Look out on the PPYCC website and members WhatsApp group for announcements of regional races. However to ensure you don’t miss out it’s best to familiarise yourself with the British Cycling events page and learn how to use the event filters to find youth events in your area for the disciplines you are interested in.
Regional circuit races
There are many circuit races throughout the year at closed circuits across the South East. These include Goodwood, Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, Gravesend Cyclopark, Lee Valley VeloPark and Redbridge Cycling Centre. There are also circuit races at some outdoor velodromes such as Herne Hill Velodrome who use the veldorome and the tarmac warm-up area to make tight, fast criterium circuits. Some larger outdoor velodromes like Preston Park and Portsmouth also use their oval tracks for circuit racing on road bikes.
Regional track races
From March onwards there are regional track races around the South East at outdoor velodromes including Portsmouth, Brighton and Herne Hill; and indoor velodromes such as Lee Valley and Calshot (Southampton).
Most of these hold events as part of the National Youth Omnium series. The Omnium is like the decalthon of cycling, usually with 4-5 events over the course of a day for all age categories. The top four riders overall in youth A (U16) and B (U14) categories qualifying to enter the national final. PPYCC are always well represented at these events and host at least one event per season at Preston Park as part of this series.
Look out for open track meetings as well, especially at Herne Hill, where London clubs may host their own event days which usually also feature several youth races.
Regional cyclo-cross races
Once it gets to September the Cyclocross season starts. These are usually a mix of tarmac and off-road, and any bike with knobbly tyres will do the job, although cross bikes are typically drop handlebar bikes just with wider and knobblier types than usual. London and South East Cyclocross League always features 3 or 4 races in Sussex, at least 1 of which is usually in Brighton. These are really friendly, social events and an excellent introduction to bike racing in their own right, especially riding with big fields. The kids races often have upwards of 50 riders.
Indoor track racing leagues
During the winter there are indoor track racing leagues – Calshot near Southampton is good for beginners and once experienced if you want to gain indoor velodrome accreditation you can then race London Youth Track League at the Lee Valley Velodrome – quite a few of the 2nd year U12, U14 and U16 PPYCC riders compete in this league.
What to expect
Paul Goodwill, Luke and Alex’s dad and PPYCC coach, wrote up an excellent introduction for parents and youth riders on what to expect when racing at regional level.
“The races we’ve attended vary in formality and the level of competition, from Go-Ride racing for beginners to top level Regional competition, but are always friendly. You’ll need your child’s racing licence, which comes free with their British Cycling membership.
Before travelling to a race ensure that you have checked their bike and that it’s ready to race – there are no mechanical services offered at races so you need to be self-sufficient.
When you arrive at a venue find the ‘sign on’ desk and have your licence to hand. You’ll then need to sign in and collect the race number. The main technical considerations are the British Cycling gear restrictions which are there for good reason and are enforced at all races. The race organisers may have a ‘gear check’ for all riders before sign on or sometimes the top 3 riders are gear checked after the race. Details of the different gear restrictions per age group are on the British Cycling website. This normally just requires adjustment using a screw driver of the rear derailleur to limit use of the biggest gears, referred to as ‘locking off gears’. Don’t be put off, there are lots of videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to do this.
Make sure you take at least a multi-tool, pump, spare tube and tyre levers with you to races along with correct clothing and always check the weather before setting off. Double check the tyres to make sure there are no serious cuts or embedded bits of stone/glass in the tires before travelling to the race. Luke and some other riders have punctured whilst warming up before races so this is an essential check to avoid a stressful 5 minutes before a race or even missing the race completely.
U8 and U10 (Cat E & D) races are normally 15-20 mins, U12 (Cat C) 20-30 mins, U14 (Cat B) 30-40 mins and U16 (Cat A) races up to 1 hour. Usually there is an opportunity to warm up on the circuit before the race but not always. Once they reach U12 it’s useful to take either a set of rollers or turbo trainer to get the children warmed up in case there are no warm up laps – U10s and 12s tend to have no concept of pacing and set off for a 20 minute race like they’re doing 200m TT!
Overall the main thing is to keep the racing fun and varied at U10 and U12 level. I’ve always tried to avoid putting pressure on my kids, as competitive children can pile enough pressure on themselves as they want to do well. It’s also a good age for them to find out what they enjoy – road, track, cyclocross, mountain bike. So if you can vary the racing this keeps things fresh and also helps them find out what their strengths are.”