Handicap racing is a form of racing that allows a chance for glory from beginner to elite.
The first step to a handicap race is to get your entry in nice and early in order to give the race handicapper enough time to handicap yourself and everybody else. Handicaps are based upon recent racing results but if you are new to the TDR the “Handicapper” will have a chat with you prior to the start of the race. All riders are then grouped together with other riders of a similar ability and allocated a time handicap, in intervals of a few minutes. The best riders are in the “Scratch Bunch” or “Bunch 1” and they are off 0 minutes. The next strongest bunch of riders are know as the “Chopping Block” or “Bunch 2” and may be off “3 minutes”, followed by “Bunch 3” and so on up to the weakest bunch of riders known as the “Limit Bunch”. The handicaps are adjusted so that each bunch is relatively even in number and if the handicapping is spot on, all riders will come together for the final sprint to the line.
At the appointed starting time, the Limit Bunch starts together. A few minutes later, the next group goes, and so on until perhaps half an hour later the Scratch riders leave.
Tactically it means that your bunch has to cooperate like it’s in a breakaway, and everybody goes as hard (and often harder) than they can sustain. More typical road racing tactics start to come into play towards the end of the race if your bunch is in the lead approaching the finish line. If your bunch has been caught by bunches from behind you may be flat out trying to hang on to the back of the stronger but possibly more fatigued riders that have caught your bunch.
The rider who crosses the finish line first wins the race. The winner could be from a bunch that was never caught or from the best sprinter amongst a group of combined bunches. There is also a prize for the fastest time which is as highly regarded as the overall win. This is the rider who comes across the finish line in the least amount of time. The “Fastest Time” prize will usually go to a Scratch rider although occasionally a rider from the Chopping Block may take the prize.
In the Tour de Riverina points are allocated to the first 10 riders in each race (1st = 11 points—> 10th =1 point) and the rider at the end of the race series is the winner of the Tour de Riverina.
Tips for Handicap Racing
- When caught by the bunch behind you always keep left until all of the riders in the bunch that have caught you have gone past. It can be very tempting to jump across to the wheel of a faster rider but to do so is very likely to cause a crash
- When you have been caught by a faster bunch there is no longer an obligation to swap to turns. If you are strong enough to swap turns it is usually wise to do so as it increases the chance of you catching the remaining bunches in front of you and to stay away from those bunches chasing from behind.
- When approaching the finish line please don’t get involved in the sprint unless you think you are a realistic chance at figuring in the points.
- If you have sat on the back of your bunch for most of the race then it is considered extremely poor etiquette to contest the sprint.