Sanctioned racing in the USA: Getting on the Track

Are you not so into the idea of super long races, but you still want to go fast? Then it sounds like you need to hightail it over to the track! 

Track racing is some of the fastest, and surprisingly safest racing you can do. Everyone is always going in the same direction, there are no real turns since the track is a big oval really stretch out those legs! 

If you'll recall from yesterday, a Track bike has one gear, no freewheel, and no brakes. This means no one has the ability to suddenly slow down or come to an abrupt stop, and since there are no obstacles or turns, the whole brakeless thing becomes more of a benefit than a drawback. Unlike ripping and running through the streets, there is NO SKIDDING ON THE TRACK. When the race is over, racers take another lap to gradually slow themselves down and exit the track. 

There are few different kinds of races that happen on the track. In my opinion the best way to learn about the races and how they work, is to participate in a race yourself! Luckily at Kissena, there are a few clinics offered specifically for women. I will most definitely be sharing any and all events in the area as they are announced. So keep checking in, or subscribe below to stay in the loop. Take note, you are not allowed to wear sleeveless jerseys in track racing. Here are a few descriptions of some of my favorite races! 

The Kissena Velodrome in Queens, NY isn't exactly a state of the art velodrome, it's definitely showing signs of wear, but it's loved and maintained by the people who use it. It's a 400-meter velodrome with a fairly shallow bank. The banked sides help you maintain your speed and thanks to the laws of physics, you don't fall off so long as you keep it moving. Other tracks have banks that practically look like walls, for a beginner, Kissena is probably the least intimidating track you can find. 

Scratch Races

This is the simplest kind of race, everyone starts together, and the first person to cross the line wins the race. That's it. Doesn't matter if there are 5 laps or 10 laps, if you cross the line first at the end of the race, you are the winner! 

Points Races

Slightly more confusing. This is a multiple lap race in which designated "sprint" laps are worth a certain amount of points depending on where you cross the line. This means that you can potentially win a points race without ever crossing the line first. If the race is 9 laps, and every 3rd lap is a sprint lap, the official will ring the bell to remind you when first person begins the 3rd lap. This will initiate a sprint and the first few over the line will earn points. The first person earns the most points with the people behind them earning fewer points. For example. First place = 3 points, Second place = 2 points, Third place = 1 point. Anyone to cross the line behind third place earns no points for that lap. The fun in points races is that if you cross the line in second place 3 times, you can earn 6 points, and so long as no one else earns as many points as you, you win! 

Pursuit Races

This almost feels like a relay race, and can be done as an individual, or as a team. Two racers start on opposite ends of the track, they cover the same distance and if one side catches the other they win! If no one gets caught, whoever has the fastest time is the winner. This type of race is really exciting to watch because there is quite a bit going on at once.  


Keirins are races that are started out by drafting behind a motorized bike called a "derny". This allows racers to get up to very high speeds before the actually tactical part of their races begin. If you've ever wanted to go SUUUUPER fast, this is safe/ sanctioned way to do it. When you think about the concept of what's happening, it's pretty scary, but track is such a controlled environment that if everyone does what they are supposed to do, it's quite safe. Once you've reached the designated speed depending on the level of the riders, the derny moves out of the way and the racers sprint to the finish. 



For more information track cycling on how specific races work, please visit the USAC EnCYCLINGpedia!

Ayesha McGowanComment