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Handicap Racing

posted Nov 2018

I was once again a motorcycle marshal in Sunday's race in Dynamo Events Teams event. In this role you see so much more than just the antics of the leading group and the odd break away.

A flat start saw the five bunches I was involved with, pretty much stay together for near twenty kilometres but once the hills started riders were being shelled out by the dozen.

What really caught my attention was after being dropped how few had the sense to look behind to see who they could team up with. No chance, the vast majority just rode along fifty metres apart giving themselves no chance of limiting their time losses – or indeed having an enjoyable ride in the company of others.

Why don't they realise that losing 10 seconds to drop back will save them minutes by the end of the race?

In pondering this strange behaviour I wondered if the virtual abandonment of handicap racing is behind it. Perhaps years past we did too much handicap racing but it sure taught you the need for company; the need to keep bunches of near ability riders together – at least until the last kilometre or two; the need to keep everyone working and rolling through; the need to talk and occasionally miss a turn so the rider can contribute again the next time through; the need to ride in a position which actually protects other riders whilst you take your lap; and the need to change the lapping direction with wind direction changes.

I haven't even touched on some of the finer points of lapping out - the way you go through to take your lap or indeed the way you ease up so as not to “kill” the next rider coming through. And a dozen other factors which make or break a small bunch.

We learnt ourselves and then passed on these aspects to all new comers and many younger guys have since said how they learnt to ride in those events. It did generate a whole lot of elderly Bernard Hinault style bunch “patrons” who perhaps were over vocal when you messed up. But learn you did!

And not the least was what you then learnt when break and scratch caught you. Hang on for grim death but don't mess with them. With graded mass starts riders miss out on many of these absolute fundamentals of bike racing.

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