a line to make sure the gears are correct and you'll get a token which you can then use to sign on. If your gears are not right, you'll need to correct them before you can sign-on
- Sign on: Take your token to the sign in desk along with your BC licence. You can then sign on if you have pre-regsitered, or get an on-the-day place if there are any available. You'll be given a race number and pins and directed to pick up a timing chip. They will normally take your BC licence which will be given back when you return the chip. Chips are either strapped to your leg or fixed to the front fork of your bike.
- Once you have signed on you can usually get onto the track for a warm up. It's good to get a few laps in so you are familiar with the circuit, especially the corners.
- The circuit will be closed once the warm-up period is over and racing will get started. Make sure you know where the start line is so you are ready to go!
Riders will normally not be allowed on the course until their race, so don't worry too much about being at the start line well ahead of time. If you are racing at Stourport, you can usually head into the middle of the course and wait there for the start.
Unlike WMCCL races, circuit races are not usually grided at the start - all the riders get bunched up on the start line and get their briefing from the race commissaire. Once they are happy they'll get the race underway.
Races are usually pretty hectic at the start - often the race into the first corner is pretty full on. Then it settles down and the racing really gets going. Race lengths vary depending on the age group - usually 10, 15, 20 and 30 min +.
If it's your first race, give it your best and enjoy it rather than expecting to be fighting at the front of the peleton. Remember your group riding practice and try and find other riders to race with. If you are lapped, move to the side of the circuit and let the faster riders through.
There will be a bell on the final lap and a big flag to finish!
After the race
Once you've finished - take a drink!
You'll be guided to the exit where there may be a person collecting chips. If not, return your chip to the sign on desk and collect your BC licence - it's easy to forget!
Results are usually posted later in the day, but it can sometimes take a few days, so keep an eye out.
If you make the podium, medals are awarded!
If you are racing U14/16 there is usually an additional circuit practice after the U12 race.
Hopefully that's been a useful run through of what happens on the day.
If you want to know more, ask the coaches!
For information on some of the circuits we race on:
- Mallory Park
- Stourport - to follow
- Tudor Grange - to follow
- Shrewbury - to follow
- Darley Moor - to follow
- Milton Keynes - to follow
For info on options for racing: