Saturday, October 16, 2010

Interclub races

Beker Vlaamse Ardennen
Interclub races are the highest level of competition. You cannot enter an interclub race as an individual. That rule applies to all age groups. You need to be a member of a team. Usually the team consists of six riders with a minimum of four. Local teams sometimes have open slots in the older age groups (juniores and U23) but rarely for the nieuwelingen. You can ask the race organizers if they know of any team that needs extra riders. A mixed team can also be entered, but only if the riders are not team mates of a regular team that is also in the race and only if certain rules are obeyed (minimum two riders from one team, etc.).

Interclub races can be one-day events or multi-day stage races (rittenkoers). In a stage race, the organizers may allow substitute riders to register beforehand. That happens often in the younger age groups. The substitute riders can step in when a team mate has to abandon the race. Stage races in the nieuwelingen category will usually allow riders to enter all stages, even if they are forced to abandon an earlier stage due to either a technical issue or if they got pulled in an earlier stage. All the team needs to do is to have the team leader talk to the officials and state the rider's intention to race again the next day.

Stage races often have time trials but nieuwelingen ride team time trials instead of individual time trials. Time trials for younger riders are quite short and distances are limited by law. Nieuwelingen also cannot use disk wheels or trispokes in time trials. All wheels need to have a minimum of 16 spokes. Aero helmets and time trial bars are usually allowed although it is better to ask beforehand as rules may vary.

The interclub race is a lot like a miniature pro race. The team leaders have to sign in and pick up materials for the riders. There is a team leader meeting to explain the rules and go over the course. All that happens several hours before the start. The teams are then asked to present themselves on a podium and sign the start sheet. Photographs are taken and individual riders are introduced to the public.

Often there will be betting going on and the audience will know many of the local riders and teams. Odds will be posted at nearby tables. Betting happens in all categories but anyone involved in the race is forbidden from participation. Looking at the odds tables will often give you a good indication of whom to watch during the race.

During the race, there will be a caravan of team cars, whose order is drawn by lottery at the team leader meeting. In a stage race the order for the second and following stages will be determined by the overall results of the team. The exact rule will be published (it could be the best rider, or the total time of the three best riders after a TTT for example).

Interclubs also have medical staff and a doctor will be present on course for all events. The caravan will be followed by an ambulance and injured riders will be taken to nearby hospitals if necessary. The officials will inform the team leaders what hospitals will be used in an emergency. As explained in an earlier post, emergency treatment is not by choice and riders will be treated as medical personnel sees fit. No prior consent is needed or required.

Every car driver will get a race radio set for race frequency. The radio will give race updates, tell team leaders if riders are out or taken to the hospital, and call team cars to the front when riders are in trouble. When called, team cars can break out of line and move to the front to assist the rider. All assistance needs to be given on the right hand side of the road. Team cars are also allowed to motor pace their rider back to the pack, but only after a mechanical and only for a short distance. Anyone breaking the rules will be fined.

Announcements will be made in Dutch, but French and English are common too when foreign teams compete. Still it is better to have a native speaker in the car as some announcements are only made in Dutch and some are not translated properly.

The caravan will have several referee cars and officials will keep track of proper driving behavior and illegal drafting. Driving a team car is an exciting thing to do but it is not for the faint of heart. As soon as the race gets underway, there will be riders everywhere, and cars trying to maneuver and pass on small country roads that are barely wide enough for one vehicle. Turns are especially tricky to handle and cars should go wide and slow down to let riders pass. Teams also need to instruct their riders how to handle the caravan if necessary.

A team car needs to be a regular sized sedan. Vans or even SUV's are not allowed. Cars use their horns to let other drivers know they need to pass or to announce the presence of riders in the caravan, especially near tight turns or tricky sections. When a car goes to the front or stops to help a rider, it will get back in its proper spot later. Cars have numbers on the rear window that show the order in the caravan.

Interclub races frequently have doping control and team leaders should check the manifest after the race before leaving. Any riders who place in the overall classification or in any accessory classification (KOM, sprint) should stick around for prize ceremonies and picture taking.

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