Clay Worthington M.S.
The Pedal Stroke Rules:
Pedaling drives the bike. Therefore, we need to discuss it in detail because it’s extremely important.
First, let’s consider how to think about the pedal stroke. If you think about really being powerful on the front side of the stroke, where the big power is actually produced, you are already in big trouble. The most important part of the pedal stroke, oddly enough, is not where the power is produced; it is the bottom of the stroke. Your conscious effort has to go into scraping your foot through the bottom of the pedal stroke in order to allow efficient power transfer from your leg into the pedal. The rest of the pedal stroke will fall into place if you think about it like this because you will naturally crush the front side of the stroke … its human nature that way. This process is analogous to hitting a golf ball; either one of the most frustrating or satisfying things in the world. Those who have never tried to hit a golf ball, or never have successfully, will have to take my word for it. If you try to knock the skin off of a golf ball you will be frustrated 99-100% of the time. If you relax and focus on the mechanics of a proper swing of the club, keep your body under control, and your eyes on the ball you can successfully crush a golf ball. It’s funny that less is more sometimes, but it is.
When riding your bike, don’t think about driving the pedal through the front; think about gliding your foot across the pedal through the bottom in a scraping motion. Efficiency is thrilling if accomplished properly.
The second part of the pedal stroke that we need to consider actually has nothing to do with the leg, foot, or pedal stroke. The upper body must be in sync with the lower body. To prove my point, think about running. Maybe give it a go just briefly around the house (assuming you don’t live in a mansion). Try running with your arms pinned at your sides. Then try running with arm action, but synchronize the left arm with the left leg (both forward at the same time). It doesn’t work very well because of the physics of the motion (the need of the body to dissipate the rotational work … too much information). Running is most efficient when the arms and legs are synchronized and offset (i.e. left arm and right leg are out in front of the body at the same time). This principle applies to cycling as well. The legs of a cyclist require the upper body to be in sync in order to perform at their best.
Side-to-side waggle is not correct. It can work well on the road bike because the cadence is never so high that it is a problem. However, if your cadence is high your legs will automatically limit their ability to spin quickly if they have to wait for the upper body to waggle into the proper position. Power will reduce because of a non-optimal synchronization of the upper and lower body. In the same fashion, a large up and down bobbing action incorrect.
On the other extreme, it is equally wrong to “clench” the upper body in an effort to keep it completely still. So, what is correct? We’ll call a quiet upper body correct.
A “quiet” upper body is when the hips don’t rock or bounce on the seat and the torso is without big movement. It is acceptable and encouraged to have a small or slight body movement that results from the shifting of your body weight to balance on the bike while spinning your legs in circles, and can be described as a slight bob/waggle combo or a slight rolling of the body. The body is a working machine and some movement is expected. Trying to be completely still is a waste of energy and not productive to enhancing performance; too much movement is bad too. Like most things in life, a balance is optimal, and that balance is probably individual.
It is not uncommon for riders who are starting to fatigue to develop or exaggerate their upper body movement in an effort to solicit any help possible from less fatigued muscles. This exaggerated movement is counter-productive because the legs need the body to be in sync. Thus, riders should focus on quieting the body and scraping through the bottom of the pedal stroke. Fatiguing riders should be particularly conscious of these situations.
The third part of the pedal stroke to consider is the back side. Zero power is produced here. In fact, you’ll be lucky to get your foot out of the way of the rising pedal, but you must try. Thinking about kicking your foot over the top will help drive the power stroke. An efficient cyclist will learn to subconsciously think about pedaling a full circle with the major focus on the scrape through the bottom of the stroke.
The last part of the pedal stroke is the power stroke; the front part of the stroke where power is produced. It is natural to think that this is the most important part of the pedal stroke because this is where the power is produced that will propel the bike forward. It’s not worth higher consideration because, as stated previously, it is human nature to produce the power here. The first time you rode a bike you probably did well to produce power in this range of the pedal stroke. This will happen naturally, so think about it or don’t, but for sure think about scraping through the bottom of the stroke.
Rule 1: Take a Fast Line
It is not typical for speed to travel in tight arcs. This is especially true on a bicycle. Thus, when coming into a corner, you need to consider your speed and take the fastest line of the corner. A longer arc is a longer distance, but you will lose less speed and therefore be better off. Let’s have a look at some examples using the drawing … please pardon my artistic skills. We’ll use the “Goldie Locks” theory in our approach.
Rule 2: Consider your Neighbor
Obviously, the “best line” shown above is not possible if you are in a pack. It is possible if you are in a strung out paceline, and there is a high probability that you will take that line if you are traveling fast and the leader knows how to keep that speed. Still, the point is that you are not always capable of taking this line. The best position to take a corner in is the outside position, but it is not always possible to be on the outside … consider for a second an “S” curve … back to the point. Do your best to position well, communicate with your neighbors so everyone knows where you are, and take the corner safely as dictated by the pack. If bad positioning causes you to take a corner poorly, position yourself better in the future. If you get on the wheel of someone who consistently takes a bad line and causes you more work or hazard, get away from that rider! Don’t sit on that wheel.
Rule 3: Look where you want to go
This is an important point that is often overlooked. You will go where you look – it’s natural. If you are out cruising on your bike and you are looking at a bird off to your left, there is a good chance you will veer left. The same is true in cornering. If you are navigating a corner that has a pot hole in it … DON’T LOOK AT THE POT HOLE!! Look at the line around the pot hole that you intend to take past the pot hole. The same is true if you are in a pack. Be conscious of your neighbors with your mind and your peripheral vision, but look at the line you want to take. If another rider changes their line or does something unexpected … adjust. Maybe you will want to politely let him know you didn’t appreciate the risk he threw at you, and he’ll politely tell you how it was someone else’s fault. The point is communicate for maximum safety, and look where you want to go.
Rule 4: Pedaling vs Outside foot down
Making this decision will require experience in taking corners at different angles, different lines, different speeds, pedaling and coasting, and all that jazz. You need to experiment and find out what is possible and what is not. The danger to pedaling through a corner is clipping a foot on the ground, which can pop your rear wheel off the ground and leave you struggling to stay upright. It is not uncommon to clip a pedal and stay upright, but this is where your skill comes in along with how heavily you clipped the wheel. At any rate, you will carry more speed if you are propelling the bike through the corner via pedaling. You can take a tighter line by leaning the bike, which requires outside foot down.
When you make a turn on the bike you can EITHER lean your body or lean your bike … you’d better have a pretty heavily banked surface if you intend to lean both (come to the track and we’ll do some of that leaning both business!).
Leaning your bike is the best option in situations of good traction, which is most of the time. Leaning your body is better in wet or slick situations because this leaves more of the griping tread in contact with the road. The figure below attempts to show body alignment during the lean, as well as where you should be applying pressure to the bike. This is all theoretical and a bit of an exaggeration of what happens in real life, so we’ll practice to get a feel for how this works in real life and how to apply these principles. We won’t discuss head position because it will be related to looking through the turn and where you want to go.
Counter steering is a bit of a separate topic, but we’ll discuss it briefly. If you put your chin over your outside hip, hip over knee, and knee over toe … it’s a good start. If you’ve seen the movie cars, you’ll know what the counter steer is.
It’s much more slight on a bike than in a car due to the much slower speed, but you’ll need to get this steering through the corner business down while riding … so we’ll practice.
On the very first training day, wait for Clay! We will setup your track bike and discuss safety rules of the track BEFORE riding. Everyone must participate whether you have previous experience on the track or not. Sorry to inconvenience the experienced riders, but we all need to get on the same page as to how these sessions will be run and what is expected to ensure safety.
Warm up Routine
Cool down Routine
We will play this during pace line drills.
It will be a fun game that we will play often. If we have a staggered start I may have warmed up riders play Gamer on the Main with warming up riders until we are all ready for the days’ session.
Diligent Persistence. We have touched on this in the past, and we’re going to touch on it again now. Diligent, do we remember what it means? “Steady, earnest, and energetic effort” (m-w.com). “No stone left unturned” is my analogy for this word. Persistence, constant, unyielding, continued, without quiting … all synonyms.
So, combined, diligent persistence is … probably the most important part of our approach. As such, we are looking at all aspects of performance and improvement; and learning about the sport because the sport won’t change. If the sport doesn’t change, then we can trust it to “be” a certain way, and our efforts will have predictable outcomes. The rules are set and if we execute to get the most from ourselves, then the sport will take care of us. It’s similar to gravity … what goes up … ;-)
We went over a “quick” bike fit at the track (as many of you already know). I wanted to recap the rules for that session. This type of fit is not bad, but it isn’t the best you can do if you plan to not grow or not borrow a bike. Considering our situation, these rules will get you comfortably and safely on the bike; ready to rock.
I will have a tape measure at the session on Thursday, and we’ll get some measurements for your fit so you can put that into your training journal for reference. You also need to help me get your gear combination if I didn’t on Tuesday. We are working to get everyone on their correct race gear combination.
Rules for a Quick Bike Fit
Rule 1: Frame Size
Stand over the top tube. The tube should pass between your legs a few inches from your crotch. If the tube passes between your legs at mid-thigh, or you are essentially sitting on the top tube as you stand over the frame, the bike is not a good fit. Eyeball the size of the frame front to back to see if you think it will be a good fit for your reach. If there are no other options besides what you have available, make what you have work.
Rule 2: Seat Height
Sit on the seat with your heels on the pedals. You should either be actively pedaling (slowly) or with one of your feet in the position that creates the greatest distance from your body (5.5 or 6 on the clock; remember the clock of the pedal stroke?). If your knee is straight as your foot is in the position of farthest distance, then the seat is pretty close to high enough. If your knee is bent, it’s too short. If your knee is locked or your hips rock on the saddle to reach the pedal, then the seat is too high. If you check in a static position, i.e. with your foot sitting in the farthest position, then start pedaling actively once you think you have the proper seat height. You should be able to ride the bike without rocking your hips or your foot coming off of the pedals.
Once you get the seat to the point where you think it is right, ride the bike normally. As your foot passes through the bottom of the pedal stroke your knee should be at about 30 degrees of bend. This is an estimation, but judge with regard for some landmarks.
Rule 3: Seat Fore/Aft
Seat forward and backward in layman’s terms. Put your feet in the forward/backward position (3 and 6 as you look at the clock). Hang a plumb line from the front of the knee. The line should pass through the ball of the foot, or something roughly equivalent. Adjust the seat appropriately until this is the case.
REMEMBER, if you move the seat forward that effectively lowers your seat height. If you move the seat backwards (toward the rear wheel) that effectively raises the seat height. Since you’ve already adjusted the seat height to be pretty close, make the correction for the fore/aft movement you just made and check the seat height again.
Rule 4: Reach
If you are borrowing a bike there may not be much you can do about this as it is typically affected most by the stem, frame size, and the seat position. Since the seat position is best adjusted and set relative to the cranks and the legs, the reach must be fine-tuned by the other factors. A good eyeball of a frame or the ability to swap out the stem for one that will make the fit better are the only options.
Rule 5: Comfort
All of the previous rules of fit will be trumped by this factor. If you set the bike up and it is uncomfortable, fix what is causing the lack of comfort. If your hands are falling asleep, chances are your handlebars are too low for your saddle position. If your crotch is falling asleep, chances are your seat height is either too tall (there is another factor that is not fitting well) or the saddle does not fit your personal anatomy well. See what is necessary to correct for the problem and do your best to fix it. This problem may require short stints of riding out of the saddle to relieve pressure. There are lots of comfort issues that can arise, and many can be fixed by changing the bike fit; but not all. Sometimes, comfort (or lack of) is the result of spending too long in the saddle.
Do your best to be comfortable and fit the bike properly so that it will handle appropriately and you will enjoy riding. Become “one” with your bike. Yes, “Daniel-sons” you need to always be evaluating your bike fit. You are growing and borrowing bikes. We are going to try to prevent the renting of your bikes, but we can’t guarantee this situation. So, you may show up to practice one day and have to deal with the hassle of re-fitting your bike. This is why knowing how to fit your bike and knowing your bike measurements is important. Later in life you may have to re-fit your bike because of equipment wear, travel, or one of your knucklehead friends/siblings decides it would be a good idea to borrow your bike without telling you or asking. It happens. Learn to evaluate your position as part of your warm up routine.
The bottom line is “execute, and let the sport take care of you”. It’s a little thing, but through an approach of DILIGENT PERSISTENCE all things are possible. If you do the little things consistently and with the right attitude, you will set yourself up to be successful.
I have been riding with a few of you guys off an on for a few weeks now and I have noticed that most, if not all, of you are very hard on your derailleur, chain, and cassette as a result of hard shifting. So, today’s lesson is on proper shifting.
Quick Terminology - In case you didn’t know:
When you shift, the derailleur pulls the chain into a new alignment on a different cog from where it was previously. For the chain to drive the bike it has to be engaged on a chainring (front) and a cog (back). During shifting, the chain is not engaged on a chainring or cog because it is moving from one to the next.
Therefore, trying to propel the bike during a shift is not correct, and it is hard on your equipment.
Before you shift, put some extra power into a ˝ pedal stroke to accelerate the bike slightly. At the end of that ˝ pedal stroke, click your shift-lever one time. On the next ˝ pedal stroke, soft-pedal. In other words coast while continuing to move your feet. The chain will move WITHOUT a loud “ka-chunk” that many of you typically hear. Then get back on the necessary pace. Most of the time, this shifting technique will be appropriate.
Shifting in a rush
Ok, if you are “grabbing gears” during a sprint or an attack then shift while trying to propel the bike forward. This will rarely be the case, but is acceptable on occasion.
Occasionally, you will find yourself in the big chainring coming into a climb. That is a condition you definitely don’t want to be in. If you see the big climb coming, get out of your big gear before you start the climb.
If you don’t see it coming you may find yourself wanting to get into a smaller gear quickly. If you shift both your front and rear derailleur at the same time you risk throwing a chain, damaging your rear derailleur, or some other unfortunate mishap that is costly (both in terms of race result and possibly equipment damage). Thus, don’t shift both derailleurs at the same time; ever.
You can shift your derailleurs in quick succession because it doesn’t take long for the chain to shift tracks.
A further problem is that shifting properly while going uphill is difficult because you lose momentum very quickly. Work it out if you can, and if not, do what you have to. However, shifting the front derailleur while propelling the bike forward often results in a thrown chain.
Typically, the big chainring and little chainring will overlap in gear inch ratios. What does that mean? Let’s investigate.
Gearing is given a number that is related to your rollout (i.e. the distance your bike travels for one complete pedal revolution) derived by the following equation:
For most of us that might be 52 / 14 x 27 = 100.3 at our biggest allowable ratio on the road. NO ONE RACING AGE 18 OR LESS SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO BIGGER THAN THIS! If you can and do, STOP.
We will investigate the possible gear ratios further for a 9-speed bike set up with a 39/52 (39 tooth small chainring and a 52 tooth large chainring) in front, and a 12-23 in the back (12,13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 tooth cogs). What we find is overlap in gear inch ratios between the small and large chainring combinations. For example, a 39x16 is roughly equivalent to a 52x21. Both are in the middle of the cassette, so not in the extreme and therefore not “cross-chained” (more shortly). This knowledge can help you if you find yourself cross-chained or in a situation where you need to change chainrings, but need to remain in a similar gear. Calculate the ratios for your cassette so you can figure this out. Eventually you should get to the point where you can feel the similarity/difference in the gear ratios.
The last cogs of the cassette are considered the “extremes” of the cassette. The chain works most efficiently if it is straight. This makes sense because the chain may have a little lateral (sideways) play, but it is essentially broken if it is bent against the junctions of the chain. As such, if you are in the 39x14 or the 52x27 (in the above example bike set up), you are said to be “in the extremes”.
Your bike will be “rattling” at you. This is the sound of the chain rubbing on the derailleur or against itself because of the lateral bend. Your bike will work better if you get out of this situation and into a different, but similar, gear combination.
Cross-Chaining can be an essential situation, just like “grabbing gears”. But like that situation, it is rare and should be avoided if possible.
As you know, the skill we have been working at the track is that of the paceline.
We have pretty much worked on this exclusively, with minor and necessary deviations for “the exchange” and “speed work”. At the heart of the skill of the paceline is the skill of speed regulation. Speed regulation is what I want to cover in this “lesson”.
Rules of speed regulation
Three effects of pedaling
We may have covered this material previously, but there are three effects you can produce through pedaling. Acceleration, via smooth and efficient pedaling and power production on the front of the pedal stroke. Speed maintenance, aka soft pedaling, via smooth and efficient pedaling and very slight power production on the front of the pedal stroke. And deceleration, aka back pedaling, via coordinated application of force through the back side of the pedal stroke.
Use of the track
One of the nice things about riding at the track is that the surface environment always provides the ability for you to NOT have to back pedal. Further, it provides the ability to make accelerations much easier. When riding in a paceline, if you find yourself running up onto the person in front of you, simply move up track and move alongside of that rider. By doing this you will slow yourself while maximizing energy use and you will avoid danger. While riding next to the person, you will be forced to ride a longer line than they are through the turn, therefore, you simply wait until they move in front of you again and you drop back into line. Easy Peezy.
While riding in the paceline you should find that small flicks up or down track will assist you to regulate your speed and eliminate the need for you to use energy in the form of pedaling. Practice flicking the track during warm up. “Flicking” is a quick, subtle, and short movement, typically, uptrack. If you don’t know what I mean by flicking the track, ask me or Renee to show you.
Typically if you need to accelerate quickly you will use a large effort downtrack, but a small effort is appropriate if you deem it appropriate … AND IF IT’S SAFE TO CHANGE YOUR LINE! Flicks are not typically considered a change in direction and use is not unpredictable. The reason is that they are such a small and brief movement that they should not hinder anyone else’s movement on the track.
Anticipation is key
When regulating your speed, particularly while in a paceline, you must recognize that the situation is dynamic. What this means is that you will rarely find that you are maintaining exactly the same distance from the wheel in front of you.
The trick to regulating your speed in the paceline properly is anticipation of the pace. We all need to recognize that there is a process to learning any skill. For the skill of speed regulation and riding close to the rider in front of you in a paceline, you will find that you spend a lot of time paying direct attention to the wheel in front of you. As you get more and more comfortable riding the fixed-gear bike and being close to someone in front of you, you will learn to pay constant INDIRECT attention to the wheel directly in front of you and watch the rider one or two positions in front of that rider. By watching the actions of those riders you will be able to anticipate an acceleration or deceleration that will be required on your part. By anticipating the effort you remove the urgency of the effort and manage the gap much more easily.
On a side note, anticipation is also important for the exchange. Knowing when the front rider is going to pull up so that you can anticipate when to duck under, as well as once you pull off, anticipating the speed of the riders coming underneath you and returning to the line at the appropriate time.
Over- and under-lapping wheels (Not a rule, but an important note)
Another side note, but this one is more relevant. It is bad to overlap wheels at the track, but it is worse to panic. If you find that you are over- or underlapped on the rider in front of you, don’t panic! Simply manage your effort and back out. Manage the gap as you do this so that you don’t get dropped in your effort and have to chase back on.
Environmental Dynamics and Speed Regulation
One last point about speed regulation. At all tracks, the turns are labeled. The turn immediately after the finish line is turn 1. The turn closest to the 200m line is turn 2. It is important to note that turns 1 and 2 are actually each ˝ of a 180 degree change in direction. In Colorado Springs, turns 1 and 2 are at the south end of the track. Turns 3 and 4 are at the north end of the track. Turns are numbered according to the direction of travel, and therefore the start of the north turn that initiates on the back stretch is turn 3, and the end of the north turn that concludes on the home stretch is turn 4. Turns 2 and 4 are considered “passing” lanes because there is a natural downhill as you come out of each of these turns. It is easier to generate speed here because of the “downhill” slope. Turns 1 and 3 are associated with a bit of slowing because there is a slight “uphill” slope to these turns. You will likely have noticed this effect at the track.
Now that I have pointed out this dynamic of the track, you will likely recognize that going into turns 1 and 3 you will have to apply a bit of extra effort to maintain speed. Coming out of turns 2 and 4 will require a bit less effort to maintain speed. The same applies for headwind and tailwind sections. You will need to put in a bit more effort when faced with the headwind.
Finally, when exchanging, you have to apply effort to ride uptrack to get out of the way of the paceline. It only requires 2-3 pedal strokes before you “turn off the effort”, but you can’t stop pedaling in anticipation of pulling off because you are still on the front. Further, you can’t stop pedaling at the initiation of the exchange (uptrack movement) because you are still directly in front of the group. Do a bit of effort to get out of the way of the paceline and then look to determine when is appropriate to ride downtrack and into the paceline.
Like everything else we do, there is a purpose and a process to make it effective and worth our attention. Remember, diligent persistence, “steady, eager effort leaving no stone unturned”. When chasing goals (sport or other) plan on adversity. It’s never a question IF you will struggle; only when and how you will respond.
Goals must be:
You can control your drinking rate and thereby fight off dehydration. You can even control what you think and believe. Some things are outside of your control and will cause you to miss your goals on occasion. You can’t control your opponents motivation, effort, or preparation. You can’t control if they crash and affect your performance by doing so. You can’t control the weather or mishaps (flats, chains, etc). There are a lot of things you can’t control. Take it in stride, reset, and go after your goal again on a new timeline. Talent is not terribly uncommon in this world, neither is the proper work ethic to maximize your given level of talent. What is uncommon is being able to accept obstacles, refocus, and go again. THAT, is the mark of a champion.
Failure is a temporary state that tests your character. “I have not failed. I now know 487 ways how not to make a light bulb.” - Thomas Edison. Now THAT is optimistic!
For those of you with aspirations towards international competitions, the selection criteria were recently published for junior road and track. If you are setting a goal like this, be sure to build flexibility into your goal. You have until you are racing age 19 to achieve this one, then it has to change to a U23 championships or Elite Championship, or some other goal you find desirable. This is a TALL goal. The link is below.
Importance of Knowing the Rules
It is very important to know the rules of any competitive event you enter! If you don’t know the rules, it would be excessively difficult to win or to compete safely. As such, I will start with some important rules review, but it is your responsibility as the competing athlete to know the rules of competition. I have included 2 links. One for the international rules, and one for the national rules.
Location of the Rules
This part is VERY important! It is OK to want to win and to say that. It is equally OK to work with diligent persistence to make winning a possibility. It is not OK to win outside of the rules. As such, we’ll start studying the rules of competition: no stone left unturned.
Understanding the Rules
In order to understand the rules, you must understand that they are written intentionally vague. What that means is that the riders and the officials have some room for interpretation; that’s a SUBJECTIVE interpretation. This is a double-edged sword because there will be times you will think the official is wrong; this will happen. You might think he is wrong for the call he DID make or the call he DIDN’T make; it doesn’t matter. WHEN this happens, POLITELY plead your case to the proper official. Then live with the ruling. Don’t throw a fit or berate the official. Not only is this poor sportsmanship, but it gains you no ground at the time nor in the future. Part of your entry into competition is your agreement that the official has the final say. Period.
Part of our discussions about rules will be common interpretations. If you are confused about a rule, refer to the third general rule of participation in our group “Ask Questions”. If you ask by email, please send the question to the whole group.
Rules of Sprinting
Sprinting is part of almost every event on the track. Thus, the rules of sprinting are also rules of the scratch race, points race, Madison, miss-and-out, and others. For example, this is taken from the International Points Race Rules: “3.2.122 Sprints shall be run according to the rules governing sprint races.”
There are 2 rules of sprinting that are very important to apply and understand. I have included both the national wording and the international wording. They are not different in their meaning.
National Rules: “2F7. Before the sprint has begun riders may utilize the full width of the track, but must leave room on the right for riders to pass and avoid movements that could cause a collision, a fall, or force a rider off the track.”
International Rule: “3.2.041 Before the last 200 metre line or the start of the final sprint, riders may avail themselves of the full width of the track but must nevertheless leave sufficient space for their opponent to pass and shall refrain from any manoeuvres that could provoke a collision, a fall or cause any rider to ride off the track.”
Interpretation: The final sprint is a somewhat subjective thing, but cannot initiate less than 200m from the finish of the sprint (whether sprinting for the finish or for points). If the pack is “flat out”, the final sprint is on. This won’t happen more than ~400m out. There are only a few people in the world that can hold a top-end sprint for even 400m!
You can use the entire track before the final sprint, but you will not pull out of line when coming into points or the finish. It doesn’t make sense to do this anyway. You want to be at the front to get the points!
The man in front controls the sprinter’s lane
(a) No rider may attempt to overtake an opponent using the blue band, either while passing or pulling out of a passing maneuver;
(b) The leader must always leave room on the right for other riders to pass. The leader is not obligated to leave room on the left, but may not enter the sprinters lane if it is occupied, except with a clear lead, and in no case may force an opponent off the track;
(c) If the leader is below the sprinters line, he or she must stay below the sprinters line until the finish and all following riders must pass on the right and outside the sprinters lane. However, the leader may come out of the sprinters lane if he or she is so far ahead that there is no hindrance to opponents;
(d) If the leader is riding above the sprinters line, he or she shall make no abrupt motion to keep other riders from passing and may make no move to the right (whether abrupt or not) that could have caused a fall or that exceeds 90 cm. (same as the width of the sprinters lane). Following riders may pass on either side. The leader may move to the left into the sprinters lane only if the trailing edge of the leader's rear wheel is ahead of the leading edge of the front wheel of the following rider [relegation for foul riding]. There is no penalty at the finish if the lead rider accidentally drops below the measurement line or even onto the blue band. “
International Rule: “3.2.042 During the final sprint, even if launched before the last 200 metres, each rider shall remain in his lane up to the finish, unless he has at least a clear cycle-length lead and shall not make any manoeuvre to prevent the opponent from passing.”
Interpretation: There is no passing on the left if the rider in front of you is in the sprinters lane. If they are higher on the banking and you can get by on the left safely, go for it!
Now we see the importance of the lanes. During sprinting, riders are required to ride “within” their lanes. The only lane that is objectively designated is the sprinters lane. Riding in your lane is subjective, but you have a bit of latitude for lateral movement, about 90cm!
It is not meant that there are only 3 lanes, as we have learned about the training environment. The word “lane” is a subjective designation designed to tell riders not to swerve. During racing, if you can get 6 riders across at the finish, each has a “lane”.
You have the right to move laterally to pass someone during the final sprint with one exception, if you are boxed in, it is not possible and you take what you can get.
If you are passing another rider and clear their front wheel, you can move in front of them. If someone is moving to pass you and you see it, you can’t move in front of them.
The Madison is a unique event that was invented and performed first at the Madison Square Garden. It is a 2-man event in which only 1 member of the team is in the race at any given time, and at the present time it is only challenged nationally/internationally in the men’s field. It is a national, world cup, world championship, and Olympic event. Locally and regionally you will see women like Katie Compton racing madisons for training because they are like a boxing match; fast, hard and some of the best intensity training you will encounter.
You make it hard on your opponents by first making it hard on yourself.
Like you might see in WWE tag-team wrestling, there is a tag, but in this event, the rider in the race wants to transfer as much of his forward momentum to his partner as possible. To do this, the “sling” is used. Important points about the sling will be discussed, but it is a skill. Like any other skill, it will require practice to attain comfort and eventual mastery.
The man on recovery has 2 goals; aside from recovery. The first is to travel as slowly as possible to allow for as many exchanges as possible. If the race is traveling at mach 2, the man in the race won’t be able to go much more than 2-3 laps before his egg starts to crack. If one of the partners cracks, the team will be in big trouble. You must travel fast enough not to slip off the track though … it’s a tough balance at times.
The second goal of the recovery rider is to try to strategically time his speed so that he and his partner exchange at the best time for the circumstances provided by the race. For example, exchanging 50 meters before the finish line during a sprint for points is not the best time to do this. There will be a lot of traffic, extra speed, riders will be tired and MAY not be paying sufficient attention, you may lose points because of the exchange, etc. During a sprint, exchanging 50-100m after the finish line is much more appropriate. The recovery ride is the one planning the timing of the exchanges (within a limited distance of about 100 meters +/-).
The recovery man will put his left hand near his hip and provide the largest target possible for his partner. His right hand will be in the drops because after he’s thrown in, he’s racing! For learning purposes, there is more control placing your right hand on the top of your handlebars. We will start with our right hand on the top as we practice and increase our comfort.
The racing man will put his left hand on the top of his handlebars because there is more control there and he is in recovery after he throws his partner in. With his right hand, he TAKES his partners left hand. There is no need to flirt with it … just take it as if it is yours. There is much more security in the grip this way.
This is important!
This is important because the speeds of the two riders should be similar for the exchange, but even when similar the difference can FEEL very different. If riders misjudge the necessary speed and the difference is actually large, weight distribution will be very important to prevent being pulled from the bike. There will be more than a few times when someone will misjudge the necessary speed and the speed differential will not be ideal. The larger the speed difference between the two riders, the greater the force will be during the momentum transfer. Thus, be sure to distribute your weight properly, and account for the fact that you still need to pedal. Weight distribution is a balancing act.
The recovery rider must accelerate down track and pinch the field. This means that timing the acceleration is important because if he accelerates too early he will end up riding away from the exchange; if the acceleration comes too late the exchange may not happen. Further, this rider is NOT riding to get in front of the pack! He is only riding down to the red line, the safety line, or somewhere in-between depending on the location of the racing pack.
The racing rider must ride up to get his partner. The partner will only be able to come down track so far, so the racing rider must close the distance. Hopefully, the racing rider doesn’t have to go very far uptrack, because, as we know, riding up track scrubs speed. The racing rider TAKES the hand of his partner with authority as he RIDES PAST his teammate. The racing rider stabilizes his hand by his hip providing a stable “structure” for his partner to pull/push from. The recovery rider pulls SMOOTHLY with his hand, arm, and body to get as much momentum from his partner as possible. The racing rider follows through with his hand, which makes it look like he is throwing his partner in, but the reality is that the recovery rider is taking as much momentum from his partner as he can get.
Once the exchange has occurred, the slower rider (who was racing, but is now in recovery) must hold his line until it is clear to move up track and slow down.
Making a right turn into a charging pack or rider is neither safe nor acceptable.
The race will not always be fast, but the exchange should occur either in as short a time as possible, or an appropriate length of time. You’ll know when to apply which.
Direction of Travel
The rider being thrown in should try to ride forward and down track. This will allow him to accelerate down track with the momentum he just gained from his partner. Occasionally, the race will require an uptrack throw, but speed is not an issue if that is the case. Remember, safety first.
In race conditions, there are a number of reasons to communicate with other athletes or your partner. First, as exchanges happen, riders behind the exchange MUST go up and over the exchange. Second, if the recovery rider is not paying proper attention, the racing rider NEEDS to get his attention if the exchange is to occur. Third, partners need to communicate their race strategies and how they feel to one another. Sometimes you will be on the same page or be able to read your partner, other times some info can be the difference between good and bad. Fourth, if some knucklehead is out there doing something dangerous or doing something that you don’t like, you have to let him know to stop. He may not know he is doing something improperly. Be vocal, and if possible, be polite, but most importantly, GET YOUR POINT ACROSS IN AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE.
Race Gear Restrictions: This means you can’t race in gears bigger than what is listed here:
Remember, when estimating a gear, 48x16 is your reference at 81 inches.
Chainrings count for 2 inches, and cogs count for 6 inches. This isn’t a perfect calculation, but it will get you close.
Continuing in our discussion of racing rules, let’s talk Scratch Racing. It is one of the most common types of races and you’ll encounter it regularly. Previously, we discussed the 2 MAIN rules of sprinting. If anyone decided to read the entire rules section on sprinting, you will have discovered more than only 2 rules. More sprinting rules will be explained during our discussion of the scratch race because they apply to passing other riders.
(Remember that those 2 rules were: stay in your lane and the rider in the sprinters lane controls the lane.)
What is a Scratch Race?
The most common mass-start race in which a given distance is covered and the first person to cover the given distance is declared the winner.
If you have a mishap (flat, crash, other) and are able to fix it, collect yourself, and you want back in the race … these are the rules: (1300m, that’s 4 laps in COS.)
Rules of Passing
There is SOME leeway to move laterally, but NOT abruptly, NOT if it causes a crash, and NOT more than 90cm (the width of the sprinter’s lane).
(a) No rider may attempt to overtake an opponent using the blue band, either while passing or pulling out of a passing maneuver;
(b) The leader must always leave room on the right for other riders to pass. The leader is not obligated to leave room on the left, but may not enter the sprinters lane if it is occupied, except with a clear lead, and in no case may force an opponent off the track;
(c) If the leader is below the sprinters line, he or she must stay below the sprinters line until the finish and all following riders must pass on the right and outside the sprinters lane. However, the leader may come out of the sprinters lane if he or she is so far ahead that there is no hindrance to opponents.”
I was thinking there must be a better way to discuss race rules, so I went after this project. This is kind of like homework! In fact, it’s pretty much identical. But, this is information we need to know in order to participate in this sport. I do expect that this document will be read so that future discussions can reiterate the points and explain any confusion.
I spent some time boiling down the USAC race rules document into 7 pages. It is a summary of, not a replacement for, the official rules document, and only pertains to the race rules, rider conduct, gear restrictions, and national championship events by age. It does not pertain to bike measurement requirements, logistical rules, etc. The rider conduct it addresses directly applies to the expectations that we have during training, and so should be pretty easy to understand despite the language.
Feel free to ask questions on topics about which you are uncertain or rules you find confusing, and please direct questions on this topic to the track coach. Rules discussions will resume in June and will assume/expect that you have read this document. Despite being a lot of information, it’s easier for everyone this way because we’ll dissect the document in discussions at the track, and, believe it or not, I think this is less confusing.
(See document: “Most Important National Rules of Track Racing”)
I think it’s time to talk about attacking. We are playing enough games (and racing will be upon us soon) to start thinking about the best way to put your opponents in the hurt locker. So, let’s get our teeth into it. Careful, this is a long one. Take it in pieces.
The Purpose of the Attack
Why would you attack? It’s harder out there by yourself or in a small group than it is in the draft of the entire pack of riders. The answer is, obviously, because at/off the front is where the points and laps can be accumulated, and the pain can be delivered to your opponents. Winning a race is accomplished at or off the front. Remember, in bike racing you make it hard on your opponents by first making it hard on yourself. Remember that one; it will be a recurring theme. Winning riders spend time in good position; not necessarily ON the front, or OFF the front by yourself, but NEAR the front in position to go with strong riders into a break or in a position to scoop up placings in intermediate or finishing sprints. Attacking is tiring, so train hard if you plan to attack a lot.
Attacking with strategic purpose is better than attacking a lot, so start learning the difference.
Effective attacking involves creating distance between you and other riders.
Flirting with a hard acceleration only puts people on your wheel and accelerates the pace of the pack. If you are working with teammates this is OK IF it has strategic purpose. If you are working with opponents for mutual benefit; this kind of acceleration is again OK. If you are just making yourself tired for your opponents benefit it is silly. Effective attacks put distance between you and other riders so that others have to work as a result of your effort. If you don’t get a gap during an attack, swing up-track at your first opportunity. If you can’t get a gap during your attacks, stop attacking. If the field consistently is pulling back attacks, you must decide if they are wearing down or if the race is destined to stay together for a final sprint.
On the other end, if someone attacks, grab their wheel (i.e. get in their draft) as quickly and closely as possible. If they create a gap and you can’t or don’t want to pull it back, pull up-track and off the front (safely), or stay in the draft of the pack. You won’t always be in position to go with strong moves. This brings us to the term “race your bike”.
“Racing your bike” is a discussion for another day, but essentially it involves regularly putting yourself in good position and making decisions on the fly.
Surprising the Pack
The best way to get a gap is to surprise the pack. If they see you coming, the chances are that they will accelerate and grab your wheel so that you are wasting energy and shortening the race. SO, how do you surprise the pack?
One answer is to attack from a front position. You have to pass fewer people from a more forward position compared with a position near the back.
A second answer is to attack using a “running” or “run” technique. Running involves creating a gap to the rider(s) in front of you and accelerating into the draft and passing them with maximum speed instead of a hard acceleration.
When attacking from the rear you have the advantage of accelerating while no one is watching you (i.e. the run). When attacking from the front you must apply a very strong acceleration. So you can see that each extreme position in the pack has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
When possible, pass on the left. It is the shortest distance to pass and involves riding downhill. If the rider in front of you is in the sprinters’ lane, you must remember that this rider cannot be passed on the left.
A third answer is to attack downhill. This option is very important because it can be used with both of the previously discussed options, and it is the easiest way to gain speed. As you may have experienced, and likely can relate to even if you haven’t, attacking uphill is a bad option. Attacking from a position at the back of the pack AND going high to gain that advantage is a very bad way to attack.
The reason is that you must go a longer distance due to the longer circumference of a larger turn, and this means that you need more speed to even equal the speed of your opponents. Further, to get the height advantage, you must travel uphill initially, which slows your progress or requires more effort for a similar acceleration.
You have multiple options for attacking downhill:
Once you have created the gap between you and other riders you need to start “damage control”. We call this effort towards damage control “settling in”. Obviously if you are going to sprint to get a gap, you can’t hold that pace long enough to get a lap; not even on a short track or a lazy pack that decides not to chase. When trying to settle in, let it occur over a few hundred meters or a lap.
The thing about the fixed gear bike is that it does not love rapid changes in speed. Thus, it is hard to accelerate, but it is even harder to decelerate quickly.
Let’s be clear on that point. Deceleration itself is not that difficult, but reacceleration after an acceleration-deceleration combo; it’s essentially breakaway death.
Take your time to slow to a time trial speed and have a look back to see what the pack is doing. If they are chasing hard, don’t commit to the effort. Stay in the pole until they are close to you, then swing up and get in. If they are not chasing at all, keep with your TT at a manageable rate and commit to the effort.
Hopefully someone attacks the group and comes to join you, and then you have help. Once you have help, trade pulls every 1/2-1 lap, and never overextend yourself. It doesn’t do you much good to help an opponent get his lap if he drops you, and further, it doesn’t do you much good to commit to the effort only to waste your effort because the pack decided to chase you hard and then you’re suffering to hang in the pack.
The herd mentality
It is very important to note that the pack has a herd mentality. What does this mean? Mostly that few people will take initiative unless they see direct benefit to themselves. Thus, if a strong attack is made, the pack will tend to look around to see who’s going to get it. Now that everyone is looking around, the second person to make a move will typically only be effective at starting the chase. The exception to that is when the second move is also a very strong move, during which case the pack will continue to look for the sucker who is going to pull it back. At this time the pack SHOULD look to the rider who has the most to lose (more on that in a second). Further, if you want the chase to start, you should accelerate to top speed somewhat gradually in an effort to bring the pack with you. Often times, if the chase starts it will keep going even if many of the chasers have little to gain … pack mentality … “do what the pack does … stay in line … pull … “ Take advantage of the pack mentality every chance you get. Smart racers understand that showing the pack what to do will often times effect the change they want to see.
There are a number of situations regarding who has the most to lose, let’s investigate some:
The silly thing to do is chase it back when you are a rider with nothing to gain. Let’s investigate some of these options:
So what do you do if you have nothing to gain? Do your best to gain experience and strength by riding hard and reading the race. Maybe your desire to ride hard negates any unwillingness to pull that you might have had considering the options of “nothing to lose”. That’s your decision. But, maybe you sit in, recover, while the stronger riders wear down and you are able to get back into the race.
The bottom line is to do your best, don’t quit, and learn from your experiences.
I have been asked a very good question with regard to the Jr Natz, and so I want to clarify to the group. The question (slightly rephrased to apply to the group):
“Why are there so many events for the 17-18 age group, but only a few for the other age groups?”
The answer is one of elite international competition. Internationally, juniors are only considered those between the RACING ages of 17 and 18. Once you are racing age 19, you are senior. Below that, you are “youth.” I’m not sure of the actual terminology for the under 17 riders. In the US, we lump all riders under 19 into the junior category. Further, we (USA Cycling) need to select riders for the Junior World Championship competition; an elite international event. To do that, each event must be contested to allow selection eligibility to each rider who enters. USAC will try to select the most able racer to represent us. (NOTE: with the addition of time standards, winning is not enough to go to Jr Worlds. You must demonstrate an ability to be competitive on the world scene.
THIS IS THE BIT THAT IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE, AND I HAVE INCLUDED THE RULES TO REFLECT ACTUAL VERBAGE.
U17 athletes will compete for ONE national championship via an omnium format. This means you’ll get points for your placing in all of the events and the overall winner is national champion. U19 (i.e. 17-18 year old riders) will compete for a national championship for every event contested. The events will reflect those contested at Jr Worlds. Note that, under the new rules, the U19 category will contest 9 events for males and 8 events for females; U17 riders will contest 3 events per age-category for both males and females (in omnium format).
There are rules that USAC must abide by for the selection of an international team. These rules can be found at www.usacycling.org under the “team selection” tab on the left of the page. These rules are in place to ensure fairness in the selection process at all levels and in all disciplines.
National Rules: “6D7: State or Regional and National Track Championships may be conducted for each of the following classes. Competition in classes under 17 shall be conducted as omniums. Final omnium standings shall include those riders who compete in all events but do not earn event points. Such riders shall be placed according to their finish in a designated event (generally the last event). The winner of each omnium is the Track Champion for that age group. The winner of the National Omnium is awarded the National Championship jersey. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each individual Track National Championship event, but they will not be designated as National Champions nor receive a jersey. Each individual event for riders in the 17-18 age group is a national championship, with the awarding of a championship jersey and medals to the top five places”.
Races that restrict entry based on category are noted in parenthesis below:
*Event restricted to Mass Start Bicycles
The points race distances may be reduced by 25% in State Championships.
(a) A National Team Pursuit Championship shall be conducted at a distance of 4 km for teams of four riders.
(b) A Team Sprint Championship shall be conducted. For Junior Men, the event will be 3 laps for teams of 3 riders. For Junior Women, the event will be 2 laps for teams of 2 riders.
(c) A Madison championship shall be conducted for ages 16-18 for those riders that have a track category of 1 or 2. A minimum of five eligible teams must compete in order for a National Champion to be determined.
(d) Keirin championships shall be conducted for men with racing ages 16-18 for those riders that have a track category of 1 or 2 and for women with racing ages 16-18 that have a track category of 1-3.”
(d) If the leader is riding above the sprinters line, he or she shall make no abrupt motion to keep other riders from passing and may make no move to the right (whether abrupt or not) that could have caused a fall or that exceeds 90 cm. (same as the width of the sprinters lane). Following riders may pass on either side. The leader may move to the left into the sprinters lane only if the trailing edge of the leader's rear wheel is ahead of the leading edge of the front wheel of the following rider [relegation for foul riding]. There is no penalty at the finish if the lead rider accidentally drops below the measurement line or even onto the blue band.
Other important rules
National Rule: “2F11: Blocking. In a sprint with three or more contestants, a rider who is hemmed in at the bottom by other riders may not force his way out of the box, nor may a rider block or interfere with another rider [relegation or disqualification]. No rider may deliberately cause a crash [disqualification].”
Hand held vs Gated starts
There is one main difference between these two types of starts; the initial drive. When you are in a gate, your rear wheel will be placed against a vertical pole inside the gate. This will provide something for you to push against. When you are held by a person, there is nothing behind the wheel, so often the initial hip thrust and body movement causes the bike to travel back a few inches before it is driven forward. Expect this.
Now, let’s talk about mounting the bike. Always approach the bike from up track, and set your cranks before straddling the bike. Being that the holder or the gate will be behind the bike holding it, hike your leg over the handlebars. Get on your tip-toes and sit on the seat while you clip into the pedals; the gate actually has a step for you to use to help you mount up. Once on the bike check the clock, relax, and get ready for your effort.
I could not find the rule regarding the amount of time you have to the official start of your race (from when the “holder” signals the starter to the time the gate/holder releases you). However, internationally you have 50 seconds from the time the bike is ready. Be ready when you go to the line.
Setting the Cranks
Cranks need to be placed nearly in line with the down tube. NOT vertically (perpendicular to the ground), and NOT horizontally (parallel to the ground). You are going to start with your weight behind the bottom bracket and make an initial thrust of your body to start the bike rolling. Allow for that in your initial crank position.
Setting the bike
By rule it must be set to travel straight (“not up track or down track”). If it is not, fix it. Don’t accept the bike position until it is where you want it. Communicate with the gate operator to ensure the time doesn’t start with an improperly set bike.
Initial Hip Thrust (momentum out of the gate)
You should always have the last 5 seconds of your countdown time counted out (or given in beeps). Rest comfortably on the seat until you hear “1”. Then lift yourself up and back so that your belly button is over the NOSE of the saddle. At zero, throw your hips forward and pull your head and shoulders up to create forward motion. Start with the hip thrusts that I demonstrated with the “chicken dance”. You will thrust your hips and reset them for the next ˝ pedal stroke until you feel that you are pedaling too fast to move your body like this; it often occurs after 3-5 pedal strokes. At this time, set your hips just in front of the nose of your saddle and drive with your legs. The bike will start to dance between your legs at this point and NOT before.
Your head needs to be up and you need to be looking where you want to go. Initially, this will be up and THROUGH turn one, and preferably to the right a little. You want to drive out of the start straight (not up track or down track). Because of the banking of the track looking slightly to the right will help you with this. Keep pulling your head and shoulders up as long as you are thrusting your hips.
Your back needs to be straight. If you are rounding your back you are either dropping your head or bending your arms excessively. Having a straight back will help you to drive the hips. Your back should be straight like a board as long as you are thrusting your hips. Rounding your back and then straightening it only to round it again is not an efficient transfer of effort. What will change is the direction of the back as your hips come under you. You will see this in the videos.
Your arms need to be long, but you can choose if you prefer perfectly straight elbows or SLIGHTLY bent elbows. If you have very bent elbows you will find that it is hard to get your hips underneath you. The most important part of the arm position is that your elbows don’t bend. Under no circumstance during the hip thrusting do your arms bend. They remain where you set them for your initial thrust.
Direction of pull
You want the bike to drive forward out of the gate. Thus, you must pull equally with each arm to help drive the hips forward and under your body. The bike does not dance during the hip thrusting or the first 3-5 pedal strokes. Everything is linear. Once you set your hips, your bike will start to dance with a slight lateral motion.
Weight distribution over the bottom bracket
You will start with your weight distributed behind the bottom bracket. After your very first ˝ pedal stroke your weight will be SLIGHTLY in front of your bottom bracket. Getting your weight too far forward may cause steering problems, your arms to carry more weight than your legs and thereby limit the drive you can deliver to the pedals, and/or will cause your rear wheel to skip. Keeping your weight too far back may cause interference of your legs by your seat, and/or you to pull your front wheel off the ground. You want your wheels in contact with the ground at all times during a start.
Using your hips to drive a very low cadence (0-30 rpm)
Your hips are surrounded by the most powerful muscles in your body, period! Use them. Set your upper body and drive your hips forward and underneath you to extend the hip. At the same time, drive your foot down with a powerful extension of your knee (the second most powerful group of muscles in your body). And if possible, drive your toes toward the ground. Reset all of the joint angles as your opposite foot comes through the top of the pedal stroke, and drive again. Because you are moving your body, and it is the largest and heaviest mass of your body+bike system, this movement is slow. It can only occur at the very low pedal cadences. Once your feet are moving too fast to reset your body with each ˝ pedal stroke, you’ll need to set your hips and drive with only your legs.
Setting your hips to drive an accelerating cadence above ~30rpm
When you set your hips they will be located directly above and slightly in front of the nose of your saddle. Keep your hips there and drive each ˝ pedal stroke with your legs. Let the bike do a little dancing underneath you. This bike dancing occurs because you are pulling with one hand and pushing with the other. Further, you are distributing your weight very slightly to one side of the other of your frame as you essentially stand on one foot and drive the pedal down. These are the causes of the bike dancing that comes so naturally to trained cyclists.
You will sit as you enter turn 3.
You will need to practice this technique extensively. The hip thrust is not natural, and so it will come with lots of practice. When you are riding on the road and you must stop at stop lights or stop signs, practice this hip thrust motion.
RULES FOR STANDING START TIME TRIALS START ON P49 OF THE USCF TRACK RULEBOOK. READ AND UNDERSTAND THESE RULES – IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
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