If you expect a praise about the infamous wheel races in Australia, it’s exactly what you will get. A true specialty of Australian cycling, and we see direct causal relations with the pursuit success of the country. But are we as Pushbikers good at it? No. But we still love it. Here is why..
By NICK STÖPLER
What are handicap races!?
A handicap race is a race over a short distance (usually from 1000-3000metres) where anybody – no matter how good you are – can participate in and win it. The handicapper (basically the guru, the boss, the almighty) decides how good you are and what mark (start position) you get. You can get up to almost a whole lap ‘’head start/handicap’’ if you are lucky (and a bad cyclist), whereas the best riders have to start from ‘’scratch’’ – zero handicap. Between this, there is a whole spectrum where there are riders everywhere on the track. Once the gun has shot, you have to try to catch everybody in front of you. Usually within the first two laps a couple groups are formed, but the two most important ones are the frontmarkers (the deers, the sheep, the hunted) and the backmarkers (the lions, the bulls, the hunters). The whole idea is that everything comes together in the final laps and everybody has a chance to win it. Usually there are first heats, and the top 3-6 riders qualify for the big final.
Does this sound spectacular? It freaking is!
Very painful business.
Besides being spectacular, it’s also very painful. You have to give everything and usually you will have a nice taste of blood in your throat after the finish. Your muscles are almost cramping from trying to pedal as hard as you can.
What do you need to be good at it?
– A V12 engine; you need to be a Ferarri, not a [enter reliable, durable diesel car]. It’s all about having a big turbo
– A good pusher; every rider has a pusher allocated, that hold them at the start. They are allowed to give you a push to get you up to speed. If you have a good pusher, you save energy (and make up for a bad start)!
– A good mark; this is the tricky part. Depending on the type of rider you are, there are different desirable scenario’s. If you are fast, but you are not the strongest, you might take a slow start, swing up when the backmarkers (remember, the hunters) are coming, find the rear wheel of the best riders and try to beat him. If you are not fast, the only way you can be in the prizes is to not be caught by the backmarkers (basically ride as if your life depends on it)
– Concentration; you have to go flat out from the gun, so there is no time for chitchatting or hanging around.
– Commitment; make a plan for yourself and stick to it. No but’s and if’s.
Wheel races have been arounds for ages and have proven to be a recipe for success. Both the crowd and spectators love it, and it also has an interactive component to it where the public can participate by volunteering for pusher (a job not to be taken lightly). It started with…. [piece of history].
How do the Pushbikers usually go
Every year several Pushbikers do the handicap races during the Austral, Tasmanian carnivals and Bendigo Madison weekend. Riders like Christian and Nick are more diesel engines are not perfectly suited for this type of racing. However, time has told us that you also can adapt and if you sink your teeth into it and are committed, occasionally you can get into the big final by making up with passion and ride with the world finest pursuit champions. A great experience! Just go for it!
Did we already mention that we love handicap races? …
Pictures: Dion Jelbart