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Handicap racing

Jul 27, 2009
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In my relatively short experience of road racing so far, out of the styles of races so far the one I've enjoyed most has been handicap racing.

You have to pre-register and inform the handicapper of your recent racing results, and are then allocated a time handicap, in intervals of a few minutes. The best riders are in the "scratch bunch", the next best in the "3 minute bunch", and so on up to the "limit bunch". The handicaps are adjusted so that the groups are even in number.

At the appointed starting time, the limit bunch starts together. A few minutes later, the next group goes, and so on until the scratch riders go. The last race I did, a 45-mile race over an undulating course, the scratch bunch started 25 minutes after the limit riders.

Tactically, it means that, at least initially, your bunch has to cooperate like it's in a breakaway, and everybody goes as hard as they can sustain; more typical road racing tactics start to come into it towards the end of the race as the bunches catch each other and riders try to hang on to the back of the stronger (but possibly more fatigued) groups coming through.

As an extra incentive for the scratch riders, there's usually a prize for the fastest rider around the course, so it gives them an incentive to continue to chase all the way to the line.

I reckon they're fun because a) you get to compete against a huge group of riders, on terms that give everybody a chance of victory, b) people ride as fast as they can sustain from the start, rather than the rather dull racing you can sometimes get in a scratch race if the conditions don't favour breakaways, and c) there's a chance to work in a group in a pseudo-breakaway situation, which we don't get a lot of in non-handicaps.

Is this style of amateur races common in other countries, or is it an Aussie-only thing? And do others who do them, like them?
 
Jul 6, 2009
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i did a four man 200 hundred mile relay race with much climbing handicaps were based on your teams level meaning if all cat 5 you got so much time as a bonus and so forth through to pro riders who got no bonus it was fun this was in idaho. our team had 3 ct 3's and one cat 2 so we had minimal time bonuses. i did a leg over a 9000 foot summit in the sawtooth mountains beautiful.
 
Jul 27, 2009
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Here in NZ, about half the weekly club races at our local club are handicap races and they often have the biggest turn out from your more middle-aged cycling enthusiasts :D
 

flicker

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Aug 17, 2009
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I think it is a great idea and it motivates team tactic and working together. Could be exciting for spectators in a circuit race.
 
Sep 12, 2009
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I used to enjoy our club handicaps,hard and fast all the way to the end,i even won one, once upon a time,placed in some as well.The great melbourne to warnambool race used to be raced as a handicap then a secret handicap now just a scratch race.It's the type of race that gives almost everyone a chance of glory from beginner to elite.When i won, i beat past club champs and guys who normally just rode staight past me.