Gearing Up Your Cycling at Austin’s Driveway Series

By Patrick Darragh – July 5, 2012
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

The Driveway Series is a weekly bicycle race organized by Holland Racing at “The Driveway,” a local racecar track that becomes a bicycle racecourse every Thursday evening from April through October. This race is a closed-course criterium/circuit race, with loops that typically take between two and five minutes to complete. This type of course allows spectators the chance to cheer on the cyclists several times throughout the race. Races are split up into categories based on skill level (Category 1 is the highest level; Category 5 is the lowest) or age groups (Juniors to age 35+). Each race varies in length from 25 minutes to 60 minutes, based on the general category or the age of the riders. During the race, participants compete for prizes in several “premium” laps (the first rider to cross the finish line on a designated lap wins a prize) as well as cash payouts to the top five riders of each race. The fast pace of these races make them exciting for both the participants and the spectators.

For those who’d like to incorporate a high intensity effort into their cycling routines, the Driveway Series is the perfect race. Keep in mind that this is NOT the normal endurance-type race a cyclist might have previously experienced. The pace can be extremely fast and riders must always be aware of their positions on the course as well as the positions of others in the group. While the course contains several turns and some small elevation changes, there are also flat sections where speeds can exceed 35 mph for 60 seconds or more. Riders should be prepared to endure some pain; this event is not the equivalent of the more relaxed, consistent effort found in, for example, marathon or half marathon running events. A more appropriate comparison would be to think of this race as a very hard effort 10K. Just as in a shorter distance run with higher intensity, riders will likely experience maximum heart rate efforts at several different points during the race.

For those who want to work on their overall cycling proficiency, participating in these races is a great way to develop skills such as bike handling, cornering, riding in a pace line, and riding in a pack. Each week, there are often several elite level riders who also participate in the Driveway Series races. These riders are very approachable and are always willing to give advice to new participants. One thing the experienced riders will all emphasize is rider safety. Riders must always be aware of their other surrounding riders. Making a small mistake or taking a small risk could result in a big accident; remember that riders are moving fast. For this reason, it is important that riders have a certain level of cycling ability before jumping into this race. This sport is very intense and should not be taken lightly. Those who have never raced a bicycle before should start by contacting a local bike shop to speak with someone who has experience with racing. An experienced racer will help explain in more detail exactly what a bicycle race entails and give pointers on how to get started in this exciting sport. Coming out to the Driveway as a spectator a few times before entering the race is a great idea, as this will provide familiarity with what goes on in a race (as well as provide a chance to cheer on many local riders).

No one is perfect, and there will inevitably be accidents as criterium/circuit racing is a risky sport. But if riders pay attention to their surroundings and come with proficient cycling skills, this style of racing can be an excellent form of training as well as a fun cycling experience for riders of all ages. The fun, family atmosphere at the Driveway also makes this a great way to get the whole family out of the house; whether participating in a race or cheering on the riders, this weekly event is sure to provide excitement for all!



Patrick Darragh is a Category 3 cyclist racing with ATC (Austin Tri-Cyclist) Racing. He likes to mix up riding with running, and Darragh is a top-ten marathoner who placed eighth and ninth in the Austin Marathon in 2009 and 2010. You can find him pedaling to/from work at Whole Foods Market or running around the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake.

 

 
 

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