Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A closer look at the calendar

The race calendar can be found under

When you look at the calendar on the website of the Wielerbond Vlaanderen you will notice that races are listed by date in a particular format. It is worth learning to decipher that format.

The races are listed by date. Unlike the US, date format in Europe is day/month/year.
Within dates the races are listed alphabetically by title (eg. RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN). When there is no official title, the name of the city or town where the race is being held is listed. So for instance you may find that on August 1, 2010 the following races took place:
...(etc. etc.)
The above titles are all names of municipalities (city, town or village). In paratheses you find additional information (town subdivision, parish, etc.) or special type labels (P.K. Provinciaal kampioenschap -provincial championship, B.K. Belgian championship, etc.).

Next you see the labels "OO" or "GO." OO means Open Omloop, or open course, whereas GO means Gesloten Omloop or closed course.
OO races are not completely closed to traffic. Rather, a rolling closure is used. What that means is that dropped riders will most likely be pulled by the police when the gap grows to greater than 3 minutes. In a GO race, all competitors can usually stay in the race to the end.

Underneath you find a three letter UCI code (eg. 1.14.3 for BALEN). The code works as follows:
x.y.z, where x designates whether the race is a one day race (1) or a multi-day stage race (2). (The race in BALEN is a one day event as evidenced by the 1.y.z)

y is the category. Nieuwelingen are 17, women elites 15, juniores 14, Elites without contract and U23 are 12. Other designations are common and may refer to category, eg. GENTL, which means gentlemen, or type, eg. MB means mountain bike, etc. UCI designations such as MJ meaning men junior and ME, or men elite are also commonly used.

z is the competitive level. 3 means an individual (not a team) race. 1 is the highest level (except for things like TOP which means top competition, or HC, which means hors categorie or out of category).

So the race in BALEN is a 1.14.3 or an individual race for juniors. Many such races are held at the time of the village festival, known as a "kermis" in Dutch or "kermesse" in French. Most US riders call these races kermesses but the kermesse is the festival. The race is a kermiskoers or course de kermesse. Not all x.y.3s are kermiskoersen.

Note that as a rule, there will only be one race, for one category at any one location on a given day. BALEN or any other city may well have a nieuwelingen race (1.17.3), a juniors race (1.14.3) and even a pro race for its "kermis" but these events will be held on different days.

The race in DENDERWINDEKE is a 1.17 TOP or a race for nieuwelingen at the TOP competition level. The actual UCI code for that race is NAT or National Calendar. That race is not open to individuals. Only members of a team can compete.

In general, visitors can enter any race that has a x.y.3 designation, provided they are members of the "y" category. So nieuwelingen with a UCI license, a permission letter and a kalenderkaart can enter any 1.17.3 race.

There is no need to call in advance to race. All you do is show up and pay the EUR3 (plus a refundable EUR5 for the race number) and you are set.

To find out where and when you need to do that, you click on the race title or the ">" mark and find out the "technische gegevens" or technical info.
Let's check out the Technical info for the BALEN race.

It reads:
84,5 km-447 EUR - I: Feesttent, Steegsebaan, 2490 Balen -U: 13:30/14:45/15:00 - Contact: Andre Van de Weyer, St. Rochusstraat 26, 2490 Balen (Tel: 0473 97 26 96) -Extra info: 13 ronden van 6,500 km.

What that means is:
84.5 km total distance (note that Belgians use a comma instead of a period)
447 EUR that is the total prize money
I means inschrijving or registration. It is held at the Feesttent or festival tent and the tent is located on the Steegsebaan in Balen. 2490 is the zip code.

Although the street address may sound confusing, remember that races are almost always held in the center of town where everyone can watch them. The Feesttent in Balen will be very easy to find. It is meant to be found and is used for other kermis events such as dinners, dancing, and maybe even a performance. Everyone in Balen will know where the Feesttent is.

Registration will open at 13:30, staging will be at 14:45 and the race will start at 15:00 or 3PM. Note the use of a 24 hr clock (aka military time in the US).

The contact person is listed with their address and phone number. The number is a cell phone (starting with a zero plus a three digit area code that starts with a 4). You can call Andre -who probably speaks fluent English, but there is almost never any need to. If you just show up with your paperwork and your money, you will be allowed to race. You won't have to fill out any complex forms and you don't even need to bring your parents. Any 15 yr old can go into the bar (yes registration is usually in a bar or a feesttent, which is a temporary bar) and nobody will be upset when the young racers enter that bar.

The extra info says the race will be 13 laps (ronde) of 6.5 kms each.

After the race, you are asked to return your number. You will also get your prize money -often 20 deep- and if you happen to finish in the top three, you are kindly asked to stick around for the festivities. The latter is not to be taken lightly and if you bail, you will be blacklisted.

Results will be on the web within hours after the race. Furthermore, they will likely be correct too.

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